West End News: July 7

A black bear has been seen on the West End this week
A black bear has been seen on the West End this week

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When the state government shut down on the Thursday before the long 4th of July weekend, we were not sure what the effect would be here at Sawbill. We knew that no one would be able to buy a fishing license. We had emailed all of our customers to encourage them to buy their fishing licenses in advance. We were afraid that the already busy weekend for the Forest Service campgrounds at Sawbill Lake, Crescent Lake and Temperance River would get slammed with refugees from the closed state parks. As it turned out, we did see a noticeable up tick in business from state park campers, but not in the numbers that we had feared. Unfortunately for the West End, most of the hundreds of parties that were planning to use the state parks just went or stayed home. Several of the groups that did wind up here at Sawbill said that they are planning to camp here from now on, which is good for us, but bad for the parks.

As I mentioned in a previous West End News, the state shutdown will hit Cook County particularly hard. The closing of the parks and layoffs of local DNR employees is bad enough, but the indirect losses to the tourism economy will be significant. Also, I hadn't thought of the fact that loggers that are working on DNR timber contracts are also shut down. Local loggers are already the hardest working people in the county and operate on very narrow profit margins. They don't deserve to be thrown out of work for no good reason. For both the logging and the construction industry, the longer the shut down lasts, the possibility of permanent damage to the industry goes up. By the way, Michael O'Phelan, owner of Cascade Lodge and Solbakken Resort, was prominently quoted in an Associated Press story on the shut down that circulated widely around the state and the rest of the country.

Randy and Barb Merritt, of Schroeder, told me a great story starring their two grand daughters, Raylee and Savanna who are 10 and 6 years old respectively and the daughters of Correy and Kari Merritt, also of Schroeder. The elder Merrits had the girls at their cabin on Northern Light Lake and set them up to fish off the dock. Savanna hooked into a big fish and ended up reeling in a 10 pound walleye all by herself. While Randy was taking the trophy up to the refrigerator and getting ready to take the boat out, he heard Raylee yelling that now she had a big fish on. By the time Randy headed back down to the dock, he met the girls coming up the hill with a 9 pound walleye in the net. Savanna proudly announced that she had "got the net on it" but she couldn't lift it out of the water by herself, so Raylee set her rod down and together they managed to lift the net out of the water. After the excitement died down a bit, Randy took the girls out in the boat where the girls promptly caught a four pound bass and a seven pound lake trout. Randy commented calmly that he does't think they'll ever top that day of fishing.

One of Tofte's favorite sons, Bjorn Tofte, son of Meg and Greg Tofte was seen around town last week wearing a huge smile. He was visiting with his new bride, Andrea Tofte. The couple met in Big Sky, Montana four years ago when they were both working there. Andrea was on her summer break from college near her home in Chile. After several visits back and forth, the happy couple applied for a fiance visa. Nine months of excruciating waiting ensued, but they were finally able to get married at the courthouse in Port Townsend, Washington where Bjorn attends boat building school. While the couple was in Minnesota, they hosted an impromptu gathering at the Tofte park. They are back in Port Townsend now, but are in the midst of planning a large, traditional wedding in Chile on November 5th. Andrea is the oldest child in a large family that wants the opportunity to see her married in grand Chilean style. Congratulations to the happy couple and both families.

We have a small phenomenon of tame wild animals going on around Sawbill. There is a doe living in the Sawbill campground that is almost tame enough to pet. No one has ever fed deer here at Sawbill, so she seems to just be friendly by nature. She will casually walk within a couple of feet of you if you don't make any sudden moves. There is also a friendly fox in the campground that will stroll into an occupied campsite and sit down like he's the family dog. He wanders around our property during the busiest of times, in spite of being repeatedly run off by our indignant dogs. Of course, the dogs a nowhere near as fast as the fox, so he seems to take the periodic chasing episodes with good spirit. Finally, there is a bear and a wolf who are frequently seen along the Sawbill Trail. On the days that they are around, virtually every one see them. All of this makes the visitors from less wild parts of the state extremely happy.

Airdate: July 7, 2011

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