Posted on

June 2003

6/30/03 – Our friend, Brian Tofte, has sent us a small treasure trove of
historical photos of the Sawbill area. We will gradually post them here. The
first is a picture of the rail road portage between Sawbill and Alton Lakes.
The narrow gauge rails went down into the water on both sides of the portage so
a loaded boat could be floated on to the little hand car and pulled across the
portage. The rails were removed in the early ’70s due to safety concerns. There
was also a rail portage between Alton and Kelso Lakes. They were built in the
early ’30s to haul the materials to Kelso Lake that were used to construct the
fire lookout tower on Kelso Mountain. A phone line was also strung, just two
bare wires on 12′ cedar poles, al the way from Tofte to Kelso Mountain, a
distance of about 30 miles.

The old rail portage between Sawbill
and Alton Lakes – on the same path as today’s portage.

6/28/03 -While walking down the trail yesterday, I was interrupted often by
tiny, vibrant red stop signs along the roadside. The wild strawberries are
ripe! The sweet and incredibly juicy little berries are lining the trail right

We seem to be getting a break from the rain today and the sun is cheerfully
poking through the few whispy clouds in the sky, quickly warming up the morning
from our unusually cool overnight low of 37 degrees. -Beth

6/25/03 – The persistent drought that has worried us for the last 6 or 8
months seems to have broken at last. We have received substantial rains in the
last few days and weeks, bringing water levels back to normal and turning the
forest into a verdant, green grotto. The blueberry bushes are loaded with
blossoms, which bodes well for future pies and pancakes. – Bill

6/20/03 – The fishing continues to be good around here. Yesterday John
Brickner of Apple Valley brought in a 3.5 LB bass that he caught on the south
end of Sawbill Lake using a leech and a Lindy Rig. He wanted to say hi to his
buddy Chuck Aase and the UMS crowd. -Beth

John Brickner shows off his 3 1/2lb.
bass caught on Sawbill Lake.

6/18/03 – Greg Ciolek was fishing at the accessible fishing pier on Sawbill
Lake last week when he heard a commotion in the woods nearby.

Moose at the mouth of Sawbill Creek
within a stone’s throw of the Sawbill Campground.

6/16/03 – David Cole, who has introduced many young people to wilderness
canoeing over the years, writes to us about his incredible encounter with
wolves last week:

I have been lucky enough to have been on more than a dozen canoe trips

my time. They have all been wonderful and memorable experiences.
The best usually include taking youngsters who are new to the wilderness.
This past week I and my son had the opportunity to introduce two 12 and 13
year old "Little Brothers" to the beauty of a wilderness canoe

From the very start it was a charmed adventure. The weather was great, the
fishing was fabulous, and the wildlife was abundant.
The boys were delighted with the fighting bronze backs and pike, and
thrilled to see eagle, loons, otters, and moose.
The paddle up to Beaver Lake from Kawishiwi was filled with memorable
sights and sounds.

Our first evening on Beaver Lake, we were fishing from our canoes and
enjoying the calls of loons when the song of howling wolves joined the
It had been many years since I had heard their soulful call and was almost
as thrilled as the boys. The youngest said " Wow, what a special night

has been!" It certainly was one we will all remember. What happened

following morning, however, is something I never dreamed I would witness.

I rose with the dawn and sat quietly on an overhanging boulder while my
partners slept. The birds sang their greeting to the new day and I drank in
the peacefulness of the pristine setting. My meditation was interrupted by
a loud racket in the forest a hundred yards across the lake. I could here
large animals struggling, branches breaking, and finally a moose moaning.
After a few seconds the commotion raced toward the shore line and I
strained to see the players. Suddenly a moose calf and two wolves burst
from the forest and into the shallow water of the lake shore about 200
yards from where I sat. The cow chased after the calf with two more wolves
at the heals of the cow.

I raced the short distance to our tent and roused the sleepers. By the time
I returned to the water’s edge, the wolves had taken the calf down just on
shore. The cow continued to alternatively charge at the wolves and then run

safety as the wolves counter attacked. The sight quickly shook the sleep
from those so rudely awakened. We all stood awe struck as the drama
continued and shared our one pair of binoculars. At times the cow would be
driven far back into the forest, and we could follow her position from her
crashing though the dense thicket and her load moaning / grunting

Then she would come charging back to the shore and into view scattering the
wolves briefly from the spot where the calf was taken down. The wolves
would quickly take the offensive and drive her back into the woods,

This scene repeated itself for about an hour. Each time the cow’s charge
would become less aggressive and energetic. Between her charges, the wolves
could be seen tearing at the flesh of the calf. We could hear their
growling as they tugged at the meat and jostled for position. The wolves
were also aware of our presence across the lake and would occasionally
stand in the open looking in our direction.

Finally the cow returned only to stand quietly near the sight where her
calf had been. After a minute of so, she turned and disappeared into the
forest. Two raven came loudly to the scene as the wolves seemed to finish

task. Once the wolves left, the raven flew down to find what was left.

We waited another hour before venturing to the scene ourselves. When we
arrived, all was quiet and hardly a sign could be found of the drama that
had only recently been completed. The wolves had apparently carried the
pieces back into the forest and the ravens had cleaned up the stage.

To have been witnesses to this natural struggle, is nothing short of a
wonderful gift that we all will be thankful for our entire lives. I am
especially thankful to those who worked so hard to establish this
wilderness and to those who continue to work to protect it.

The only "down side" to this story is how will my young partners
ever match

the adventure of their first visit to the BWCAW. However, I am confident
they will return with their own children someday.

Thanks again to you and your crew for your part in outfitting the trip. I
hope to see you all again next summer.


6/10/03 – Fishing was hot yesterday. After Bob had his trophy safely cooling
in the freezer, several Sawbill crew members headed out on Sawbill Lake for
some walleye fishing. We bumped into a couple of guys who were returning from
Alton with an impressive stringer holding three bass over 4 LBS and a 4 LB
rainbow trout. Alton was stocked with rainbows a couple of years ago, but very
few are being caught. The lake census crew was on Alton all last week and found
lots of walleyes and bass, but no rainbows. The one we saw was a gorgeous,
colorful and chunky creature. Due to an impending staff meeting, we only had
about 40 minutes to fish. We landed 11 walleyes in that short time with
numerous bites in between. Clare was never able to set her rod down, as her
bobber seem to submerge almost immediately after being set out. – Bill

6/9/03 – Bob Kangas, from Schroeder, brought in a 19 LB northern a few
minutes ago. Bob is a recently retired conservation officer whose territory
included Sawbill for nearly 20 years. He now has time to fish instead of
watching out for poachers. We immediately accused him of using dynamite to bag
the monster, but he actually caught it on a small jig while fishing for

Former Minnesota Conservation Officer
Bob Kangas is enjoying his retirement.

