Posted on

October 2002

10/26/02 – We are shocked and saddened today by
the tragic death of Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife Sheila,
daughter Marcia, three campaign staff, and two pilots. Paul and
Sheila frequently vacationed in Tofte and visited Sawbill twice.
I had the honor of being personally acquainted with both of them.
They were warm, honest, deeply caring public servants. Their
motivation came from their deep belief that, working together, we
can make the world a better place. They publicly endorsed me,
offered advice, and took time from their busy schedules to help
me with my campaign for the legislature this summer. They were my
mentors and I never will forget them. Kennedy, Gandhi, King,
Lennon, were all people with a special light burning inside them.
The Wellstones had the same light and the world is a darker place
for its premature extinguishment.

Senator Wellstone’s Chief of Staff in northern
Minnesota, Lisa Pattni, is a good friend and the mother of two
current Sawbill crew members, Jitesh and Bhupesh Pattni.
Fortunately, Lisa was not a passenger on the flight and is safe.
– Bill

10/25/02 – The cold weather has been steady for
the past two weeks. This morning, two customers arrived hoping to
take a short trip, only to find that the lake has begun to
freeze. Patches of thin ice are scattered around the south end of
Sawbill. Its another cold, snowy day today.

South end of Sawbill

I was driving up the Sawbill Trail last night and
was treated to a spectacular show of the northern lights. I tried
driving with one eye on the sky and the other on the road (hoping
no moose would decide to wander onto the road) and eventually
gave up and pulled the car over near Temperance Campground. I
watched for about 10 minutes and saw three very different phases
of the light show. The first phase looked like iridescent ribbons
waving in circles. The lights danced so rapidly and fluidly,
making spirals and circles above the trees. As those faded, the
second show began. Tall pillars of light shot straight up. I had
my nose pressed all the way up to the windshield in the car and
still couldn’t see the tops of the columns of lights. Slowly,
they drifted off and the final act began. A gentle glow lit up
the sky and it seemed as if handfuls of fairy dust were being
sprinkled down. As this began to fade, I started the car and
continued on my way. By the time I reached Sawbill 10 minutes
later, only a few faint rays of light remained. -Beth

10/20/02 – We had our annual pumpkin carving
party last night. We were joined by a lively group of family,
crew members, former crew members, friends and kids.

Beth lets pumpkin carving go to her head and
the scary results of a creative group effort.

10/19/02 – For the second weekend in a row, we’ve
awoken to a Saturday morning blanketed in a couple inches of
snow. Heavy, wet snow fell all day yesterday making the Sawbill
Trail a sloppy, slippery mess. Some of the small ponds and creeks
along the Trail are getting thin layers of ice on them.

With the arrival of snow, fall crew members are
beginning to leave. Peter Jordan departed yesterday
and Jitesh Pattni is wrapping up his last day of work today.

10/15/02 – Eric Flom sent up some nice
"before and after" pictures taken on Alton Lake last
Saturday and Sunday.

10/13/02 – We had our first snow accumulation
last night. On the way home from town, about 9 pm, it was snowing
hard enough to obscure the road in the headlights. This morning,
when the sun rose, it made a beautiful panorama.

View looking west from the landing this

Getting artsy with the snowy woods and a
digital camera.

Clare Hansen, 9th grade, went to her first high
school homecoming dance last night with her friend, Reed Lehto.
Three Sawbill crew members, Laura Smith, Jeff Green, and Jitesh
Pattni were drafted by the school as chaperones. The dance was
great and they got to drive home by the back roads at 2 am.
Earlier in the day, when Clare and Cindy were driving into Grand
Marais for dance preparations, they saw a completely hairless
wolf on the road. Apparently the victim of mange, it had pink
skin. It must be particularly miserable today in the snow.

Jeff and Jeet roughing up Clare’s date before
the homecoming dance.

Frank and Mary Alice’s cat, Teva, was missing for
the last three days. I last heard her meowing in the woods near
the dome on Friday morning. I walked into the woods to search for
her and finally found her up a tree with her tail caught on a
branch. It appears as though she got her long fur caught on the
branch, about 8 feet up, then twisted her tail around the branch
three times in a frantic attempt to free herself. She basically
hung upside down, by her tail for almost three full days,
including below freezing temperatures last night and three inches
of snow. She is alive and in surprisingly good condition. Even
her tail appears to be OK. She was very thirsty, but didn’t seem
cold or frozen at all. Her long fur got her in trouble and saved
her life – all at the same time. – Bill

10/6/02 – One of the jobs that needs to be done
every fall is to shovel out the fire grates in the campground.
Hauling wheelbarrows full of ashes into the trailer is a hard job
but can be fairly enjoyable on sunny warm autumn afternoons. Crew
members Laura and Jeff have gotten the job this week – and
unfortunately, its been a very cold and rainy week. They decided
to work on it today and the snow flakes have just begun to fall.
But, they put on their warm hats, picked out their favorite
shovels, and cheerfully headed into the campground. -Beth

Laura and Jeff model the latest fall fashions
at Sawbill,

10/4/02 – Its a cold, wet, windy day here today.
The leaves have been dropping rapidly over the past two days – I
think the peak of the leaves has passed. There was noticeable
frost on the ground when I stepped outside yesterday morning and
the weather report on the local radio station has predicted snow
for this weekend.

10/3/02 – Sawbill customers, Jack and Debbie
Cook, paddled to Baskatong Lake a couple of weeks ago hoping to
hear some wolves. Not only did they hear them, but were lucky
enough to see them. They e-mailed this photo of a wolf eating a
moose carcass.

I paddled through the Lady Chain this past
weekend and enjoyed the calm weather and brilliant leaves. We saw
more loons than mosquitoes. A few of the loons had already
changed to their winter colors – they must be almost ready to
take off for the winter. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see or
hear any wolves but saw wolf scat on a couple of portages.

Beginning today and continuing until October
14th, the Perent Lake Road, which leads to the Hog Creek and
Kawishiwi Lake Entry Points and Kawishiwi Lake Campground will be
closed while the highway department replaces culverts. – Beth

Posted on

September 2002

9/27/02 – The Forest Service announced yesterday
that the partial fire ban that had been in effect for much of the
summer has been lifted. Campfires within designated firegrates
are now allowed at anytime throughout the entire BWCAW.

9/25/02 – Each day brings a little more fall
color to Sawbill. The leaves are still about a week away from
being at their peak. The past few nights have been chilly with
the thermometer dipping just below the freezing mark. Today has
been a cloudy, drippy day. For a brief period we even had some
sleet coming down. Lots of hats and mittens have been pulled out
of the closet today.

9/23/02 – We have sorted and priced a good
selection of our used equipment. You can shop at Used Equipment For

9/18/02 – A final breath of summer drifted our
way yesterday and the cloudless sky warmed the day into the 70s.
The clock loudly ticked its way to 3:00, quitting time for me,
and I felt like a kid waiting for the final school bell to ring.
I rushed out the door of the store, grabbed a canoe, and headed
for the lake. I had no destination in mind. Distance wasn’t the
goal, just being on the lake was. I paddled my way across the
lake, found a sheltered bay and just floated. My skin wanted to
re-live the suntan it had in July and soaked in the rays. I
drifted along the shoreline and startled a Great Blue Heron. It
gave me a look and launched itself into the air, flying almost
directly above me. I paddled a bit more, racing a cluster of
water bugs scooting their way along the lake’s surface. As I
headed back in, a solitary loon floated in the middle of the
lake. His impending flight south seemed to be far from his mind
on this lazy summer-like day. -Beth

9/15/02 – Former crew members Eric Frost and Dave
Freeman are beginning a new adventure for the educational program
they have founded, Wilderness Classroom Organization. Last fall,
the pair canoed the entire Mississippi River and had school
classrooms following and interacting with their trip. This fall
takes them on the Jiime Adventure (Ojibwa for "to go by
canoe") where they will paddle from Thunder Bay, Ontario all
the way to Lake Winnipeg, following the routes of the Voyageur
fur traders. This winter they will continue the journey via sled
dogs and snow shoes on the Bimaadagaako Adventure (Ojibwa for
"to walk along on the ice"). You can find out more info
on their website,
Their trip begins tomorrow and they are up here at Sawbill taking
care of some final details. – Beth

Frosty and Daver at Command Central in the

9/14/02 – There’s a dying jack pine behind the
store building which has been a big attraction for a black-backed
three-toed woodpecker lately. The woodpecker, which is only found
in northern boreal forests and isn’t often seen around here, is
about the size of a hairy woodpecker but has solid black color on
its back and no red on its head. The woodpecker angles its head
to the side and chips off the scaly bark of the jack pine in
search of juicy insects. He must have found some tasty ones since
we saw him for a few days in a row chipping away at that tree.

