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December 2004

12/24/04 – The most common question we get from visitors in the summer is "What do you do in the winter?" Among many other things, I am the substitute trail groomer for the the Sugarbush system of cross country ski trails near Tofte. One of the regular groomers has been out of town, so I have been working on the trails nearly full time this week. Normally, I drive a Pisten Bully which is a huge snow cat like you see at alpine ski resorts. The Pisten Bully has been broken down though, so I’ve been driving a snowmobile dragging different sorts of heavy grooming equipment. The weather has been brutally cold with high winds on top of it. Ironically, the snow mobile doesn’t do very well in deep snow conditions. You have to stand while you drive and constantly throw your weight from one side to the other to keep it from tipping over or veering off the trail. Along the trail there are deep ditches and steep drop-offs waiting like clever traps that suck the 400 pound machine off the trail and hopelessly bury it on its side in deep powder snow. As a result, I am sore in every muscle and I’m sporting a fairly large frost bite burn under my chin. The trails are in great shape though and ready for the flood of holiday skiers. I also saw a lot of wolf tracks and scat on the ski trails.

We will be joined by our family for Christmas and many current and former crew members are coming up for New Years Eve. This is my favorite time of the year. Happy Holidays everyone! – Bill

The Sawbill Store is buried in snow!

12/14/04 – Sawbill has been buzzing with activity and the snow keeps falling! Last Thursday was Carl’s 15th birthday, and the family celebrated by finding and decorating this year’s Christmas tree. Carl also placed 10th out of 60 skiers at the Ely Classic Invitational ski meet last weekend at Giant’s Ridge in Biwabik, Minnesota. Today he passed his driving permit written test. That is right, Carl can drive, accompanied by an adult of course! On top of all that exciting news, Sawbill received 18 inches of snow over the weekend. It started snowing on Saturday night and kept on snowing until Monday morning. The trees are caked with snow, and the ski trails are in great condition. – Dave

Carl gets ready to blow out the candles on his birthday cake, which Cindy crafted in the shape of two CDs to go with the CDs she made him for his birthday!
Carl chilling out before the start of the ski race at Giants Ridge last weekend.

Clare, Carl, and Cindy mourn loss of a broken candy cane .

Bill, complete with reindeer antlers, helps Clare string lights on the tree.

12/5/04 – The lake is perfect for skiing right now and the forecast is calling for more snow! Today, Bill and I walked the ski trail one last time to clear windfalls and get it ready for grooming. Hopefully there will be enough snow to groom the trail soon. I am heading over to Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge for a 5 day camping trip on Tuesday. I am going dog sledding! I am going dog sledding! Seven months is just too long to go with out harnessing up a dog team! As you can probably tell, I am pretty excited.

Walter, a crew member from last summer, sent several photos that he took on a trip this summer. Walter is a freshman at Perdue University in Indiana and from the sounds of it he is working hard and having fun, but he is looking forward to getting back to Sawbill, as I am sure many people are. We have heard from several other Sawbill crew members lately. Adam, spent the weekend visiting the Ter Beests in Omaha this weekend. Laura Smith, and Jeff Green e-mailed last week from the west coast where they are visiting friends they met at Sawbill, of course. They are doing well and will be heading back this way soon. Molly is in Illinois working hard writing grants for the Wilderness Classroom. And Alison, Sawbill’s famous mellophone player, recently learned that she will be heading to Nashville with the rest of the U of Minnesota marching band for a bowl game in a few weeks. What is the rest of the crew doing? Well, your guess is a good as mine, but hopefully they are preparing for another summer at Sawbill! – Dave

Storm on Alton Lake by Walter Booker

This photo was taken in the middle of October, one of the last times the crew housing was buzzing with activity.

12/2/04 – Cold temperatures and a little more snow have put us in a winter mood here. Dave and I skied over to Alton on Tuesday. Sawbill Lake was completely frozen over with no sign of thin ice except near stream inlets and in the narrows. Alton was still more than half open though. The lake got slushy on Wednesday, so neither skiing nor skating were possible (sigh). Today looks good though. It was 1 degree F last night with an inch of fresh snow. I plan to ski up Sawbill in the dark this evening. – Bill

Bill examines the open water where the stream from Alton Pond empties into Sawbill Lake.

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November 2004

11/29/04 – Sawbill Lake froze over on November 24th. I ice skated up to the first narrows on the 26th. The ice was two inches thick, but quickly warming temperatures made it kind of rubbery. That, combined with ominous cracking sounds under my feet, led me to cut short my skating fun. Over the weekend, a couple of inches of snow have spoiled the good ice skating, but I look forward to cross country skiing on the lake today.

Fourteen year old Sawbill crew member Carl Hansen got his braces removed this week, just in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

Before and after.

11/24/04 – As winter’s grip begins to change the landscape, I am getting anxious for the day when I can strap on snowshoes, or skis and head out onto Sawbill Lake to welcome another winter in the BWCAW. In the summer I am often asked about winter in the boundary waters, and when I tell canoeists that winter is my favorite season I am often greeted with quizzical looks. However, with the proper equipment, and some basic knowledge winter is a wonderful time to enjoy the BWCAW.

I will be leading several winter camping trips out of Sawbill this winter, designed for people who would like to give traditional winter camping a try. Trips accommodate up to 4 participants, and each night will be spent camping in canvas tents that utilize a wood stove for heating and cooking. While traveling between campsites, participants will travel using skis and snowshoes, and will help pull the groups gear on traditional toboggans. The goals of the course are to provide participants with an enjoyable traditional winter camping experience, and teach basic winter camping and travel skills. The trips are being offered through Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge, and we will be using top quality equipment provided by Empire Canvas.

Trip Dates: Saturday, 1/29 to Tuesday 2/1, and Thursday, 2/3 to Sunday 2/6

Cost: $450 per person

Click here for a detailed trip description! ( Microsoft Word Document 80 K)

Let me know if you have any questions, or would like to make a reservation.

– Dave

(312) 505-9973 (cell phone)

(218) 663-7150 (Sawbill)

A canvas tent, heated with a wood stove, is a wonderful place to relax after a day of winter fun.

11/22/04 – In this odd period of limbo – between autumn and winter – everything seems to be waiting. The woods are gray and look dead. The lake is too hard for paddling and too soft for walking. The campsites are empty and forlorn. Absent are the smell of wood smoke, the distant sound of an axe splitting wood, and the drifting sound of faraway laughter. The wind, blowing almost constantly, takes on a high, harsh sound as it rips through the naked branches and brush. Only the pines soften the sound with their whispering needles, sounding at times like voices or a car on a distant gravel road. When the wind stops, the loudest sound is the blood being pumped through your ears.

