Posted on

October 2001

10/31/01 – Many things have been happening here
at Sawbill. In fact, it has been so busy that updating the
newsletter has been difficult. Here is a recap:

Yesterday, the trusses were installed on the
store building addition.

The boom truck lifts trusses into place. Crew
member Max Wilson and contractor Grey Jordan nail them into

Over the weekend, we had our store moving party.
Ten former Sawbill crew members and friends spent two days moving
every last thing out of the store building and tore out a good
portion of the inside of the store. A huge Sawbill thank you to
every one for lending a hand. We couldn’t have done it alone.

The moving and tear-out crew in the upper store
with all the merchandise, shelving and slat wall removed. . Back
row left to right: Bill, Max Wilson, Beth Rolf, Bill Kubiak,
Betsy Moyer, Rick Grupe, Steve Hedman, Natasha Warner, John
"OB" Oberholtzer, Mary Pat Grupe. Paul Lundgren,. Front
row left to right: Bob Kubiak, Dee Hedman, Cindy, Ellen Lock. The
other picture is the inside of the lower part of the store minus
the old ceiling, shelving, partition walls, and paneling.

How many crew members does it take to move a
safe? Three of Sawbill’s "most senior" ex-crew declare
it "M

We had our traditional annual pumpkin carving
party with the usual participation of the Winter/Dornfeld family
from Owatonna, MN. Carol Winter is a former Sawbill crew member.

Betsy, Natasha, Max and Beth attack their
pumpkins with vigor. And, the frightening results.

10/18/01 – Late breaking news from Steve and Kate

Our little addition to the family has finally arrived!  Kate
gave birth to 7lbs 12 oz and 20.5 inch William Ferguson Surbaugh
at 1:40 AM this morning.  Mother and baby are very healthy
and the father is very proud of both of them.  Kate was the
star of the floor last night with all of the nurses bragging that
she waited until she was 8 centimeters dilated before going into
the hospital and giving birth with no medications.  


William Ferguson
Surbaugh with his proud parents, former Sawbill crew members Kate
and Steve Surbaugh

10/18/01 –

Ed Dallas, Sawbill’s Poet Laureate, sent this
poem this morning:


Drab green
two shoulder straps
heavy with to much stuff,
at portage trails when I lift it
I curse.

Here are some current pictures of the
construction project.

A cement deck and retaining wall will support
the new screen porch. The walls start to take shape over the new

I got a call from Jack Blackwell, grandson of
Alec Boostrom. Jack said the cabin pictured below was actually
built by someone else in the early ’70’s. Alec’s cabin was
located near this one. The cabin pictured was a few courses of
logs and then had a tent erected on top of the logs. Jack spent a
lot of time in the woods with his grandfather when he was a
teenager and has many great stories about life in the wilderness
during the first half of the 20th century. – Bill

10/10/01 – Max and I had a wonderful one day
canoe trip yesterday. We visited the remnants of an old trappers
cabin deep inside the wilderness. We were lucky enough to have a
beautiful day and saw three moose – including a magnificent bull
(sorry, no pictures). There were only a few logs of the tiny
cabin remaining. We were careful not to disturb the site, but the
artifacts on top were mostly pretty modern. Alec Boostrom was a
Native American who had a string of these small cabins along his
extensive trap lines up until 1967.

The old trapper’s cabin with an air tight wood
stove, and old bucket and other artifacts, including a Converse
tennis shoe.

Some old fish hooks.

10/08/01 – Progress on our construction project
slowed to a crawl today as some apprentice block layers were on
the job.

Cindy pursues her new trade. Homer and Jack
supervise the job.

10/6/01 – We closed the front doors of the store
building today to pour footings and nature rebelled by pelting
snow off and on all day.

Yes, that is snow pelting down on the
construction site. The canoe are covered with a light layer this

The basement portion of the project is done and
was immediately taken advantage of.

Cindy, Beth, Rick and Lance (cement
contractors) play doubles in the new, underground Sawbill tennis


10/1/01 – After several years of planning, our
big construction project is underway here at Sawbill. We are
adding several additions to the store building and will be
extensively remodeling the inside of the building too. The
equipment rental will be back in the store building, just as it
was before we built the Dome in 1974. The Dome will still stand,
but will be used for "back of the house" functions.

The cement crew works overtime on the new
basement tonight. Picture taken from near the shower house.

Posted on

September 2001

9/28/01 – I’ve been remiss in failing to call
your attention to Big
. Former Sawbill crew members Dave Freeman
and Eric Frost, along with their partner Mike Clark, are paddling
the entire length of the Mississippi River. Many of you will
recall Dave’s epic trek across the length of the BWCA Wilderness
last winter. Big Muddy Adventure is a similar educational effort
with school kids participating via the web. You can see their
daily journal at the link above.

Dave Freeman and Eric "Frosty" Frost
in obvious pain and suffering as they explore the Big Muddy.

9/24/01 – Our annual used equipment sale has
begun. Check out the Used Equipment For
page for some great deals on used gear.

Sawbill Outfitters is a proud member of Northeastern Minnesotans For
which is working to organize the many people who
support the wilderness and happen to live in northeastern
Minnesota. Visit their site for more information on BWCA
Wilderness issues and what you can do to help protect the BWCA

Posted on

August 2001

8/30/01 – We caught these two giant crayfish while fishing
with our super sized Shad Rap yesterday. (Thanks to our
mysterious Massachusetts benefactors for providing us with lots
of entertainment).

Giant crayfish invading northern Minnesota
lakes? Is skinny dipping still safe?

