Posted on

Howlin’ Good Time

12/8/19 – On my way out of the office the other afternoon, I suddenly felt the need to head to the lake.  The lazy snowflakes drifting to the ground, light blanket of clouds, and a pleasant 20 some degrees left me no choice but to hurry up and get down there before sunset.  As I approached the lake I caught the sound of wolves howling in the distance (apparently I wasn’t the only one enjoying the beautiful evening).  They fell silent shortly after my arrival, so I waited a while to see if they would start back up.  After about 15 minutes of quiet I asked myself, what would Cindy Hansen do?  She’s a howling savant, so the answer was clear, I had to give them a good old-fashioned “Hey, hi, how are ya?”  I let out a howl, and wouldn’t you know, the group started back up across the lake.  I’ve heard wolves howling a few times in the past, but never in the daylight. Pretty darn cool!  -Jessica

Unfortunately no quality audio was obtained, but even the post howling sunset was well worth the trip to the lake.
Posted on

Class at North House Folk School

11/18/19 – Living in Cook county, I feel extremely lucky to have such easy access to North House Folk School, and this past weekend I cashed in on that good fortune by taking a Sami-inspired embroidery class. Over this two day course we created both a pendant and bracelet decorated with pewter thread (used as embellishment for centuries by circumpolar people). Now that I have a little know-how, and a few tools of the trade, I’ll be filling some of these long winter nights with a needle and thread. Welcome to crafting season! -Jessica

Works in progress.
Posted on

Early Season Cold Snap

11/14/19 – The cold snap this week has continued, allowing for good ice making conditions. Multiple mornings we found the mercury below zero, and not much above zero at the warmest point of the day. The ice on the south end of the lake is at least 5″ thick, although ice thickness can vary from one section of a lake to another, so it’s always a good idea to be extra cautious (especially on early season ice). For information on ice safety practices follow this link to the DNR’s website. -Jessica

Sunrise over Sawbill lake.
Ice crystal formations.
Posted on

Freeze Up

11/9/19 – Sawbill lake is officially socked in with ice. I haven’t ventured out on it yet, but I’ve included a few pictures and a timeline below to give an idea of the conditions. Happy November! -Jessica

November 2nd: Huck inspecting the first signs of substantial ice.
November 6th: Ice as far as you can see from the landing.
November 7th: Open water holding out just south of Boundary Island and into Alton bay.
The above cedar is reluctant to let go of the first ice sculptures of the season, or is it the other way around?
November 8th: Most of the water that was open on the 7th now appears to be frozen.
Posted on

Fall Projects

MEA weekend is upon us, and at Sawbill that means the last wave of wilderness-goers is moving through the outfitter. At this point in the season it almost feels strange to have customers coming in regularly, as the remaining crew has spent the last couple weeks working through projects to prepare for the winter. While the amount of customers declines in the fall, there is still plenty of work to do to close down the outfitter and prepare the grounds for the many changes that happen during the winter. Projects such as wood stacking, deep cleaning, taking inventory, and storing canoes can often take days to complete, even with the entire crew working together to get them done. After the last hoorah that is MEA weekend, the real finishing touches can be put on the outfitter and much of the fall crew will begin to head home for the winter. Thanks to everyone for a great season! We will of course be in touch via the Sawbill Newsletter throughout the winter, and we look forward to seeing you all again next year!

– Owen

These piles of wood will soon be neatly organized, as the other stacks nearby demonstrate
The finished product, just before adding a tarp to protect the stacks from the elements… this wood will provide fuel for heat on the premises throughout the long winter months for those who live here year round!
All unsold shirts from this year have been marked down and will be sold at a sale price next season!
Dan and Paul nesting a canoe in the new pole barn for winter storage
Posted on

10/12/19 – The Sawbill crew and a few lucky campers woke up to a treat this morning… the first snowstorm of the winter is upon us! As of 8:30am this morning there’s about a half inch of snow accumulated on the ground, and the snow is expected to continue to fall through the late afternoon. The high temperature for today is 34 degrees so the snow may stick around for a few days, but for all who may have loved ones in the BWCA or might be planning a trip in the near future, don’t fret – the lakes aren’t icing over quite yet. For now, we’re just getting a fun and aesthetically pleasing taste of the months to come. Bundle up!


These icicles will be significantly larger come December!
Posted on

Cold weather alert!

10/6/19 – As winter approaches, lots of changes are happening in the BWCA. For fall paddlers, this means preparing for colder and wetter weather on the lakes and portages as well as at your campsites. If you’re planning a trip within the coming weeks, it’s important to pack warm, non-cotton clothing and layers that can be easily taken off and stowed. Rain gear is a must, and footwear should be warm, sturdy, and waterproof, as water temperatures are dropping and portages are muddy in many places. Colder weather also means portage packs will be more full. Our outfitter is mostly sending out zero degree sleeping bags rather than the normal 20-30 degree bags used in the summer months. These will take up more space, as will the increased layers and warmer clothing necessary to brave the October cold.

Prepare for bigger sleeping bags and heavier portage packs!

While portaging may be more of a task in October, those who are willing to put in the extra effort to plan for increasingly cold and wet weather will be handsomely rewarded. The fall colors are still going strong here in the wilderness, the bugs are completely gone, and the foot traffic on most routes is way down. As the temperatures at night begin to dip into the 30s and 20s within the next few weeks, a lucky few will have the chance to see snow in the boundary waters while still being able to canoe across the lakes. This time of year, the northern lights are also far more common. We hope to see you here for the last few weeks of the season!


Posted on

Canoes for sale!

Well folks, it’s that time of year again – the season is winding down and the Sawbill workshop is hard at work refurbishing used canoes that will be sold on a first come, first served basis to a few lucky customers. The refurbishment process includes installation of new skid plates on all used canoes, as well as a coat of vinyl ester resin on the bottom of each canoe and a fresh varnish to protect from UV rays.

Paul hard at work applying vinyl ester resin to the bottoms of the 17′ Northstar Seliga

Our first round of 17′ Northstar Seliga kevlar canoes are up for sale now outside of the Sawbill store, and more will continue to become available for purchase as the season continues to wind down. We don’t deliver any canoes so if you’re unable to make it up here this fall, all of our canoes are also available for purchase online and can be held for you until next summer. Visit for more information!


Used canoes piled neatly outside of the Sawbill store

Posted on

Birthday pizza

Happy birthday Dan!! Our fearless leader celebrated his 35th birthday this week, and much to the delight of the crew he asked to cook a special meal to celebrate the occasion. Using the brick oven in the Shirleys’ backyard, Dan cooked the whole crew a neapolitan feast. What better way to celebrate a birthday than with a wood fired pizza bake! Abbondanza!


Dan baking pizzas with aplomb. Good work Dan!
The first pizza of the night goes in!