Belying these human impressions are the wild animals, who seem to be energized by this difficult season. During a long run last week, I was treated to an incredible parade of wildlife. A bald eagle flew no more than fifteen feet over my head as I crossed Sawbill Creek. She was cruising low up the creek bed in search of a tidbit to eat. In the next mile, a totally white snowshoe hare crossed the road right in front of me. Further on, a spruce grouse erupted from the roadside which surprised me in two ways – by the sudden eruption of drumming wings and seeing a grouse at all when the population is seemingly at an all time low. Another mile and a pileated wood pecker hammered on a white pine snag near the road. I always think of Woody Woodpecker when I see these huge birds. Another mile, and a great gray owl dropped from a tree just ahead of me and cruised on silent wings to another tree across the road. Great gray and snowy owls are being seen frequently around the area due to a rodent shortage farther north. I turned onto an old logging road and observed several piles of wolf scat along with clear wolf footprints. After a mile, I turned back and came upon a new pile of wolf scat that was not there just a few minutes before. I stopped, let my breathing slow down, and listened carefully for any sound of the pack, but to no avail.

The next day, Carl and Clare were held up on their way home from school by two bull moose with full antler racks. After they recovered from seeing a car approach them, the bulls began to spar with their antlers while Carl and Clare watched with delight. – Bill

11/11/04 – After several days of high winds, it turned colder last night and the wind slowed down. The sheltered bays on Sawbill Lake are covered with skim ice, signaling the practical end of the canoeing season. Hopefully, it will soon be the ice skating season! – Bill

The ice near the Sawbill canoe landing forms interesting patterns that draw the puzzled attention of Homer.

11/08/2004 – This weekend was our annual traditional cookie baking weekend. Cindy’s mom, sister, niece, and nephew joined us for a marathon of cookie baking and seasonal music. We all gained three pounds, but a good time was had by all.

A small sample of 2004’s creative cookie work.

11/5/2004 – As you can tell from the lack of newsletter entries, things have been very quiet around Sawbill. The seasonal crew have all dispersed around the country, the canoes are put away, inventory has been taken, and we are waiting for the lake to freeze. We rented a canoe yesterday to Bob Clark and his son Nick from Belvedere, Illinois. They went out overnight and then were blown back in by the wind and cold. It has actually been fairly warm for this time of the year. I don’t expect the lake to freeze for at least another week. – Bill

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October 2004

10/26/2004 – In anticipation of Halloween, several Sawbill crew members and former crew got down to business with some good old fashioned pumpkin carving. I’ll let the pictures tell the tale. Click here for the photo gallery.

Kirk, Bill, Tess, Adam, Molly, Carol, Clare, Loren, Carl, Jeff, Britta, Carley and Dave dig in.

Crew member Jeff Green carved a likeness to fellow crew member Loren McWethy. Jeff sought to capture Loren’s rapper
alter-ego–Lolo Baynx.

Click here for more pumpkin carving fun!

10/22/2004 – Although MEA weekend has temporarily spared us from the rituals of closing down we undergo every October, the telltale signs are starting to appear. Yesterday, we emptied our canoe yard and celebrated with a game of touch football in the new void. All of our Kevlar canoes get the privilege of living indoors for the winter, inside the dome (you remember the dome, don’t you?). Stacked vertically, we take excruciating care to make sure the canoes are well situated, and not likely to tumble over like dominoes. As hilarious as that would be in a Three Stooges spot, we try to avoid this scenario at all costs. Another sign that the end is near: one very empty parking lot. It’s a sad time for all of us this time of year, but just think: only six month till ice out (and the opening of the Sawbill Beach Club) in 2005.

Please don’t fall! Some canoes stare down at us for their winter perch.

Where did all the cars go?

10/19/04 – The cold fall weather has sure made it quiet around here. We are averaging two customers a day over the last couple of weeks. The fall weather has not stopped crew member Loren McWethy from having a great time though. Just this weekend Loren reached the highest point in Minnesota, Eagle Mountain, and he also went on an overnight camping trip into the BWCAW without a wood stove and canvas tent like Dave uses. Loren claims that his secret to staying warm is liquefying his food and consuming it in less than half the time it takes to chew. He says it is the most efficient way to consume energy. I think I’ll stick to the fork and knife and take my time at dinner. -Jeff

Loren fills his tank and starts his engine.

Minnesota’s highest point is conquered and the tank is emptied.

Waiting for his extra fuel to thaw he takes a look to the West from Eagle Mountain.

10/16/04 – Well, it looks like winter is continuing to blow in today. We received another blanket of snow last night and the winds have caused white caps on the lake. The winds did not seem to intimidate a couple of moose hunters though as they hauled in their prize on the last day of the season. We also received a kind message from a Sawbill Newsletter fan. He wrote:

Hi there,
I haven’t seen Sawbill in person for about a decade. I don’t think I have been by you’ll since before I started college in 97. I just wanted to express "my deepest thank you" for your web site. I have been able to look in on the BWCAW and remember the times I spent there with my family because of your site. You’re site has meant a great deal to me in the past, you can only imagine how different the Mohave, Arabian, and Midwestern deserts are from my upbringing in Minnesota. In the past six years I have lived in Ecuador, Spain, Virginia, North Carolina, Kuwait, Iraq, and Oklahoma; during all that time I have missed the north woods a great deal, but your site has allowed me to visit it, in a way.
Thank you for continuing to do what I came to know you for doing so long ago; you’re ability to teach and pass the joy of the BWCAW is remarkable and noteworthy.
John Turner
CPT, US Army

We would like to thank Captain Turner and everyone else who have sent their praises about the newsletter. -Jeff

Captain John Turner

Mark Neil and Joe Pfannenstein from St. CLoud displaying the cow moose they shot yesterday on Java Creek.

Alison enjoying her commute to Sawbill more than her commute to class.

10/14/04 – Snow! A half inch of snow fell over night, and snow continued to fall all morning. As I paddled into work this morning snowflakes stung my face for the first time in many months, what a great sensation.

After a few false starts Bill was finally able to pry himself from his duties here at Sawbill and go out for a few days of solitude. He left on Tuesday and came back today. Bill was not the only Cook County resident enjoying the BWCAW this week. All of the 5th graders at Sawtooth Elementary School in Grand Marais came up to Sawbill on Tuesday to go canoeing and to learn about the importance of Leaving No Trace. The students were at Sawbill all morning and everyone had a lot of fun. They really liked Homer and Sunny, and gave them a lot of extra attention. – Dave

Bill portages down to the landing for his annual fall solo trip!

I sure wish my 5th grade class went canoeing!

10/12/04 – This morning I awakened to the shrill chatter of a squirrel greeting the day outside my tent. The sunlight streaming through the walls of my collapsible home cast delicate brown shadows of birch leaves and balsam boughs onto the cream colored canvas overhead, signaling that another clear, calm, sunny day had begun.

I dressed quietly, leaving my two tent mates, Molly and Loren, buried in their sleeping bags. The cool morning air mixed with the forest floor’s slowly decomposing golden carpet to produce a sweet, musty smell that made my nostrils tingle as I ducked out of the tent. Sawbill Lake’s smooth surface was painted with the reds, yellows, and greens of the surrounding forest. I sat by the water’s edge soaking in the silence, staring at my wild surroundings and reflecting on the many choices I have made that had brought me to this spot.

Dave enjoying the silence before paddling to work.

I mulled over the last 12 hours in my mind as I sat by the water’s edge, preparing to paddle to work. Last night after work, Loren, Molly, and I paddled out to one of the first campsites on Sawbill Lake. The black sky was blanketed with stars that left pin drops of light on the lake’s surface as we traveled. Then we lounged for several hours in a massive pile of sleeping bags talking and laughing until finally drifting off to sleep.