6/8/03 – There is nothing quite as happy as a kid with fish.

Carl Hansen, Clare Hansen, Anna
Hutchinson, Will Hutchinson after a flurry of action. Can you see Carl’s trophy

6/4/03 – Three new crew members have joined us for the summer. Missy
Peschmann, originally from Maple Grove, recently graduated from the University
of Minnesota at Duluth with a degree in plant sciences and a minor in dance.
She will stay at Sawbill through the fall. Lida Storch, from Appleton WI, will
be a junior at the U of M majoring in art education. She is on the rowing team
at the U. Kristin Mjolsnes just graduated from Macalester College with a degree
in Studio Art and Geography. She is originally from Bloomington, IN and will
also be staying at Sawbill into the fall. After leaving Sawbill she plans to
take an extended trip traveling around the world.

Returning crew members Nathan TerBeest and Emily Stewart also have arrived
this week. Both just graduated from college, Northwestern College and Catholic
University respectively. Congratulations! Our long time campground hosts at
Crescent Lake Campground, JoAnne and Bill Koski, have also arrived and begun to
settle in for the summer. Its good to have the familiar faces back at Sawbill
and fun meeting the new ones. -Beth

Missy Peschman brings her green thumb
to Sawbill and plants violets in the sod house that covers the well pump. Lida
Storch (on the left) and Kristin Mjolsnes take a break outside the store.

6/3/2003 – This interesting press release just arrived from the Forest

Scientists confirm hybridization of Canada lynx with bobcats in Minnesota

USDA Forest Service scientists at the Rocky Mountain Research Station’s
Wildlife Ecology unit’s genetics laboratory in Missoula, Montana.,
discovered through DNA analysis the first scientific evidence of
hybridization between the bobcat and Canada lynx in the wild.

Forest Wildlife Biologist Ed Lindquist of the Superior National Forest in
Northeastern Minnesota collected tissue and hair samples from 19 cats
believed to be Canada lynx. Two of the cats had external physical
characteristics resembling both species. Lindquist asked the research
scientists to conduct DNA analysis to confirm species identification.

Dr. Michael Schwartz, leader of the genetics laboratory, designed a test to
detect hybridization between lynx and bobcats. Analysis of the 19 cats’
DNA identified three hybrids. All three were from male bobcats mating with
female lynx. This is the first scientifically confirmed hybridization
reported in wild populations of these species.

As a result of this finding, the Forest Service has already conducted a DNA
analysis of most of the lynx hair samples collected as part of the national
lynx survey to help determine if hybridization has occurred elsewhere. So
far, no additional instances of hybridization have been detected.

Because so little is known about lynx and lynx ecology, further research is
needed to determine what implications these findings may have on lynx
conservation. Dr. Len Ruggiero, leader of the wildlife ecology research
unit in Missoula, states that additional analysis is needed to determine
the extent of hybridization. Additional hair and tissue samples will be
collected where Canada lynx and bobcat populations are known to overlap.
DNA samples from bobcats in those areas should also be studied to identify

The Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to use
the Lynx Conservation Assessment and Strategy to guide conservation of the
lynx on federal lands. These guidelines identify actions that will reduce
or eliminate harmful effects or risks to lynx and its habitat.

"We are interested in factors which may contribute to the occurrence of
hybridization, what the long-term impacts on the lynx populations may be,
and how this may affect future recovery efforts," Fish & Wildlife
Regional Director Ralph Morgenweck said, after learning about the
hybridization. "The Fish & Wildlife Service will closely follow future
studies to determine the extent of hybridization and its impacts on lynx

The Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which
administers the Endangered Species Act, listed the Canada lynx in the
United States as threatened in March 2000, in portions of the lower 48
states. A threatened species is one that is likely to become endangered in
the foreseeable future in all or a significant portion of its range.

Note to editors: Questions and Answers regarding this issue can be viewed

6/1/03 – We’ve been getting encouraging fishing reports from people
returning from trips. The walleye, northern pike, and lake trout have all been
biting well and, according to a couple of groups that just came back today, the
small mouth bass have also started biting. -Beth

Posted on

May 2003

5/29/03 – Spring flowers are beginning to spread splashes of color
everywhere. The marsh marigolds have been in bloom for over a week and the
swampy area at the very south end of Sawbill Lake is full of the bright yellow
flowers. Purple and yellow violets are in bloom as well as woodland anemonies.
I also stumbled across three nodding trillium in bloom near the Sawbill Creek.
Their delicate white flowers hang just under the three large leaves that give
the plant its name. -Beth

Marsh marigolds and nodding trillium
are just two of the plants in bloom around Sawbill.

5/26/03 – Today completes the finest Memorial Day weekend, in terms of
weather, that we have ever had. Balmy temperatures, light breezes, blue skies
and even the fish are biting. We are seeing nothing but happy faces around here
this morning.

Two new Sawbill crew members have arrived in the last two days.

Alison Behm is from Rosemount,
Minnesota and attends the University of Minnesota. Patrick Nash is from
Middleton, Wisconsin and will be going to school in Pocatello, Idaho this fall.

Frank Hansen is recovering from his
long ordeal of repeated hip surgery. He is cruising freely around the property
and spending hours visiting with canoeists in the store.

Steve Snyder, who was a guide at Sawbill Lodge back in the 60s, came in from
Malberg Lake last night. He had the privilege of seeing a new born moose
nursing from its mother.

Speaking of moose, my friend Sue Abrahamsen of Grand Marais was injured last
week when she surprised a mother moose and a new calf on a trail near Grand
Marais. Sue found herself suddenly very close to the pair and the cow kicked
out and broke Sue’s leg. It was one of those very rare and fluky accidents with
what are normally peaceful and placid animals. You can read the full story in
the Cook
County News Herald story.

A Sawbill camper had another fluky accident yesterday. While crossing the
Sawbill to Alton portage carrying a loaded canoe in the upright position, a man
fell and caught his hand between the falling canoe’s keel and a rock. He sliced
off the tips of two fingers. His friends picked up the severed pieces and
rushed him back to the Sawbill store. Luckily, a Cook county deputy sheriff was
visiting in the store and was able to rush the man to the hospital in his squad
car. Dr. Paul Terrill reattached the finger tips and gave a hopeful prognosis
for full recovery. – Bill

5/16/03 – Sawbill crew members have begun arriving for the summer! Kari
Anderson-Hermann, a new crew member from Minneapolis, was the first one to
arrive last week. She’s been cheerfully doing all of the spring dirty work like
scrubbing outhouses and shuttling a dozen canoes at a time to different entry
points. Kari has spent many summers paddling with Camp Menogyn, including their
50-day Hudson Bay trip last summer. She just finished her freshman year at the
University of Redlands in southern California. Max Wilson, long-time crew member
and Jayco resident, arrived from Massachusetts yesterday and is hard at work
already. -Beth

Kari doesn’t seemed the least bit
phased by the huge pile of canoes she has to drive to Kawishiwi (where do I
take that first right?).