8/28/01 – Eight days and counting of almost perfect weather.
Every returning canoeist is raving about how beautiful the
weather has been. Beyond the obvious blue skies and light winds,
there seems to be a clarity to the air that refreshes and renews
with each breath. This is truly a golden moment in time, when we
are reminded each moment of the deep and intense beauty provided
by this unique, spinning blue ball. – Bill

8/23/01 – Ed Dallas, the Poet Laureate of Sawbill, writes

summer night downpour
a soggy sleeping bag bends
a small spruce tree

8/22/01 – We’ve been enjoying a visit from Ulrika Larsson, a
student of eco-tourism from near Helsingborg, Sweden. Ulrika is
on a two year course of study in eco-tourism. She has been in the
United States since June, visiting with eco-tourism businesses
and land managers. She spent several weeks in Hawaii before
coming to Minnesota. While in Minnesota, she has spent time with
the National Park Service at the Grand Portage National
Monument., went on a week long work trip with Forest Service
wilderness rangers in the BWCA Wilderness, went sea kayaking on
Lake Superior and finally ended up at Sawbill for five days. She
will ultimately join the eco-tourism industry in Sweden in some
capacity. She has been very helpful to us in the absence of about
half of our regular crew who have departed for school. Besides
being a hard and willing worker, she is pleasant to visit with
and has a great accent 🙂 We wish we could keep her, but she is
bound for Montana before her return to Sweden at the end of

Ulrika Larsson

8/16/01 – The black bears have been pesky from time to time
this summer. Right after the 4th of July there were suddenly
bears everywhere. For about ten days virtually every returning
group had a bear story to tell. Then, just as suddenly, they
disappeared. It is no coincidence that the blueberries began to
ripen at about the same time. A couple of weeks ago the bears
began to reappear in camps. There are only a few areas where they
seem active right now. Beth Lake is a hotbed at the moment. One
family returned from Beth last week claiming that they had five
bears in their camp – at the same time! They had their food
adequately hung out of reach so the bear gang wasn’t successful
in stealing any food, but it unnerved then enough to force a
lake change. They said it appeared that the group consisted of
two adults and three two year old cubs.

It is great to have an animal as beautiful and spectacular as
the the North American Black Bear in our wilderness. They are
smart, resourceful and fascinating. Occasionally, they ruin a
canoe trip by stealing all the food. Fortunately, they are
friendly to a fault and have no interest in harming humans. It is
a challenge for all of us to learn to coexist with these
magnificent animals.

8/10/01 – Jan Moravec, long time Sawbill canoeist, sent this
along today:

Well, our annual trip to the north was once again a fabulous
time and great
reuniting of this crazy group. We are now in 6 different states
since I
recently moved to Tucson.

I thought I’d send along this photo to illustrate the newest look
in camping
togs. The chiffon pareos started out as a joke from one of the
girls but she
got the last laugh because we all ended up wearing them during
the day after
swimming! Quite a fashion statement I must say. We decided that
if anyone
approached our campsite and saw all these larger than life women
in chiffon
pareos, they would surely think we were the sorriest bunch of
campers up
there! Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Thanks again for your hospitality and we are already planning for
next year.

Jan Moravec
& the BWISBS

BWISBs (Big Women In Sports Bras) 2001

I took a short run on the Superior Hiking Trail last night in
the blessedly cool air. The wind was tossing the tops of the
shaggy barked maples. At one point I had to duck under a leaning
cedar. More than any other tree, the cedar strikes me as alive
and sentient. How does it perceive the world with it’s roots
anchored deep in the soil and its top shaped by thousands of
seasonal changes? Is my passage registered as a blink of
activity? Or, am I too ephemeral to even register in the cedar’s
slow sense of time? If you have ever held wood cut from a living
cedar, you know it feels disturbingly like flesh. In spite of
this, I live in a cedar house, the wood as dry and light as
bones. The wood is the legacy of the living tree and inspires one
to leave a similar legacy. As I ran down the damp, winding trail,
I breathed a thank you to the folks who conceived and built this
beautiful trail for my enjoyment. Their legacy and the cedars’
are serving me well. Finishing the run, I stripped off my t-shirt
and gloried in the feeling of cool air against my skin. Do I
smell a hint of Fall in the air? – Bill

8/6/01 – Ed Dallas, Sawbill’s Poet Laureate writes:

It has been a real joy to read all the last lines, for my
haiku that was
posted on the newsletter, that have been submitted by the readers
of the
newsletter. I got a real good laugh from the suggestion of
"canoe graffiti"
by "Rube" Rubinstein. The mental picture of gangs of
teenage boys roaming
the BWCAW, ramming their canoes into rocks at portage trails and
just to leave their marks was just too much! As you know a haiku
is suppose
to capture a moment in time for the reader and with that I would
like to
thank Wally Neal and E.M. Schroeder for their suggestions as I
have combined
theirs into the following:

modern rock paintings
red green silver marks scraped from
the hides of canoes

Their entries made be recall a canoe trip my family took on Great
Slave Lake
up in the N.W.T. of Canada, back in the early 90’s. We had been
looking for
an old portage trail for several hours and when we did find it we
also found
a long forgotten birch bark canoe repair kit, that was lying up
against a
spruce tree. there were several pieces of birch bark wrapped
around 5
hand-carved cedar ribs and three hunks of harden spruce sap, used
to melt
and seal the seams. You could still see the small holes along the
edge of
the birch bark where spruce roots were used to lash the pieces of
bark to
the thwart of the canoe. I could just imagine the care that guy
must have
took not to run aground with his canoe. Do the modern day
canoeist take that
much care? Do they have the time and knowledge to repair their
canoe? Thanks
guys for bringing back that canoe trip for me. Thanks to all who
suggested a
last line. I will do this project again. Now if all of you will
suggest ways
to break this heat I will be grateful.

Have a good poetry day

PS……. I caught only one fish on that canoe trip, a 35lb. lake
trout 53"

8/5/01 – Wanted to pass these thoughts
along, reflecting on our past week up in Gods country.
What a study in contrasts!  Starting with thunderstorms in
the night, the first three nights, culminating with the
outrageous storm at 1:40 am on Wednesday, August 1st.  The
storm lasted until 4am  and pounded us with supposedly 80
mph winds, 2 inches of rain, and a sound and light show that even
Steven Spielberg could not match.  Talk about
surround-sound!  Our thoughts ran from whether our tents
would hold…with us in them; would the trees stay in the ground;
and would the canoes be there in the morning.
Then to have the skies clear on Wednesday afternoon, and enjoy
the next three days of near perfect weather, with clear nights, a
nearly full moon and lakes like glass mirrors in the morning, was
really wonderful!
Experiencing these contrasting conditions made for a very
memorable trip!
Hugh, Mary, Tyler and Graham Norsted


How about;

Modern rock paintings
red, green, silver marks left by
awestruck paddlers’ boats

or (my preference)

Modern rock paintings
red, green, silver marks left by
spellbound pilgrims’ craft

I enjoy hearing about Sawbill and the adventures that others are
experiencing. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken a BWCA trip,

hopefully I’ll get a chance to experience the magic again soon.