9/13/02 – Sawbill’s poet laureate, Ed Dallas, sent
this haiku today:

deep autumn magic

suddenly maples appear

in the oak forest

We’ve had a number of calls inquiring about used
equipment and canoes for sale. It will be a couple of weeks yet
before we’re ready to start selling anything. We’ll post it on
here when the time comes and it will likely be late September –
early October before we’ve got things ready to go. -Beth

9/11/02 – I am very sorry to report that it
appears I have lost the election in my race for the Minnesota
House of Representatives to my opponent, David Dill. The votes
haven’t all been counted yet, but it seems likely I will lose by
about 200-300 votes with more than 10,000 votes cast.

Looking back, I wouldn’t do anything differently.
I had wonderful backing from my family, a great election
committee, hundreds of volunteers, more than 600 contributors,
strong support from the DFL Party, organized labor, environmental
groups, and thousands of my friends and neighbors. We ran a
clean, honest campaign that focused on the issues. Elections are
often a matter of luck and timing. I had good luck, but my timing
was slightly off.

My heartfelt thanks to all of you who contributed
in one way or the other. This has been a great experience for me
and I am much the richer for it. – Bill

9/10/02 – Today is a busy day around here. Our
annual group from Carleton College came off the trail today,
which kept us hopping all morning.

Today is also primary election day in Minnesota.
As most of you know, I am running for the Minnesota House of
Representatives. If I survive the primary election today, will
represent the Democratic, Farmer, Labor Party in the general
election on November 5th. I am nervous and confident at the same
time. The campaign has gone very well, with party endorsement,
labor endorsement, and help from many fine public servants, not
the least of which is U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone. I have had
over 500 contributors and volunteers working hard for the last
three months, all pointing toward this day. In this district, the
Democrats are the majority, to the primary election is very
important. I am humbled and gratified to have had so much
support. Win or lose, it has been a great experience so far. I
will post the election results here tomorrow morning sometime.
Wish me luck! – Bill

9/3/02 – We were enjoying a relaxing afternoon in
the store yesterday, as most people had headed back home from the
Labor Day weekend and there was a nice steady rain playing its
music on the metal roof of the building, when an unexpected
lighting bolt and clap of thunder sent everyone a flying a few
inches off the floor. Once the hairs on the back of our necks had
settled down, we realized that the phone lines weren’t working
and neither were the computers. That’s right – we had been hit by
lightning AGAIN. This time it seemed to take out everything it
left the time it hit earlier this summer. We had power, but no
phones and the computers were fried. The phones are back up today
but our modem was blown out, so it may be a few days before I’m
even able to post this entry on the website. If you’ve sent an
e-mail it may be a few days before you receive a reply. The most
frustrating thing is that the inverters that were blown out when
we were hit in August were minutes away from being replaced by
new ones that had been hand built by Chad, one of the guys
responsible for our power system here at Sawbill. The new
inverters were hooked up for a test run when the lightning hit
yesterday and were blown out before ever being used.

Crew members Eric Frost and Max Wilson left
today, as well as Sawbill campground hosts Fran and Jim Sampson
and Crescent campground host JoAnn Koski. Well, almost all of
them left. Max Wilson tried to leave but was unsuccessful in his
attempt. For the second year in a row. Last fall when he left, he
got to the end of the Sawbill Trail and his car kept stalling. He
stopped by Randy’s (Sawbill’s favorite mechanic) in Tofte and
discovered that there was diesel fuel mixed in with his gas. A
few hours later, he was back on the road. Today, he started his
long drive back to Massachusetts around 9AM and by noon he was
enjoying lunch right back here at Sawbill. When he reached the
end of the Sawbill Trail this morning, his brakes quit. He again
stopped by Randy’s and was told this time it would be a few days
before he could get back on the road. So he warmed up his thumb
and headed back up the trail. Luckily crew member Pete was
returning from town and picked up the shady looking character,
pillow case and all.

Anyone heading towards Lexington, Mass.?

9/1/02 – A busy Labor Day is in full swing and
the highlight of the weekend has been celebrating Mary Alice’s
79th birthday today. Candles were lit, the song was sung, and
huge pieces of cake were devoured.

Mary Alice makes a wish…

Posted on

August 2002

8/31/02 – Over the past week Cindy, Carl, and
Clare have been seeing an unusual large white bird in a pond
along the road to Grand Marais. They brought the bird book along
one day and identified it as a Great Egret. This is an unusual
bird to see here as its normal range is much farther south. Its
been hanging out with a Great Blue Heron in the same pond.
Although there is a white morph of the Blue Heron which looks
similar to the egret, this bird had the distinctive black legs
and yellow beak of the Great Egret.

Starting Thursday, September 5th, we will be
switching to our early fall hours of 8am to 8pm. -Beth

8/30/02 – Mark Peterson, Sawbill customer, sent
us these amazing photos taken during his canoe trip to Beth Lake.
The photo of the beaver was taken on Grace Lake, and not from a
Biology book!

Sunset over Beth Lake. A Garter Snake coming
through camp.

A beaver lunching on water lily blossoms.
Flowers from the Pitcher Plant – a carnivorous plant found in

8/29/02 – Signs of fall are becoming more and
more obvious every day. A few small maple trees along the Sawbill
trail have lit themselves up in a brilliant shade of red,
darkness arrives earlier each evening, and sweaters aren’t an
uncommon sight. The weather has been gorgeous the last week or so
– warm, sunny days in the low 70s and cool, calm nights in the
50s. Fishing seems to be picking up as the water temperatures
drop. We’ve had some good reports on walleyes and small mouth
bass over the last two weeks.

8/26/02 – Sawbill customers David and Kathryn
Olson took this photo of a mother moose and her twin calves
on Weird Lake. The second calf is lying down on the right side and
you can just see the tips of her ears. They were able to watch
the moose for a couple of hours. They also had an otter visit
them at their campsite on Weird Lake.

8/25/02 – Crew members Adam Hansen and Max Wilson
just returned from a canoe trip out of Kawishiwi Lake. They
headed north from Kawishiwi with the goal of reaching Kekekabic
Lake, although they didn’t quite make it that far (they spent
three hours bushwhacking their way through a one mile "short
cut" which was made up of blow-down, cedar swamps, cedar
swamp blow-down, steep cliffs, and more blow-down), They had
planned to do a little fishing, but forgot their fishing gear.
But, being the resourceful guys that they are, they somehow
managed to find some fishing line on a portage and two lures –
one at a campsite and one strung up in a tree. They collected it
all, found a suitable stick, and on the last day of the trip –
when all the food they had brought was gone – Adam threw the line
in and trolled through Malberg Lake. He had no sooner put the
Rapala in the water than he was hauling out a 6 pound northern.
Not wanting to reach down and grab ahold of a thrashing northern
with large teeth, he yelled to Max to give him something to use
to bring in the fish. Quick thinking Max threw off his shoe and
handed Adam his sock. Adam successfully landed the northern and
moments later brought in a good sized small-mouth bass. Once
again, they realized they were missing an important fishing item
– a stringer. Max contributed to the cause one more time and
rigged up his shoelace as a stringer. They soon ran into another
canoe out fishing. They guys in the other canoe had a huge tackle
box, expensive rods and reels, and not a single fish between
them. With smug grins, Adam and Max held up their homemade pole,
two big fish, and said they thought it was a fine day for
fishing. -Beth

8/24/02 – Exciting news to share – Former Sawbill
crew member Karen Blackburn and her husband Mark Till had a baby
girl on Tuesday. Although we haven’t gotten all of the details
yet (such as what they named her), we do know that she was
somewhere around 6 lbs. and both mother and baby are doing well.

8/21/02 – Sawbill customer, Kurt Sedler, sent us
this photo taken on Malberg Lake.


