Sutherland always brought a smile

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Sandy Sutherland, left, and longtime friend Julie Beck share a laugh at Sutherland’s retirement in 2011.

It’s not very often that a person actually looks forward to checking out groceries at the store, but Sandy Sutherland always made it a little bit nicer.

Sutherland passed away late last month and Columbia Falls lost one of its shining stars.

I did a story of Sutherland’s retirement from Smith’s Food and Drug back in 2011.

She started as a cashier at what was then the Fred Meyer B&B Grocery in 1975. She never left.

“I decided I loved it here,” she said. “It was the right decision.”

For 35 years she was a cashier in the same building, chatting it up with customers as they went through her line. To be sure, if you were in a big hurry, you didn’t pick Sutherland’s line. But there’s more to life than blasting through a grocery store, and chatting with Sandy was always sure to bring a smile.

In 2011 her plan was to move to Washington to be closer to family, but she returned shortly thereafter.

She was a great Wildcat fan and supporter and she went back to work greeting folks and taking entrance fees to multiple Columbia Falls sport events over the remaining years, always with that big smile and down-home, good-natured attitude.

Sutherland truly did “bleed blue.”

She’ll be missed.

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Tried to hike in Saturday’s rain up the Howe Ridge Fire Trail in Glacier Park. The trail isn’t used much and it shows. The trip started out OK, but it became pretty obvious after the first half mile or so that people get on it, realize it really doesn’t have any views and then turn around.

Then the real fun begins, because the route pretty much completely brushes in and turns into one of those journeys where you feel the trail with your feet, not with your eyes.

Add a pouring rain and some fog and it becomes even more “pleasant.”

At any rate, we followed it to the junction of the Howe Lake Trail and then hit the Howe Ridge Fire, where it looks like the fire did a pretty good job of not just damaging the tread, but completely obliterating it in some places.

It pretty much looks like a bomb went off up there, which, in essence, it did.

If it had been a nicer day we probably would have poked around and tried to find the route. But once in the burn, the dirt turned to gumbo and we bagged it and turned around.

Back at the truck a few hours later I noticed the water was literally shooting out of the pockets of my rain pants.

More fun in paradise.

Chris Peterson is the editor of the Hungry Horse News.

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