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3/8/05 – Another future Sawbill crew member has been born. Kaitlin Clare Brennan arrived on February 28th. Katie’s mom, Dawn (Kaluza) Brennan, worked here from ’91 – ’93.

Katie Brennan, 7 lbs, 21 inches.

Former Sawbill crew member Kathy Heltzer sent along this link to her 2002 canoe trip. She wants these pictures publicized to reverse her reputation for not catching fish!

Paul Grizzell, a frequent Sawbill camper, led Venture Patrol Boy Scout Troop 559, from Woodbury, MN, on a winter camping trip to Alton Lake a couple of weeks ago. They enjoyed crisp weather with temperatures dropping to near -20 F at night.

BSA Venture Troop 559 from Woodbury, Minnesota on Alton Lake, February 2005

Alton Lake to Sawbill Lake Portage.

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3/4/05 – Cindy, Clare, Carl and I had a wonderful vacation. We stayed at the Silver Star Ski Resort in Vernon, BC. We were originally alerted to this ski area by local cross country skiing legend Phil Bowen. Several years ago, Phil was an Olympic prospect, training with the Subaru cross country ski team. Several high level cross country teams hold their early season training at Silver Star because they receive some of the best early season (mid-November) snow in North America. In addition to more than 100 kilometers of cross country trails, they have a fine downhill mountain that offers plenty of challenge for folks from the Midwest. We skied and snowboarded on the mountain every morning. Then Carl and I cross country skied in the afternoons. Between the exercise and the altitude, we were pretty tuckered out each evening. Thanks to Jeff Green for holding down the fort while we were away.

We returned to even more snow in northeastern Minnesota than when we left. We officially have 30" standing here at Sawbill, but there is significantly more in the "snow belt" closer to Lake Superior. Ample snow and consistently cool temperatures have teamed up for truly outstanding ski conditions right here at home. I filled in on the groomer for the Sugar Bush cross country ski trails this week. It was gratifying to see the perfect conditions, happy skiers, and abundant deer, moose, and wolf tracks on the trails.

The barred owl pictured below was perched right above the bird feeder behind our house. It was obviously scoping out the mice and squirrels that share the sunflower seeds with the birds. Being the middle of the day though, it kept dozing off while keeping its vigil.

A barred owl snoozes above Sawbill’s bird feeder. During the summer, you can hear this fellow hooting in the campground.

Today, when I returned to the store building after lunch, a beautiful, mature bald eagle was perched on the fireplace chimney. It was so obvious even the dogs spotted it. They didn’t bark or get upset, but watched with interest as it flew away. – Bill

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2/16/05 – The Hansens are off for some skiing and snow boarding in British Columbia this week. Former Sawbill crew member Jeff Green will be taking care of business while we are gone. Jeff will be manning the office for the week, in between feeding the dogs and shoveling snow. I’m sure he’ll find time to fire up the sauna from time to time too.

Winter has returned to Sawbill after a couple of warm spells. We received a nice, fresh snow fall to make the trees beautiful again. The temperatures are dipping down near zero at night and staying well below freezing during the day. The local cross country and downhill ski areas are in prime condition. You can see trail updates for the Sugarbush Trails (accessed from the Sawbill Trail two miles north of downtown Tofte) and snow reports from Lutsen Mountains, our fine local downhill area.

Speaking of weather, we have been invited to submit little weather comments to Cathy Wurzer, host of "Morning Edition" on the Minnesota Public Radio network. Sawbill often has interesting weather and she will occasionally use that fact as part of her daily weather reports.

There is a bit of radio history connected to our weather here at Sawbill. Back in the ’30s through the early ’60s, Sawbill Lodge (our neighbor, now out of business) was owned by an interesting woman named Jean Raiken. Jean was an amateur radio operator who had a regular morning schedule (via morse code) with a fellow operator in Minneapolis. She would often report unusual weather to her friend, who in turn would call it in to the famous Boone and Erickson morning hosts at WCCO Radio. WCCO’s reports of the weather at Sawbill Lodge became a bit of a regional cult hit and were pretty famous at the time. – Bill

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2/11/05 – John "OB" Oberholtzer and Steve Surbaugh, both former Sawbill crew members, joined me for a couple of nights of winter camping last week. Steve had to be in Tofte for an 8 AM meeting, so he left our cozy camp on the north end of Sawbill before dawn. He later exclaimed,"I had an awesome ski down Sawbill…I wish I could commute to work like that every morning." OB and I certainly agreed, but we took our time packing up camp, and skiing down Sawbill. Plus, I called Cindy on my satellite phone and asked her to stoke the sauna for us. Cindy, OB, and I lounged in the sauna for an hour an a half when we got back to Sawbill….man it sure is a hard life!