8/20/02 – We’ve been getting some interesting
stories from people who were on canoe trips over the weekend and
experienced the strong winds on Saturday. Many reported
conditions that were impossible to travel in. Crew member,
Shannon Grace, and her mother were on a trip and were camped on
Frost Lake when the winds hit. They said the winds were so gusty
that water spouts were forming on the lake. Their well-staked
rain fly was blown off – and they were in a very sheltered site.
When they began traveling back the next day, they encountered a
huge cedar tree across the Unload to Gordon portage that had
blown over the day before. Shannon estimated it must have been
close to a one hundred year old tree. Luckily there have been no
reports of any injuries or serious damage. -Beth

Recent rains have raised the water levels on
Sawbill Creek, as well as on Sawbill Lake.

8/18/02 – Former Sawbill crew members Sandy Zinn
and Will Decker gathered their family and friends at the old
Sawbill Lodge site yesterday and celebrated their wedding. Will
and Sandy met while working at Sawbill in the early ’90s.
Everyone bundled up against the blustery, cold weather and
enjoyed a beautiful outdoor ceremony officiated by Dave Schudt, a
family friend of the Deckers and an old Sawbill customer. Bill,
Clare, and Carl fired up their guitar, accordion, and drums
respectively and provided some great music for the wedding.
Afterwards, everyone came inside and warmed up a bit before
traveling to the Schroeder Town Hall for a great dinner and dance
called by Terrence Smith, father of current Sawbill crew member
Laura Smith. A number of former Sawbill crew traveled up here for
the big event, including John "OB" Oberholtzer, Jon
Robertson, Karen Blackburn, Paul Lundgren, Katy Harris, and Mike
MacMillan. Congratulations Sandy and Will!

Will Decker and Sandy Zinn – Just Married! Carl
and Clare Hansen provide some great after ceremony music.

Bill breaks out his guitar and plays while
everyone gathers at the Lodge Site. Dave Schudt officiates the
ceremony as family and friends look on. (All photos by Adam W.

8/17/02 – High winds are causing problems today
at Sawbill. Its an extremely strong south wind, so it makes
getting back to the canoe landing difficult. A few canoes have
swamped – everyone was fine, but soggy. Bhupesh and Laura drove
to Kawishiwi to pick up a group and on the trip home had to move
a number of downed trees that weren’t there on the drive to
Kawishiwi. Its also been raining on and off – in the past week
we’ve had almost 2.5" of rain. Water levels are beginning to
rise a bit – but are still below normal. No word from the forest
service if the partial fire ban will be changed.

JoAnn Koski, the Crescent Lake Campground Host,
stopped by a couple of days ago and reported that they’ve been
hearing wolves howling at all hours of the day and night from
their campsite. She said that no only can they hear the adults,
but also the young ones trying to imitate the grown-ups. -Beth

8/16/02 – With fall creeping closer, many of the
crew are heading back to school or on to new places. Betsy Moyer
and Nathan TerBeest have already left and Emily Stewart is
leaving tomorrow. Its always a sad time to see them leave.
Luckily, we have a new employee to help with the late summer/fall

Yesterday was crew member Jeff Green’s 21st
birthday. He celebrated in style during a crew outing to Tofte.
Happy Birthday Jeff!

Jeff recovering from his big birthday celebration.

8/14/02 – Clare, Jitesh, and I went blueberry
picking a couple of days ago and stumbled upon a huge blueberry
patch. Every direction we turned had bushes full of plump, sweet
berries. We waded around for an hour or two and filled up our
buckets and our bellies. The crew has feasted on blueberry pie
and blueberry pancakes for the last two days. And, like any good
fisherman would guard his secret fishing spot, we’ll never reveal
where the blueberry patch is! -Beth

8/13/02 – We had a spectacular glimpse of the
northern lights about a week ago. The crew had spent an evening
out in Grand Marais and we were treated to a blue and green light
show for the entire ride back to Sawbill. There’s been no sign of
them since but we’re keeping an eye out for them.

8/10/02 – Signs of fall are beginning to creep
in. The evening air has a crispness to it, its dark by the time
the store closes, and crew members will soon begin leaving. Jim
and Rachel TerBeest, the Sawbill campground hosts, have already
left. Fortunately, our second set of campground hosts, Jim and
Fran Sampson, arrived last week. They will be at Sawbill through
Labor Day and are spending their 5th summer here as the
campground hosts. -Beth

Sawbill Campground Hosts, Jim and Fran Sampson

8/8/02 – Things seem to be back on track after
losing power last week. The replacement parts arrived two days
after the lightening hit and Bill and the power guy, Jerry, had
the place back up and running at full power within minutes. A
collective sigh of relief was emitted by the entire crew.

Tonight is the annual Dome Dance. Every year
Terrence Smith, father of crew member Laura Smith, comes to
Sawbill and calls a dance. He instructs us in the dances, Laura
plays the fiddle, Adam Hansen plays the upright bass, Bill plays
the guitar and other crew members join in with whatever
instruments they play. The dome has been cleaned up and is just
waiting for the music to start. Another tradition is that on the
day of the Dome Dance, the crew picture is taken, as the dance is
planned on a day when all crew members are here. Unfortunately
this year, Peter Jordan is gone today and is missing from the
picture. (Left to Right, starting in the front row, Homer, Laura
Smith, Sunnie, Jitesh Pattni, Row 2: Betsy Moyer, Jeff Green, Max
Wilson, Carl Hansen, Emily Stewart Row 3: Cindy Hansen, Clare
Hansen, Mary Alice Hansen, Shannon Grace, Beth Rolf, Eric Frost,
Frank Hansen Row 4: Justin Hoekstra, Adam Hansen, Bhupesh Pattni,
Bill Hansen, Nathan TerBeest).

Sawbill Crew of 2002

8/1/02 – Our power system was struck by lightning
last night. We make our own power here at Sawbill and the
lightning killed our main generator, back up generator and half
of our solar system. One component of the solar system survived
and was able to operate our big walk in cooler. Cindy and I were
in Duluth, and came back early in the morning to try and pick up
the pieces. After three hours of frantic work, it looks like one
power inverter ($10,000) is fried. Both our diesels seem to have
broken voltage regulators ($150 each). Hopefully, that is all
that is wrong. The good news is that all our computers, and the
very expensive radio telephone system is fine. If you tried to
call this morning and got no answer, you can call back now. We
pulled out our little 6 KW portable Honda generator and used it
to get the critical computer, communications and refrigeration

Excuse me while I go seek treatment for my ulcer
(joke). – Bill

Posted on

July 2002

7/27/02 – Gray clouds had been threatening all
day, and finally around 4PM, the thunder and lightening started.
Before long, an all out downpour began. Its been so dry here that
the ground soaked up everything it could for the first few
minutes and then the puddles sprang up. The newly finished screen
porch was the perfect spot to sit and watch the storm blow in.
Since the gutters haven’t been attached to the store yet, it was
dangerous to walk by some of the overhangs, which were throwing
off more water than the showers. Three hours later, the steady
rain continued and the puddles were turning into rivers. The pop
shed nearly washed away into the Temperance River before Max
diverted the huge stream of water flowing under it. Its nearly
9PM now and a slow, steady rain continues to fall.

Water coming off the roof – free showers! Is
Betsy celebrating the rain or the fact that she just finished
packing for a church group of 57? Frosty is just plain
dumbfounded at how wet the front half of his pants got.

7/23/02 – Our heat wave has broken. People
returning from trips yesterday were wearing jackets and enjoying
the cool breezes after a few days of the heat. In the brightness
of the almost full moon, I could see my breath as I walked
outside last night. The loons seemed to agree and were loudly
celebrating in the fall-like night. -Beth

Sunset over Little Saganaga

7/19/02 – The store is just days away from being
officially "Finished". The painters are cleaning up
their brushes for the last time today. While we’re sad to see
their cheerful faces leave Sawbill, we’re happy to have all of
the plastic coverings removed from the windows and feel the fresh
air blow through the store again. A few small projects are left
to be done and the plants and flowers for landscaping are
patiently waiting near the shower house for their permanent new

A freshly painted Sawbill.

7/18/02 – We received the following message from
Steve Gendron, who takes a census of loons every year:

Hello Bill. The results of the 2002 Loon Counting
are in.

1) Sawbill Lake- 6 adults, 1 very small juvenile, plus a young,
large bull moose swimming from west to east across the middle
part of the
2) Burnt lake- 3 adults, 1 juvenile
3) Flame lake-2 adults
4) Smoke lake- 2 adults, 2 juveniles
5) Fourmile lake- 3 adults, 1juvenile, plus a cow moose and calf
on each
side of the lake.
6) Richey lake- 3 adults
7) Fox lake- 0

I am also happy to report the return of "Bullwinkle",
the young bull moose
I’d seen in the pond just off #170 for several years running but
seen in 3 years. He’s got a pretty nice set of antlers but is as
as ever.


