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June 2004

6/30/04 – The past few days
have been just gorgeous! The cold and wet weather that hung around for most of
June has transformed into warm, sunny days that make you want to lounge on a secluded
beach for hours soaking up the suns warm ray.

Sawbill customer
Dave Boser sent us several photos from a recent trip to Cherokee Lake. Below is
one of my favorites. – Dave

Sunset on Cherokee Lake


– Last week the Bullhead Water-Lilies sprang to the surface of the shallow ponds
surrounding Sawbill. Their bright yellow buds and broad green leaves add a splash
of color to the shimmering surface of some of my favorite moose haunts. Last night,
Alison and I hopped into kayaks and set out to check on their growth. Portaging
the kayaks down to the lake is an awkward, hand-cramping ordeal, but once in the
water kayaks are a joy to paddle. After an hour of paddling into a strong north
wind, we ducked into a narrow, log choked passage, which connects Sawbill Lake
to Handle Creek. More lily pads had burst to the surface and last week’s tightly
closed flowers where starting to unfold, exposing their golden petals to the evening’s
last rays of light. We drifted slowly over the masses of lilies lost in thought.
Eventually the trees’ shadows reached across the mirror smooth water, shielding
me from the sun’s warmth. Sadly, I realized it was time to leave. As we turned
our kayaks toward Sawbill, I found comfort in returning soon to check on the water-lily
garden. – Dave

– A sunny Saturday has caused a flurry of activity around Sawbill. The store has
been busy all morning, and canoes are flying off the racks. Before we know it
the 4th of July will roll around, and the busy season will be here.

night most of the crew went for a paddle after closing. We broke into small groups
and slowly paddled around Sawbill Lake. The moon shown through a thin layer of
clouds to the South, but the northern horizon was clear and speckled with stars.
Viewed from a canoe on a calm clear night, our backyard is hard to beat. – Dave

Loren, our newest crew member, and Lida testing out the Hansen’s wooden canvas
canoe built by master canoe builder, Joe Seliga.

6/24/04 –
Sawbill Poet Laureate Ed Dallas paid us a visit after a canoe trip last week.
Ed took his son and three of his fellow West Point graduates on a canoe trip to
celebrate their graduation. Below are two Haikus that Ed wrote during their trip.

camp dance hall

six wood ticks quickly two step

across hot skillet

portage trails
near boot tracks
pink lady slippers

night 13 of us – the whole crew minus Scott, who is recovering from jaw surgery
– hopped into four cars at 9:15 PM for a night on the town! Our mission was to
showcase the Sawbill musicians at the Gunflint Tavern’s open mic night. Usually
every Wednesday the Tavern is hopping and bopping to unpolished tunes played by
Grand Marais’ finest amateur musicians. Last night the Tavern replaced open mic
night with a 3- piece band. Things were pretty slow when we arrived, but the Tavern
was soon filled with dancing crew members. After a few dances, our musicians got
antsy, so we moved our party to Artist’s Point. Adam, Jeff, Pat, and Alison’s
music blended with the crashing waves, crisp air, and star-filled sky to produce
some great music.
I may be
living up to my nickname "Gramps" when I say this, but I don’t care.
I have seen a seen a few Sawbill crews come and go in my day, and I think it is
safe to say that this year’s crew is a keeper!

Green singing "The Emily Song" accompanied by Pat on Bass, Adam on Guitar,
and Alison on Cello.

Newsletter editors Alison and Molly hard at work correcting countless spelling
and grammatical errors.
Warm Fuzzies are definitely in order!

