11/30/97 – We had a wonderful, relaxing, Hansen family Thanksgiving here at Sawbill. The family reunion was all the better with the addition of Karl Hansen, all the way from California. He is considering a permanent return to Minnesota, so stay tuned for a possible personnel update. We managed to get out skiing on the lake every day. Conditions were challenging, with a lot of slush forming on top of 4 – 5" thick ice. The slush was less troublesome due to incredibly warm temperatures. In other words, you got your feet wet, but it didn’t really matter. Each day at sunset, the cool air settling over the lakes caused a dense ground fog to form. When the lowering sun shone sideways through the fog, the light became mystical. As we skied across the lake, we could only see the tree tops on shore above the rosy, diaphanous room we found ourselves in. Looking straight up, there was no trace of fog, only a deep blue sky. At the moment the sun dipped below the horizon, the fog suddenly lifted to an altitude of about 30 feet. We could then see up and down the lake clearly, but the tree tops and sky were swathed in white gauze. Wolf, pine marten, and fisher tracks stitched back and forth across our path.
We also enjoyed the company of Tim Velner and Gus Gustason of Duluth, who camped in the Sawbill campground over the weekend. This is a long standing tradition for these two, going back almost 20 years. They prepare all their meals ahead of time, including a full-on traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and seal them in boil-in-a-bags. When dinner time arrives, they just drop the bags into boiling water, and viola, dinner is served. Dinner is accompanied by beer, which is kept in a cooler with a hot water bottle to keep it from freezing.
Tim and Gus love to play, and bring skis, mountain bikes, snowshoes, and nerf footballs. They have a busy schedule of hiking, riding and playing catch. This year, they organized the first annual "Sawbill bowl" touch football game. Slated to be played on the lake, a brisk north wind shifted the action to the parking lot. For an hour and a half, mukluk shod adults and children participated in a spirited match of touch football. The second annual game is already scheduled for next Thanksgiving.
11/21/97 – Sawbill got a nice mention in "Presentations Magazine". You can see it online at Presentations Online – Case Study. The premise is that not having power or telephone hasn’t stopped us from getting on the web 🙂
Down to 6 degrees last night. We are betting that Sawbill finally, finally has frozen that last little bit of open water in the north end. Within minutes we will be launching a skate powered expedition to find out.
11/20/97 – Finally, the bulk of Sawbill Lake has frozen over. Obie, the one man Ice Follies, reported back from his daily skating trip to the north end of Sawbill Lake, that the south and middle sections are completely frozen. The north end still has a large section of open water, but for statistical consistency, we declare the lake ice covered when the south end is completely covered.
There are some innovations on the rest of this web site that may be of interest. We have been linking equipment from the 1998 Partial Outfitting Price List to pages that have pictures and details of that piece of equipment. Also, we are beginning work on web based BWCA Wilderness Route Guide . Take a look and let us know if you have any suggestions or criticisms.
11/15/97 – Will it ever freeze? Skiing to the very northern tip of Sawbill Lake this afternoon revealed large tracts of open water in all three sections of the lake. The north end has a long stretch of open water, perhaps as much as one third of the surface area. The ice around the openings is quite sound. Yesterday, while out skiing, Bill was able to ski right to the edge and actually inch his ski tips out over the rippling water (do not try this at home). Today, the highlight was a timber wolf making its way along the same open water in the middle of Sawbill. When it became aware of the skier, it ran along the open edge and escaped by crossing the narrow isthmus of ice between two large bodies of open water.
11/13/97 – An even smaller hole of open water remains on Sawbill Lake. We are starting to theorize that a hot spring has developed :-). Actually, it has been quite balmy, so freeze up is at least a week late. This afternoon Obie and Bill had a session of "boards and blades" on the part of the lake that is frozen. Bill skied and Obie skated. It turns out to be a fairly compatible experience in terms of speed. Barely sufficient ice cover with an inch of snow made this unique experience possible.
11/12/97 – A small patch of open water remains on Sawbill Lake. At the landing, the ice is now 2.5" thick. The chill of winter is distinct today. We are experiencing sunshine for the fist time in a long while. Cindy spotted one of the largest wolves she has ever seen today just north of downtown Tofte.