7/16/02 – The weather continues to be hot and
dry. Its in the mid 90’s today. We just received notice that the
partial fire-ban will be reinstated as of Friday, July 19th.
Fires will be allowed only between 7PM and Midnight in the
designated blow-down area.

Its been a somewhat slow summer as far as fishing
goes. People are coming back from trips saying they caught enough
walleyes and northerns for a meal or two, but we’ve had few
reports of really great fishing so far. The small-mouth bass were
biting well a few weeks ago on Alton and Beth, but that seems to
have slowed down a bit. With the hot weather, the water levels
are dropping and the water is warming up quite a bit so I don’t
expect the fishing to pick up much in the next few weeks.

7/10/02 – The weather has finally cooled down a
bit here. We’d had a string of HOT, HOT days in the 80’s and 90’s
where it seemed necessary to spend more time floating on an inner
tube in the cool waters of Sawbill Lake than finishing work.
Today is a bit overcast with a refreshing breeze cooling us down.

There have been very few reports of bear
sightings or problems with bears in food packs so far this
summer. The invasion of the tent caterpillars provided lots of
food for the bears and kept them out of people’s cars and food
packs. The tent caterpillars have all but disappeared now and
we’ve had a bear roaming in the campground the last couple of
nights. It is a very smart bear that has specifically targeted
cars with food in them. So, if you’re headed up to the
campground, you’ll want to bring a blanket or something to cover
any coolers that are left in your car. Bears can recognize
coolers and go after them in cars. If you’re heading out on a
canoe trip, be sure to bring bear ropes for tying your food bag
up in trees. -Beth

A field of lupine in bloom along the Sawbill

7/8/02 – Our wonderful Sawbill Campground hosts,
Jim and Rachel TerBeest, arrived a couple of weeks ago from
Omaha. Joining them on the trip up were their daughter, former
Sawbill crew member Laura Strubbe and her husband Ezra, along
with Laura and Ezra’s daughter Tori. Tori, almost 2 years old,
became the official Store Greeter. Everyone who left the store
was sent on their way with a chipper "Bye Bye!",

The TerBeest’s have been enjoying their time here
and have come up with a new system for doing their campground
rounds. They tried using Rock, Paper, Scissors to determine who
would get to drive the golf cart, but neither wanted to ride
shotgun. After much debate, they came up with a method where they
could both be happy. – Beth

The TerBeest’s – both in the driver’s seat.
Tori modeling store apparel.

7/4/02 -The long 4th of July weekend has had a
sunny, warm, and busy start. The flies that follow the army worms
seem to be disappearing. They were incredibly thick for a couple
of weeks, forming solid layers on walls, packs, and people. The
mosquito’s seem to be picking up a bit. Construction work is
winding down on the store and the exterior painting has begun.
The bottom logs have received their brick red coating and the
rest will follow soon.

The back side of the half painted store.

A hard-helmut sized snapping turtle sunning on
the rocky shores of Duck Lake. Hazy sunsets and gentle south
breezes high above Little Sag. An afternoon splattering of
raindrops falling on the twisted and torn tree trunks of
Gabimichigami. Launching ourselves from the rocks of Malberg Lake
into the cool deep water, trying to escape the sun. A fish
dangling from the osprey’s talons, not ready to admit defeat over
the still water of Boze Lake. Six sunny, buggy days of exploring,
adventures, and laughter. -Beth

7/3/02 – This email just came in from Forest
Service Wilderness Ranger, Ellen Hawkins:

Mulligan – Grassy Portage, on the Brule
– Winchell route, has been impacted by beaver activities.
People who have traveled this way before may remember poling
their way through the shallow muddy waters of Grassy, and then
portaging along the edge of the dry beaver meadow of upper Grassy
Lake. This year, a new beaver dam has caused the water to rise,
flooding the old landings and some stretches of the Grassy –
Wanihigan Portage. Please give visitors (both those who are
traveling north from Brule, and people who intend to stay on
Brule but want to do the Lily – Cliff – Cones loop as a
day trip), the following advice: Bypass that route, and paddle
through the Cones and Cliff Lake to get to Winchell. This is not
only the easiest route, by far, at this point, but will also help
prevent the inevitable damage to vegetation and soil that comes
with people trying to get around wet spots.

Because beavers are a natural, and important, part of wilderness,
we won’t do anything to interfere with their activities.
People who choose to travel this route will find the Grassy
landings wet but reasonably easy to use. Northbound paddlers
should bypass the old landing on the south end of the Mulligan
– Wanihigan portage, and paddle through the grass to a new
landing further north along the shore. This will get them past
the most difficult flooded stretch. The new landing is hard to
spot – they should watch carefully as they paddle along the
east shore. Once on the portage, they’ll still have to get
through a wet stretch of about 100’ that’s up to a foot

This situation could change due to the beavers’ failing to
maintain the dam, to the expected drop in water level that
usually happens toward summers’ end, and to our activities.
Within the next few weeks we will probably do some work that will
make the new landing easier, and the old one harder, to spot,
possibly do minor rerouting of the Mulligan – Wanihigan
portage, or perhaps put a boardwalk across the deepest flooded

Insect update: Looks like tent caterpillars are beginning to
pupate, so they should be disappearing, and bare trees beginning
to leaf out again, soon. Friendly flies were less numerous today
than they were over the weekend: still a nuisance, but not a
nightmare. The bad news is that mosquitoes were fairly thick on
the long, wet Grassy – Wanihigan portage – maybe we
won’t escape them this year after all.

7/1/02 – We have a new employee. With my run for
the legislature, I obviously won’t be of much use this summer as
a Sawbill employee. Peter Jordan comes to us by way of Indiana
and Illinois. He is an experienced camper and an Outward Bound
graduate. He plans to make his home in New Orleans after the
season ends. – Bill

Peter Jordan

Posted on

June 2002

6/23/02 – Its been a stormy, steamy summer
solstice weekend. The dark clouds started rolling in around 1:00
yesterday afternoon and after a few downpours, a slow steady rain
fell. It began to clear off a little in the evening – just enough
to reward all of the soaked campers with an intense fuchsia
colored sunset. While the sunset faded, a new storm was gaining
strength in the southern edge of the sky and an impressive
lighting storm began. All the while the fireflies danced, excited
by so much amazing light at 10:00 at night. Dark clouds are still
rolling around in the sky today, threatening rain. But so far the
bits of blue sky have won out and no more rain has fallen. We
badly needed the 0.80" of rain that we received. -Beth

6/21/02 – With all the pictures of Homer and
Sunnie that have been on here lately, Alice the Cat has been
feeling a bit neglected. Alice, who will celebrate her 18th
birthday in August, spends most of her days sleeping in Bill and
Cindy’s basement and watching Star Wars. She is currently
rehearsing for a part in Episode 3 as a stand-in for Yoda. We
feel she has mastered the look.

May the Force be with You.

6/19/02 – On a typical day at Sawbill, someone
cooks brunch and dinner for the rest of the crew. Since Sawbill
is open during these times, we eat in shifts and the whole crew
is never able to eat together. Occasionally, so that we can all
sit down and enjoy a meal at the same time, a Festive Dinner is
planned. A special meal is made and served after Sawbill closes
for the evening. Last night we had the first Festive Dinner of
the summer. Laura and Shannon made an outstanding meal of
homemade pasta, a variety of scrumptious sauces, salad, and a
spectacular batch of tiramisu. Dinner was served by candlelight
and evening wear was required (although we did allow in Chacos
and a few pairs of Carhartts).

The crew cleans up pretty good. Shannon and
Laura – creators of the feast!

Nathan and Adam, The Sawbill Thugs – don’t mess
wid ’em. The clean-up crew – what a bunch of pot heads!


6/16/02 – Homer the Dog is on the road to
recovery. He has been sick with blastomycosis. The vet has said
he’s well on his way to being back to his usual self, although
the vision in his left eye still hasn’t returned. He remains in
good spirits and has an amazing appetite. While down at the lake
taking a picture of Homer, we walked a bit along the path by the
lake and came across a pink ladyslipper in full bloom. I searched
around the area to see if there were others and found one smaller
one a short distance from it. The plant book says it is one of
the largest native orchids we have and is also called a pink
moccasin flower.