Guy Jodarski
Neillsville, WI

8/4/01 – More suggestions for the last line of Ed Dallas’,
Sawbill’s Poet Laureate, unfinished haiku:

modern rock paintings
red, green, silver marks left by

From "Rube" Rubinstein,
former Sawbill crew member (from the last century):

My line for the haiku hack…
"canoe graffiti."

From E M Schroeder:

I Propose:

Modern rock paintings:
red, green, silver. Marks ripped from
the hides of canoes.

8/2/01 – Wally Neal writes:

Suggested last line for the haiku
  "……..wind-pushed scraping hulls."

    I never was much into poetry, as you can

Liz Aicher contributes:

modern rock paintings
red, green, silver marks left by
artists tries:

modern rock paintings
red, green, silver marks left by
the finger of God

This reminded me of Charleton Heston in The Ten Commandments,
when he walked
down from the mountain, and holding out the two tablets said,
"Carved by the
finger of God."

From Carol Roe:

,How about:
       Modern rock paintings
green.silver marks left by,
and kayak.



Have fun… I do enjoy
your submissions to the Sawbill newsletters, Ed.
  sincerely CAROL ROE

Last, but not least, from Dave Minnich:

Hey there,

I was just reading the newsletter entry for 7/31, and had the
suggestion for Ed Dallas:

modern rock paintings
red, green, silver marks left by
today’s voyageurs

I appreciate reading the newsletter, and look forward to our next


8/1/01 – Earlier this summer, I was on Ogishkemuncie with a
brisk west wind. I was headed east, quite nice. The day before I
coasted across Kekekabic running with two-foot rollers. It felt
like a dream. The day before that, the wind blew me lickety-split
from Kawishiwi to Beaver Lake. Prior to the trip, I could not
decide where or how far to go. From the start, the wind had clear
intentions, so I followed along. In wilderness, the weather rules
supreme, each variety of weather governing with a unique charm.

Charming indeed to travel with the wind for three days, as good a
companion as any to help the miles ease by. I experimented with
various sail ideas and decided to use the most rudimentary wind
catches I had: my pack and body. Propping the pack as high in the
bow as possible provided considerable push from the wind. I
leaned back, paddle hooked under my arm as a rudder, and let the
pack and sides of the canoe perform the work of propulsion. It
was a delight riding the miles of Kekekabic this way: listening
to the white caps, feeling my insides tickle with the lifting
stern, and gazing up at cumulous clouds in rows to the horizon.
Across Ogishkemuncie I put my back into it, standing up into wind
stronger than where it drags along the water. It worked well,
t-shirt plastered against my back and my legs adding a bit of
sail, too. To steer, I rigidly held the paddle blade out to the
side where wind would catch it and, through the axis of my body,
force the bow around. The view and speed felt like ski-skating on
the lakes in late winter. It was such fun. I stood all the way
across Ogishkemuncie, amused and carefree, glad to be moving
through the country.

I entered the calm waters of the Louse River and was without the
company of the wind for a day. I woke on Malberg the final day to
discover the wind suggesting a different course than that which
my schedule allowed. I bucked the wind all day. At times the
blowing was so fierce, the wind seemed to be pleading with me for
a new direction, to keep my company a while longer. Alas, I
ignored that hearty invitation, returning to the rhythms and
plans of my town life. I’ll get with Wind again soon, and
someday I’ll pay an appropriate visit—go for months,
better acquaint myself with Wind, Sun, Moon, all of them. OB

Posted on

July 2001

7/31/01 – Ed Dallas, the poet laureate of Sawbill, was here
with his wife Julie for a canoe trip last week. He sent the
following email this morning:

Here is the list of things that I had in my trash bag, found
at the
campsites we camped at on the trip:

1 shotgun shell
3 lead sinkers
1 penny
1 fishing lure
3 rubber body Mr. Twister Tails
27 twist ties
24 inches of nylon utility cord
12 cigarette butts (all found at one campsite on Kelso Lake)
18.4 yards of fishing line
7 gum wrappers
2 rubber tips off of something
1 broken ear piece from a pair of sunglasses
1 weedless fishing hook

It might be interesting to know the list of things others find
while on
their canoe trips.

You remember the haiku I was telling you about that I was
having trouble
coming up with the last line (5 syllables)? Well, do you think
you could post
it on the newsletter and see if the loyal readers might come up
with that
last line? It came to me as I saw the different colors on the
rocks near
portage trails and campsites.

modern rock paintings
red, green, silver marks left by

I need that last line, I have thought of many but none seem to
say what I am
looking for.

Have a good one and try to stay cool,


7/29/01 – Our old friends from the First Congregational Church
of LaGrange are here in force this morning. The Zackley Youth
Group from the church have been canoeing through Sawbill for more
than 30 years. We are now well into second generation Sawbill
canoeists and may soon be seeing a third generation.

Former Sawbill crew member Laura TerBeest Strubbe was just up
for a short visit. She brought along her baby daughter Tori for
her first Sawbill experience.

Laura and Tori

7/27/01 – Adam and I just returned from a short sea kayaking
trip in the Suzie Islands on Lake Superior. The Suzies are just
off the easternmost point of Minnesota near near the Grand
Portage Reservation. We spent three relaxing days exploring the
rugged islands in this great inland, fresh water sea. We caught a
few lake trout, explored an abandoned turn of the century copper
mine, and tested our paddling skills in the powerful Lake
Superior waves. One night, we practiced self rescue from an
overturned kayak. The 40 degree water sure does motivate you to
get back in the kayak as soon a possible. On the last day we
paddled 18 miles down the shore to the small community of Hovland
where we mooched a ride back to our car in Grand Portage. It was
a fine little father-son trip before Adam leaves for a year of
study in Kenya. – Bill

7/25/07- If you are heading to the Boundary Waters soon, get
in the water. It
feels fine, fine as cherry wine.