5/15/03 – The June issue of National Geographic Magazine, on newsstands
today, contains an article on the Boundary Waters Wilderness by virtuoso
photographer/writer Jim Brandenburg. The online
version of the article
includes a link to Sawbill Canoe Outfitters! – Bill

5/14/03 – On May 4th, big happenings were afoot here at Sawbill. Bill Hansen
was one day away from turning FIFTY YEARS OLD. Cindy, as always, was one step
ahead and had planned a surprise party with exactly 50 friends and family in
attendance. And, while Bill was delighted with the unexpected guests that kept
pouring through the front door, he had no idea what was still in store. This
past fall a friend of Bill’s had offered to sell his 1978 Moto Guzzi 850 T3
motorcycle to Bill. Bill thought about it for a few weeks and finally called
the friend back and said he’d take it. The friend apologized but said he’d sold
it to "some other guy" because he hadn’t heard from Bill. A few weeks
later Bill went to visit the friend and got to see the bike and realized it was
exactly what he had wanted. Bill was disappointed but then snowboarding season
started and Bill got distracted by that. So, last Sunday during the party,
right after Bill’s friends and family spent an hour roasting the old guy, Cindy
placed a blindfold on him, marched him outside, and after much suspense
revealed his birthday present – the 1978 Moto Guzzi. She had been "some
other guy" all along. – Beth

Bill is a bit nervous at what Cindy has cooked up as a present…. Bill in
utter disbelief – be careful with big surprises, he’s 50 now, it may be too
much for him…. After Bill picks his chin off the ground, the party goers and
the present pose for a picture with the coolest guy in town.

5/8/03 – Wandering outside with a bright moon hanging in the warm night sky,
I paused to breathe in the sweet spring air. After a moment or two I realized
what was different – the frogs were noisily having their evening choir practice
for the first time. It was a very summer-like noise and made the night air feel
a little bit warmer as I headed for home. -Beth

5/6/03 – The Forest Service announced a fire restrictions beginning May 8th.
As in the past few years, fires will only be allowed between 7 pm and midnight
in the blowdown areas. Outside the blowdown areas, fires are allowed in the
fire grates any time of day. It is dry here right now.

Greg Fangel, who lives part-time in Tofte, was driving up the Sawbill Trail
last Saturday and came across a cow moose with a yearling calf. This is not so
unusual in itself, but Greg was startled to see that the cow was missing one of
her legs. This is the first I have ever heard of a three legged moose. – Bill

Greg Fangel reported that this mama
moose hobbled into the woods on only one back leg

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

first smells of spring rain
a low rumble of thunder
through the loon’s call

5/2/03 – It appears that the ice is gone from Sawbill Lake as of Thursday,
May 1st. We haven’t had time to paddle up to the north end, but everything is
open as far as we can see. The statistical average ice out date for Sawbill
Lake over the last 50 years is May 2nd. The earliest I can remember is April
11th and the latest is May 22nd.

Cindy saw a very large black bear on the Sawbill Trail this morning as she
was driving the kids to the bus. As she drew nearer, one, two, and then three
tiny cubs ran across the road. She pulled to a stop and watched the tiny fur
balls as they bumbled around trying to get safely up a tree. After finally
agreeing on a tree, they all shinnied up a few feet and then stared at Cindy.
She said they were nothing but ears. After a few minutes, mother reappeared,
called them down, and led them off into the woods. – Bill

5/1/03 – The south end of Sawbill Lake is substantially clear of ice. We can
see some ice up near the first narrows. Typically, the larger, deeper middle
section of Sawbill goes out a day or two after the south end. It is warm, sunny
and windy here today, so I am guessing Sawbill will be clear by this evening. –

Posted on

April 2003

4/29/03 – If I were still a high
school junior or senior, I would jump at this chance. The Ely school system, in
cooperation with Camp Widjiwagan, is offering a full year residential wilderness
education program. Students will live at Widji and spend much of their time in
the wilderness. What a great opportunity! There are some scholarships
available. The deadline for application is June 1st. For more information,
email Jon Zebrowski at
or call him at (218) 365-6166.

Another crew baby has arrived in the world. Dawn Brennan (Kaluza) who was a
Sawbill crew member from ’91 – ’93 gave birth to
her fist child, Joseph Thomas Brennan,  born April 9th at 12:23am.
 He was pounds 7 ounces and 20 inches long. Mother, baby, and father, Tom,
are all thriving.

Thomas Brennan

The ice is too rotten to stand on now, so I
can’t drill a hole to get the exact depth. It appears to be going fast and
barring any unusual change in the weather, should be out within the next few

of open water today, but Sawbill is still 90% ice covered.

4/27/03 – As of today, Sunday, the ice on Sawbill Lake is 8" thick.
While still strong enough to stand on, it is showing signs of degradation. It
is very warm and windy today. If this weather keeps up Sawbill should be ice
free by the weekend.

Sawbill Lake ice is gray and melted
away from shore. Sunnie can’t wait to jump in the lake each spring – impervious
to the freezing water.

Cindy, Carl, Clare and I just returned from a delightful vacation in
southern Utah. The highlight was a canoe trip on the Green River through the
spectacular red rock canyons of Canyonlands National Park. We rented canoes and
arranged for jet boat shuttle from the confluence of the Green and Colorado
Rivers back to Moab, UT with the excellent folks at Tex’s Riverways in Moab.

Two views of the Green River in
Canyonlands National Park. (Pictures courtesy of Tex’s Riverways)

4/25/03 – The ice on the lake is 9" thick as of this morning. The days
continue to be warm and sunny but the night temperatures are still dropping
fairly low. The forecast calls for continued warm weather.

Frank Hansen would like to send a huge thank-you out out to everyone who has
sent cards, e-mails, and warm get-well wishes during his recovery from hip
surgery. He is up and around and looking great but not quite able to spend time
sitting in front of a computer yet to respond to the encouraging messages he
has been receiving. But he wants everyone to know they have been greatly
appreciated. -Beth

4/23/03 – I saw three moose while driving on the Sawbill Trail last night.
They are all in the process of losing their winter coats and look like they’ve
been half dipped in chocolate, with their back ends a smooth, rich, dark brown
of summer and their front ends a mottled, ratty, lighter brown of winter.