Now a stone’s throw from my bed, I was enjoying the morning calm before paddling to work. Sitting by the lake reaffirmed the value of choosing a life path that allows me to be surrounded by wilderness. After warming ourselves by the heat of the tent’s wood stove for a while, my friends and I slid our canoe into the water, paddled a mile down Sawbill to the boat landing, and portaged back to work. This evening I will paddle back to my campsite for another night in the wilderness; I hope others will consider trying a wilderness commute. – Dave

Loren and Molly pulling hard for the Sawbill landing.

10/11/04 – There has been a lot of activity around here over the past week, and sometimes it is hard to keep newsletter readers informed. Since a picture can be worth a 1,000 words I have decided to use mostly pictures for this entry. FYI today is another spectacular day, but the weather gurus are calling for cold, snowy weather in the near future. – Dave

Happy Birthday to me! Sawbill celebrated my golden birthday with a tasty gold cake prepared by Cindy.

Cindy, Molly, and Jasmine are all smiles during their sauna at Sweet Grass Cove last week. Each year the fall crew members take a day off and go to Sweet Grass Cove on Lake Superior for body work, saunas, and quick dips in a very chilly lake.

Last night was Jasmine’s last night at Sawbill. To celebrate we all played "Pit" a card game that includes lots of yelling, and laughing, two of Jasmines favorite activities. We all wish Jasmine well as she heads out into the "real world". Go Jaz go!

This morning Craig Sunnarborg, from Esko, MN, and his hunting partner brought in a bull moose that they shot on Kawishiwi last night. There have been a bunch of moose hunters in the area this year, and this is the second moose that has been brought by Sawbill.

10/10/04 – The cool nights and warm days of Fall often provide surreal paddling experiences for early birds that get up before the sun golden rays burn the mist off the lakes, and dries the fiery red Moose Maple leaves. The other day I awoke as the suns warm glow was just starting to settle on the tree tops. The traces of fog visible through my window urged me to rise early. I began trotting towards the landing with a canoe on my shoulders and a paddle in hand when I caught site of the lakes mirror smooth surface. Sawbill was layered in fog making it hard to distinguish where the water ended and air began. A juvenile bald eagle eyed me as it scanned the shoreline for a meal, its molted coat catching the golden rays of the pre-dawn light as it flew. Paddling north the bow of my canoe pierced the lake’s glassy surface. Points and Islands appeared and disappeared as dense patches of gray fog floated across the lake. As the yellow morning light turned to day a slight wind sent tiny ripples dancing across the lake. Soon the sun was high in the sky and the misty morning was a fading memory. As I drifted south towards the landing, slowly pushed by the growing North wind, I was transported back to other fog filled morning paddles.

A beautiful fog covered morning on Sawbill Lake

Several years ago I spent 80 days paddling the Mississippi River from the headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico. Most mornings we awoke early, usually camped a stones through from the river. One foggy morning in near Davenport, Iowa, during the first week of October 200, will remain etched in my memory forever. The fog was so thick that we could only see 100 feet in any direction. We were worried about getting run over by barges, so we stayed close to shore, out of the shipping channel, and kept our ears, and eyes open. After about half an hour a small, fishing boat floated in and out of view in the drifting fog. In it stood a commercial fisherman pulling his nets, looking for catfish to sell to restaurants in Chicago. We paddled over and talked to Randy, for a long time. He showed us his fish, and gave us a glimpse into his life when he taught us how to wash the nets, and explained that he wakes up at 4 AM every morning to come out fishing before going to work at a nearby fish processing plant because he just can’t imagine not fishing every day. Randy regaled us with stories of the 50 pound monster catfish he had hauled aboard his boat, and warned us about the barges and other dangers along the river. I will never forget Randy’s, toothless grin, warm eyes, or the fog covered river that brought us together. – Dave

Randy checking his nest on the Mississippi River

Randy showing off a flathead catfish

10/7/04 – The weather has been gorgeous at Sawbill, and every second spent outside is real treat. Yesterday Bill, Loren, and I took a day off and spent the day at Sweet Grass Cove on Lake Superior. Basking in the sunshine and listening to the waves crashing against Lake Superior’s jagged shoreline was the perfect way to spend the day.

Swirling waves crashing against the shore of Lake Superior.

Stone sculptures add to Sweet Grass Cove’s relaxing atmosphere.

Life at Sawbill drifts on. Each day a few canoes are rented and a few are sold. Sunnie and Homer are following their seasonal pattern and getting more active by the day; for some reason they are far more active in the winter. The balmy weather has shoved ski season a little further towards the back of my mind, but today was perfect afternoon to groom the ski trail in preparation for the coming snow. Loren and I grabbed the nippers and the chainsaw, and set off to clear windfalls and nip the brush that tries to over take the trail each summer. It is hard to think of a better way to spend an afternoon…well,except in a canoe. – Dave

10/4/04 – SNOW! I woke up this morning to be greeted by the first accumulation of snow this year! I have been watching the occasional snowflake drift from the sky for weeks–one customer even reported seeing snow on Malberg Lake in August–but today was the first ‘serious’ snow. The first snow of the year is always exciting, even if it melts by 11AM as it did this morning. The sight of the first snow makes me eager for winter and the feel of a freshly groomed ski trail underneath my skis. But winter has not arrived yet; for Pete’s sake, Cindy’s tomatoes are still trying to ripen up. I am looking forward to another month of solid paddling.

Cindy’s brave tomatoes posing in front of the snow-covered deck.

10/3/04 – Yesterday dawned sunny and warm, and I decided to partake in one of the more popular activities of the fall, leaf-peeping. The Sawbill area is blessed with some of the most rugged terrain in Minnesota, which offers those in search of color the opportunity to admire the leaves from mountain-top vistas. Hoping to investigate reports of a line of color separating the trees of the shore from those of the interior, I decided on hiking up Britton Peak, a short steep hike located along the Sawbill Trail. I enjoyed the sunshine filtering down onto my head and the distinct smell of fall leaves in my nose as I hiked upward, picking my way around the rocks and roots that cover the trail. As rumored, the trees on the lakeside of Britton Peak are stubbornly holding on to their green, while those up the Sawbill Trail have either lost their leaves or are at the peak of their color. This difference can be explained by temperature differences; the water of Superior helps keep the adjacent land from dropping below freezing in the fall. In Bill’s words, "you know when winter is coming because it becomes warmer at the lakeshore than at Sawbill. You know when summer has come because it is colder at the lakeshore than at Sawbill." After enjoying the view and the colors, I went for a quick jaunt along the Superior Hiking Trail. Just last week, Sawbill employee Scott completed the entire 200+ miles of the Superior Hiking Trail. Aside from a few mishaps caused by a malfunctioning water filter, Scott had a great trip and even ran into another Sawbill employee, Jasmine, while on the trail. – Loren

Left: The view from Britton Peak with Lake Superior and the popular Carlton Peak in the background. Right: The colorful view looking away from the shore.