At a constriction in the river, I found some cool water repose. I
been paddling on the North Brule River under an unforgiving sun.
bottom of the canoe was burning my feet. I took off my clothes
with sweat and lowered into the river: instant relief. I sighed
smiled, my body tingling as from the embrace of a loved one.
into a crevice in the rocks, I was treated to the full force of
current. Water pummeled and rode over my shoulders, big sprays of
fanning over my head. I braced my feet and the current conformed
to my
back, holding me like a chair. There I sat. At that level, where
river is frantically navigating through a maze of rock, the water
never quiet. It roars and cheers, a din that blocked the sound of
voice. In that capsule of cool and sound, the surrounding forest,
cumulous clouds and hot sun were distant, like on a movie screen
encased at a museum. The water was everything, and when I
submerged my
head and closed my eyes there was in the dull roar a dual
sensation. At
once, the experience was as comforting as the womb and as
uncaring as
the age of the earth and stars.

I stayed in the water as long as I could. Though the water
is gorgeous, it eventually made me shiver. I stayed a little
hoping the cool would deeply penetrate where it might be stored
sustain me during the paddle home. I rose pruned and clammy and
sprawled across a hot rock. The residual water on my body pressed
against the rock felt like steam. My backside rapidly baked dry
the sun. A breeze passed through the hair of my body, and the
evoked dreamy images of the beach and then a wheat field. The
scents of
the tannin water and my sun-dried skin commingled in a pleasing
bouquet. I lay there wondering if there were any activity I would
rather be doing – thought of nothing. I considered my recent
and concerns – they seemed petty. I thought, just keep doing
this, pile
on this kind of experience. The rest will fall into place. OB

7/20/01 – We received word this morning that the fire ban will
be lifted at midnight tonight. In the blow down area, fires will
be allowed between 7 p. m. and midnight only. Everywhere else,
fires will be allowed in the fire grates any time.

7/17/01 – We received this email from Steve Gendron today:

Hello Sawbill Friends. Having just completed the 2001 Loon
survey for the
DNR I thought you might enjoy my findings of the seven lakes that
my son
and I counted.

1) Sawbill- 8 adults, 1 juvenile
2) Burnt 4 adults, 2 juveniles
3) Flame 1 adult, 2 juveniles
4) Smoke 2 adults
5) Fourmile 1 adult
6) Richey 2 adults
7) Fox 0

Interestingly, last year’s survey produced the same total,
although we saw
one more juvenile this year. I was a little perplexed to see only
one adult
with the juveniles on Flame lake, but perhaps the absent parent
was over at
another lake visiting or at the Sawbill store checking out your
And Bill, the Minnesota II I bought in March worked great,
especially after
I added 40 pounds of rocks to the bow to compensate for my 8 year
rather thin frame. Thanks and take care.

We also took the infamous Sawbill crew picture today. It is
always a big project to get all of us together in one place at
one time. We also had the annual Sawbill crew Dome Dance last
night. As he has many times in the past, Terrence Smith, dance
caller extraordinaire from Duluth (and father of current crew
member Laura Smith) kept us all swinging, circling and dosey
doeing until the wee hours of the morning. Pine Wilson, mother of
current Sawbill crew member Beka Wilson also called a few fun
middle eastern dances.

Sawbill Crew 2001

7/15/01 – The pervasive dust has been replaced by puddles this
morning after an all night soaking rain. It is just in time to
quell the mounting fire danger and provide the blueberries with
their last shot of moisture before ripening. The lightning
associated with last night’s storm will keep the Forest Service
wary for a couple of days, but the soaking rain should have
quenched any strikes.

7/11/01 – Fire Ban in BWCA Wilderness. We just received the
following from the U. S. Forest Service:

In response to abnormally dry weather and extreme fire danger
levels in the
Arrowhead Region, the Superior National Forest, Minnesota State
DNR, and
local authorities will soon implement measures to reduce the
potential for
wildfire starts in the area. The area of concern extends beyond
blowdown. Specialists at MIFC are closely tracking fire

Posted on

June 2001

6/17/01 – Red and Sis Tabor are back for their umteenth
vacation in the Sawbill Lake Campground. They came up here after
spending the weekend at Bluefin Bay Resort in Tofte celebrating
their 50th wedding anniversary with their family.

Sis and Red Tabor after 50 years of matrimony.

Our last new employee for the season arrived this
week. She worked for two days and then trekked to the Twin Cities
to register for the University of Minnesota. She is back now and
learning fast. Shannon Grace has just graduated from Duluth East
High School. She is an experienced BWCA Wilderness camper, having
traveled widely with her parents since she was a small child.
Welcome Shannon 🙂

Shannon Grace

6/16/01 – All is well with the telephone system now. Thanks
for you patience if you had trouble on Tuesday or Wednesday.

I just returned from visiting my daughter, Ruthie Hansen, at
her new apartment in the Hyde Park section of Chicago. She is
continuing her education at the University of Chicago and
working. Many of you will remember her smiling face around
Sawbill over the last 19 years. She is adapting to city life very
well and will be visiting (hopefully) in September.

I also visited briefly the First Congregational Church of
LaGrange. This large suburban Chicago church has been a faithful
Sawbill client for more than 30 years. It was fun for me to
finally put a concrete mental image to a place that has been a
part of my life for so long. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to
visit any of my many LaGrange friends. – Bill

6/12/01 – We will be down to one telephone line here at
Sawbill for the next 24 hours or so as we move our microwave
equipment to the new tower. It looks a lot like the old tower.
Please be patient as all phone calls, Faxes, credit card
purchases and Internet use must vie for time on the old radio
system. Other than that, the weather is beautiful here, and I’m
looking forward to entertaining myself this evening by climbing
one tower and shouting over to the other one.

