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Dreaming of Canoe Season

1/20/20 – Sawbill customer, Bobby Phelps, recently passed along a few pictures from a canoe trip taken this past summer. Although I’m definitely enjoying the winter conditions, I can’t help but look forward to paddling season a little more after seeing these.

As a friendly reminder, entry permits become available next Wednesday, January 29th, from www.recreation.gov. Happy planning! -Jessica

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Improved Conditions for Lake Travel

1/16/20 – This past weekend we welcomed round two of visiting crew members. Brian Henry arrived first and took it upon himself to head out on skis to provide a little lake condition reconnaissance. He reported 21″ of ice, along with a firm crust of snow on-top of the early season slush. Great news for future lake travel! His route zig-zagged across the south end of the lake, eventually heading around Boundary Island, and back. The only slush he encountered was when he dug his ski pole down into the snow to find it.

Other highlights from the weekend included; a sunset ski, music at Papa Charlies in Lutsen, lots of coffee drinking, bird watching, vinyl record listening, and football. Hard to beat. Thanks to Claire, Lindsey, Drew, Tess, and of course Brian for making the trip! -Jessica

Kit and Huck make sure Brian knows how to properly set up his fishing hole (no fish were harmed in the making of this newsletter post).
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Happy New Year!

1/4/20 – As the tradition goes, Sawbill crew members made the pilgrimage to the end of the Sawbill trail this past week to ring in the new year. This time around we were rewarded with clear skies, a very mild temperature of 0⁰ F, and no wind (unheard of in recent New Year’s Eve memory). We finished out 2019 under the stars making a lap around the freshly groomed ski trail and welcomed in 2020 on the lake. -Jessica

The 2020 New Years crew.
(Left to right) Back row – Drew, Luke, Mia. Middle – Jessica, Claire, Lindsey. Front – Dan, Owen, Katie.
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It’s a Wunderbar Life

12/16/19 – This past week The Big Lake, along with Wunderbar Eatery & Glampground, hosted their annual It’s a Wunderbar Life Holiday Market. Local artists and businesses were in attendance, including Clare and myself representing Sawbill. Per usual, this event tested all of my self control when it comes to buying every hand made coffee mug within sight, and the amazing artists of Cook county didn’t aid in the struggle. In the end I narrowly escaped with three new coffee mugs to add to my vast collection. Is there really such a thing as too many beautiful coffee mugs? I think not. -Jessica

Me doing all I can to look at Clare while she takes this picture, instead of the amazing pottery to her right.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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