10/1/04 – October has arrived, and with it, moose hunters and cold, crisp weather. The moose hunters, whose two week season opens tomorrow, have been arriving at Sawbill in increasing numbers to scout out the marshy areas nearby. Each year, 246 groups of up to four people are given a once-in-a-life-time moose-hunting license in a lottery that draws thousands of bids. Sixteen permits are given for groups entering the zone that encompasses Sawbill and extends up to Brule. Moose hunters–the sane ones at least–generally stay close to put-in spots like Sawbill in order to avoid portaging hundreds of pounds of meat long distances.

In other animal news, the birds around Sawbill seem to have become dissatisfied with their dwindling food sources and have begun to hungrily jockey for position at the bird feeders outside the office window. The birds in the area are voracious eaters; Sawbill distributes 500 pounds of bird feed annually, and up to 800 pounds in a big year!

A black-capped chickadee pays a visit to the bird feeder outside the office window.

Posted on

September 2004

9/27/04 – Sawbill Outfitters will begin taking reservations for 2005 on the handicapped accessible campsites here at Sawbill Campground as well as Crescent Campground on October 1, 2004. We manage two handicapped accessible sites, H1 and H2, on the southern shore of Sawbill Lake, and one site, #9, at Crescent. All other campsites will continue to be first-come, first-serve. Please call (218-663-7150) or write ( to make a reservation.

Sawbill employee Jasmine Hanson returned from vacation yesterday sporting a rather auspicious towel around her wrist. With great dramatic flair, she revealed a brand spanking new tattoo last night at approximately 8:04 p.m. CST. Although we were all rooting for the Sawbill logo, she opted instead for something resembling a leafy bracelet. Not a bad choice.

Sawbill employee Jasmine Hanson unveils her latest section of body art.

9/23/04 – Sawbill’s annual used equipment sale has begun! I’ve organized these sales a few times now, and this year’s batch of equipment is in excellent shape, especially the canoes. Thank you to our customers for taking great care of our stuff over the past few summers. Check the Used Equipment Sale Page for details!

9/22/04 – There has been a lot of activity this week, and I feel bad that I have not been able to update the newsletter more often to keep everyone up to date. One big event that is coming up is our annual used equipment sale. Bill and I have been busy getting canoes ready for sale and Adam and Ruthie have been busy sorting through all of our equipment and pulling out items to sell, and the equipment sale will officially start tomorrow! Below are a few photos from this week to give you an idea of what has been going on. – Dave

Dave Schuldt (right), and his brother, Don, came up on a trip this week. This was Dave’s 46th trip and he was figures that he has spent almost a year in the boundary waters when you add all the trips together! Dave was a campus minister at the University of Iowa for many years and he has introduced over a thousand people to the BWCAW over the last 45 years.

Sawbill’s very own Adam Hansen takes a lungful of air before blowing out the candles on his 24th birthday (yesterday). Cindy made him a wonderful cake in the shape of a 24 gauge shot gun shell complete with candy Bee Bees.

Yes, another picture of Penelope, the six week old puppy that graced Sawbill with a surprise visit from Alaska last week. Everyone always asks what our miniature Timberline Tent is for. Well, it is a puppy tent of course!

9/20/04 – On Saturday I was greeted by the pop..pop..pop..of a grouse hunters shotgun, and the crisp, clean, sweet smell of fallen leaves.  Sunday found me climbing all over a pile of logs, as I bucked up firewood to be split and stacked at a friends wood cutting party. Today, Laura Smith, a former crew member, and I snuck out for a few hours of paddling through the wild rice covered marsh lake. When I mull the last three days over in my mind I come to two conclusions, Fall is here, and Fall is my favorite time in the North Woods.  Of course, after a moon lit ski on a crisp winter night, a day of lake trout fishing in the spring, or an afternoon of blueberry picking in August, I might choose a different favorite season.  However, this week Fall is my favorite season and for good reason.    In the Fall the boreal forest bursting with a colorful array of activity.  A giant party before ice and snow cover the land for a long cold winter. – Dave

9/19/04 – An extremely cute little puppy wandered into the store this afternoon. Penelope, a six week old black lab and chow mix from Alaska had a lot of fun snipping at Homer’s tail and wandering around beneath Sunnie like she was a jungle gym. -Ruthie

Penelope wants to rub noses with Homer, but she can’t reach that high!

9/18/04 – This morning marked the opening of grouse hunting season.  As Adam and I prepared for our first early morning walk through the woods of the hunting season I was reminded of our last grouse hunting experience, which unfolded during a seven-week dogsled trek through Northern Manitoba last winter.  As we loaded 600 pounds of dog food, 300 pop tarts, a canvas tent, wood stove, sleeping bags, six sled dogs and all the other necessities into our truck for the thirty hour drive from Tofte to Norway House, Manitoba, we were unsure of the regulations for bringing a firearm into Canada, so we decided to leave Adams trusty 410 shotgun/ 20 rifle combo named Steve behind.  We figured if we wanted to hunt grouse or rabbits along the way we could probably buy a gun in one of the remote villages we visited along our route. 

We knew immediately after leaving Norway House that we were missing out on some tasty meals. In the winter the sharp tailed grouse often perch in black spruce trees and they are very reluctant to fly away in the deep cold.  At night in the comfort of our warm tent we would tally the birds we could have easily shot.  When we reached St. Teresa Point after two weeks of travel our tally was up to 10 easy birds, and many more maybes.  As we entered the village we were immediately taken to the local TV station for an interview.  We parked our team outside and went in for our hour-long TV stop.  It was sort of like being on Larry King Live, where callers called in and asked us questions, except our host was translating everything we said in to Cree.  We mentioned several times that we were looking for a shot gun to hunt grouse, or chickens as they the locals called them, but the only offers we got were a high powered rifle, and a bow with arrows.  Our search continued for three more weeks, during which we visited two other communities and saw many more birds.  By this time we were desperate, and our new friend Hector, a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Gods Lake Narrows came up with a plan.  He was flying to Winnipeg in the morning, and if we delayed our departure from Gods Lake Narrows by a few hours we could pick up a pellet gun that he purchased in Winnipeg and shipped back on the planes return flight. The thought of fresh grouse meat to go with our smoked caribou meat and fresh Lake Trout was too much to pass up so we agreed to Hectors plan. 

Adam proudly displays the grouse he shot with a pellet gun in Northern Manitoba last winter.

We set off from Gods Lake Narrows with one CO2 hand gun, 1,000 rounds of pellets, and forty CO2 canisters.  After sighting the gun we were ready for some grouse stew!  The next day I caught a glimpse of a grouse as it few into a thick stand of black spruce along the trail.  Adam and our other travel companions were several minutes behind me so I told the dogs to be QUIET and snuck back into the woods to find the grouse.  Giddy with excitement, Adam loaded the eight round magazine of pellets into the air gun and I kept my eyes fixed to the bird sitting motionless in the tree fifteen feet above my head.  Adam crept up next to me, took aim, and POP the bird fell to the ground.  Adam pounced on the bird, wrung its neck and we had grouse for dinner.  It works, it works the pellet gun actually works!" That night, we set up camp and we cooked up a tasty grouse stir fry, savoring the each hard-won morsel of grouse meat. I will never forget that grouse, but I think Adam and I will leave the hand air gun behind and carry shot guns into the woods this Fall.  No grouse were shot by the Hansen hunting party this morning, but there is always tomorrow. – Dave

Fennel, Adam’s favorite, and his 5 brothers and sisters gobbled up the head, guts, and feathers of the grouse making sure nothing went to waste. If you would like to see more photos, videos, and journals from our adventure last winter click here!