6/7/01 – In 1996 a fire burned some of the country near South
Temperance Lake. The fire traveled southeast, eventually
extinguishing near Homer Lake. I went to Vern Lake the other day
to explore the burned area. From a distance, floating in the
canoe, the density of regeneration struck me. Spring colors
painted every nook and cranny. I had visited the same area two
weeks after the fire when everything was black or the white of
scorched granite. Now, the green under the wispy dead trees was
thick, like a mat of curly hair. Near where I beached my canoe,
several spruce trunks were stripped clean of their branches by
the fire. Stretching long and pointy into the sky, they were
stunning, seemed like totem poles erected in mute testament to
the conflagration. On closer inspection, I found their charred
skin polished. Small seams of old sap laced the trunks. The
sap’s various shades of amber embedded in the inky black
were brilliant. Nearby, a lone jack pine, completely burned, was
covered in fire-opened cones. It looked like a tree in bloom.
Fanning out from its base was a sea of small jack pines two to
four feet in height. A pair of small falcons, American kestrels,
flew around the area perching on dead treetops. Their rapid,
shrill calls: “kli, kli, kli, kli, kli” were the only
sounds accompanying the wind. As I walked, I came to a growth of
aspens suckering up from the roots of their burned forebears.
They sprawled like a field of mature corn, and I was soon
enmeshed, a bit lost. I exited the aspens and crossed a sloping
hill colonized by blueberries. Judging by the heavy set of
blooms, it seems a good berry season is in store. The
blueberry’s enthusiastic pollinator, the black fly, attacked
me, so I headed for the canoe. I drifted with the blessed wind,
which felt cool and clean sweeping the black flies from my neck,
back to their blueberry duties. I lay down in the canoe, letting
the sky pass by. Two bohemian waxwings perching on a dead spruce
were hawking for insects. Very high in the sky an eagle was
looking around. I stayed in that corner of regenerating forest
all day, my senses aroused and brimful. There is so much going on
in the woods. What a relief to be among it all. – OB

Posted on

May 2001

5/28/01 – The new Sawbill crew members are arriving in batches
now. Jeff Green and Bhupesh Pattni are also from Virginia, MN.
Bhu and Jitesh (below) are brothers and Jeff is their good
friend. Jeff just finished his freshman year at Bemidji State
University and Bhu finished his sophomore year at the University
of Wisconsin in Madison. They’ve had a hectic introduction to
Sawbill during the busy Memorial Day weekend.


5/23/01 – Another new employee has arrived. Jitesh Pattni is
from Virginia, Minnesota and has just finished his freshman year
at Lewis and Clark College in Oregon. Welcome Jitesh!

Jitesh Pattni

5/19/01 – Summer is getting underway. The leaves are about
half out. The black flies appeared today, but haven’t started
biting yet. The dogs (Homer and Sunnie) have been swimming three
times today and now are napping in the office giving off the
robust aroma of wet dog. It is busier this weekend than last.

We have another new employee. Beka Wilson is from Decorah,
Iowa and is a student at Humboldt State in Arcada, California.
Welcome Beka 🙂

5/14/01 – It was a major break with tradition to have an
opening of fishing weekend that was actually good weather.
Typically it is cold, rainy and windy (if not snowing). This year
it was sunny and warm except for a brief shower on Saturday.
Fishing was generally slow, as it usually is this early in the
year. The notable exception was Smoke Lake, where several limits
of walleyes were taken. Two large bass were caught on Alton by a
group of dental students from Milwaukee. Steve Geving and his son
Garrett, from Duluth, caught one small northern on Alton. They
saw a moose on Kelso Lake. Steve has been camping and fishing at
Sawbill for more than 50 years. Jon Heinzen, from Tofte, caught
quite a few walleyes on nearby Crescent Lake. Louise Trachta, who
works at the Northshore Market in Tofte, caught a large Muskie on

5/8/01 – Sorry, I forgot to mention that all the lakes in the
Sawbill area are now clear of ice. I assume that all the lakes in
the entire wilderness are ice free. It has been warm, windy and
raining – a deadly combination for ice and snow. Several years
ago, we skied on Sawbill Lake on May 9th. Last year, the ice went
out in the second week of April. – Bill

5/7/01 – This just in from the Forest Service:

Campfire Restrictions in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area
Wilderness (BWCAW)
and Surrounding Areas

As of midnight, Wednesday, May 9, 2001, the Superior National
Forest is
restricting the use of campfires, charcoal, and wood burning camp
stoves to
the hours between 7 pm and midnight in the blowdown area on the
Propane and gas camp stoves will be allowed at any time of the
day in the
restricted zone.

A written description, lake lists, and maps for the restricted
area is
posted on the Superior National Forest website
available through any Superior National Forest office or BWCAW

These restrictions are part of an overall strategy to reduce the
risk for visitors and surrounding communities while still
allowing for safe
use of campfires. The need for these restrictions is due to the
effects of
a severe windstorm that blew down trees across a large area of
the Forest
on July 4, 1999. As a result of this large amount of fuel, the
risk is
significantly increased for a large wildfire that would start
spread faster and be difficult to control. The Forest Service
will continue
to monitor conditions and as fire danger levels increase,
restrictions will
also be increased.

Visitors are urged to take care in the use of campfires.
Approximately 50%
of the wildfires in the BWCAW start as a result of human
activities. Most
of these wildfires are from campfires that are not managed
Please be sure your campfire is "dead out" before
leaving it unattended.

All visitors are encouraged to bring camp stoves so they can
respond to
changes in campfire restrictions. Visitors can find out about
restrictions by checking our website,

or contacting any Forest office or BWCAW permitting office.

In the Sawbill area, this means that the routes roughly west
of Alton Lake have no fire restrictions and everywhere else does.
So far, the restriction means that you can’t have breakfast or
lunch fires. For most people, this isn’t much of a hardship. –

5/3/01 – Its official! Sawbill Lake lost its ice early this
morning. A brisk north wind kicked up after several days of
steady south winds. When the ice sheet shifted, it just broke up
and sank out of sight. Natasha Warner was the winner of the
betting pool. The traditional opening of the Sawbill Beach Club,
which means a quick dip in the frigid water, has been scheduled
for Saturday when former crew members John "OB"
Oberholtzer and Paul "Lundie" Lundgren can be here to
participate. Also on Saturday, we will send out a reconnaissance
mission to check the ice on Alton and other nearby lakes. – Bill

5/1/01 – Sawbill Lake’s ice has become too flimsy and
honeycombed to actually measure. It looks like it will go out
tomorrow or the day after at the latest.

Sawbill Lake 1 PM, 5/1/01

Our third new crew member arrived today. Molly
Heekin is from Evanston, Illinois and has been working for the
last year at Active Endeavors, and outdoor store in Evanston. She
is headed for graduate school in New York this fall. Welcome

Molly Heekin, ready to tackle unwrapping the 52
new Mad River canoes pictured behind her.