– Walter and I slid our canoe into the lake at 7:00 this morning looking for a
few fish and a little adventure. We left Sawbill Lake and headed up a narrow winding
creek. Water levels have started to drop and the lower water makes travel harder
on these seldom-traveled trickles of water. As we neared the next lake, a young
cow moose came into view. The moose stood calmly looking at us for several minutes.
Assured that we were friends, she let down her guard and took several long drinks
of cool water before continuing on her way. Energized by the encounter, we paddled
on and soon came to our first portage. Following narrow, moss-covered trails maintained
by four-footed travelers rather than humans is hard, but rewarding. Crashing through
alder and weaving our way over and under downed trees, we slowly made our way
north. Following game trails makes me slow down and watch my feet, and in the
process a whole new world comes into view. If getting to the next lake is my only
goal, I grow impatient when the brush gets thick or the mud sucks at my thighs.
But by taking advantage of my slow progress – savoring the delicate details of
a blooming lady’s slipper, or the earthy aroma of a beaver’s home – I am able
to enjoy where I am rather than focusing on where I hope to end up. For me this
is a much more enjoyable way to travel.

Before long we pulled
over one last beaver dam and paddled out onto our lake. After rigging our fishing
poles we let a gentle breeze carry us down the lake. As the rocky shoreline drifted
by, we lobbed spoons next to the fallen trees that lined the shore. The northerns
seemed ravenous as they attacked our lures over and over. If our lures’ large
treble hooks did not penetrate a fish’s bony mouth on the first bite, it would
often attack again and again until it was finally hooked. After several hours
of action-packed fishing, we pulled our canoe back over the last beaver dam and
retraced our steps back to Sawbill. – Dave

skinny friend taking a drink.

Stemless Lady’s Slipper that we came across this morning.

Lady’s Slippers have a deceptive pollination system. Bumblebees are lured into
the pouch of the labellum through the slit in the front, attracted by the bright
color and sweet scent of the flower. Once inside, they find no reward, and discover
that they are trapped–with only one point of escape. Inside the pouch, there
are hairs which lead to a pair of openings, one beneath each pollen mass. First,
however, the bee must pass under the stigma, so if it bears any pollen from a
visit to another flower, it will be deposited before picking up a fresh load,
thus preventing self-pollination. Unfortunately, the bees quickly learn from their
experiences and soon avoid C. acaule flowers. Thus, like several other orchids
in our flora, they are dependent on naive bees, and generally experience very
low pollination rates (Davis 1986).

displays the smallest fish of the day.

6/21/04 – Moose have
been all over the roads this spring. Last week Bill and Carl Hansen saw a moose
and two calves on their way home from town. Customers have been entertaining us
with stories of moose sightings, and I have started to drive much slower. I love
my Honda Civic, but I do not think that my car or its passengers would be in very
good condition after crashing into a moose! After 8 months of scraping by on leaves,
cedar boughs, and other less tasty morsels, the moose are finally able to return
to the shallow lakes and marshes for some real food. The longest days of the year
cause the aquatic vegetation to grow rapidly and the moose are taking advantage
by hanging out in shallow water to eat, eat, and eat some more. Crescent Campground
hosts Jo and Bill Koski came across a young bull moose feeding in a shallow marsh
near Two Island Lake on their way into Grand Marais. Joanne used her new digital
camera to take a bunch of great photos. She said that she and the moose really
connected, and that the moose actually talked to her by making grunting noises.
I think Joanne "The Moose Whisper" Koski has a nice ring to it. Great
photos, Jo! – Dave

– The weather is warming up, and swimming is becoming down right enjoyable. I
have always found that you can judge fishing by the crew’s swimming habits. In
the spring, crew swims consist of quickly stripping down to swimming attire as
you summon up the courage to jump off the dock. Then, as soon as your toes are
touching the water, you are scrambling to haul yourself out of the frigid water.
This time of the year, the lake trout are cruising the shallows and biting like
crazy, and you can’t catch a small mouth if your life depends on it. When the
water warms enough for people to actually stay in the water for several minutes
the small mouth start biting and the lake trout head for deeper, cooler water.
I noticed the season’s first dragon flies crawling out of their larva cases at
the end of a portage and realized that soon the black flies will be gone, the
lake trout will be deep, and spring will turn into summer. Walter and I crouched
next to these amazing creatures as they struggled through different states of
emergence. They live for several years as larva before crawling onto these rocks
to break out of their hard shells, dry their wings, and take flight. I hope the
chance to soar through the air and gobble up black flies was worth the wait.

with the warm weather, we were able to trick a few lake trout into biting. Walter
felt the powerful surges of his first lake trout, rod bending, reel screeching,
a green monster flashing in the crystal clear depths. The smile on his face made
the long miles and hard portages disappear.
– Dave

shows off his first lake trout before watching it swim away.

on hamburgers and watching the sunset, we both
agreed that there were few
places we would rather be.