Despite the fact that the last three days have been beautiful with temps in
the 50’s and 60’s (the kind of days when you look for any excuse to get outside
– sweeping the porch was a critical task on my to do list today), the ice on
the lake has only melted about an inch in the past two days – it remains about
14" thick. Temperatures have been dropping below freezing at night which
really slows the melting process. The water levels of the area rivers are
rising and the Temperance River has flooded its banks. The water level at
Sawbill’s landing is 5"-6" higher than it was a few days ago. A big
contributor to this is the rain that fell this past weekend but there must be
some melting happening as well. -Beth

A dogwood shows its confidence in
spring’s arrival with some buds. A thin layer of ice formed overnight on the
little bit of water that has opened along shore.

4/21/03 – A solid foot and a quarter of ice remains on the lake. The ice has
pulled away from the shore slightly so there is a very narrow ring of open
water around the edge of the lake. Even with that much ice left, its made major
progress in the last week. The weather is predicted to be sunny and in the 50s
this week. A strong north wind is blowing today which always helps as well.
I’ll keep checking it and recording the progress.

Frank Hansen is coming home today from the hospital after having hip surgery
last week. He was supposed to go in to have a piece added to the artificial hip
he received last fall in order to stop the hip from dislocating. The surgeon
decided to replace the hip socket instead. Because of that, he’s been in the
hospital longer than originally expected and is excited to be returning home.

4/20/03 – Some much needed steady rain has been falling since about noon
today and at times it has become quite heavy. I was planning on heading onto
the lake to drill a hole and measure the ice thickness but the weather is just
too miserable to check it today. This rain should make some major progress
towards melting it though, so if the sun returns tomorrow I’ll dig out the ice
auger. -Beth

4/16/03 – Nancy Cihlar was a member of the Sawbill crew back in the late
’60s and early ’70s. She settled in the area and has remained very close to the
Hansens and the whole Sawbill family. We are so sad to report that yesterday
her 17 year old son, Joe, took his own life. Please remember the Cihlars, their
family, and all their friends in your prayers.

Joe and Nancy Cihlar just before the
homecoming dance, October 2003.

4/14/03 – It is an incredible 75 degrees here today. Despite the warm
weather, I cross country skied to the north end of Sawbill Lake last night. I
found a natural hole in the ice and measured 2.5′ of hard ice. I would imagine
it is even thicker most other places. There were a few small spots of open
water in the narrows. One of the unique features of late season ice is that it
shows all the tracks from the previous winter. As I skied up the lake, I could
see my ski tracks from late November. In a similar phenomenon, the ski trail on
the unplowed campground roads are visible after they melt by the even rows of
accumulated pine needles that blew into the tracks during the winter months.

Looking north at the middle section
of Sawbill Lake on April 13th. New ski tracks on the left and tracks from
November on the right.

A canoeist wonders "Why?"

4/10/03 – We’ve seen signs of spring at the bird feeders lately. The purple
finches showed up a couple of weeks ago and have continued to become more and
more colorful. The juncos arrived about a week ago, and along with the sunny
warm weather we’ve had over last few days, give me hope that spring is here to
stay. -Beth

4/7/03 – Frank Hansen, co-founder of Sawbill Outfitters, suffered yet
another set back with the artificial hip that he received back in September.
Last Friday, it spontaneously dislocated for the fourth time. Frank made
another uncomfortable trip to the emergency room in Duluth, where the hip was
reset. He will be having surgery this Thursday to add another part to the hip
joint that will prevent further dislocations. Frank is discouraged by the
continuing problems, but looking forward to getting it resolved once and for

We are starting to get inquiries about projected ice-out dates for Sawbill
and surrounding lakes. Two weeks ago, we would have projected an early ice-out
based on the unseasonable warm weather we were having at that time. Recently
though, winter has returned with over a foot of snow and temperatures below
freezing. Due to the cold, dry winter, the ice is unusually thick this year –
almost 4 feet thick on Sawbill. We have learned over the last 46 years that it
is nearly impossible to accurately predict the ice-out date. Statistically, it
averages around the 2nd of May, but we have seen it as early as April 11th and
as late as May 25th. We will post daily reports here on the newsletter once
significant melting begins.

Carl, Clare and Bill Hansen have all become enthusiastic snow boarders in
recent years. Yesterday, we built a jump on the steep hill that leads to the
Forest Service cabin at the end of the Sawbill campground. Cindy documented the
three shredders as they learned how to fly. – Bill

Carl and Clare practice their
boarding skills deep in the Superior National Forest.

Even the old man can catch "big
air" while Cindy and Homer document the moment.

Posted on

March 2003

3/29/03 – If its trying to follow the old adage of "In like a lion, out
like a lamb", March seems to be a bit dyslexic this year. A snowstorm
descended upon us yesterday and dropped almost 6" of snow, covering any
bare ground that had poked its way out and blanketing the trees. -Beth

What a difference a day makes. The
early spring sun holds plenty of warmth and is already softening up the snow.

3/27/03 – Every bird in the neighborhood seemed to be out and about
yesterday, zipping here and there, signing so loudly and cheerfully – a
winter’s worth of gossip to catch up on, I guess. Today a change in the weather
brought a few snowflakes flying through the early morning breeze. A couple of
inches of snow have been predicted for tonight. -Beth

Bare ground and a slushy lake made
yesterday feel even warmer than it already was.

3/25/03 – Yesterday, as we sat at the kitchen table enjoying lunch, a bit of
movement in the woods outside the window caught Bill’s eye. A few hundred feet
back, a small moose wandered through the swamp. We kept watch for his
companions, but he must have been bringing up the rear of the moose train since
he was the only one we saw.

Continued warm weather has melted much of the snow on the ground. The lake
has a few inches of slush on top of the still thick ice that is making any
skiing on the lake impossible right now. If the temperatures drop and the slush
sets up it could make for some great spring skiing. An incredibly strong west
wind blew most of the day yesterday and took down a couple of big trees across
the Sawbill Trail. Between the downed trees and the spring run-off creating
huge ruts in the road, it was a bit of a challenge making it into town. -Beth

3/23/03 – Walking down to the lake tonight after a warm weekend, I saw the
earliest signs of spring emerging. The afternoon light hung around until early
evening, a faint smell of pine trees floated in the damp air, Homer and Sunnie
were wet and muddy up to their hips, and the ski tracks on the lake had started
disappearing into puddles. The most telling sign that its time for spring to
arrive was the smile that these changes brought to my face. -Beth

3/20/03 – I skied on the lake last night after several days of very warm
weather. I was able to navigate about 10 K, but it wasn’t the best of
conditions. The lake ice is still nearly 4 feet thick, but there is water
standing on top of it. In some places there is 4" of slushy snow, while in
other places there is standing water is nearly 6" deep. I skied home with
wet feet. This morning it started to rain and it rained steadily until 3
o’clock when it turned to wet snow. More snow is predicted tomorrow, so maybe
winter isn’t done with us yet. – Bill

