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4/26/05 – I awoke this morning to a sight that made me think I was still dreaming–the trees outside my window were strangely white. I blinked again, and this time I realized that the light snow that had been falling last night was still in full swing, and it was no longer melting on impact. Ah, April in Minnesota! -Molly. snowgolf4_26_05.jpg

Even our vehicles don’t know what season it is…


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4/24/05 –
Clare and Carl returned from their first paddle the other night with the news that they had seen a loon, the first of the season. They had not heard any calls, though.

Carl had to lean far out of the canoe to get this picture of the first loon of the spring.
Tonight, as I stepped out the door after finishing up my dinner dishes, I heard a haunting call from the north end of the lake. It drew me down to the canoe landing, where the water was very still under the sunset sky. A bird startled me as it took off from the bay at the south end of the lake where Sawbill Lodge stood, but in the dusk I couldn’t tell what it was. A few minutes later, it took flight again from the northernmost place in my line of sight, and this time I saw the telltale splash during takeoff, much like a plane on pontoons makes. As the sky faded to a pale peach, the loon came back and circled the south end of the lake. In a moment I heard another call. The Sawbill loons are back. -Molly.

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4/21/05 – We just received word from the Forest Service that all the lakes in the Tofte District of the Superior National Forest, including the BWCA Wilderness, are free of ice. They flew over the whole wilderness at low altitude yesterday during their annual survey of eagle and osprey nests. – Bill

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4/20/05 – Today was warm and sunny, and former crew members John (OB) and Kathleen Oberholtzer, and future crew member Hazel, came up for a volunteer work day (it was their idea!). With their help, we freed the canoes from the dome and set them up on their racks in the canoe yard, ready for the first customer. Kat also stocked our food department in preparation for our first outfitting group. Hurrah! Thanks to the Oberholtzer family for their hard work and good company.

Since the canoes were out, Mary Alice and I decided to make use of one this evening. Our first paddle of the season started in full afternoon sun, with dogs chasing us along the bank. We only ventured as far as the Alton portage, where the soft, unmarked ground assured us that we were the first ones to pass. Alton Lake was clear of ice, and the setting sun illuminated moose tracks and signs that seemed very recent.
As we headed back to the Sawbill landing, the shade and the brisk breeze reminded us that it is still April and we are due for the return of more typical April weather. Still, as we crept along the shore, aware of the silence and the fact that many months had passed since others paddled these waters, M.A. raptly repeated, “It’s so beautiful!” And it was.
– Molly.
Homer investigates the canoe and Mary Alice.
Sunset over an ice-free Alton Lake.
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4/18/05 –
The ice went out on Sawbill Lake early this morning. It is one of the earliest ice out dates in recent memory. Molly, Cindy and I revived the dormant tradition of jumping into the lake on the day of ice out. Brrr. – Bill

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4/16/05 –
Three days ago, I was walking on 14″ of lake ice. Today it is less than 6″ thick, and wouldn’t hold up a chihuahua. The ice should clear off Sawbill Lake tomorrow or the next day!
The weather is so warm, that we decided to have a picnic supper in campsite #50 tonight. Except for the lack of greenery, it seemed like a typical summer day here at Sawbill.

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4/15/05 – Great news! You may remember the famous S.O.B. (Sawbill Outfitters Boat) dragonboat team from last August. Well, Cindy celebrated tax day by registering the Sawbill team for this year’s race, the second annual North Shore Dragonboat Festival ( Mark your calendars: it will be held the weekend of July 29-31. Plan to come cheer us on! -Molly.

The 2004 S.O.B. team poses before the race.

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4/13/05 –
The ice is melting fast on Sawbill Lake. It is still possible (although not advisable), to walk on it.
The ice depth measures 14″ just off the landing. The ice has “floated up” which means that it has detached itself from shore and is actually floating like a big, flat iceberg.
Molly Breslin is the first crew member to arrive for the season. She returns for her second season at Sawbill, to the obvious delight of Sunnie, the golden retriever.

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4/7/05 – What a beautiful day! It froze last night, so I snapped on my skating skis this morning and took advantage of a smooth, fast lake surface. The ice is about 20″ thick overall, but has a 6″ layer of slush ice on top of the solid lake ice. There is a layer of water between the slush ice and the lake ice which results in a very disconcerting hollow sound when you ski on it. By 11:30 a.m. I was starting to break through the softening top crust. I turned around, but not in time to avoid a high speed crash when my skis broke through into the soft under-layer. This brought me crashing down hard face first on the abrasive and unforgiving ice surface. I’ll have a few bruises, but it was well worth it, as you can see from the pictures below. – Bill
Heaven on skis – near the first narrows, BWCA Wilderness, Sawbill Lake.
The lake is scattered with these naturally occuring holes. They form when standing surface water finds its way down a crack and gradually erodes the ice as it drains into the lake. The ice is sound right up to the edge of these holes.
There is nothing in this world as fine as looking at majestic white pines, against a clear blue sky, with the sun warming your back.

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4/6/05 – We are in the eleventh day of a serious warm spell. Sunday before last, we had more than three feet of snow on the ground. We are now down to less than a foot. The lake ice is still solid, but it has degraded fast in the last week. If the 10 day forecast is accurate, we will be losing all our snow and perhaps even the lake ice within the next few weeks. Anything can happen with good old Minnesota weather though. – Bill
Homer inspects the lake ice just off the Sawbill canoe landing.
The store’s metal roof has shed its snow, creating a snowbank that should last well into May.