9/16/04 – It has been a great summer for me. I was rarely at Sawbill but spent six months traveling all over northeastern Minnesota in search of votes. Losing the Democratic primary election against an entrenched opponent was disappointing, but the overall experience was great fun. By the first of September we had nearly 800 volunteers and contributors. All were intelligent, good hearted people who really care about making their community – and its politics – better. I am not personally discouraged and will continue in public service where ever I can best help out. Thanks to everyone who expressed support and encouragement. – Bill

9/15/04 – I’ve just returned from Bill’s election-night party, and I’m sorry and disappointed to report that the results do not appear to be going in Bill’s favor. Not all of the precincts are reporting yet, so I’m still holding out a glimmer of hope that the tide may turn– after all, this time two years ago we all thought Bill had won, and it wasn’t until the vote counting was completed that it became clear that he had come in an extremely close second. Despite the apparently glum outcome, the overall mood of the party was optimistic. There were many supporters present, and it was heartening to see so many good people working so hard for something they believe in. I’m at a loss for what else to say, and I hope that Bill will see fit to post something in this space himself within the next week or so. -Ruthie

9/14/04 – I’ve received several requests to post more pictures of two of the most beloved members of the Sawbill family– Golden Retrievers Sunnie and Homer. The dogs are having a good Fall so far. They spend most of their time lounging in the sun on the back porch, nosing around behind the store counter until someone reaches for the cookie box, and making occasional excursions to the campground to socialize and put on their most convincingly pathetic starvation faces to try to con campers out of a spare hot dog or marshmallow.

Sunnie (above) is the older of the two pups. Her eyebrows and muzzle have begun to gray, which is the easiest way to tell her apart from Homer. Sunnie’s left eye was surgically removed a few years ago after a nasty infection. She’s recovered well and trains regularly to get back in pre-surgery cookie-catching form.

Homer (above) also lost his left eye to an infection, several years after Sunnie lost hers. Homer’s cookie-catching skills lag far behind those of Sunnie. His strategy is to wait it out and let the cookies fall where they may before snapping them up, even if that means letting the biscuit bounce off of his face before it hits the floor. People often imagine that Homer takes his name from Homer Simpson or the great Greek poet Homer. In fact, he is named after BWCA entry point #40, Homer Lake. Homer’s favorite attention-getting maneuver, known as "the carwash," involves nosing up between someone’s legs, then squeezing himself all the way through to the other side. His nicknames include Muñoz, Homeboy, and MC Homer. -Ruthie

9/13/04 – Tomorrow is primary election day in northern Minnesota. Bill Hansen is running for Minnesota House of Representatives in district 6A. Watch this space for updates as soon as the election results roll in. -Ruthie

9/10/04 – We’re always doing our best to keep up with technological advances here at Sawbill. Usually that means investing in the newest, lightest Kevlar canoes or upgrading to ultra energy-efficient washing machines. This summer Dave and Adam have been seen scaling Frank and MA’s roof and poring over computer help files in order to bring another new form of technology to Sawbill: Wireless Internet! The signal is only strong enough to reach the areas around the store building, and the satellite Internet system we use up here struggles on windy or rainy days, but if everything’s running smoothly, you should be able to open up your wireless-equipped laptop on the store porch and send emails or check the latest weather reports. -Ruthie

Adam demonstrates the power of wireless internet. Homer and Sunnie think they heard someone say "cookie!"

9/8/04 – The yearly Carleton College trip came and went this past week. Close to 100 incoming Carleton freshmen and group leaders arrived on three buses from Northfield, Minnesota on Friday. They split into twelve groups and entered the BWCA from several different entry points in order to keep each group separate and minimize their impact on the wilderness. The "Carleton kids," as we affectionately call them, are invariably polite and well-behaved. We’ve even had several become Sawbill crew members over the past years. Current crew member Loren was the student coordinator of the Carleton group last year. He did such a great job, we hired him to work here full time this summer!

Before: Sawbill gear neatly awaits the Carleton group’s arrival. After: Piles of dirty equipment waiting to be washed and put away.

With Labor Day weekend behind us, things have quieted down a bit at Sawbill. There is still lots of work to do, and a steady stream of customers in the store and rental department, but the pace of things has mellowed. It feels like Fall. -Ruthie

9/7/04 – A large, loosely joined group of musicians gather at Sawbill campground every year around Labor Day to socialize, fish, and play music late into the nights. Dubbed the "Fish ‘n’ Pick," the event has gathered momentum over the years and now draws a sizable crowd. -Ruthie

The "pick" part of Fish n Pick. Photo by Dave Freeman.

9/6/04- It’s been feeling like autumn off and on all summer this year, but tomorrow we’re making it official; the Sawbill store and rental department will switch to our fall hours starting Tuesday, September 7th. We’ll be open from 8 am to 8 pm seven days a week. -Ruthie

9/5/04- In 1997 at the 40th Sawbill reunion, Mary Alice Hansen announced her intention to write a book about Sawbill. Unbeknownst to many, she has been steadily gathering information and working on that book for the past eight years. I sat down recently with Mary Alice to discuss the book and her experience writing it.

The idea of writing a book was not a new one for Mary Alice. She has been writing since grade school, and even aspired to become a journalist during her college years. I asked her if she followed an outline while writing, but she said no: "I just followed my nose," she declared. "I tried to think of all of the questions people have asked me over the years about Sawbill, and set out to answer them. The first question many people would ask was ‘How did you get into this?’ so it seemed natural to start the book there."

She emphasized her commitment to writing a comprehensive history of the whole Sawbill area — not just Sawbill Canoe Outfitters. Topics as diverse as the history of Sawbill Lodge, the CCC camp, and the development of the Sawbill Trail are each given their own chapters and consideration.

Lastly, I wanted to know what’s next for Mary Alice. I know she keeps busy working for the Commercial Fishing Museum in Tofte and plays bridge for fun, but is there another book in the works? Perhaps a work of fiction or poetry inspired by her northwoods home? "Oh yes, I’ve got several other books I want to write," she exclaimed, "I’d like to do a whole book about the history of Sawbill Lodge, perhaps write one about the fish houses of the North Shore, and possibly even a readable but detailed history of the BWCA. I have no ambition to write stories or make things up, there’s plenty of history to cover."

If you’re wondering how you can get your hands on a copy of Sawbill, be patient. The manuscript is currently being prepared for publication. Watch this space for more information about an official release late this year or early next year. -Ruthie

9/4/04 – Labor day weekend is upon us! The past two days have been warm and sunny– some of the nicest of the whole summer. The Forest Service Campground is at capacity with folks looking to enjoy one last beautiful weekend before we finally have to admit that the summer is drawing to a close.