Freezing rain coated every twig this

3/16/03 – Sloppy, drippy, and gloriously warm pretty much sums up Sawbill
this weekend. Its around 55 degrees today and even the slight breeze feels
warm. The sound of melting snow dripping off the roof seems to be keeping a
measured beat for the (quickly?) approaching spring. The forecast is calling
for temps to remain above freezing all week, with chances for rain almost every
day. -Beth

3/12/03 – While in the Twin Cities this past weekend, Cindy had a chance to
get together with a large group of former crew members. Jon and Laurie
Robertson hosted the Sawbill reunion. The former crew members who have learned
that they need to show up at these affairs to defend themselves amongst all the
Sawbill storytelling were Ellen (Lock) and her husband Greg Bagnato, John
"Obie" Oberholtzer, Sandy Zinn and Will Decker, Kristin (Lundgren)
Ferrier and her daughters, Paul Lundgren and Gina Isaak, Peter and Megan
Glashagel, and Katy Harris and her husband Shannon along with their new son.
Cindy wanted to assure everyone who couldn’t make it that yes, they did tell
that story with you in it that you keep hoping everyone has forgotten about and
you’ll just have to show up next time to set the record straight. -Beth

3/10/03 – The John Beargrease Sled Dog Race crossed the Sawbill Trail a week
or so ago. A checkpoint is located on the Trail so the teams stop and rest
there, often using straw to bed down. There must be remnants of dog food and
whatnot left in the straw as dozens of ravens were congregating in that area
for a couple of days after the race ended. While driving through there a few
days ago, the herd of ravens lifted off as my car passed by. A flash of white
caught my eye and I focused in on the blur. A bald eagle had joined the ravens
in looking for food. The ravens had all flown directly up into the trees above
where they had been scavenging, but the eagle launched itself about 15 feet in
the air and followed the roadway. It stayed just above my windshield for a
couple of hundred feet, allowing me a great up close view of this large and
impressive bird. It finally spotted a tree to its liking and turned off the
trail to settle on top of a nearby pine tree. -Beth

3/5/03 – A couple of more news items about former Sawbill crew members. Sue
Hankins (’86 – ’89), and her husband Russ Meller announce the birth of their
first child, daughter Grace Nash Meller.

Another future Sawbill crew member,
Grace Nash Meller, born Sunday, March 2nd at 6:23 a.m.. She tipped the scales
at 7 lbs., 5 oz and is 20.25 inches long.

Paul Lundgren (also ’86 – ’89) visited this week with his girlfriend, Gina
Isaak. They ventured out in the bitter cold for some cross country skiing.

Paul Lundgren and Gina Isaak. Gina shows the proper attitude toward Paul’s

Sawbill Outfitters is a proud member of Northeastern
Minnesotans For Wilderness
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 Wilderness.

Posted on

February 2003

2/27/03 – The short-term cold spell from the
weekend broke yesterday and the temperature found its way into
the 20s. I traded in the electric blanket for running shoes and
headed out onto the Sawbill Trail. After a bit, I came across an
unusual sight. A star nosed mole had either been hit by a car or
had wandered onto the road and frozen to death (Bill posted a
picture of this very unique animal in last winter’s newsletter on
2/9/02). It was an exciting find for a couple of reasons. First,
I had never seen a star nosed mole before- like most moles it is
essentially blind, but this one has 22 super sensitive fleshy
appendages coming out of its face where noses generally reside
and second, its rare to see anything dead on the roadside as
other animals seize the opportunity for an easy lunch. After
inspecting it for a few minutes, I continued on my way and to my
surprise, had my passage blocked a little farther down the road
by three young moose who had stepped onto the trail about a
hundred feet in front of me. I wasn’t about to try to chase them
off the road so I stood and watched them watching me. It became
obvious after a while that they weren’t out for a run – they
weren’t moving. So I turned back for home.

Later in the evening, Cindy called on her way
home from Duluth to let us know the northern lights were aglow. I
walked down to the lake and was mesmerized by what appeared to be
waves of smoke floating over my head. The designs moved so
quickly that they literally changed with every blink of my eyes.
Farther to the north, brighter columns of green light flared
above the tree tops. The cold air crept into my jacket and I
headed for the warmth of inside, my head full of thoughts from a
day of amazing sights. – Beth

2/26/03 – The Wilderness Classroom web site that
is the project of Dave Freeman and Eric Frost has been hijacked
by an unscrupulous hacker. Frustratingly, the process to wrest
control of the domain name from this criminal is tedious, long
and expensive. So as a short term solution, Dave and Frosty are
changing their domain name to
They will have it up and operating later today or early tomorrow.
This has been difficult for them, as they are on the trail in
northern Manitoba. Please change your favorites listing to the
new site to continue to follow the Bimaadagaako Adventure across
the frozen sub-arctic. – Bill

2/20/03 – Cook County was overrun with former
Sawbill crew members last weekend. Annie Strupeck, Michele
Thieman, Sandy Zinn and Ellen (Lock) Bagnato came up to Sawbill
for an annual Girl’s Ski Weekend (and there was actually enough
snow to ski this year). John "OB" Oberholtzer and Jason
(Jake) Morse also happened to be up this weekend for a winter
camping adventure with Kate (Ferguson) Surbaugh. We all converged
at Camp Surbaugh for some good food and Sawbill stories before
heading out to play in the snow. Bill and yet another former crew
member who was in town for the weekend, Charlie Helbling, spent
the day skiing the 30km Banadad ski trail. -Beth

Fun at Camp Surbaugh – Back row: Steve
Surbaugh, Cindy Hansen, Sandy Zinn, Michele Thieman, John ‘OB’
Oberholtzer, Jason Morse. Front row: Beth Rolf, Annie Strupeck,
Ellen Bagnato, Kate Surbaugh, and the always cheerful Will
Surbaugh. The excitement of the day was overwhelming.