Mary Alice received the final draft of her new book about the history of Sawbill two days ago! The book looks great, and we should have them for sale in about a month. – Dave

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2/7/05 – Chris Nelson, a Sawbill crew member from ’84 – ’87, and his wife, Euridice, just became parents for the first time with the birth of their son, Constantine Vernon Nelson. Mom and babe are doing fine. Pictures will be forthcoming soon. – Bill

2/6/05 – A stretch of cold, snowy weather has been broken by several days of balmy temperatures. I just returned from a three day trip around the Cherokee Loop and the high temperature each afternoon soared to near 40 degrees. The snow lay deep and untrampled on all of the portages, and we did not see any signs of other winter travelers between Kelly Lake and Ada Lake. The solitude found in the BWCAW in the winter is a beautiful thing. Striped down to our long underwear and searching for places in the shade to rest made it feel like a summer canoe trip, but the swish of my snowshoes, and the constant tug of my toboggan strap on my shoulders reminded me that summer is still a few months away. A North wind started to blow this morning, and the forecast calls for cooler temperatures. Long time crew member, John "OB" Oberholtzer, just arrived, and we are heading back out for a few more days in the winter wilderness, and we are hoping that Bill will come join us as well. – Dave

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1/31/05 – Bob Bugenstein stopped by yesterday. He is a long time Sawbill canoe country traveler – part of the famous "White Shirts" group. The White Shirts are a distinguished group of men who wear their old white dress shirts while on the trail. They discovered that the shirts are cool, comfortable, fast drying, bug proof, and provide great sun protection. Bob was also my pediatrician. – Bill

(l – r) Anne Bugenstein, Bob Bugenstein, Larry Fries, & Jeff Bugenstein, . (Homer gets in every picture.)

January broke all records for snowfall here at Sawbill, forcing us to shovel the snow off of some of the building roofs. Crew members Adam Hansen and Lida Storch made a special trip up from Minneapolis to help us with this labor intensive task. After the snow was removed, we had fun jumping from the roofs to the snow banks. Some had more fun than others. – Bill

Adam and Lida jumping off the shower house roof and Carl snowboarding off the Mobe (crew housing) roof.

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1/25/05 – This past weekend was marked by the return of the Sawbill Ladies, a group of former crew members who gather each winter for skiing, wine, saunas and laughter. This year, Beth Rolf was guest of honor for a Sawbill style wedding shower.

Beth Rolf models her lovely shower gifts. Guests (l – r) are Sandy Zinn, Clare Hansen, Carl Hansen (honorary Sawbill Lady), Patti Olson, Annie Strupeck, and Michele Thieman. Photo by Sawbill Head Lady, Cindy Hansen.

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1/20/05 – We are very sad to report the passing of Mike Clair, long time Sawbill camper and all around good guy. Mike spent many hours in the Sawbill store engaged in pleasant conversation with crew and customers. We will all miss his friendly face and affable story telling.

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1/18/05 – We have just emerged from a stiff little cold snap. Today, for the first time in nearly five days, the temperature is above zero. We had a low of -34 F on both the 15th and 16th. Sunday, a winter camper couldn’t get his car started. We pushed it into the shop and warmed it up while watching the Vikings lose. Our bird feeders have been mobbed with business. Chickadees, gold finches, red breasted nuthatches, white breasted nuthatches, pine grosbeaks, evening grosbeaks, pine siskens, red polls, gray jays, blue jays, hairy woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, and the flightless "red squirrel" birds, are all regular visitors.

The thermometer and Carl’s face both tell the tale of winter cold.