Everywhere I look, I’m confronted by irrefutable signs of the impending season change. Clare and Carl Hansen make the daily trek to school in Grand Marais. They are enrolled in 11th and 9th grades, respectively. It’s hard not to notice the brilliantly hued trees lining the Sawbill Trail. Bill Hansen logs hundreds of miles on the Trail and throughout the congressional district as his primary election rapidly approaches.

Clare looks confident and Carl looks frightened as they prepare to leave for their first day of school. Photo by Cindy Hansen.

As the temperature climbed near 80 today, I decided to bike down to the lake for some beach time. Basking in the sun felt just like August, but the lake’s icy chill left no doubt in my mind that September has arrived. -Ruthie

9/1/04 – Today is Mary Alice Hansen’s 81st birthday, and the phone has been ringing off the hook. It was my job to answer the phones this afternoon, and it seemed like every other call was for Mary Alice. Lida and Cindy whipped up a beautiful cake that tasted as good as it looked. They cut the cake into pieces, added colorful frosting, and arranged the chunks of cake into the shape of a flower. At 1:30 the whole crew gathered in the office to sing MA happy birthday, and gobble down mouthfuls of tasty cake. As an added bonus warm, sunny weather has blown in, and more warm weather is in the weekend forecast! – Dave

Mary Alice blows out the candles as everyone prepares for a piece of the cake!

Posted on

August 2004

8/31/04 – On Sunday evening, Jeff and I joined 3 other sea kayakers on the East Bay’s grey pebble beach in Grand Marais to celebrate the full moon. Decked out in wetsuits, paddle jackets, PFDs, and spray skirts, we were warm and ready to hit the water. Spirits were high despite the light rain that splattered against the decks of our kayaks as we prepared to launch. As the sun set in the west, we slid our sleek crafts onto Lake Superior’s mirror smooth surface and paddled out of east bay and around Artist’s Point. During the summer, evening paddles to watch the full moon rise over the lake are a tradition that John Amren, owner of Superior Coastal Sports, and other local paddlers look forward to every month. Chatting with friends new and old, we floated together admiring the harbor and the lights of Grand Marais from our unique vantage point.

Our conversation stopped when I noticed the first golden sliver of the moon break the horizon. Without speaking, we turned our kayaks to face the rapidly rising moon and paddled toward it, drawn like insects to a street lamp. Within minutes, the full moon’s fiery orange glow was fully visible. We enjoyed the moons gentle glow in silence for several minutes before it began to disappear behind the dense layer of clouds that covered the lake.

With the moon gone we gather once again and visited some more, and talk about how nice it was to watch the moon rise from our kayaks. Perhaps an excuse to go paddling with friends is as much a part of this monthly tradition as the full moon its self.

Jeff Green paddles toward the rising full moon in front of Artist’s Point on Sunday.

8/30/04 – Congratulations are in order here at Sawbill! When Jasmine arrived this spring, she brought a lot of energy and a giant rubber ball that was 26 inches in diameter. Every morning I would stroll into the Mobe to be greeted by the fragrant aroma of exotic smelling incense and Jasmine’s eager smile as she worked and stretched her body with the help of her giant ball and some relaxing music. The ball soon became a favorite toy amongst the crew. Many hours have been spent this summer laughing and cheering as crew members crash and burn during freestyle ball riding sessions. These sessions involve balancing on the squirrelly ball as you twist and contort your body into different positions. Jasmine, like many other sawbill crew members, has been trying all summer to choose a path to follow after leaving Sawbill. Today, Jasmine learned that she has been accepted for a work study program at the Shoshoni Yoga Retreat Center outside of Boulder, Colorado. The six month program starts in January, and by August, Jasmine will be a certified Hatha Yoga Instructor! We will miss Jasmine and her ball, but hopefully, she will return to Sawbill after her training and help us lead more relaxed and flexible lives! – Dave

Jasmine is all smiles as she prepares to cook brunch for the crew.

A hearty Congratulations goes out to long time Sawbill campers Gary and Debbie Friermuth of Hastings, Minnesota. Gary and Debbie have been visiting Sawbill for many years with their family and have always considered the BWCAW their "summer home." Last week they returned to Sawbill to celebrate their 25th anniversary. They were married on September 1st, 1979. They spent their honeymoon up here and they just keep coming back for more. Congratulations Gary and Debbie! -Dave

Gary and Debbie Freiermuth returned to sawbill, where they spent their honeymoon, to celebrate their 25th anniversary.


8/26/04 – Several people have contacted me over the past few weeks about lead-free
tackle. This has lead me to do a little more research on how people can
obtain lead-free fishing tackle. The reasons for moving away from tackle
containing lead are plentiful, and I think Richard Andre from the OEA
it up best when he told me, ��?We don’t have lead in gas or paint anymore
because we know it is harmful to most organisms including humans….So why
would we continue using lead fishing tackle?��? Several weeks ago I went to
Gander Mountain in Duluth to purchase some lead-free split shot and
lead-free jig heads. They had a pretty good supply of lead-free split shot
and other types of sinkers, but I was unable to find any lead-free jig

“Approximately 3 million pounds of lead sinkers and jigs are
deposited accidentally in United States’ waters every year��?(WERC) and a
single dose of .01059 ounces can kill an adult loon. But, how can people
get hold of lead-free tackle and help reduce the amount of lead lost each
year? Right now lead-free tackle is hard to come by. In Cook County,
Buck’s Hardware sells lead-free jig heads, and Sawbill sells lead-free
split shot. Both businesses are planning to expand their lead-free
lines next year. I was not able to find lead-free tackle at the Beaver
House, or the Holiday Station in Grand Marais. If you are unable to find
what you are looking for locally you might consider ordering products over
the Internet. Lead Free Jigs ( is an on-line retailer
of tin-bismuth alloy sinkers and jigs in a variety of styles, or also sells a wide variety of lead-free tackle. The
“Gremlin Green��? split shot that I have been using is made out of tin and
works very well. The only disadvantage is that you have to use a slightly
larger split shot because tin is not as dense as lead, but I have not
noticed a difference in fishing success. I have also been very happy with
the Bismuth/Tin jig heads made by John’s Freshwater Jigs. Over all I
haven’t been able to tell the difference between the my old lead tackle and
the new lead-free stuff that is slowly filling my tackle box, but when a
fish broke my line with a lead-free jig in its mouth last week I wasn’t
quite as upset! – Dave

8/25/04 – This morning as I was moving pop from the pop shed to the cooler when Fran Sampson, a Sawbill Campground host, told me that there had to be something wrong with the thermometer on the side of the pop shed. It said it was 67 degrees and she sarcastically remarked that she hadn’t seen such balmy temperatures since leaving Florida almost a month ago. It is true that cold weather descended on Sawbill when the Sampsons arrived and the weather has been cooler and wetter than normal all month, but today was absolutely gorgeous! Warm sunny weather made me yearn for a dip in the lake. Unfortunately I have been working, working, working, all day. I guess I will have to settle for an evening paddle.

