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August 2000

8/31/00 – Terrific storms moved across the region during the
night. Lots of thunder and lightning, hail and 1.23" of rain
here at Sawbill. The winds were moderate though. No trees down
on the road this morning. The water levels will be unusually high
for the next week or so. It will be a busy day here as the Labor
Day weekend ramps up. – Bill

8/30/00 – Today was a beautiful warm day here at Sawbill. Around
5pm, it started to get colder. By 8pm, I had my winter jacket
on. Shivering, I consulted the thermometer on the side of the
pop-shed: 60. Maybe I should have picked a college in Arizona,
or better yet, somewhere on the equator. It felt like snow could
fall any minute. I could even see my breath! (When I was in the
cooler stocking pop anyway.) -Ruthie

8/28/00 – I received the following email this morning from
Dale Coffman:

Hi Bill

…What I really want to tell you is to make Ruthie write more

updates to the newsletter. She has a neat style that is fun to
read. When

she learns to trap little critters in the store she will be ready
to write

for Outdoor Life.

Hope you and the whole family are well and happy.



This lovely letter not only reminded me to update the newsletter
(you should have seen me fume when I was away at school and the
newsletter went un-updated for a week or more!), but it also reminded
me to check my extensive trapline. Mouse traps, that is. I have
caught over 30 mice in the crew quarters this summer. One of my
favorite parts of living in the woods is mingling with nature
and living with the forest creatures, I just don’t want to live
WITH the critters! So, I set some traps and got started. I couldn’t
bear to deal with the bodies, so I made a deal with another (braver)
crew member to empty the traps, if I set them and checked them.
As the summer has gone by, I’ve come to grips with being a mouse-murderer,
and I’ve started emptying the traps myself. Do you think "Outdoor
Life" wants to hear about my mice-capades? Or maybe there’s
a magazine called "Indoor Life" that would be better
suited for this type of article? Hmmmm…

Today was chilly and a little foggy. Very few customers have
been in the store or dome since noon, and it’s really starting
to feel like Fall. It’s still a wonderful time to take a canoe
trip though: No bugs, fewer people and better fishing in September.
The days can get up to 80 just as easily as they can get down
to 40, can’t they? Ever Optimistic, Ruthie.

8/27/00 – I discovered a few late-season blueberries growing
along the Sawbill Trail this afternoon. The tiny berries were
dustier and more tart than the early season berries. I’m not sure
how many I picked, because I practice the "one berry in my
mouth, one in my pail" method of berry picking, and of course
I ate from my pail when the picking was slow. -Ruthie

8/26/00 – We enjoyed a moment of quiet between the summer rush
and the pre-labor day rush, which now seems to be well under way.
Oh well. Soon it will be February and we will be dying for the
summer to begin again.

Many of the Sawbill Crew members have left for college: Nathan,
Anna, Emily and Laura are all gone for the year. Clare and Carl
Hansen have begun soccer practice in Grand Marais, and will soon
be returning to school. The nights have begun to take on the particular
chill and smell of early fall.

I awoke this morning to a very agitated squirrel clucking away
outside my bedroom window. I rolled over, half-awake and squinting
against the morning sun. I threw a handy magazine at the screen,
and the ruckus ceased. I was just beginning to slip back into
sleep when the racket began anew, this time closer to my head
and twice as loud. I gave up on getting back to sleep, opened
my eyes a bit and looked at the clock. 9:46. I suddenly felt some
of the squirrel’s panic myself. August is nearly over, the leaves
are beginning to turn, I’m leaving for school in two weeks and
here I am still in bed! I remember this feeling from summers long
past; summers that seemed to last forever, when I felt as if I
had all the time in the world right up until the moment I realized
that school was bearing down on me, along with winter coats and
frostbitten fingers and toes. I promised myself this morning that
I would soak up more sun, swim more, wear shorts more, as if I
could convince the earth along with myself that it was still midsummer.
But the fact remains; it’s August 26th. Soon it will be September,
and before long, the first snow of winter will cover the dusty
pine-needle carpeting of the forest, and I’ll be longing for June
again. -Ruthie

8/19/00 – The temperature dipped to 40 degrees last night and
I noticed a few colored leaves along the Sawbill Trail yesterday.
The ripening hazelnuts seem to have lured the bears away from
campsites. We’ve had very few bear reports in the last week. The
moose are feeding on abundant aquatic plants right now, so moose
sightings have increased dramatically. High water is making for
easy travel.

With "back to school time" upon us, overnight permits
for the wilderness are more readily available. With the exception
of Labor Day weekend, September is wide open for permit availability.
It sure makes me dream of a solo trip during the peak of the color
season… – Bill

Ed Dallas, the Poet Laureate of Sawbill, does it again with
this evocative Autumn poem:

touch of autumn chill

the old buck

lets young ones go first

8/15/00 – Ed Dallas, Sawbill’s Poet Laureate, sent this poem
this morning:

last campfire

she blames the smoke

for tears in her eyes

8/13/00 – Sunday morning here at Sawbill. There is a chill
in the air this morning reminding us that the snow line is moving
south every day. A hint of wood smoke smell drifts over from the
campground. Some people are arriving to begin their canoe trips,
others are exiting the woods and heading for home. Those arriving
are hurried and anxious, full of last minute details, and a little
irritable. The folks coming off the water are dirty, but relaxed
and happy. They move at an unhurried pace, putting off the inevitable
return to the "civilized" world as long as they can.
They smile easily as they relate the high points of their trip:
a moose spotted on a portage, northern lights arching across the
entire sky, sunrise across a fog shrouded lake, and the stories
roll on… – Bill

8/11/00 – The Consortium XXIV group is pictured below. They
have developed many traditions over their 24 years of Sawbill
canoeing, including the "grog cup salute."

8/5/00 – Thoreau’s necessary tonic of the wilderness is held
in a star’s reflection on the still of a lake. The blackened shoreline
creates a mold that only a few of the tallest trees dare to spill
from. As one paddles closer to shore, the trees reveal their individuality.
Branches, bark, and needles become distinguishable only by outline.
The shades of night contrast each other to give shape, and depth,
and meaning. The unplanned light of the stars’ dance is stirred
with every dip of the paddle. – Frosty

8/2/00 – According to the State of Minnesota, there are twice
as many bears in the woods as usual. I’m not sure exactly how
one goes about counting bears, but until recently it seemed to
us that there were no bears left. Now, there are bears almost
everywhere. The Kawishiwi to Polly Lake corridor seems to have
multiple bears. They are a canny band of thieves, stealing packs
off of portages, unlatching pickup toppers, finagling ropes out
of trees and generally making pests out of themselves. The blueberries
and hazel nuts are beginning to ripen, so they may lure the bruins
away from their freeze dried gourmet diet. – Bill