Homer is back to his normal activity levels. A
Pink Ladyslipper on the shore of Sawbill Lake.

I’m happy to report that Bill Hansen received the
DFL party endorsement for the District 6A seat for the Minnesota
State Legislature at the endorsing convention yesterday in Two
Harbors. You can check out more details about the convention and
his campaign at Bill’s
campaign website
. – Beth

6/13/02 – A few days ago, a hummingbird somehow
found its way into the new store. The skylights in the store
ceiling looked like an easy escape route for the bird.
Unfortunately for the bird, there are screens in the skylights.
Crew member Nathan TerBeest came to the rescue and managed to
trap the hummingbird in a water pitcher and safely release it.

A big Beest and a little beast (you can see the
head of the bird in the pitcher).

I was about half-way between Sawbill and Grand
Marais last night when I passed a small swampy area, and right in
the middle of it was a young bull moose having dinner. I figured
by the time I slammed on my brakes and backed up far enough to
see him, he would have been scared away. But he just glanced up
at me, continued chewing and seemed not to mind a bit. The swamp
he was in is right on the side of the road, so I was only about
20 feet from him. I rolled down my window and could hear him
blowing bubbles in the water as he dug for plant roots and
chewing the tasty morsels he found. He was a young bull with a
small velvety rack. His summer coat was almost completely filled
in – a dark coffee color. I watched him for about 20 minutes as
he continued to eat, occasionally glancing towards me, and also
behind him. I started the car and began to drive ahead. Instead
of looking at the noisy car, like I expected him to do, he
glanced behind himself. I looked back and there was a young cow,
about 100 feet behind him – waiting for me to leave so she could
join her dinner date. – Beth

6/12/02 – Summer has hit full stride in the last
five or six days. A little rain has fallen, the leaves are fully
out, and flowers are blooming everywhere. The bugs have been
relatively scarce so far this summer. There were only a couple of
days when the black flies were pesky and only a few mosquitoes
seem to be buzzing around right now.

Work continues on the exterior of the building.
The stonework on the chimney was recently finished and the guys
are currently working on the screen porch.

Just like one big puzzle.

6/2/02 – Its time for updated pictures of the new
store. The inside is completed but the outside still has some
work left on it. Since its the beginning of season, we decided to
combine the new store pictures with some staff training photos.

Max stands at the new outfitting desk,
remembering the importance of good service. Justin, taking on the
customer role, tries to break his cool demeanor. Jeff stands back
and learns. Max shows Justin the front of the new store –
although its a bit of a blur for Justin. Max, what happened to
the customer is always right?

In the end, Max and Justin decide its better to
just get along and share a story in front of the fireplace with
Homer and Sunnie.

Posted on

May 2002

5/30/02 – We finally got some rain last night.
.45" fell during two waves of thunder storms between 3 and 4
am. The broad leaf asters are literally popping out of the ground
this morning. Yesterday the forest floor was brown and crunchy
and this morning it is fresh green and springy. There was a lot
of lightning with the storms last night, so the Forest Service is
checking carefully for smoke today.

5/29/02 – The extremely dry weather has prompted
the Forest Service to institute fire restrictions in the
designated blow-down area of the BWCAW. The fire restrictions
allow fires only between 7pm and midnight in the blow-down area,
camp stoves, however, are allowed at any time. Sawbill is included
in the fire restriction area. Areas east and north of Sawbill are
also included. Areas west of Sawbill, beyond Alton Lake, are not
included in the restrictions. A detailed description of the fire
restriction area can be seen on the Forest Service website,

5/27/02 – The weather has finally shaped up and
Memorial Day weekend has been sunny and warm. The marsh
marigolds, violets, and wild strawberries are blooming and the
buds on the trees are just beginning to pop open and let the tiny
new leaves out. As usual, with the advent of summer, the black
flies have made their first appearance. The crew has also started
showing up – Justin Hoekstra, Nathan TerBeest, Shannon Grace,
Jeff Green, and Laura Smith have all recently arrived – and more
are on their way. You may see a lot of familiar faces on the crew
this summer as everyone has worked at Sawbill before. This is
only the second time in Sawbill’s history that this has happened.

Some of the crew practicing their counter lean
in the new store – Jeff Green, Shannon Grace, Laura Smith, Clare
Hansen, and Justin Hoekstra.

Its been a bit stressful around Sawbill as Homer
the Dog has been very sick. He had a sore eye and began to limp
last week. These are the same symptoms that Sunnie had when she
got sick with Blastomycosis (a fungal infection which caused her
to loose her eye). Homer went to the vet in Duluth, who
determined that Homer does indeed have Blasto. He has lost the
vision in his left eye, but there is a chance that he will regain
sight in that eye when he recovers from the Blasto. He has been
started on medicine and appears to doing better in the last day
or two. -Beth

5/23/02 – Bill Hansen is running for the
Minnesota House of Representatives. Bill has been active in
Minnesota’s Democratic, Farmer, Labor (DFL) Party for many years.
The state senator from this district, Doug Johnson, retired this
year and the local representative, Tom Bakk, is running for
Johnson’s senate seat. The open house seat has attracted five
candidates so far on the DFL side of the ticket – including Bill.
There is an DFL endorsing convention on June 15th. Bill is
actively seeking the party endorsement. He has pledged to abide
by the endorsement process. The primary election is September
10th and the general election is November 5th. The legislative
schedule works pretty well for an outfitter in Minnesota. The
legislature meets in the winter, when we are closed.

Minnesota has very progressive public campaign
finance laws. Minnesota voters can contribute up to $50 to the
candidate of their choice and the state will reimburse them
fully. Candidates accepting public financing have limits on how
much they can spend and must disclose the names and occupations
of contributors over $200.

You can check Bill’s campaign website
for details. After the endorsing convention, Bill will keep and
on-line diary of the campaign similar to this news letter.

5/20/02 – A big thank-you goes out to the friends
and former crew members who came up a few weekends ago and helped
move into the new building. Countless boxes were moved and
unpacked, all the equipment in the dome was brought over to the
new building, and many shelves were filled. Despite the cold and
rainy weather, everyone had great attitudes and worked like dogs.
We also had a good number of laughs, enjoyed a few beers, and
managed to find time for a couple of saunas. -Beth

Ed Dallas, Sawbill’s poet laureate, works on
his extra-sturdy clothes line…Former crew member, Bob Kubiak,
tries to find a comfy spot for a nap.

Tim Velner practices for World’s Strongest Man
try-outs….Current crew member Betsy Moyer, and former crew
members Annie Strupeck and Michelle Thieman fondly remember all
the late night trip packing they did in the dome.


5/15/02 – Sorry for the long hiatus in newsletter
entries, but we have been extremely busy getting the new building
up and running. Construction is 99% done on the inside. Just a
few finishing touches required. We are hanging pictures, making
signs and carting all the stuff back in that we carted out last

Opening of fishing was generally cold, wet and
fishing was slow. In other words, a fine traditional Minnesota
fishing opener. I only heard of one lake trout and one northern
being caught. Ken Steffke, from Rosemount, and his group have
been fishing on the opener for over twenty years. They said this
was the slowest year ever for fishing. They thought the weather
was fine, even though there was snow on the ground when they put

5/2/02 – There is a long standing tradition at
Sawbill that the first day the ice goes out, the crew jumps in
the lake. It is enthusiastically declared the opening of the
"Sawbill Beach Club". Two days ago we gritted our teeth
and decided it was the day to open the beach club. Although the
pictures make it look like a warm spring day, there was actually
a bitter wind nipping at our noses (as well as other body parts).
Homer and Bea looked interested but apparently had more sense
than us.

Bill can you say "shrinkage"?
………………………………………………. First
"swim" of the summer….its been a long winter.