6/17/04 –
The finer points of beard growing have long been a topic of discussion amongst
the Sawbill Crew. We have talked about having an official beard growing competition
for several summers, but until now no such competition has taken place. I am proud
to report that the first annual Sawbill Beard Off has officially begun! Over the
next six weeks you will be able to laugh and cry along with the competitors through
weekly Beard Off updates posted right here on the Sawbill newsletter. You will
also be able to use sophisticated online polling techniques to vote for your favorite
beard in several different categories and help judges decide who will be crowned
2004 Sawbill Beard Off Champion. Please send all fan mail to

The beard off athletes posed for photos during the 2004 Sawbill Beard Off
pre-shave warm up held in the Mobe.


might not grow the thickest beard, but with shades like those, he will be hard
to beat in the style category.

Dad told him not to grow a beard this summer before he left his Indiana home.
Walter is throwing caution to the wind and growing a beard anyway. The media buzz
so far is "Rookie of the Year" for this promising young beard grower.

is a long time beard grower, first time competitor. He plans to use a peanut butter
based facial mask to increase hair growth.
eyes are currently on Pat "the stash" Nash. This man’s face is like
a chia pet. He is expected to win the total growth category by at least an ounce.
It is people like Pat that make Beard Offs so exciting.

of a wedding, Adam Hansen
will be joining the Beard Off a few days late.
will be focusing on the longest neck
hair category, but Jeff is hoping
give him a run for his money.


6/16/04 –
Yesterday morning Alison and I were sitting in the store waiting for the first
customers of the day to arrive. It has been busy around Sawbill, but Tuesday mornings
can be pretty slow. Conversation wandered from subject to subject as we tried
to stave off boredom, and eventually our conversation got stuck on the finer points
of the laws governing the Catholic church, a bit on an odd subject considering
neither of us are Catholic. However, as I sifted through countless piles of useless
information stored in my brain I came across an interesting bit of history. I
informed Alison that in the 1700’s the Pope had sent a high ranking member of
the church to Canada for a visit. Many of the French Canadian fur traders, often
referred to as Voyageurs, were Catholic and they did their best to follow the
rules set forth by the Catholic church. The Voyageurs often found it hard to refrain
from eating meat on Fridays and one of their favorite foods was beaver meat. During
the church officials’ visit he decided that since beavers have scales on their
tails and they spend most of their time in the water they are a type of fish.
Because of this he decided that it was OK for Voyageurs to eat beaver on Fridays!
Alison was a little skeptical so we decided to go strait to the top for an answer.
Are beavers still considered acceptable fair on Fridays during Lent? With a quick
Google search we found the Pope’s address in Vatican City. We wrote the Pope a
letter and we are now anxiously awaiting his reply. – Dave

Alison mailing our question to "His Holiness Pope John Paul II"

– Visiting at Sawbill this week were Phil and Fran Higley. Their visit led us
all to think of the history of Sawbill Lodge, the American plan resort that stood
at the south end of Sawbill Lake from 1934 to 1983. Phil is the nephew of Jean
Raiken, the first and longest owner of Sawbill Lodge. He was a guide for the lodge
for a number of years through 1956. Fran accompanied Phil to Sawbill one summer,
working as a waitress. We enjoyed looking at their photos and talking with them
about the lodge. – Dave

Phil and Fran Higley

6/12/04 – Catching a mess of lake trout
last week was a ton of fun, and last night’s festive dinner was icing on the cake!
Crew member Pat Nash brought home a 8.7-pound monster and claimed the prize for
the largest fish of the trip. What was his prize, you ask? Nothing short of a
festive dinner in his honor.