2/19/03 – Over the weekend a rare thing happened.
Lake Superior froze over. People living along the shore talked
about the thunderous noises the huge sheets of ice made as they
crashed together and formed deep seams and ridges. Piles of
thick, plate glass-like chunks of ice littered the beaches all
along Highway 61. While the ice wasn’t thick enough to walk on
around Tofte, it was in Duluth. I happened to be in Duluth on
Monday and a friend and I went down to the lake to experience the
novelty of walking on Lake Superior. Black ice had formed in many
areas making it possible to stand in a spot where the water was
at least ten feet deep and look through the completely clear ice
and see the rocks at the bottom of the lake. A very eerie
feeling. Sunday and Monday brought warm temperatures and, by
yesterday, the ice had begun to break up. – Beth

2/13/03 – While walking from the store to the log
house yesterday, a noise in the jack pine along the path caught
my attention. I looked up and was surprised to see a black-backed
woodpecker looking for lunch in the tree. It had paid us a visit
in that same tree this summer but there had been no sign of it
since. While not an uncommon bird in this area, it is a shy
species and doesn’t often make its presence known. -Beth

2/11/03 – Tom (Hawk) Jensen, former Sawbill crew
member, sent along this wonderful low sun picture from his canoe
trip last season. It gives me a warm feeling on this cold, snowy,
windy February day. – Bill

Photo by Tom (Hawk) Jensen. Caw!

2/8/03 – Snow lovers of all types are out this
weekend. Winter campers knocked on the door early this morning
with some questions, the ski trail near Tofte had a full parking
lot, five or six snowmobiles passed me on the Sawbill Trail and I
saw at least a half dozen cars on the road. A whirlwind of
activity for a cold day in February. The gusty winds today were
causing the frozen trees to creak like old rocking chairs while I
was skiing. I came across the remains of a snowshoe hare in the
middle of the ski trail. I’m assuming a wolf had turned it into a
tasty dinner, although the tracks had been skied across so I
couldn’t be certain. -Beth

2/7/03 – Frank celebrated his 82nd birthday
yesterday! He’s looking great and getting around like a champ
after having hip surgery this fall. We all enjoyed some delicious
cake and loud singing to help him celebrate. You can send him
birthday wishes at

Frank is ready to dig into the cake while Carl
and Clare congratulate him on his candle blowing success.

2/6/03 – Snow finally fell this past weekend and
we got around 6" here at Sawbill. For the first time all
winter there was enough snow to ski the trail through the woods.
It was still snowing monday afternoon when I made my first loop
and the huge flakes were the kind that inspire you to stick your
tongue out to the catch them. Most of the ski trails in the area
finally have enough snow to be groomed and skied on. – Beth

2/3/03 – Cold weather has returned with a
vengeance. After two days of nearly steady temperatures in the
high 20s, the north wind cranked up and the thermometer dropped
30 degrees in less than two hours. The wind blew at a steady 30
mph with gusts to 45 mph overnight, creating a wind chill of -45
below. We threw a couple of extra logs in the wood stove last

Posted on

January 2003

1/30/03 – Dave Freeman and Eric (Frosty) Frost
(former Sawbill crew members) departed from Sawbill today en route
to Cumberland House, Saskatchewan, to begin their Bimaadagaako
Adventure. Dave’s brave little Honda Civic was loaded with
toboggans, camping gear, and food for eight weeks, along with two
huge sled dogs. They will drive to Winnipeg tonight and on to
their starting point tomorrow. To learn more about this epic
adventure and the really cool educational program that goes with
it, go to their website:

Dave and Frosty test the limits of their trusty
Honda Civic. Frosty is so sad to be heading into the Canadian
wilderness for eight weeks.

1/29/03 – Some friends and I hiked across Sawbill
and Alton over to Beth Lake a couple of days ago. We saw some
unusual ice formations on Alton that we attributed to the ice
heaving around shallow rocks. Cindy is convinced they are ancient
igloo remains. The wolves have been using the Alton to Beth
portage more than people lately and we kept our eyes open for
them, but only saw their tracks. On the walk back, a bald eagle
was soaring high above the lake. -Beth

Heaving ice or igloo remains? The eastern shore
of Beth Lake

1/27/03 – Dave Freeman and Eric Frost are here
getting ready for their epic toboggan journey across Saskatchewan
and Manitoba, Canada. They will be trekking across remote
sub-arctic Canada with the help of two sled dogs for about eight
weeks. It is an interesting educational project that has them
communicating with school children on the internet via satellite
phone. Meanwhile, they are packing mounds of food (5,000
calories/day/each) and training the dogs. More on this exciting
adventure later.

Cindy and I picked up a stray puppy on the
Sawbill trail on Friday. It appeared to be a 3 month old German
Shepherd mutt. We’re guessing that someone dumped it off with the
hope that some softhearted people (like us) would pick it up and
find a good home for it. Louse Trachta, who works at the North
Shore Market in Tofte adopted the affectionate little puppy. –

1/23/03 – Although there’s no threat of losing
the snow that is on the ground (the high yesterday was -2), the
forecast for additional snow is bleak. Bill pointed out the path
that a vole had taken, trying to burrow its way through the snow.
There wasn’t even enough for the poor vole to be completely
covered. There’s just a half-tunnel of a trail. It looks like a
snake was working its way around the shower house. Looking at the
weather records we keep, we’ve gotten only half as much snow this
winter as we had at this point last winter. -Beth

1/18/03 – The temperatures soared into the 20s
yesterday and the sun even held some warmth. Homer, Sunnie, and I
took a long walk, exploring a nearby logging road. We saw many
tracks, some clumps of mysterious gray fur (wolf?), and a full
moon rising. -Beth

Something is using this stump as a tent – its
tracks are in the lower left corner of the picture. Clouds moved
in at sunset and brought a dusting of snow overnight.

1/15/03 – Cindy and I went to inspect the new
pile of canoes that arrived yesterday and began talking about
past canoe trips that each of us had taken. The discussion soon
progressed to who had done the hardest trip and which of us was
the toughest. The argument heated up and led to a wrestling match
in the canoe yard – with no obvious winner. So we calmed down and
tried to think of a rational way to determine who was in fact the
toughest. The solution suddenly seemed obvious – Who could keep
their tongue on the frozen metal gunwales of the new canoes the
longest. Unfortunately, I was no match for Cindy, the life-long
woodsbunny. The cold weather will be around for a while though,
so a re-match may be in the future. -Beth

Even Homer is smart enough not to get in on
this bet. Cindy wins! – but she’s still stuck to the canoe, so
who’s the real winner?

1/14/03 – We were just about ready to take a
lunch break today, when, what to our wondering eyes should
appear, but 15 shiny new Wenonah canoes. And on the coldest day
of the year! Bill bundled up and helped unload them, all the
while wondering why he ever came back from Tucson. Its going to
be a while before the canoes get their first paddle. – Beth

Bill and Ken, the Wenonah guy, work hard
unloading the new canoes. Is the temperature minus two or

1/13/03 – Bill is in Tucson for a few days
attending a wilderness conference, enjoying the sun and heat.
Cindy and I are holding down the fort here, enjoying the cold and
wind. Its not likely to get above zero today, and the wind chills
are around -25 degrees. Its perfect weather for sitting around
inside drinking a lot of coffee (and procrastinating on starting
Monday morning work). We decided we needed some proof to show
Bill just how cold it was this morning, and thought some science
experiments would be fun. Since we had plenty of coffee handy, we
tried tossing a cup of it out the window to see what would
happen. The coffee quickly disappeared in a cloud of steam. After
a half a pot or so, we realized that we’d be out of coffee soon
(a horrible thought!) so we switched the experiment over to
blowing bubbles. The bird feeders were soon covered in membrane
thin, crystalline inscribed, frozen bubbles that shatter when the
birds land on them. With hands numb from being outside, we went
back inside and warmed them over the last of the coffee. -Beth

The cold air makes quick work of a hot cup of
coffee. A collapsed and frozen bubble on the bird feeder.

