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November 2000

11/29/00 – I skied to the north end of Sawbill Lake for the
first time this morning. I was pleased to see the fresh tracks of
a wolf pack on the lake, something I only saw a couple of times
last year. At the mouth of Kelso Bay, it was clear that they
lounged for awhile, including six piles of scat. It appears they
have been eating a lot of white tail deer, probably the offal
left by the recent fire arms deer hunting season. Otter tracks
were also evident. They only travel one way on the winter lakes –
run, run, run, sliiiiiiiide. Each slide is eight to ten feet
long. It looks like fun. At the very north end of the lake there
was a lead of open water in front of an active beaver house. An
otter was resting on the ice near the open water. After
inspecting me, she dove under the ice. I skied over and stood
near the hole, hoping she would reappear. Alas, she was smarter
than I gave her credit for. I could actually hear the water slosh
under the thin ice as she swam back and forth, but she avoided
resurfacing. I wonder if she could see me through the thin ice
and scant snow cover, or perhaps she could see the ice sag
slightly under my weight. There were several fresh trails from
both pine marten and fisher crossing the lake. – Bill

11/25/00 – Derald Storlie, owner of our nearest competitor
Sawtooth Outfitters, and a good friend, died suddenly an
unexpectedly yesterday of a heart attack. He was in Waseca,
Minnesota, helping his mother arrange her affairs after the death
of his father just two weeks ago. He was ice skating with his son
when he died, which was his favorite activity in the world. It is
hard to imagine a nicer guy than Derald. He will be sorely missed
by many. – Bill

11/22/00 – I tried to ski on the lake again yesterday. Most of
the ice seemed fine, but some of the snow covered areas creaked,
cracked and gurgled as I strode over them. Before I got more than
100 yards my skis abruptly shot out from under me and I crashed
down flat on my back on the unforgiving ice. The cartoon move
included multiple bounces of my noggin. I lay on my back and
watched the grey clouds glide by, thinking to myself "this
is not going well."

Being a slow learner and a born optimist, I tried again today.
Another inch of snow fell overnight, covering much of the bare
ice on the lake. Last night’s below zero temperatures (first of
the season) thickened the ice to about 3" – plenty to
support a skier. I was able to ski comfortably along the shore
all the way to the Smoke Lake portage. Pine marten tracks laced
along the shoreline. When I turned to head back, I was treated to
a fleeting purple sunset, not in the west, but in the south with
a slight westerly trend. The euphoria of gliding through the
deserted wilderness soon made me forget my aches and pains
(literally in the butt) from yesterday’s big fall. – Bill

11/21/00 – Sawbill Lake froze over on November 19th. I tried
(foolishly) to ski on it on the 20th. My first step onto the ice
was my last, as my foot plunged straight through into the frigid
water. Fortunately, I was smart enough to choose a shallow spot
for my first step.

Cindy and I just returned from Chicago. We attended the
wedding of former Sawbill crew member Chris Nelson. Chris was
originally a camper with the Flossmoor Community Church, a long
time Sawbill client from the south side of Chicago. Also in
attendance at the wedding were Karen Blackburn and John
Oberholtzer, both former Flossmorians and former Sawbill crew
members. Both Karen and John (OB) have chosen to settle near
Sawbill in the charming town of Grand Marais, Minnesota. The
wedding and reception were in the tradition of Chris’ bride,
Euridice Chrones, who is Greek. It was fun to experience the
elaborate Greek Orthodox ceremony and the authentic Greek dancing
at the reception. The night before, Chris and Euridice treated us
to a wonderful Greek dinner in Chicago’s Greektown district. The
biggest culture shock for Cindy and I was rush hour traffic on
the Chicago freeways. They are a quite a contrast to the good ol’
Sawbill Trail.

Along the way, we stopped to visit crew members Adam Hansen
and Ruthie Hansen. Adam is a sophomore at the University of
Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin and Ruthie is a freshman at the
University of Chicago. – Bill

11/14/00 – The absence of an entry here is partly due to our
annual moving of the computers from the office behind the store
to the office in our home. With the networking, inevitable
upgrades and the sheer scale of the task, it takes us awhile to
get organized again. Now the store is dark and cold, the water is
drained, the inventory packed away, and the electricity shut off.
The ground is covered with snow, but not enough to ski yet. The
lake hasn’t frozen, but some of the small ponds have skimmed
over, so we expect lake ice this week. As always, we have our
fingers crossed for smooth ice thick enough to skate on.

Dave Freeman, long time Sawbill crew member, is embarking on
an interesting and ambitious project this winter. Border Country
Adventure is the name he has given to an epic winter camping trip
that he is taking to raise wilderness awareness among the public.
Assisted by a sled dog, Dave will pull a sled across the length
of the BWCA Wilderness for six weeks beginning February 1st. He
will be updating his website via satellite telephone during the
entire adventure. Visit his website
now for more details. We will be
following Dave’s progress with interest.

Sawbill related items continue to pop up on eBay. Last week
there was a vintage postcard from Sawbill Lodge circa 1951. I was
going to put a link to it here, but apparently was too slow and
it is already sold. Currently there is a vintage
Sawbill Outfitters grey hooded sweatshirt
available from a
seller in Duluth. This is very amusing for us. We still sell them
new in the good ol’ sawbill Store. – Bill

11/4/00 – Some would call it adventurous, some would call it
sheer stupidity. That’s right folks it’s another episode with the
Sawbill Polar Bear Club! I guess it’s not much of a club any more
seeing that I’m the last remaining member, but for the sake of
continuity we’ll call it a club. The weather was beautiful today
after several days in a row of gloom and rain, so I had to jump
at the opportunity to freeze my tail off. Also, I vowed to get in
the lake on my last day of work at Sawbill and sadly, that day
has come. Again, I forgot to bring a thermometer with me so I
can’t give a precise measure of the temperature of the water in
Sawbill Lake, but here’s a little description to give you an idea
of where it’s at. The Polar Bear Club members never jump in the
lake just one time , it’s simply not allowed, an encore is
required. Today upon pulling myself out of the lake after the
encore I actually got a brain freeze, you know, an ice cream
headache. Needless to say, the whole experience was fairly
intense. I’d like to dedicate today’s jump to the Sawbill Crew
Late Season Bachelors Association (SCLSBA) and two of its three
members, Eric "Frosty" Frost and John "The Man
with the Plan" Mlade, here’s to you boys.

So it’s time for me to say good-bye to Sawbill and make the
big move off into my post undergraduate future. I owe quite a bit
to this wonderful place, more than I could ever express in this
newsletter. If any of you are in the New York Metro area, please
look me up, I’ll take you on a paddle down the Hudson! Take care
everyone. Cheers! – Hoeky