After the ice went out and we pretended it was
summer, we received three inches of snow. Last night we had over
an inch and another couple of inches fell this afternoon. I don’t
think it got above freezing all day. The Forest Service has been
doing fly-overs of the lakes and reports that Brule and Alton
still are ice covered and Cherokee has a small amount of ice on
it. Maybe the Sawbill will freeze again and we’ll have to reopen
the beach club. Ummm, I think we’ll wait until June. – Beth,
Betsy, Cindy, Dave

5/1/02 – The water was turning purple from the
sunset as we slid the canoe into the water. The large crystals of
ice that had surrounded the landing and sounded like wind chimes
in the waves had disappeared from yesterday. The dark calm water
welcomed us to the first paddle of the season. It took a few
strokes for our arms and our balance to remember what this was
like. Betsy and I caught up with a loon pair and they allowed us
to get within 20 feet. Their gentle clucks back and forth to each
other were a sharp contrast to the sound normally heard from
loons. After a few moments, one of the loons belted out his
well-known call and we heard it echo for a few stretched out
seconds. The call must have made it all the way to Burnt Lake to
the east and past Alton to the west. We reached the Alton portage
and glided up to the shore. Every movement seemed loud in the
deep stillness of the evening. A large snowdrift greeted us at
the Alton side of the portage and, as we scrambled over it, we
were surprised to find a solid sheet of ice still covering the
entire lake. No path was open to even wind around the lake. It is
still winter on Alton Lake. While standing on the shore, we heard
a strange low whine coming from the opposite shore. We debated
whether it was wolves or moose. It was so faint, but a thrilling
sound irregardless of the origin. We headed back over the portage
to where it was spring again. Neither of us spoke much on the
paddle back, and then only in whispers – neither of us wanting to
pollute the silence. – Beth

Posted on

April 2002

4/25/02 – The ice left the south end of Sawbill
Lake today. It was unusual because the temperature never rose
above freezing. The 30+ mile an hour west winds probably made up
for the lack of warmth. I am guessing that Alton, Cherokee and
most of the larger lakes are probably still ice covered. 3"
of snow is forecast for tomorrow night, so summer has not arrived
quite yet. – Bill

4/20/02 – We are considering renaming this page
"Don’s Hair Page." At his official birthday party last
night the friend who gave him the nearly shaved head a few days
ago tried to make up for it with her gift. – Bill

Don (again on the right), obviously passed the
hair gene to his son Elliot.

4/19/02 – Don Noyce, easy going carpenter on our
construction crew, surprised us with a new hairdo a couple of
days ago. He was getting a hair cut from a friend who made a
mistake and ended up solving the problem by all but shaving Don’s
head. Yesterday was his 50th birthday, so Cindy celebrated both
events with one of her famous creative cakes. – Bill

50 year old Don Noyce (right), and friend.

4/17/02 – A high of 77 degrees yesterday and
today’s strong winds are doing wonders to reduce the amount of
ice on the lake. There is 12" of solid ice and no slush. The
lake is a very dark gray and the ice has melted around the shore
leaving a few inches of open water at the edge. – Beth

4/16/02 – The signs of spring are everywhere
right now. The pussy willows are erupting, the canoes are coming
out of hiding from under piles of snow, the birds are filling the
air with songs, and Mary Alice’s tulips seem to get taller by the
hour. Almost every day during the past week a new type of bird
has returned from winter vacation. The first robin appeared last
week with a very disgruntled look on its face as it stood on the
side of the road and watched it snow. They are happily singing
loudly now with the warm weather. I got a close up look at a pair
of pileated woodpeckers when I scared them out of a ditch while
out for a walk. The juncos arrived this past weekend in huge
flocks. A gaggle of Canada geese honked a hello on their way
north one afternoon. A few purple finches have been around the
feeders and Bill said he saw a number of thrushes today. As of
last night, the lake still has 18" of solid ice but the
slushy layer on top has disappeared. -Beth

4/15/02 – We are experiencing some fast melting
here at Sawbill in the wake of unseasonably warm weather. As a
side effect of the melting, a beautiful ground fog developed over
the lake last night at sunset. We all took a walk down to the
landing to enjoy the warm breezes and magic light. Beth drilled a
hole on Saturday and found 20" of hard ice with 8" of
watery slush on top of that. – Bill

Looking west from the Sawbill Lake canoe
landing about 7:30 pm.

A pine in the fog across the bay.

4/11/02 – Some of the Hansens just returned from
the Caribbean island of Anguilla. Cindy’s mother, Arline, was
vacationing there with her boyfriend, Keck Melby. Keck flew his
four children, five grandkids, Arline’s two daughters, and her
four grandchildren down as a surprise for Arline. Fortunately for
me, spouses were included. We all gathered at one end of a beach
the first morning while Keck got Arline set at the other end of
the beach. His sister and a friend (who live on Anguilla),
unfurled a large banner and walked down the beach. The banner
said, "Arline, Will you marry me? – Keck." As soon as
Arline got over the shock of the banner, the entire family came
walking down the beach in a group. She was completely surprised.
She agreed to marry him and the wedding took pace the next day.
We then spent six more days lying in the sun, snorkeling,
swimming, eating and generally enjoying the island life. It was a
tough job, but somebody had to do it 🙂

Clare, Bill, Carl and Cindy Hansen on the
paradise island of Anguilla.

4/8/02 – Yesterday a burst of spring appeared.
The thermometer proudly showed off temperatures in the 50’s and
mud puddles sprang up everywhere. The gray jays are showing up
everywhere again. They disappeared for a while during the time
when they were nesting. Now, their babies should be almost at the
fledgling stage and the adults are becoming more active. I saw at
least 6 or 7 in the trees lining the road a few days ago. -Beth

The finished stonework on the new fireplace.
The painting is complete and the wood slatwall paneling is

4/5/02 – Around mid-afternoon, former Sawbill
crew members Dave Freeman and John "OB" Oberholtzer
skied into Sawbill after a few days of winter camping. They
started at Baker Lake, worked their way up to Cherokee and then
headed back to Sawbill. When I asked how things looked out there,
they answered simultaneously "Wintery!". They saw no
signs of spring break-up or melting and the packed snow held them
on skis. Hans (of the store building crew) said he had been ice
fishing yesterday about 20 miles from here and the ice and snow
cover on the lake was around 40" deep. I became curious
about Sawbill so the dogs and I dug out the ice auger and headed
for the middle of the lake. I didn’t put on skis or snowshoes and
the snow held in most places, only occasionally breaking through.
We discovered that the packed snow is about 6" deep and the
ice underneath is around 24" deep, with a slush layer
between the two. It’s been cold the past few days, but warmer
temps are forecasted for next week. Maybe the melting will begin
soon. -Beth

4/4/02 – Yesterday evening the dogs and I went
for a walk. The sun had begun to set and by the time we turned
around to head back, it was getting quite dark. I was pausing
every few minutes to look up at the stars which were beginning to
make their evening debuts. During one of these stops, a bit of
movement off to the side caught my eye. I focused on the object
at the top of a 30 feet tree. The first thought that came into my
head was "Its a chicken up a tree!". It was actually a
grouse eating catkins on the very top branches of a birch tree.
But at that point in the evening, I could only see silhouettes,
no details or color were visible – and the outline looked just
like a typical barnyard chicken. Grouse always amuse me when they
are up in the trees. They are such a large bird and they perch on
very thin branches trying to reach all the juicy morsels they can
– but, to me, they look completely out of place. I keep expecting
to see the branch bend, and in cartoon style slow-motion, the
bird silently and motionlessly slide from the branch and tumble
to the ground. So far, all the birds have stayed in the trees.

4/2/02 – More progress on the store to report.
The painting in the store and outfitting area is complete. The
rock work around the fireplace should be finished up today. The
offices and food department just need light fixtures and outlets
and then they will be complete. The little pieces are starting to
fall into place. Its looking great.

A sure sign of spring came the other day. New
canoes arrived! They were delivered with a protective plastic
sheet wrapped around each one, making them look like 19′ long
cocoons. I unwrapped them yesterday and the smooth, shiny yellow
brilliance of a pile of unpaddled canoes filled the yard. -Beth

Posted on

March 2002

3/29/02 – Weather in northern Minnesota is a very
dynamic thing. It’s not uncommon for the temperature to vary by
30 or more degrees from one day to the next. Even within the same
day, the weather can change dramatically. We experienced that
phenomenon yesterday. After the initial storm left us with about
3" of snow, we had a break for an hour or so. I was just
considering plowing when the snow began again. This time the
flakes were much smaller and it was more on the verge of rain.
The earlier snow packed down and started to break up some. By
early afternoon the second round of snow had passed and the
clouds began to drift away. Around 3:00 the sun was poking
through the clouds and the snow encasing the trees began to melt.
So much moisture was coming off the trees it wasn’t just
dripping, it was literally raining off the trees. By late
afternoon it was the warmest it had been all day and felt like
spring again. I was sure I could even smell a bit of pine sap in
the air. We had gone from January to April in about 10 hours. The
evening remained clear and a brilliant full moon rose early. I
walked outside around 11pm and looked up at the moon which had
traveled to nearly the high point in the sky. All the moisture in
the air had created the perfect conditions for a moon halo. A
pearly white ring completely encircled the moon. It was a
beautiful sight. – Beth

The road to the lake at 10:00 am yesterday. The
same spot at 5:00 pm yesterday.