Normally the crew gobbles down
their dinner at 5:45, but once or twice a summer we find an excuse to host a festive
dinner. Festive dinners take place at 9 PM after we close, and they all include
a huge spread of food and a theme. Some of my favorite memories from past festive
dinners include a toga party where several crew members wore togas made from old
blue plastic tarps, and a disco party when Bill came running into the mobe wearing
skin tight polyester pants yelling "the wolves are howling, the wolves are
howling!" causing everyone to rush outside. We formed a sweaty mass of wriggling
lycra on the porch where we enjoyed the chorus for several minutes before returning
to our own party.

The theme for last nights festive dinner
was "The Pat Nash Fish Fry". Lida, the head cook, spent 8 hours preparing
cheese cake, home fries, salads, asparagus, and a beautiful fruit plate that was
the spitting image of Pat’s monster fish. Adam and I were in charge of cooking
the fish. We filled two ovens and the grill, and we still have 3 fish left to
cook. At 9 PM everyone converged on the mobe, dressed like Pat Nash, ate more
fish than I thought was possible, and partied the night away! Man, it’s good to
be at Sawbill. – Dave

Crew enjoying "The Pat Nash Fish Fry"!

Lida shows off her fish shaped fruit plate and a hot pan of baked lake trout.
Great job Lida!

6/10/04 – OB’s back! Long time sawbill crew
member John Oberholtzer moved back to Grand Marais several months ago. Last night
OB came up for a paddle and a sauna. We hit the water around 6:30 PM and made
our way up Sawbill towards the Smoke portage. He paddled Smoke Creek almost by
accident on his first BWCAW canoe trip as a teenager but had not been back there
since. Snooping around in the Boreal Forest with OB is always a fascinating, and
yesterday was no exception. Half way down Smoke Creek we left our canoe to explore
a series of old beaver ponds and gurgling streams that empty into Smoke Creek.

I always enjoy wandering with OB because he is constantly
aware of the subtle smell of a patch of earth, the distant drum of a Grouse, or
a handful of miniature purple violets hidden in the tall grass. He looks at the
forest in an unusual way, and when you’re with him, he makes you slow down and
appreciate the little things that are so easy to pass by unnoticed. As we crept
through the tangled forest we came across a giant moss covered boulder. Cresting
the boulder we noticed a six inch crack reaching down into the earth. The bottom
of the crack was filled with ice and when we peered into the crack it was like
standing in front of a refrigerator with the cool air covering our faces. I instantly
remembered stumbling upon the same spot several years ago on a similar walk. Have
people used this place to preserve food during the hot summer months? Does the
ice effect when the plants living by the crack bloom?…..This enchanted spot
lingered in our minds as we headed back to our canoe and continued on our way.

We were soon paddling South on Sawbill Lake heading home to
join the crew for a sauna and the chance to spin a few tales about our little
adventure. Our conversation wandered from family and friends, to work and plans
for the future, but it always seemed to come back to the wilderness surrounding
us. – Dave

John Oberholtzer checking out the start of an amazing blueberry crop.

An ice-filled crack in the middle of the forest.

6/9/04 – Former
crew member, Ellen Bagnato, gave birth to Taj Lock Bagnato on Wednesday, May 26
at 6:59 am.  He weighed 7 lbs. 5 oz and was 19.5 inches long. His parents
have told us, "He is incredibly healthy, alert, and perfect!!"  

Ellen and Taj

Each year the Sawbill men take a day to
paddle, swap stories, laugh a lot, and do a little fishing. I always look forward
to this annual event, and this year’s trip lived up to its ever growing reputation.
The weather was beautiful, the fish were biting, and Nathan Terbeest caught his
first lake trout. Nathan has gone on many of these outings, but for some reason
we have never been able to get his fish in the boat. The first lake trout Nathan
hooked was about 5 years ago. He was so excited that he broke his fishing rod
in half when we set the hook and continued to fight the fish for several minutes
before it finally broke his line. A few years later he hooked one that was so
big it would not fit in our net….after several failed attempts to squeeze it
into our net it broke the line and we watched it slowly swim away. This time we
could not fail. Nathan is getting married in 10 days and the thought of ending
his unmarried life with out fulfilling his dream of catching a lake trout would
be unacceptable. So armed with a strong line, spare polls, and the largest net
I have ever seen we went fishing. Nathan landed two beautiful trout, including
an 8 pound monster. Now the crew is looking forward to a lake trout feast! – Dave

Scott, Pat, Nathan, Adam, Jeff, and Dave displaying some of the fish that
they caught.