Chris Hanzelin sent us several photos that he took on Cherokee Lake earlier this month. A fire broke out on an island in the middle of the lake and he watched as Forest Service fire fighters put the fire out with the help of a plane and a helicopter. – Dave

8/23/04 –

The sun preparing for a spectacular departure.

Steady winds have brought constantly changing weather to Sawbill along with some spectacular sunsets.  Last week I caught a glimpse of the Western horizon at sunset and could barely fight off the urge to grab a canoe and run to the lake to soak in the warm red glow reflecting off clouds that were towering over Alton. Slowly trolling over my favorite fishing haunts while watching the sun’s last rays descend below the horizon sounded like the perfect way to end the day.  Unfortunately, my list of duties for the day was still long and I had to buckle down and keep working.  A few days later Alison and I finished our work early and were able to escape for a few hours on the water.  The gusting winds that had pummeled paddlers for days finally released its grip on Sawbill as the sun slipped towards the trees.  We stopped paddling east of Kelso Bay and watched the giant, wind whipped clouds turn cherry red as the sun disappeared.  Time passed, the clouds disappeared, and the first stars began to fill the moonless sky.  Soon the Aurora Borealis left its faint glow on the northern horizon.  The Aurora’s familiar shades of yellow and white slowly turned to green, finally producing a red glow that mirrored the recent sunset.  Red northern lights are rarely seen because they are only produced by our suns strongest solar flares.  I have tucked that night away with a handful of other spectacular encounters with the Aurora Borealis; you can gaze at the night sky for hundreds of hours without to seeing red northern lights! – Dave

A red sun setting over North Sawbill Lake.

8/21/04 –

The first leaves of the season are starting to change colors.

Fall has been in the air here at Sawbill and my thoughts often turn toward frozen lakes covered in a glistening white blanket of freshly fallen snow.  Sure, my favorite season is still along way off, and the skis will remain stowed, the sled dogs tethered for several more months, but I can still feel winter coming.  Yesterday I noticed the first real signs of an early fall when I found a handful of moose maple leaves changing color.  Their gentle golden glow hint at the kaleidoscope of colors that will greet north woods travelers a month from now.  The moose maple are always the first to start changing colors in the fall, and before long their fiery red leaves will blanket the under story.

Cooler nights, gusting winds, and hints of fall colors are not the only sign that fall is coming.  Our beloved crew members are beginning to leave as well.  Kari, Walter, and Sonya have all left for school, and Alison leaves in the morning.  Sawbill will not be the same with out them.

I might get a few hate emails for letting this little secret out of the bag, but fall is a spectacular time for a canoe trip.  If you have not visited Sawbill in September or October I would strongly recommend a visit.  Fewer visitors, bug free camping, fall colors, rutting moose, and good fishing are just a few things that make fall my favorite time for canoeing in the north woods.  – Dave

Jeff Green shows off the birthday cake that Cindy made for him last week. Happy birthday Jeff! Tasty cake Cindy!

– A wedding ring was found on Beth Lake over the weekend. If you lost your ring
contact Scott at he has the ring and is looking for its owner.
– Dave

8/16/04 – My lower back muscles are still tight after
Saturday’s dragon boat races, and a quote from fellow paddler Will Decker keeps
running through my head."I have not exercised that hard in 10 years; at the
end of the race my arm muscles were just burning!" Will exclaimed as he enjoyed
a cold beer after the races. I think most of the Sawbill Canoe Outfitters’ 25
paddlers were surprised at how physically demanding the 2-minute sprint across
the Grand Marais harbor in a 22-person "canoe" could be, but we were
also blown away by how much fun dragon boat racing was. Annie Strupeck, my partner
in the "engine room" (the middle section of the boat) came up from Minneapolis
for the race. As we climbed out of the boat after the last of three races everyone
was laughing and celebrating Sawbill Canoe Outfitters’ first place finish in our
three boat heat. Annie hit the nail on the head when she said," I love the
adrenaline rush you get when everyone is yelling, and grunting, and pushing each
other to paddle harder…. I can’t wait for next year’s Dragon Boat Festival."
For some the Dragon Boat Festival was all about who could propel their 650 pound
boat down the ½ mile course the fastest, but most people were just there
to have a great time. Our team’s paddlers came from all walks of life, ranged
in age from 14 to 63, and came from as far away as Chicago. Between races, there
was plenty of time to make new friends, catch up with old ones, and fill our bellies
full of an endless supply of tasty food cooked up by Keck Melby and Arline Johnson.
I think Keck fed half of Cook County with his dragon dogs, foot long bright red
hot dogs, which he had to special order for the event. One dragon boat junky from
Thunder Bay told the crowd at the awards ceremony that they had brought the highly
contagious "dragon boat virus" with them from Canada and released it
in Grand Marais. I think everyone who attended this year’s festival was infected,
and I can’t wait to see how it spreads over the next year! – Dave

Sawbill Dragon Boat Team smiles for a photo before a race.

were too many good photos from the Dragon Boat Festival to fit on this page so
I made a special page with more photos.

here for more dragon boat photos.

8/12/04 – Yesterday
at 3 PM the forest service lifted the campfire restrictions for the BWCAW. This
means that campfires are allowed at any time within steel fire grates at designated
campsites inside and outside of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Like
clockwork, the fire restrictions were lifted and the heavy rain that has drenched
the forest for the past 5 days has stopped! Today is clear and sunny, and people
are emerging from their tents to go canoeing! -Dave


Monday Jessica Chang visited Sawbill from Savage, Minnesota. She brought her pet
guinea pig, Junior, with her, and decided to introduce Junior to the BWCAW by
taking him on a canoe trip. As far as I can tell Junior was the first canoe tripping
guinea pig to visit Sawbill in its 48-year history. Sawbill is proud to add guinea
pigs to the list of pets people have brought on canoe trips, which includes dogs,
cats, and parakeets. What wacky critter will be next? I am hoping for an emu,
but a baby hippo would also be pretty cool. -Dave

8/9/04 –
On Saturday Frank, Mary Alice, and I joined a growing crowd on the edge of Crescent
Lake. A dozen people milled around the roadside pull-off where Bill and Jo Koski
often go to use their cell phone, and a dozen more onlookers sat in their motorboats
near shore. Everyone was buzzing about Freedom, the Bald Eagle that was near death
when he was found by Bill and Jo Koski three weeks before. The Koskis set off
a chain of events which brought the eagle to the University of Minnesota’s Raptor
Center in St. Paul. In a few minutes, Freedom would return to Crescent Lake and
be released.

a naturalist from Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, talks to the crowd
as she prepares to free the eagle. One young observer had to move in closer inspection.

several minutes, Gail Buhl, a naturalist at Wolf Ridge Environmental Center, arrived
with a large cage containing Freedom. Gail rescues 4 or 5 Bald Eagles a year along
with approximately 50 other raptors. Gail helped get Freedom ready for his trip
to the Raptor Center, and she said that "this was a very unusual case and
we had a hard time figuring out what was wrong." After arriving at the Raptor
Center, Freedom was put through a series of tests to find out what was wrong with
him. In the end, veterinarians determined that the eagle has a heart murmur, but
they could not determine what caused the bird to become so sick. After several
weeks of close observation, cage rest, and a nutritious diet, experts concluded
that Freedom can live a healthy life with his heart murmur and that he was ready
to be released into the wild.