3/28/02 – We’re having a snow day today. I was
thinking yesterday that I should write a little about all the
signs of spring that have been popping up in the last week or
two. And then this morning I woke up to a snowstorm. I don’t
think I’ve seen it snow this hard all winter. Huge, wet flakes
are pouring down, sticking to everything so that the south sides
of all the trees look whitewashed. Then the wind picks up and all
the snow stuck to the branches comes avalanching down. Homer and
Sunnie look like wooly sheep when they come in after sitting
outside for just a few minutes. You can tell its an early spring
snow because its incredibly heavy wet snow – the thermometer is
sitting right around 32 degrees. About 3" have fallen so
far. I heard we may get up to 6", but the snow has let up
right now. It may be time to go fire up the plow. – Beth

Homer and Sunnie seem unfazed by the snow.

3/26/02 – I skate skied on Sawbill and Alton
Lakes tonight at sunset. I heard from a friend in Ely that the
lakes in that area have a firm enough snow crust to hold up a
skier. The lakes here are not quite there yet. I mostly stayed on
top, but every 30 seconds or so, my ski would break through the
hard-pack into the soft snow below. This sent me sprawling, so I
learned that I had to make my way guardedly. In spite of that
impediment, it was a gorgeous time to be out on the lakes. The
recent high winds have sculpted wild drifts that are terraced
like a giant architect’s landscape model. The low angle of the
sun brought each minute terrace out in sharp relief and gradually
turned them from white, to gold, to pink and finally purple. On
Alton, I came across some huge fresh wolf footprints. The wolf
was following an old snowshoe trail, which I soon discovered was
firmer than the rest of the lake surface. Near shore I found a
small hole of open water. It was surrounded by otter tracks and
littered with the claws and heads of crayfish. I counted 24 sets
of claws. As I headed home, the light faded and a huge moon
lighted my way home. – Bill

3/20/02 – Winter is hanging on here at Sawbill. I
heard on the radio today that it is likely that March will stand
as the coldest month of the winter this year, for the first time
in the 110 years that records have been kept. We are still skiing
on our groomed ski trail here at Sawbill. The lakes still have a
foot or so of soft snow on them. The lakes and rivers will become
skiways as soon as the days get warmer and the nights stay cold.
It is a phenomenon that we wait for each year. We can skate ski
across the lakes and down the rivers with so little effort that
we all feel like Olympic skiers.

With the recent, if tardy, snowfalls and the rain
we had last Fall, it is a good prognosis for the canoeing season.
Ice out should be fairly close to normal (end of April/beginning
of May) and water levels will be good. – Bill

3/13/02 – We’ve had a few requests for pictures
of the construction progress. Its a little difficult to take
pictures in the store that really do justice to the project. But
I gave it my best shot and here they are. The ceilings in the
store and outfitting area have been paneled and are beautiful.
The sheet-rock is almost finished in the store/outfitting also.
Then the painting will happen. The sheet-rock and painting in the
new part of the building has been finished and the flooring and
carpeting will go in next week. Then the new part – including the
new offices and food department -will be ready to has things
moved in. – Beth

The picture on the left is looking at the wall
that was the front of the old store. The half wall forms an
alcove on the other side where the books and fireplace will be.
The new store counter will be where the sawhorses are in the
lower left side of the picture. The picture on the right is taken
from where the store counter used to be. The windows and door on
the right are the new front of the store.

This is a closer look at the book/fireplace
area. There will be a couch and a couple of chairs in this area,
as well as a TV above the fireplace to watch the Forest Service

3/12/02 – Spring fever has hit some of us here at
Sawbill. Cindy and I were in the cities this weekend and stopped
in Duluth to have a little bit of color added to our hair to help
us through the last leg of winter. We were rather excited and
talked about it at coffee break with the construction guys. Grey
said his wife, Sue Jordan (former crew may remember her from
Northland Hardware), had also been to the salon in Duluth and
came home with short spiked hair with fire-engine red streaks. He
said it looks great. Don, being the slave to fashion that he is,
didn’t want to feel left out of the hair color craze, so he and
his wife Patty decided to glamour him up over the weekend. He
out-did both of our hair colors when he took his cap off this
morning to reveal a head full of purple tinted hair. He looks fabulous!

That’s not your natural color Don?

3/5/02 – Cindy and the kids saw three wolves near
Tofte on the way to school yesterday. They got a good look at
them as they ambled away. I saw two wolves on the highway
Thursday night. Last night, a flying squirrel glided down to the
bird feeder while Beth and I were watching. Flying squirrels are
common here, but are nocturnal, so rarely seen.

I was able to perform another stranded motorist
rescue on the Sawbill Trail late Thursday night. I was returning
from the Richard Thompson concert in Duluth just before midnight.
The concert was wonderful and I felt fine when I left Duluth. As
I passed through Two Harbors, my stomach began to churn and by
the time I reached Silver Bay I was in the full grip of the 24
hour stomach flu – vomiting, fever, aches and all the rest. I
relieved to finally turn up the Sawbill Trail in Tofte, headed
for my own warm cozy bed. Eight miles up the Sawbill Trail a dark
form emerged from the woods onto the road. I assumed it was a
moose, but I was surprised to see that it was a woman in a large
black coat. She had mistakenly tried to drive on the unplowed
Honeymoon Trail and got stuck in the middle of that road. She had
walked for an hour and a half in the -5 degree night. She had no
hat of gloves, but fortunately was able to protect herself with
the large wool coat. I called Bud Nelson, our local tow truck
operator, on the radio and waited with her until he arrived. When
I apologized for being so sick, she said "I just had the flu
four days ago." She was sympathetic and not off put by my
forays into the ditch to hurl. – Bill

Posted on

February 2002

2/27/02 – We had a visit today from Lenert and
Ann Kalberg, from Stockholm, Sweden. Lenert and Ann’s son was an
exchange student at the local high school several years ago.
Lenert works for the Swedish Sports Federation. Part of his job
requires him to attend the Olympic games. They stopped by to
visit their son’s former host family, Sue and Grey Jordan of
Lutsen. Grey is the general contractor for our construction

L to R: Bill, Grey Jordan, Ann Karlberg, Lenert
Karlberg, Sue Jordan, Cindy.

Clare Hansen turned 14 years old today. Cindy
baked her an accordion cake. Clare has been playing the accordion
for nine years. She celebrated by going bowling for the first
time in her life.

14 year old Clare Hansen

2/26/02 – Tonight there is a full moon – and
there hasn’t been a cloud in the sky so far today. Its likely to
be a bright night at Sawbill. I took this picture last night
around 6PM, just as the moon was rising.

An almost full moon rising.

Construction continues to move
along. The sheet-rockers arrived last week and have almost
finished with the new part of the building. The roof isn’t quite
done yet as the crew moved indoors to work on finishing the
ceiling. The eight sky-lights are installed and let in so much
warm natural light. The shelves for the basement will arrive
tomorrow so soon we can start moving things in. – Beth

2/20/02 – Our glimpse of spring
two days ago was followed by 6" of snow yesterday. So much
for the sun tanning – but it means more good skiing. And I got to
plow for the second time this season. Cindy wasn’t around to race
against this time, so I had to battle the clock. I was on world
record setting pace when I ran into some trouble moving the cars
– one of them had a dead battery. After a quick delay to jump
start it, I was off again. And then I got a little too close to
the septic tank – and plowed the cover right off of it. The
exclamation of "Oh Crap" that came from my mouth seemed
fitting for the situation. Holding my breath, I ran over and
hauled the cover back onto the tank. I finished up without
further incident and while I didn’t break the world record, I
think I set a new personal best.