1/9/03 – Our heat wave came to a screaming halt
this morning. Its about 30 degrees colder today than yesterday –
making it actually feel like January again. We also got about an
inch of snow overnight. -Beth

1/8/02 – Yesterday was unusually warm, with a
strong south wind that made skiing on the lake difficult. So I
decided to go for a run instead. As I headed down the trail in
the warm sun, amazed that I was outside wearing only one layer of
clothing, thoughts of summer began creeping into my head.
Everything along the road is frozen and shut down for the winter,
but I pictured how it looks months from now. I ran past the place
where the raspberries grow thick and sweet, past the place where
the birds build nests and protect them fiercely, past the place
where spring puddles last for weeks and fill up with squirming
tadpoles. These summery thoughts weren’t caused by spring fever,
I was very discouraged that the precious little snow we have was
melting, I was just enjoying the January treat of unexpected
warmth. I had a schizophrenic urge to be able to ski on the lake
to a spot where the ice turned to water and then dive into
August-temperature water. I turned around and headed back for
home, tucking away the thoughts of raspberries, tadpoles, and
swimming for the days when spring fever really hits. -Beth

1/6/03 – We had a busy and joyous holiday season
here at Sawbill. We spent many happy hours at the Lutsen
Mountains Ski Area, eating, drinking, visiting, playing cards,
skiing on the lake, and ice fishing. We continue to be short on
snow here, just like everywhere in the Midwest. I guess we have
more than most, but the ski trails in the woods aren’t open yet.
As a result, we have been skate skiing on the lakes. – Bill

The Kelso side of the Sawbill to Kelso Lake
portage. Clare has the blues ice fishing on Alton.

Posted on

December 2002

12/21/02 – Last night, the Hansen Family Band
(with Clare on accordion, Carl on drums, and Bill on guitar)
wow-ed an appreciative audience with Christmas songs at the
nursing home in Grand Marais. The festive evening also included
performances by the local dance group, Sterling Dance. Kids of
all ages performed ballet, modern, and tap-dances to Christmas
tunes. Clare, who has been dancing for many years, took part in a
many of the pieces. Cindy, also an experienced dancer, tap-danced
up a storm. I made my tap dancing debut and am happy to report I
stayed on my feet the whole time. – Beth

Carl, Bill, and Clare rock out to "Joy to
the World". Beth and Cindy getting ready to shuffle off to
Buffalo in their tap shoes.

12/20/02 – We were lucky enough to have visits
this week from the fantastic trio of Flemily, Frosty, and
Freeman. That is, current and former crew members, Emily Stewart,
Eric Frost, and Dave Freeman. Emily is on break from college and
visiting her family in Grand Marais and Frosty and Dave were up
making arrangement for their winter adventure
( They had to brave some nasty
weather conditions to get here. We were hit with a sloppy ice
storm on Wednesday. The storm shut down school and turned the
Sawbill Trail into the world’s longest ice rink. Last night, over
an inch of sticky snow fell adding some traction to the slick

As tomorrow is the winter solstice, our nights
are amazingly long right now. A murky full moon illuminated the
snowy sky last night. I walked to the lake hoping that the
insulated silence created by the heavy snow would disguise my
presence enough that I would catch a glimpse of something out for
a night hunt. The only thing I saw were snowflakes, but we’ve
gotten so few this winter it was almost as exciting as a good
wildlife sighting. -Beth

12/16/02 – Even after our recent warm spell,
there is still enough snow left to ski. We’ve all got our fingers
crossed for some new snow but the forecast doesn’t look
promising. Homer seems to have completely recovered after having
his left eye removed almost two weeks ago. He’s back to his usual
entertaining self and goes to the vet tomorrow for a final
check-up. -Beth

Sunlight spilling over Sawbill Creek

12/13/02 – The past few days have been unusually
warm with highs in the 30s and nights in the 20s. The warmth of
the days has caused some snow melt and has created a lot of
moisture in the atmosphere. A couple of mornings ago, the
conditions were just right to produce a hoar frost. All of the
trees were covered with inch long frost crystals and a dense fog
hung in the air until late afternoon. -Beth

Frost covered branches.

12/12/02 – Surrounded by an X-Box birthday cake,
new X-Box games, and an afternoon of playing X-Box, Carl Hansen
was in hog heaven celebrating his 13th birthday this week. -Beth

Carl sports the season’s trendiest elf hat
while opening his birthday presents.

12/10.02 – I received the following message from
the Forest Service today. It would be wonderful fun for someone
who has their summer free. – Bill

U.S. Forest Service
Volunteer Recruitment Notice

The USFS Kawishiwi Ranger District has volunteer openings for the
summer of 2003. The typical summer volunteer pairs up with a
wilderness ranger to form a two-person crew that performs
campsite and trail maintenance, and visitor contact throughout
the Kawishiwi Ranger District of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area
Wilderness. Other opportunities involve working with a
four-person trail crew, or staffing a remote USFS cabin on
Kekekabic Lake.

These are considered “long term” positions, where a
person’s minimum availability is required from early June
through most of August, although earlier arrivals and later
departures are often an option. No cost housing while not
“on trail”, as well as reimbursement for incidental
expenses such as meals is included.

For a detailed description of job duties and expectations, please
refer to:,
wilderness, volunteering, manual. An application is also
available on this site.