11/11/97 – Well, we lied. The lake did skim over, only to open up again as soon as the sun and wind came up. Half of Sawbill remained open all day today. However, the temperature is dropping and the ice in front of the landing will now support our weight, which it would not yesterday. We continue to receive snow flurries, but only have about 3" on the ground.
We are having incredible bird activity at the feeder this season. The chickadees, nuthatches, red polls, pine grosbeaks, gray jays and blue jays have consumed almost as much seed since so far as they did all of last year.
11/10/97 – A quick check of the ice yesterday afternoon revealed more than half the visible lake once again open water. Two ducks were swimming around, showing no inclination to head south. Last night dipped to 20 degrees with light snow and skimmed over the entire lake once again. We are headed for temps near zero on Wednesday, so this time, the ice is here to stay. We have not seen the lake freeze and thaw twice in a single Fall before. One year, during the ’80’s, it did thaw late in November and we actually paddled on Thanksgiving Day. Usually it freezes for good during the first week of November, so it is nearly on schedule.
11/9/97 – Driving down the Sawbill Trail last night, we saw at least ten deer hunting camps. We haven’t seen a deer in weeks though, so their success prospects are doubtful. Trappers are also active along the Sawbill Trail. We dislike the trapping, not so much on moral grounds, as wishing the animals could be left free for everyone’s enjoyment. It seems like a poor use of wildlife to pay a few dollars to a trapper so a rich person can wear a dead animal on their back.
11/8/97 – The lake remains frozen, at least as far as can be seen from the landing. The ice is just under one inch thick, but is very rubbery and soft. It is relatively smooth, but there is snow in the forecast for tomorrow, which could ruin chances for good skating.
A Pine Marten has taken up residency in our dumpster. It has made a bed in a discarded grey Sawbill sweatshirt. Pine Martens are a large member of the weasel family.
11/7/97 – Sawbill Lake froze on Tuesday, 11/4/97, for the second time this season. It previously froze on 10/26 and thawed out again during a heavy rain on 10/31. Today, it is kind of warm again, so perhaps it will thaw another time before winter finally arrives to stay. The ice is perfectly smooth, but less than an inch thick.
Last night we had incredible northern lights. They were brightest directly overhead and were pulsing in time to some cosmic music. The lack of a moon made them all the more brilliant. It is overcast here now and predicted to stay that way for the next few days.
11/4/97 – Former Sawbill crew member Steve Surbaugh is prominently featured in the current issue of Backpacker Magazine. Immediately under the headline "Chillin’ with The King Of Cool" is a striking photo of Steve with a frosted beard and determined look on his face. Steve and Kate Surbaugh are currently working for Wintergreen Lodge in Ely, where they help arctic explorer Paul Schurke with his winter outfitting business. They took Backpacker editor Jeff Rennicke and photographer Layne Kennedy on a trip last winter that sported -30 degree temperatures. Steve reports that Kate was very nearly featured on the cover, but was bumped at the last minute.
11/3/97 – Sawbill crew members John Oberholtzer, Natasha Warner, Adam Hansen and Bill Hansen attended the Northeastern Minnesotan’s For Wilderness Rally at Camp Du Nord in Ely on Saturday, November 1st. Approximately one hundred wilderness supporters from the region gathered on the shores of Burntside Lake to socialize, network and be inspired by wilderness artists and activists. Paul Gruchow, author of the recently published "Boundary Waters – The Grace of the Wild" was the keynote speaker. Carl Zichella of the Sierra Club and Darrell Knuffke of the Wilderness Society also gave inspirational and interesting speeches, as well as local activists.
We all had a chance to meet National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg, who has the cover story in that prestigious magazine this month. If you haven’t seen it, rush out and buy a copy. "Northwoods Journal", which is also written by Brandenburg, is the complete record of his effort last year to capture one image of the northwoods each day for ninety days. He allowed himself one shot – just one click of the camera – each day. The result is a stunning masterwork.