I watched speed skater Derek Parra
set the new world record in the 1500 meter race last night.
Thinking about it afterwards I tried to put it in Sawbill
perspective. 1500 meters is about a mile – which means he could
skate from the Sawbill landing to the Alton portage in one minute
and 43 seconds. Amazing. – Beth

2/18/02 – Lots of people took
advantage of the long President’s Day weekend to do some winter
camping in the area. There were over 20 cars in the parking lot
this weekend – its unusual to have more than one or two on an
average weekend. The lakes are great right now for skiing and
pulling sleds. Some strong winds blew early last week and really
packed down the snow. The traffic on the lake this weekend also
created some good trails. Hopefully, the skiing will last a
little longer. We’ve been luckier than most places in Minnesota
this crazy winter and have had almost a foot of snow on the
ground since around Christmas. However, warm temperatures have
crept in the last couple of days and the snow is beginning to
look a little sparse. But today was so gloriously warm and sunny
I couldn’t even get frustrated that the ski trail was melting in
front of my eyes. The high today was somewhere around 45 degrees.

The construction guys have begun
putting the new metal roof on the building and are overjoyed that
the weather is being so cooperative. They were working in just
t-shirts today.

Hans and Don work on their
summer tans.


2/14/02 – We received the
following e-mail from Jeffrey Yelich.

Your newsletter got me looking
back in old travel logs and I found my sighting of a tailless
wolf fishing for spawning suckers, May 6, 1998 at the inlet of
Phoebe Lake. My log reads "as I approached the portage to
Grace I could hear flowing water around the bend and passed by
the carry so as to see the inlet. I saw what I first thought was
a deer, then realized it was a wolf minus its tail and  I
silently glided to within 20 yards. Standing on a little
peninsula it was so involved watching the fat exposed backs of
the countless suckers that a full two minutes passed
before it looked around and I was busted. It streaked away
and actually tried to scale a smooth rock wall,I could hear it’s
claws scratching on the rock. It jumped quite a distance up the
wall, but no good. It seemed to pull itself together at that
point and with a backward glance it turned away and walked with
great dignity up the creek bottom. By this time the little boat
and I had drifted into the peninsula which was strewn with fresh
sucker carcasses, one can assume it was the wolf thou I didn’t
see it catch any."

It is possible its still around, I
hope so. This last year was the first in many years that I failed
to visit your area. We did a lot of the western rivers and its a
good time, but I miss the long solo paddles. The jerky is in the
food dryer as I write and the open water season is right around
the corner (April I hope) see you then!

-Jeffrey Yelich


2/9/02 – I saw three timber wolves on my way to
pick the kids up from school yesterday afternoon. I can’t be
sure, because they were moving pretty fast, but it appeared that
one of them did not have a tail. A little farther down the road,
I saw a small black critter scurrying across the road. I stopped
for a better look and was surprised to find a star nosed mole. On
the way home, we saw another mole running around on the road. We
stopped and I captured it in my chopper mittens. These unusual
creatures have twenty two fleshy appendages around their noses.
Scientists have recently discovered that the nose star has six
times the sensitivity to touch of the human hand. Star nosed
moles live in colonies around swampy areas and river edges. They
eat worms, insects and crustaceans. They are breeding this time
of year, which probably explains why they are out wandering on
the road. When we let him go, the mole tunneled into the snow
with amazing rapidity. He sank out of sight like a stone with a
shower of snow erupting from his burrow.

The Star Nosed Mole

Posted on

January 2002

1/31/02 – We received the following email from
the Forest Service. This would be a great opportunity for some
one with the summer free. They do pay a per diem to cover the
cost of food.

We just found out the two volunteers we had lined
up to spend the summer at
the Kekekabic Cabin in the BWCAW can not make it. I’m putting an
ad in
the Ely Shopper and was hoping that you knew of some potential
or ways of getting a recruitment notice out. The volunteers would
responsible for routine campsite and portage maintenance as well as
some user
education contacts in the Kekekabic and Knife lakes area.

Thanks for any help you can give getting this message out.

Norma Malinowski
Outdoor Recreation Planner

1/30/02 – Ed Dallas, the poet Laureate of Sawbill

I need a title for this poem as I can’t think of
a good
one for it. Could you post it on the newsletter and let the
readers submit
ideas for a title?

That early coffee smell,
before it begins morning hike
with campfire smoke through towering pines,
breaks grip of night sleep,
drags me from tent,
grants permission for this lake canoeing day
to burn wild over water trails
until I succumb to temptation
of warm sleeping bag
after watching another sunset
fade deep into the horizon.

Have a good one,

1/21/02 – Another ex-Sawbill crew baby to
announce: Will Pearson is the new son of former crew Ann Pearson
(Strittmatter) and Marcos Pearson. They currently make their home
in Nicaragua.

Future Sawbill crew member? Will Pearson and his
mom, Ann.

1/18/02 – Just when I think all the dramatic
changes on the construction project are finished, the carpenters
find something else to do that makes everyone’s jaw drop. This
week they removed the wall that separated the offices from the
store along with the ceiling timbers in that area. All of the
paneling and insulation had been removed from the wall and only
the frame was standing so it didn’t seem like it would be that
drastic of a change. But what a difference – the area seems so
much larger than I expected. I’m sure we’ll have no problem
filling it up with all the equipment from the dome.

Last weekend, four former Sawbill crew members –
Sandy Zinn, Ellen Bagnato, Annie Strupeck, and Michelle Thieman
came up for their annual girls ski weekend. They were limited to
skiing around the campground, since there is no snow on any of
the ski trails along the North Shore. But they made the best of
the snowless north and did some hiking on the Superior Hiking
Trail as well as spent lots of time chatting over coffee. We also
had a short visit from current Sawbill crew member Shannon Grace
who stopped by Sawbill with her family last sunday. She is on
winter break from the U of M.

The Sawbill Babes having coffee.

A cold spell has hit us hard today. The low last
night was -15 degrees and its hovering around zero right now.
Reading the thermometer makes it hard to get myself motivated to
go for a little ski, although I can see the beginnings of a
beautiful sunset which sometimes tempts me out of the house.
Today though, I think a book and some hot chocolate sounds like
the better option. – Beth


1/14/02 – Ed Dallas, the Poet Laureate of
Sawbill, writes:


The article took up half the front page of the morning paper but
it was the
colored picture that told the story. Eleven big trailers, packed
snowmobiles, tools, spare parts, clothes and who knows what else,
side by side, out behind a motel in Detroit Lakes, on lake ice
that was
obviously not thick enough. The perfect opportunity for my wife
to say
something like "There’s no law that says you can’t be
stupid." which would
have been a clear reference to our first and only trip to Las
Vegas where,
while under the influence of a rare vintage burgundy from France
(I kept
telling her that they don’t grow grapes like these back home in
Minnesota) I
became convinced that the biggest pile of poker chips I had ever
seen in my
life would "come home too Ma Ma" (how was I to know
that a pair of ladies
would let me down when they had always seemed to work back home,
on Saturday
night down at the VFW). But she just sipped her coffee, knowing
quite well
that if she brought up the subject I would have to remind her of
all those
cases of County Fair pickles we still have down in the basement,
and she
smiled, sweetly, asking if Warroad had beaten the Falls in hockey

Have a good one and do pray for some snow,

1/10/02 – Here is the latest update on the
rebuilding of the Sawbill store. This view is from the front. In
other words, this is what you see when you turn right at the stop
sign and drive up toward the parking lot. This will now be the
"side" of the building and the front will be off to the
right. This will all make more sense when the landscaping is

Looking south at the Sawbill store building.

We are experiencing the same "super
melt" as the rest of the Midwest. Two days ago the high
temperature was 37F and yesterday was 36F. Our foot of snow,
which was the deepest in the state, has shrunk to 6" or
less. I was forced to go running because even the sketchy ski
trails that I have been skiing are ruined. I hope to be able to
ski on the lake once the temperature drops to normal levels. –

1/4/02 – One of the carpenters working on the
store reconstruction, Hans Mueller, left his lunch box here for
almost two weeks over the holidays. When he returned, we
discovered that he had left a large chunk of ham in the lunchbox.
It had achieved an impressive array of colors while lounging in
our front hall closet. Fortunately, Hans’ lunchbox has a tight
seal. Today is Hans’ 39th birthday. Cindy, never one to let an
opportunity pass, baked him a cake in the shape of a spoiled ham.
It actually tasted quite good, despite the putrid appearance.

Hans Mueller, Grey Jordan, and Don Noyce are
the craftsmen rebuilding the Sawbill Store building.

Sawbill campground hosts, Jim and Rachel
TerBeest, paid a rare winter visit to Sawbill today. They are
vacationing at Bearskin Lodge on the Gunflint Trail and stopped
over for a tour of the construction and dinner.

Jim looks on as Homer plants a wet one on