Listen Now
Pledge Now



Finalcut_WestEnd_20100325.mp38.32 MB

Joan Koski, the longtime campground host at Crescent Lake campground, has retired. Joan's tenure at Crescent Lake as a camper with her family and then as campground host stretches over more than 30 years. The remarkable thing is that this is more than 30 consecutive years, no breaks.

Every campground has its own character with a unique clientele. Crescent is used a lot by local folks who have developed groups of friends who camp together. The major attraction is fishing in the summer and deer and bear hunting in season. Joan has been a friend to what is now a couple of generations of campers.

She has worked with many game wardens, deputy sheriffs, forest service law enforcement, and forest service campground people. She was the eyes and ears on site for all folks who had any official business with the campground.

During her time she had many unique wildlife experiences. She was the person who rescued an exhausted eagle found on the shore of the lake. She put the eagle in the box of her pickup and started for Sawbill Outfitters to get help with it. The eagle was flopping around, so Joan stopped and put the eagle in the cab with her. This was a mature eagle. Fortunately it remained quiet and Joan got to help OK.

The eagle was taken to the rehab center at the U in the Cities. Eventually it was brought back to the spot where it had been found, for release. Joan got to hold the eagle in her arms at the moment of release and throw it into the air, restoring it to freedom. This was a very emotional moment for Joan. The eagle did not soar off into the sky, but instead flew into a small tree close by and sat there looking at the assembled crowd.

Several times Joan saw a cougar standing in the river near the campground. On one occasion she saw two cougars, standing together in the river, and one of the cats had a rabbit in its mouth.

Bill Hansen told a well-known nature photographer about this sighting. The photographer said that if he had taken a photo of the cougars with the rabbit he would have had the most salable photo of his career.

Joan will be missed by all of the regular campers at Crescent Lake. Now a search is on for her successor. Her equal will be hard to find.

There was a really unique wedding on Iron Lake near Ely last Sunday. The bride is Amy Voytilla and the groom is Dave Freeman, both longtime folks around the West End. Amy and Dave are partners in the Wilderness Classroom organization. Amy has done a lot of kayak instruction in the area. They have a home base on the Grade, near the Brule Lake road; but they are rarely there. They may be familiar to you because they are the leaders of really wide-ranging wilderness trips into the far north, South America, and other locations. This spring they will start out on a "honeymoon" three-year trip (in segments) starting on the West coast of the United States and proceeding east across the continent and then down the east coast.

The wedding was outdoors on Iron Lake. The guests traveled to the site via five dog teams, a snowmobile, ice skates, and on foot. The wedding was on land on a picture-perfect point. Now I have to ask your total trust in my veracity.

The bride and groom were dressed, not in rugged wilderness gear, but in real wedding finery. Amy featured a strapless wedding gown. Dave wore wedding attire as well. The ceremony was performed by Eric Frost, newly qualified for the ceremony. All went well. But come on- it was a sunny day, but the temp was in the 40s. Strapless? Only in the West End!

The only wrinkle was when the staked-out dogs decided to get into a dog fight during the ceremony. No problem, there were lots of people who knew about dog fights. Just a blip at worst.

Amy and Dave left the wedding site riding side by side on the back of their dog sled, pulled by their favorite dogs who have been with them for years. Should you wish to see pictures of this event go to and enjoy.