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December 2000

12/26/00 – We have had a wonderful holiday here at Sawbill so
far. Our college students, Adam and Ruthie Hansen, have returned
from Madison and Chicago respectively. The weather has been
classic winter – mounds of fresh white powder, temperatures below
zero every night, and northern lights dancing among the stars. We
all enjoyed the extra Christmas day gift of the partial solar
eclipse, that bathed the landscape with soft golden light at
midday. We have a big ski planned for later today, but first we
need to haul some firewood into the houses for our furnaces. The
cold weather is causing large gaps to appear in the stolid wood
piles. – Bill

12/20/00 – Vivian and Willard Stevens have been camping on the
Sawbill Campground for as long as I can remember. Viv sent the
following e-mail today:

Hi Bill,

The following incident happened while we were at Sawbill in
Thought you might get a kick out of it. Should have sent it to
you a
long time ago.

While Paul and LeAnn and their kids were on campsite #3 in
August they
were feeding nuts and whatever to the chipmunks. One day Paul put
four peanuts and 4 pistachios on a rock to see what the chipmunks
prefer. When he came back some time later, he was surprised to
see that
the pistachios were gone, but the peanuts were still there.
Guess that goes to show that you have some chipmunks, and maybe
squirrels, who have discriminating tastes. None of the ordinary
for them
when they can get the best!

Have a super Holiday Season!!!!

Vivian Stevens (and Willard, too, I suppose)

12/17/00 – Cindy and I were invited by our friends Scott and
Lee Bergstrom, who own Thomsonite
Beach Resort,
to go on a sleigh ride on the Gunflint Trail.
The sleigh rides are given be Mark and Nancy Patten of Okontoe
Camp. The beautiful sleigh is pulled by two Belgian draft horses
over two miles of lantern lit trails. Mark, who is a cheerful
soul, keeps up a running commentary during the ride. The trail
crosses a small lake, a creek and makes a stop at the
"Kissing Tree." A vault of stars arches overhead, snow
blankets the spruce trees that line the trail, steam rises off
the broad backs of the giant, peaceful horses, and Mark sings
Christmas carols in a beautiful baritone. After the ride, the
Pattens welcome you into their home for a cup of home made hot
chocolate. Their house is a turn of the century hand hewn log
building that they moved from the nearby community of Isabella in
the early ’70s. They have since learned that it once served as a
bordello for the early 20th century logging camps around Isabella
and was known among the loggers as "The Clinic."

The Gunflint Trail is a paved road that requires quite a bit
of salt to keep the numerous corners and hills from being too
slippery. Moose have discovered the salt and get down on their
knees in the middle of the road to lick it up. It is a
magnificent sight, but also a significant road hazard. We counted
11 moose on our trip up to Okontoe. – Bill

12/14/00 – Cindy and the kids saw an unusual moose on the way
to school yesterday. It was a large bull, that on first glance,
seemed to have only one antler. It is not unusual to see a moose
with one antler that has dropped off, although usually in late
January or early February. As they drew near to this bull, they
realized that he had both antlers but one was huge while the
other was very small. The stunted antler was perfectly formed,
but tiny. It must be a pain to carry around such a lopsided load
on top of your head for six months. – Bill

12/12/00 – We have been under a cold snap here for the last
few days. The temps have not topped zero for highs and have been
near minus twenty every night. The full moon of December seems to
bring on the season’s first real cold snap every year. It does
make for some brilliant nights. It is the only time we feel the
need for window blinds on our bedroom windows, as the moon is
bright enough to fool us into thinking it is dawn at all hours. –

Steve Krahn has relisted the vintage Sawbill
Lodge postcard on eBay.
It is a nice black and white shot of
the lodge in its prime circa 1951. The building pictured still
exists at Sobakken Resort in Lutsen. It was disassembled and
moved there in the early ’80s.

12/8/00 – We had a typical fluke North Shore snow storm
yesterday in the Tofte area. Tofte received 16" of snow
during the day, while for twenty miles in any direction,
including here at Sawbill, total accumulation was 2" or
less. Fortunately, the thickest snow fell on the ski trails that
lace the hills above Lake Superior. Grooming is scheduled for
Saturday, so trail skiing will be on the agenda for Sunday. –

12/2/00 – I could feel the shoreline moving by. On ice skates,
I challenged myself to trace the lake, to stay as close to the
edge of land and water as possible. I had to quickly move my
skates slaloming partially-covered boulders, leaned my shoulder
into fragrant, fluffy cedars, clicked my skates on wickets of
branches held up from submerged windfalls. I saw cul de sacs of
the lake I had never seen. I left arcs of skate tracks in little
nooks that would not have accommodated canoe or skis. Behind a
curtain of cedars, I skated into a very small shrine. Its floor,
covered in a fresh linen sheet of snow, glowed in the shadows. It
felt good to move with the lake this way, like dancing with an
old, familiar partner. It’s my favorite time of year. The lake is
entranced, perfectly still, as if holding its breath before the
next exhalation of snow. Until then, it feels like time has
stopped. We work less, postpone errands and chores, so we can
move on the lake as effortlessly as stockinged-feet on a vast
ballroom floor. Soon, the snow will come and fill in the molds my
skate’s and Bill’s skate-skis have etched into the lake. Later
this winter, when I am trudging along in snow shoes, I will lift
up all the snow and press it into my memory like a printer’s
carved wood block. The image of long graceful strokes covering a
huge canvas, will seem fantastic, like a spell written in an
ancient language. I will smile and laugh, as I do so often,
recalling the wonder of these woods. OB