Posted on

April 2001

4/30/01 – What a difference a few days can make. Sawbill
Lake’s ice cover measured only 12" last night, only half of
what it was just three days ago. The snow is all gone except for
piles where the drifts used to be. A week ago we were slogging
through 6" of fresh snow in our pack boots. The high
temperature yesterday was 77 degrees and the low last night was
57. With warm weather forecast all week, the ice could be gone in
just a few more days. – Bill

4/26/01 – The lake ice measured 24" this afternoon, but
the top 18" is watery slush. Only 6" is hard ice. The
ice is detached from shore and floating. I needed to use a canoe
as a bridge to get out to the ice pack. I discovered the 18′
slush layer by trying to step out of the canoe and immediately
sinking nearly to my knee in nature’s slurpee. The ice on one of
the small ponds along the Sawbill Trail will probably go out
today. – Bill

4/24/01 – With 3" of moisture and 6" of fresh snow,
the lakes and rivers are brimming with water. Although the rain
must have degraded the ice somewhat, it is still 25" thick
this morning. If you have an early May reservation, don’t panic
yet. The weather forecast is for very warm weather for the
foreseeable future. I was tempted to set a ski track on the
campground roads this morning, but by 9 am melting had already
begun. The skis are put away and I guess that is where they
should stay (sigh).

Looking from the canoe landing back toward the
store at 9 a. m.

4/19/01 – The ice on Sawbill Lake is 27" thick.

4/18/01 – We received our annual truckload of new Wenonah
Kevlar canoes yesterday. Each canoe comes wrapped in shrinkwrap
plastic. When it is removed from all the canoes, it forms a
dumpster sized pile of waste. The only empty dumpster at Sawbill
is down in the campground, accessible only by unplowed roads,
still covered with 18" of snow. Our solution for
transporting the waste was to load it into a Royalex canoe and
tow it with the snowmobile. This works surprisingly well. The
plastic canoe slides easily over the wet snow and its shape makes
it track perfectly behind the snow machine. Carl, Clare, Beth and
Justin all took turns riding in the canoe while I drove. The
sheer silliness of it was cause for much hilarity. Sorry, we were
having too much fun to stop and take a picture.

Brand new Wenonahs in the sun.

4/17/01 – We had 4" of new snow, the temperature didn’t
get above freezing yesterday, and the low last night was 14F. I
skied up Sawbill Lake yesterday into the teeth of a 30 mph wind.
It took me half an hour to get to Kelso Bay and fifteen minutes
to get back. Along the west shore there were a few spots where
last week’s warm weather had opened up some water. The blowing
snow had turned this open water to slush. As I skied by, an otter
popped up through the slush about six feet away. I don’t know
which of us was more surprised. The otter ducked back under the
ice and did not reappear. This time of year they can travel great
distances under the ice by breathing from air pockets that are
trapped on the underside of the ice.

Sawbill Canoe Outfitters 4/16/01

4/13/01 – Carl and I measured 29" of lake ice right in
front of the canoe landing last night. As we drilled the hole we
watched an otter run down the length of the opposite shore – run,
run, sliiiide, run, run, sliiide… The ice is not very solid,
except for the bottom twelve inches or so. We’ll be reporting the
progress of the ice melt every few days for awhile. As ice out
day draws near, we’ll do a daily report.

The second Sawbill crew member has arrived for the season.
Justin Hoekstra is from the Chicago area and is the younger
brother of former Sawbill crew member Erik Hoekstra. He will be
attending the University of Illinois, Chicago, in the fall.

4/11/01 – The first Sawbill crew member of the season has
arrived. Beth Rolf has most recently been living in Minneapolis,
but is originally from Glencoe, Minnesota. Welcome Beth.

4/7/01 – At 6 AM this morning it was pouring rain with 30 mph
winds and the temperature hovering at 34 degrees. I am guessing
we’ve had well over an inch of rain in the last few hours. The
snow, which was 30" deep less than a week ago, dwindled to
20" yesterday and is down to 12" today. This is the
most unpleasant and dangerous weather that this part of the world
has to offer. It is much easier to deal with 30 below than this.
I spent 15 minutes cleaning pine needles out the gutters this
morning. Even in that brief time my shirt was getting wet under
my rain suit and my fingers were numb and fumbling. This is one
of the very few mornings that I was actually grateful to not be

We’ve received many expressions of sympathy since Gust’s death
on Thursday. Thanks to everyone. Here are a couple of samples.

Eric Frost writes from Katmandu, Nepal:

Hi Sawbill -Perhaps the greatest gift to my outlook on life
was seen through a dog’s smile. Guster was a fully doctrinated
professor of the courses in relaxation. Walking through the
campground with him taught me the beauty of slowing down and
letting life catch up at it’s slower speed. He saw new leaves on
trees and stopped to nap at them, not out of exhaustion, but
rather out of appreciation. He appreciated the cold floor of the
Dome, even when CO+ groups of 9 were wondering what they had
gotten themselves into. It was only through a simple wag of the
tail that showed his genuine gratitude of being fed from
abandoned fire grates and being able to dig his nose in a rotting
birch stump. He was content in his lot of being a scavenger (of
which I think perfection is too weak of description), knowing
that Carl or Clare would still feed him at the end of the day. He
didn’t seem to care that the world was seemingly passing him by.
Maybe it’s just the fact that I admired him for remembering me
summer after summer. Nonetheless, he’s more noble of a character
than most of my duo-pod friends. He’s a loss not only to Sawbill,
but to those who he taught the righteousness of the humility
which he took in every step: good dog, and a great friend of
mine. – Frosty

And this from the Freiermuth family:

We are terribly saddened by the news of Gusts passing. Gust
was an inspiration to dog lovers. It was his good nature that
convinced us to get a Golden Retriever (Elmer) that is now almost
9 years old. Sawbill was made a destination of ours at times over
the years because the kids wanted to see and feed Gust. He never
failed to show up at our campsite and in the true spirit of the
wilderness, left it better than he found it through his kindly
spirit and friendliness. Even in his death, Gust brings to us a
reminder of the reality and fragility of life and an appreciation
of what we have. When all of Gods kindly animals gather together
someday, they’ll call Gust BOSS. – The Freiermuths, Gary,Deb,
Alison and Nick

4/6/01 – Many of you will be sad to hear that Gust, our large
affable golden retriever, died yesterday evening. He drowned in
Sawbill Lake after falling through a hole in the ice near the
headwaters of Sawbill Creek. Gust had fallen through the ice
before, but he was always able to touch bottom and could easily
jump out. This time, the ice broke in a way that trapped him over
deep water and he succumbed to cold and fatigue.

