West End News

Bill and his daughter Clare found this freshly shed moose antler while out grooming the ski trail at Sawbill
Bill and his daughter Clare found this freshly shed moose antler while out grooming the ski trail at Sawbill

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It is certainly good news that the wolf population in Minnesota has recovered to the point where it no longer requires special federal protection. I’m distressed, however, to see some legislators already whipping up the old prejudices and fears about wolves for their own political gain. Wolf management is a very complex and intricate issue, with many, many stakeholders and dozens of competing interests. I would urge the legislature to listen carefully to the professional wildlife biologists both within and outside the Department of Natural Resources. Everyone will be better served in the long run by a carefully considered, scientifically-based plan that balances all the interests.

A few weeks ago, my daughter Clare and I found a freshly shed moose antler while grooming the ski trail here at Sawbill. It is always fun to find an antler, but especially now when the moose population is at low ebb. A found antler, especially one that is recently shed, always tells an interesting story. This antler was large, but not huge – suggesting a mature bull moose, but not a giant. The base, where it attached to the head, was still bloody, so it hadn’t been long since the owner lost it. One paddle on the antler had been broken off, but the broken edge had healed over. I can picture this moose crashing headlong into a larger rival and regretting it later. My favorite thing about newly shed antlers is their smell. As the moose wanders through the forest, it drags its antlers through the brush and low tree branches, packing the little crenulations along its leading edge with rich mixture of sap, bark and leaf material. If you scratch and sniff, you get a heady whiff of the entire forest in aggregate. Balsam, mixed with birch, mixed with hazel, mixed with spruce and so on. There is just the faintest undertone of bull moose smell present too, leading Clare and I to hatch a scheme to bottle the smell and market it as men’s cologne. We thought up some names, but they mostly too tasteless to repeat on the radio, so I leave that to your imagination.

Speaking of the ski trail, I don’t want to be seen as gloating, but there is really a pretty decent snow covering up here at the end of the Sawbill Trail. As I speak, there is 17 inches of snow on the ground. Our little 7K cross-country ski trail is in perfect shape. I only mention this because people on the North Shore are amazed to hear that there is so much snow so close by. The Sawbill ski trail isn’t marked in any way, so if you come up, or send someone up to ski, just go to the bitter end of the Sawbill Trail, step over the snow bank and you will see the trail. It’s a loop, so you can go either way and it will bring you back to the same spot 7 kilometers later. It is a narrow trail, groomed for classic style skiing and is suitable for beginners.

There is a fun thing going on every Monday night at Papa Charlie’s nightclub at Lutsen Mountains. Every Monday, at least through the middle of March, they are presenting some of Minnesota’s best songwriters in an intimate, mostly acoustic session between 8 and 10 p.m. The shows so far have been excellent and the acts that are coming are top notch. The crowd is much smaller than the typical weekend crowd and much more local. For the local folks who work in tourism, Monday night is much more of a weekend night than Friday or Saturday and it gets you home early enough to get a good night’s sleep if you do have to work on Tuesday morning.
I’m thrilled to see the announcement of a new cell phone tower at Taconite Harbor in Schroeder. I know some people don’t like them, but cell phones have become an important and useful tool worldwide – and it’s high time we had decent coverage in the West End. I hope the new Tofte tower won’t be far behind.


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