6/7/04 – Sawbill’s newest employee, Walter, arrived several days
ago and he has been spending a lot of time in a canoe exploring near by lakes.
Yesterday Walter and I took advantage of the high water levels by paddling Smoke
Creek. Smoke Creek is a ribbon of water that twists its way from Smoke Lake into
North Sawbill. The creek is often so narrow that a canoe can barely squeeze between
its banks. Paddling a narrow creek provides a unique view of the boreal forest
that is hard to match.

Nathan TerBeest, a long time Sawbill employee, came
up for a short visit. Nathan is getting married on June 19th and he decided to
squeeze in a short fishing trip before the wedding. Nathan, Adam, Scott, Jeff,
Pat, and I are leaving to tonight. We hope to fool a few fish and treat the rest
of the crew to a fish fry when we return in a few days. Bill and Joanne Koski,
the Crescent Lake Campground hosts, have returned for another summer! Joanne stopped
in this morning for a visit and we enjoyed catching up after the long winter.
– Dave

winding his way though Smoke Creek.

Nathan, Joanne, and Bill chatting in the store.

6/5/04 – Everyone on the
crew pitched in last night and cleaned the store as a group. This allowed us all
to go out for our first all crew paddle of the summer. Paddling the Kelso Loop
was wonderful under a clear star filled sky. As we paddled down the Kelso River
the largest shooting star I have ever seen shot across the sky. The white blaze
was visible for approximately 8 seconds as it crossed in front of us and disappeared
behind the trees. For the rest of the paddle people were whispering about how
they had never seen anything like it.

More and more customers are coming
every day and the calm days of spring are over. Sawbill crew members new and old
are constantly zipping here and there stocking, cleaning, renting, and helping.
The water is warming up, the fishing is improving, and the black flies are every
where….summer is here! – Dave

sun setting over Alton Bay.

6/3/04 – Several inches of rain in 48 hours
caused Sawbill’s water level to rise almost a foot. The buzz around Sawbill was
that the loons’ nest would be flooded, so I snuck out for a paddle yesterday to
check on the loons and their nest. I found the nest surrounded by water, but the
egg was sitting high and dry about 3 inches above the water line. Good news, except
that the parents were nowhere to be seen. Hoping the parents would return from
a fishing trip soon I left the little brown egg and paddled and portaged over
to Alton Lake to wet my line. As I returned to the Alton to Sawbill portage I
was drawn to the roar of Alton creek, which leads out of the bay south of the
portage into Sawbill. Normally Alton Creek is just a trickle and doesn’t even
show up on most maps, but after the constant soaking we received last week the
creek had jumped its banks and formed a watery maze rushing through a dense cedar
thicket. I decided to follow the creek to Sawbill and began wading through the
foot deep ice water pulling my canoe over and around a labyrinth of downed trees
that choked the stream. After several minutes the stream became too steep for
wading and I was forced to shoulder my canoe and bushwhack along the creek toward
Sawbill. Ten minutes later I slid my canoe into Alton pond and paddled through
its narrow mouth into Sawbill…… My heart sank as I paddled by the loons nest
and saw the egg still sitting unattended……Returning several hours later I
could just make out one of the loons sitting on the nest under the moon lit sky.
Tonight is the full moon and the crew is going for a paddle so we can check up
on the loons again tonight! – Dave

Alton Creek surging towards Sawbill.

The loon’s nest holding back the flood and waiting for Mom and Dad to return.

6/1/04 – Tom (Hawk) Jensen sent along these pictures of his son-in law’s
dog (is that a dog-in-law?) taken on Cherokee Lake on opening weekend.