Inquiries can be directed to:

John Pierce
Volunteer Coordinator
Kawishiwi Ranger District/Superior National Forest
118 S 4th Ave E
Ely, MN 55731
Phone: (218) 365-2080

12/05/02 – Homer, our golden retriever with the
giant personality, had to have his left eye removed two days ago.
He suffered from a fungus infection in the eye back in June.
Although he beat the infection, the eye was damaged beyond
usefulness, inflamed and wouldn’t respond to treatment. He looks
a little ghastly at the moment, but his spirits are good and he
is healing fast. Ironically, our older retriever, Sunnie, lost
the same eye to the same disease seven years ago. – Bill

12/3/02 – I was able to ski on the lake again
today for the first time in two weeks. Since the lake froze over,
there has been persistent and widespread slush on top of the ice.
That has been rectified during the last two nights which have
reached minus 10 degrees. The frozen slush now is covered with
varying amounts of cold, dry snow. The skiing is good, but not
great. After I had skied only about a mile, I spotted four wolves
running across the ice in the narrows. All four were large adults
and they were kicking up jets of snow as they sped down the
shoreline. Later, I was picking my way through a trail that
connects Alton and Kelso Lakes. The trail had so much rabbit
traffic that it had hardened up enough to hold my skies on top.
When I reached Kelso, all the rabbit tracks turned abruptly into
a thicket, but one set of tracks led out onto the lake. I was
surprised to see that they were the distinctive round tracks of
the bobcat. I haven’t seen bobcat tracks near Sawbill for more
than twenty years. At the end of the ski, I stopped by Sawbill
Creek to enjoy its snow shrouded beauty. Swimming in the open
water at the mouth of the creek was a duck. I couldn’t identify
the species exactly because the light was failing. I do know that
it is a crazy duck though. – Bill

12/1/02 – We got our Christmas tree today. This
year we broke with tradition and selected a tamarack tree. The
tamarack is the only conifer in this region that sheds its
needles in the winter.

Before and after.

Posted on

November 2002

11/30/02 – Tim Velner and Gus Gustason, Duluth,
spent the Thanksgiving weekend camping in the Sawbill Lake
campground. This is an annual tradition with them, including many
more specific traditions. One of those is the Sawbill Bowl
football game, usually played on the lake, but this year on the
unplowed parking lot due to slush on the lake. Other traditions
include mountain biking on area lakes with studded tires, beer
kept from freezing in a cooler with hot water bottles, and
drinking good scotch with Frank.

The huddle.

Play action.

Carl is flattened by aggressive blocking.


11/26/02 – This past weekend was the annual
Christmas cookie making frenzy that Cindy, her mom, and her
sister have been doing for many years. Cindy’s sister was unable
to come up this year and we discovered that her presence is
essential for successful cookies. The first batch (a batch being
SIX times the single recipe) of spritz cookie dough was as hard
as a rock and tasted an awful lot like paste. We quickly disposed
of this and made more. The dough appeared fine this time, but
when we were adding food coloring to the dough, we somehow ended
up with two batches of red instead of one red and one blue – so
we decided purple cookies would be festive. When we baked the
cookies, they had an odd sort of texture (some of the cookies
shapes look more like modern art than cookies). The sugar cookies
never got vanilla added to them and the cookies that have been
nicknamed SOB’s (yes, the initials stand for what you think – the
cookies are a bit tedious to make) were under-cooked. But we just
filled up our wine glasses and took it all in stride. So, if you
stop by Sawbill this holiday season and are offered some cookies,
be careful what you choose. -Beth

On your mark, get set, decorate! Clare, Cindy,
Carl, Cindy’s mom Arlene and her husband Keck prepare for a
cookie decorating marathon. We decided not to post the picture of
Bill being dragged, kicking and screaming, to the table for the
decorating. On the right, the final results.

11/23/02 – There’s just the right amount of snow
on the ground to find out what’s been roaming around in the
woods. The snow is deep enough (about 4") to record the
footprints of all the critters, but shallow enough to make it
easy to get through the woods without snowshoes or skis. I walked
along the lake yesterday and saw tracks along the hillside,
tracks heading straight for trees, and many tracks leading down
to the lake in search of water. Birds, squirrels, mice, and
snowshoe hares had all been recent visitors. I also came across
the wing marks of a ruffed grouse that had left its imprint as it
flew away. -Beth

Winter has arrived at Sawbill – a solidly
frozen lake. A snow angel made by grouse wings.

11/22/02 – Returning from two busy weeks in
different cities riding planes, trains, buses, and subways makes
me pause and soak in what winter at Sawbill can be like. Where an
unfamiliar car in the winter is rare and prompts a lengthy
conversation on who it could possibly be. Where coffee breaks
include ice skating. Where a busy social life means I had more
than one mouse in my living room at a time (Yesterday a huge fat
mouse was just sitting in the middle of the living room staring
at me – have the mice gotten so arrogant in my absence that they
think they can just lounge around the living room, or was this an
act of surrender? Either way, he was quickly relocated deep into
the woods). When you live in a place where many people come on
vacation it seems ironic to leave there to go on vacation. But it
sure makes coming home a treat. – Beth

11/18/02 – Jim Sampson, campground host at the
Sawbill Lake Campground, is having knee replacement surgery
today. Jim and Fran are long time Sawbill campers (~ 50 years)
and their daughter Dee was one of the first Sawbill employees
back in the early ’60s. Dee’s husband, Steve Hedman, also worked
here. They were the first Sawbill romance that resulted in
marriage. Jim and Fran’s address is: 324 Lakeview Dr, Osteen, FL
32764. Phone: 407-323-9425. Email:
if you would like to send get well wishes.

11/11/02 – We received the following email the
other day:

I just read your
newsletter entry about lynx in your area.  I was driving to
Sawbill in September and, about a mile from your store, I saw an
animal cross the road in front of me.  I stopped the car and
looked into the trees on the side of the road and there was a
large cat, perhaps 25 feet away.  We stared at each other
for a long time.  He didn’t seem very afraid.  I
assumed he was a bobcat because I didn’t see pronounced ear
tufts, but now I am having doubts.  Had I a zoom lens on my
camera, I could have taken some nice pictures.  As it was,
this is all I was able to get.

Jeff Thieret

11/09/02 – John "OB" Oberholtzer, who
worked at Sawbill for 13 years, called last night from St Johns,
Virgin Islands. This was surprising in itself, but all the more
surprising when he announced that he had married Kathleen Heikes
that morning! We are delighted for OB and Kathleen and wish them
all the best. We are also slightly jealous about the next 8 days
they get to spend on St Johns.

11/07/02 – Canadian Lynx are very rare in this
area. At least they were until recently. We had a great lynx
sighting on the way to school late last week. We saw is cross the
road near a river crossing. We were less than 100 yards away and
got a good look at the big cat. We stopped abreast of where it
had gone in the woods, and there it was, less than 20 feet away
and in plain view. We were able to watch it for about five
minutes before it ambled off. It was the first lynx I have seen
since I was a little kid, more than forty years ago. For more
lynx info, follow this link (sorry for the pun):

Former Sawbill crew member, Kate Ferguson-Surbaugh
saw a lynx in her back yard about a month ago. She was brushing
her hair and spotted the lynx in the bathroom mirror. She watched
it for 20 minutes. Kate, her husband Steve (also a former
crew member), and their son Will, have recently relocated from
Minneapolis to Grand Marais. – Bill

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…