Gust live the most perfect life a dog could ask for. He never
knew the leash or the kennel. His backyard was an unbroken
wilderness larger than several states. He had hundreds, if not
thousands, of people who petted and loved him. He was a genius in
two distinct fields of endeavor: He had an amazing ability to nap
often and hard; and he was the best campground moocher that ever
lived. He had perfected the art of looking starved and pitiful
while actually being grossly obese. He was the most mellow of
souls. He never had a fight, was infinitely patient with toddlers
and puppies, and exuded a quiet dignity. He will be sorely missed
by all.

Gustavus Adogus Hansen 1990 – 2001

4/3/01 – Beautiful spring weather is here today. At 7 PM it is
still 45 degrees. Although the snow is settling fast, we still
have about 30" on the ground. We are starting to get
inquiries about the projected ice-out date. It is always
dangerous to predict ice-out. Within the next week or two we’ll
start posting regular updates on the ice thickness. Right now it
is more than two feet thick. We are enjoying the frozen surface
for skiing and kite flying.

Posted on

March 2001

3/28/01 – Many things are happening at Sawbill this time of
year. The weather is altering the landscape dramatically.
Although, looking out the window, it still appears to be full
blown winter. In spite of having a solid 30" of snow on the
ground, the warm sun is making its power felt. The snow has
crusted over with a layer so dense that ski or snowshoes allow a
person to stay right on top. We have taken advantage of this
condition to enjoy a few wild skates down the rivers that drain
into Lake Superior. The snow has formed itself to the contours of
the river, so a skier flies along over a smooth but rolling
terrain with frequent open holes filled with running water.
Yesterday on the Temperance River, we found the remains of a
deceased great gray owl. A little farther down stream we found a
half eaten white tail deer. Life and death on the river.

Former Sawbill crew members Steve and Kate Surbaugh have
announced that they are expecting their first child. This is very
exciting news for two reasons. first, because Steve and Kate will
be wonderful parents and they are very happy about their
impending parenthood. Second, because it represents another
generation of potential Sawbill crew members 🙂

I have been privileged recently to participate in the Blandin Community
Leadership Program
. The program is designed by the Blandin
Foundation to cultivate and strengthen leadership in rural
Minnesota communities. It starts with a week long retreat with
twenty four members from a single community. The training is very
well done and it was great to spend so much time networking with
twenty three interesting members of my community. – Bill

3/9/01 – Today is Ruthie Hansen’s 19th birthday. Happy
birthday Ruthie 🙂

I saw a pine marten while skiing last night. It was only about
a mile from here. This morning there was a fishing rod
mysteriously displaced from its shelf in the store. A feeling of
pine marten dread crept over me, but I could find no other sign
of a marten in the store.

The Forest Service dog team was here yesterday hauling planks
up to the Ada/Scoop Lake portage. Extensive boardwalk work will
be done on that nasty little portage this summer. This is good
news for those of us who have slogged through the slime there
during the last decade.

The Forest Service musher reported very little slush on the
lakes between here and Ada,

3/6/01 – We had a visit from a Barred Owl in the middle of the
day yesterday. This morning, on the excellent radio program,
"For The Birds", Laura Erickson reported that many owls
are hanging around houses and bird feeders. They are apparently
starving due to the deep snow and a downturn in the small mammal
population. Many people are finding dead owls, although our owl
flew off under its own power.

Sawbill Outfitters is a proud member of Northeastern Minnesotans For
which is working to organize the many people who
support the wilderness and happen to live in northeastern
Minnesota. Visit their site for more information on BWCA
Wilderness issues and what you can do to help protect the BWCA

Posted on

February 2001

2/28/01 – We received about 13" of snow over the weekend.
Near Lake Superior, 24" fell and in the highlands just
inland from the big lake 30 or more inches fell in some places.
One of my extracurricular activities is substitute driver of the
snow cat that grooms the 70 kilometers of cross country ski
trails that lace the hills above Lake Superior in Tofte. The snow
cat, brand named Pisten Bully (which means mountain goat in
German, I’m told), is a large machine with a 170 horse power
diesel engine. It is actually designed for grooming downhill
skiing runs, so it has an incredible ability to climb hills. In
spite of this ability, in the face of 30+ inches of fresh powder,
even the Pisten Bully had trouble. On the first pass, it had all
it could do just to punch through, without grooming the trail
flat or setting the tracks. On the second pass I was able to lay
down a nice track and skating trail, but suffered from what
groomers call "falling off the platform." In years of
very deep snow, the repeated grooming actually builds up a raised
platform, layer by layer. Eventually, this platform surface is 3
or 4 feet off the ground, surrounded by a sea of soft snow. When
climbing the hills pulling the heavy grooming equipment, the
machine will sometimes break off the edge of the platform and
wallow sideways into the powder snow, which acts a lot like quick
sand. Fortunately, the machine is powerful enough to maneuver
back onto the trail, allowing another attempt at climbing the
hill. This scenario repeated itself dozens of times during the 25
hours of grooming I did during the last two days.

I actually groom two additional small trails by snowmobile.
One is here at Sawbill and the other is behind Birch Grove
Elementary school in Tofte. The snowmobile is also susceptible to
"falling off the platform," although the solution for
that dilemma is to physically lift the snowmobile back up on the
trail. This is a particularly difficult task while standing in
chest deep snow.

The bright side of all this travail is that the ski trails are
in beautiful condition and should stay that way for awhile 🙂

2/22/01 – We are back from a lovely vacation in the mountains
of British Columbia. We snowboarded, downhill skied, and cross
country skied until we could barely stand up. It is beautiful
country populated by very friendly people.

