BAYVIEW — Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night stays postal couriers’ swift completion of their appointed rounds on the remote southern portion of Lake Pend Oreille.
Seventy-mile-an-hour wind gusts and the intense waves they whip up are another matter.
“You don’t realize how rough the weather can be until you’re buried in it. It will come up fast,” said Scott Bjergo, who’s under contract with the U.S. Postal Service to collect and deliver mail by boat to some of the most far-flung portions of the 148-square-mile lake.
The lake’s famously abrupt and furious storms are about the only thing that will keep Bjergo from shoving off at Bayview to make stops on his route, which ranges from 38 to 21 miles depending on the day of the week.
Bjergo serves about 30 year-round residents scattered between Lakeview, Cedar Creek, Whiskey Rock, Granite Creek and Kilroy Bay — small outposts etched into the rugged eastern shoreline of the lake’s south arm. The number of customers grows to around 40 during the summer season.
Bjergo successfully bid for the route after the retirement of John Thaxter, who did the rounds for 17 years.
Most of customers skew toward retirement age and beyond, although Bjergo said there are no full-on recluses.
“They all just want to be out in the quiet and they’re all generally nice,” said Bjergo.
Some of the areas, such as Lakeview, bustled and teemed with hundreds of residents during a mining boom in the late 1800s, but are now home to only a handful of people.
Although some live in modest, or in some cases rudimentary, cabins most either have phone, satellite TV, cellphones or some combination thereof. Mail delivery, however, hasn’t changed substantially.
Each hamlet has a mail captain who is appointed to help coordinate pickups and deliveries with their neighbors. The only newfangled twist is Bjergo’s encouragement of the use of text messaging to facilitate mail drops and pickups.
Bjergo knows his customers by name and has biscuits at the ready for dogs who accompany their owners to the dock. He knows which docks have bumpers and which ones don’t.
Pamela Haussler rode from the home she shares with her husband in an upland meadow on a mule to meet Bjergo.
“Everybody here gets along,” Haussler said as she showed off the century-old Lakeview post office, which held a wood stove and a small collection of residential roadside mailboxes.
The mail is the primary reason Bjergo is out there, but he’s also helped broken down boaters, rescued gassed kayakers who underestimate distances and packed out bear hunters’ quarry and their exhausted hounds.
Bjergo is working toward a captain’s license that will allow him to transport people for money, but in the meantime he picks up a few extra bucks delivering groceries and UPS packages, and caretaking people’s isolated cabins.
The best part of the job?
“Getting to ride in a boat every day,” said Bjergo.
“Getting to ride in a boat every day,” Bjergo said without hesitation.
Bjergo said the postal service contract provides about a quarter of his income. He also has an ownership interest in the Boileaus Shores Marina, works as an on-call aircraft mechanic in Hayden and runs Bayview Mercantile.
Bjergo won’t get rich from the mail route, but as far as corner offices go, you’d be hard-pressed to beat the panoramic views aboard the 22-foot Duckworth boat he uses to make his rounds.
On Monday, it was sunny and temperatures were in the 80s as Bjergo conservatively motored back toward Bayview, conditions which stood in contrast to last year’s spring weather.
“This time last year, it was a rodeo,” Bjergo said.