Today, as if to welcome us home, a beautiful red fox strolled
up to the house and hung around under the bird feeders for a few
hours. At times, we were only about three feet away from him,
separated only by a window pane. Homer, the golden retriever
puppy, was asleep on the back porch the whole time. He is a very
curious dog and would have loved to make the acquaintance of Mr


2/12/01 – Several of us, including the all the current
newsletter contributors, will be heading out on vacation for the
next week. Frank and Mary Alice will be available by phone, for
questions or reservations. I will be checking the email from
afar, but probably will not be able to post newsletter entries
until we return. We are making our first family visit to the
Canadian Rockies. Skiing of all types will be the activity of
choice. We are excited for this new experience and will probably
have a few stories to tell. – Bill

2/11/01 – Real winter weather is a welcome relief after three
years of abnormally warm Februarys. We had 7" of snow a few
days ago and last night the temperature dipped to -27 F. This
morning, the clouds have returned and it is snowing again.

Minor disaster struck on Friday night when a freak accident
ended up frying my laptop computer. I won’t go into details, but
it is safe to say that spilling Chardonnay on a laptop is good
neither for the computer nor the wine. While most of my data was
backed up, some emails that came in on Thursday and Friday are
now locked in an inaccessible hard drive. The technicians assure
me that the data will be safe, but unusable for the next week or
so while the computer gets fixed.

2/7/01 – Yesterday was Frank Hansen’s 80 birthday. Frank is,
along with Mary Alice Hansen, the founder of Sawbill Canoe
Outfitters. He is also a child psychologist, former county
commissioner, and participant in too many community organizations
to list in one place. He is also my father. He celebrated with a
small family gathering at Superior Shores in Two Harbors. Frank
received many cards and emails from former Sawbill crew members.
Most people are expressing amazement that Frank is 80 due to his
generally more youthful appearance and activity.

Posted on

January 2001

1/30/01 – Dave Freeman has been living at the Sawbill Lake
Campground for the last few days. He has been testing and
preparing for his six week Border Country Adventure, which starts
on February 1st. He will be joined for the full length of the
trip by his faithful sled dog, Tundra. For the first week of the
trip he will also be accompanied by John "OB"
Oberholtzer. For the last week of the trip, Dave will travel with
Harriet Settle. All, except Tundra, are former Sawbill crew
members. Dave will be updating his website,
by satellite phone during the entire adventure. He has hundreds
of school children signed up to follow his adventure and learn
about the winter wilderness.

1/19/01 – We received this email and photograph from Tom

The attached photo is one that I took in early September 2000
at the east end
of Grace in the early morning. A low layer of fog lifted and left
just a
little bit towards the southeast. It was an incredible sight.

Grace Lake, September 2000

1/15/01 – I had a wonderful set of skiing experiences this
past weekend. Adam Hansen, on vacation from college, invited six
of his old friends from high school to come up and visit. On
Friday, the seven college students, the four resident Hansens,
and OB spent an enjoyable day at the Lutsen Mountains Ski Area
shredding some alpine action. I spent the morning working on my
snowboarding technique, which means trying to get down the hill
without major injury. In the afternoon, I put on the downhill
skis for the first time in nearly ten years. Saturday, I enjoyed
a perfect circuit of the "Picnic Loop," a local ski
trail that is famous for its 30 kilometers of remote beauty. On
Sunday, I skied down the Cascade River to its mouth with OB and
former Sawbill crew member, Will Decker. Four styles of skiing in
three days – nirvana. – Bill

Better companions for a day of sublime back
country skiing cannot be found. Will Decker and John (OB)
Oberholtzer. 1/14/01

Ice climbers encountered along the Cascade
River on 1/14/01. As we skied below, I thought of all the various
and rich activities taking place on this magic day in this
charmed place.

1/9/01 – We received the following email today:

Hello! I just wanted to share with you the wonderful sight my
and I just watched. We live 16 miles from a lock/dam on the
River in northeast Missouri. The river is mostly frozen with only
small amount of open water below the dam. We counted over 70 bald
eagles. Some immature and a few golden eagles in about 1/4 of a
mile of
the river. Some were in trees on the rivers edge while most were
flying or sitting on the icy river. Some would fly toward the sun
cast a shadow on the ice while others would fly low over the open
and present a perfect reflection in the ice blue water. We were
lucky to
see one grab a not so lucky fish in its huge talons. Not only did
thrill at seeing the majestic birds, but many were even
vocalizing to
us. Most winters we see a few eagles, only 10 or so, but with our
"extreme" winter we have had so far, there were many
more than normal.
Luckily, winter is on hold temporarily for us, with 2 days in a
above 32!!!!
We really enjoy your newsletter, keep up the marvelous

Jan Kitzing
Lewistown, MO

PS Seeing the eagles makes us even more anxious to go north

1/1/01 – I observed my traditional New Year’s moment last
night by greeting the midnight hour on the ski trail. Every year
brings a new revelation. This year, the sky was overcast with a
light, hazy overcast. The planets and the brightest stars were
glowing behind the haze, tuning them into fuzzy balls many times
their normal size. My headlamp had weak batteries, so I turned it
off except for the tricky sections of trail. As my eyes adjusted
to the blackness, the twin tracks of the trail began to softly
glow for about six feet in front of my skis. The trees, stumps,
and snowbanks only became visible when they loomed out of the
darkness about twelve feet ahead. I found myself flying down the
trail, only able to react to changes that were happening
immediately. The sense that time was passing became suspended and
I skied in the moment, with my heart in my throat.

There is a new section to our ski trail this year. It runs on
a logging road down the middle of a huge clear cut just south of
here. This state land has been logged almost continuously since
the ’70s. It appears that the logging is over now, and the
remaining tote road makes a fine ski trail. The wide open spaces
of the clear cut offer an unusual perspective here in the dense
boreal forest where normally you can only see a few hundred yards
in any direction. When I reached the top of a small rise in the
clearing, I could clearly see the lights of Grand Marais
reflected on the low clouds some forty miles away. The airport
beacon at Grand Marais and the microwave tower near Lutsen were
also visible. As I stood feeling somewhat crowded by these signs
of encroaching civilization, I noticed another glow in the west.
It appeared to be moving toward me and growing alternately bright
and dim. I realized that it was Frank and Mary Alice driving home
along the Sawbill Trail, returning from their New Year’s party in
Schroeder. I couldn’t see the headlights themselves, nor could I
hear the slightest trace of engine or road noise. I turned and
resumed my headlong rush through the night toward home and a new
year. – Bill