Jo and Bill Koski holding Freedom seconds before he flies out of their arms.

crowd grew silent as Gail explained how the next few minutes would unfold and
watched as the naturalist crawled into the large "dog crate" containing
Freedom and removed the bird, who was covered in a large blanket. I was surprised
at how calm the giant bird was as Bernie Brooks, a local bird rescuer, and Gail
unwrapped the predator’s sharp talons and prepared for the eagle’s release.

and Jo Koski were given the honor of releasing Freedom. They listened carefully
and donned thick leather gloves for the task. Finally Jo cradled Freedom in her
arms while Bill grasped the bird’s mighty talons. With a gentle toss they launched
Freedom into the air and he soared to a nearby tree. After eyeing the scene for
a few minutes, he took off once more and flew out of view. Jo’s eyes swelled with
tears as the powerful turn of events filtered through her mind. "We could
live for 500 years without another experience like that," she told her husband.
I bet Freedom was thinking the same thing. -Dave

crowd cheers as Freedom flies away.

8/6/04 – We are happy
to report that the wedding ring found on Polly Lake several weeks ago has been
returned to its owner!

Yesterday, Walter and I snuck away from
a bustling Sawbill Canoe Outfitters for a few hours of fishing. We paddled down
Alton Lake and then took the 200-rod portage from Alton into Wonder Lake. Wonder
Lake was hit hard by the 1999 4th of July wind storm and much of the portage snakes
through a forest that is busy regenerating. The sun-soaked portage trail is lined
with lush, green blueberry plants, which are covered in clusters of blueberries
that range from tiny newly formed mint green berries to juicy dark purple berries
that you must pop directly in your mouth. The lure of giant fish moved us steadily
along the portage on our way to Wonder, but as we trudged back to Sawbill the
urge to stop and pick mouthfuls of the sweet berries was too much to bear. We
picked as we walked and when we came across an especially succulent patch we put
down our canoe and packs and got to work picking. – Dave

uses some self control to collect a handful of berries before gobbling them up.

– What started out as a typical Saturday night for Crescent camp hosts Bill and
Jo Koski turned into a hair-raising Bald Eagle rescue when they found an eagle
dying on the shore of Crescent Lake. Shortly after finding the Bald Eagle they
learned that some boaters had found the bird bobbing in the water, near a dead
and floating fish. The fishermen moved the bird to shore, hoping he would rest,
dry out and return to his family. "The only thing I knew for certain was
that we simply could not just drive away and forget about him. Yes, sometimes
nature can be so cruel….but then sometimes we humans are given a chance to
intervene" said Jo. After a few phone calls Bill and Jo tracked down Bernie
Brooks, a raptor rescuer that lives in Tofte. Bill held the giant bird on his
lap for the 25 mile drive to Tofte. Numerous times Bill had to shake him to keep
him conscious. His great eyes repeatedly closed and his head began to bow in defeat
as though the last ounce of fight had escaped him. "Bill and I would not
accept this, and I kept driving faster," stated Jo. When they reached Tofte,
Bernie Brooks took charge instantly and made arrangements for the bird to be transferred
to the Raptor center in the Twin Cities. "Freedom", which is the name
that Bill and Jo gave the eagle, has safely reached the Raptor center, and is
doing better. Unfortunately, he has a severe heart murmur and will probably not
be released back into the wild. The next night, Joanne returned to the spot where
they had rescued Freedom. There, soaring above her were two Bald Eagles. "They
circled closer and lower until they were only a few feet from my truck… I
only hope they could sense that my red truck could be a sign to them that Freedom
is going to be OK," recalled Joanne. -Dave

the Bald Eagle on the edge of Crescent Lake

Bernie Brooks examining Freedom at her home in Tofte

– There are few summer nights when I don’t hear a loon’s haunting calls as I am
drifting off to sleep. Loons and the North go hand in hand, and a trip into the
Boundary Waters without these elegant birds would be hard to imagine. Last week,
the fishing was slow and I soon turned my attention to a loon that kept diving
for fish about 50 feet from my canoe. After several dives the loon burst to the
surface with a 12 to 14-inch Northern Pike in its mouth. After wrestling with
the wriggling fish for several minutes, the loon grasped the still struggling
fish by the head, tipped its head back, and slid the whole fish down its throat.
I ran the amazing event through my mind, remembering an article about the harmful
effects of lead fishing tackle on loons and other birds. That "monster"
northern could have had a lead jig head or other fishing lure stuck in its belly
and in a giant meal, that loon would have sealed its fate. If a loon ingests a
single lead sinker it is likely to die within 2 to 3 weeks. Research has found
that in loon nesting areas, up to 50% of loon mortality is caused by lead poisoning.
Plus,between 1980 and 1996, the Raptor Center reported lead poisoning in 138 of
650 eagles they treated. From 1996-99, 43 additional eagles were affected by lead
toxicity.(Minnesota DNR) Luckily fishermen are starting to realize that the lead
weights what we fish with can have negative effects on the plants and animals
that share our favorite fishing spots. The Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance
is spear-heading a campaign that encourages fishermen to exchange their lead fishing
tackle for tackle made of nickel, steel, or other materials. Last year, the Office
of Environmental Assistance collected over 1100 pounds of lead tackle during 22
tackle exchanges. You can learn more about lead-free tackle and how you can exchange
your lead tackle for lead free tackle by visiting their website at
Watching that loon swallow a huge fish made me realize that we are not the only
ones fishing here, and that I should do my part and turn in my lead fishing tackle,
even if it means giving up that lucky jig head! – Dave

volunteer shows off some of the 1100 lbs. of lead tackle collected at 22 exchange
events during 2003.

8/1/04 – There has been a marked increase
in reports of bear activity during the past week. Polly, Phoebe, Beth and Alton
Lakes seem to be the hot spots. As always, it is important to hang your food at
least 12′ off the ground and at least 6′ from the nearest tree. For you car campers,
keep your food inside a hard-sided vehicle at all times–coolers are not bear proof.
Make sure car windows are completely rolled up.

Future Sawbill
crew members Tori and Carter Strubbe visited this past week along with their parents,
Laura and Ezra. Tori and Carter are the grandchildren of Sawbill Campground Hosts
Jim and Rachel TerBeest.

you like to rent a canoe?"

Posted on

July 2004

7/30/04 – Not to be outdone
by Shawn Peyton, Sawbill customer Michael Newmeister sent us this pic from a recent
Boundary Waters trip he took out of Sawbill. This 42" Northern Pike was released
and can be found prowling in a lake near you.

fish, Mike.

7/28/04 – Effective July 30, a partial fire ban
will go into effect in the BWCAW. In the restricted area, fires will be permitted
only between 7 p.m. and midnight. The restricted area includes all the lakes east
of Hazel, Wine and Mesaba Lakes (including Sawbill Lake). The ban also includes
almost all of the northern half of the BWCAW. Fires are still permitted at any
time in the unrestricted area.

Sawbill customers Jim and Pat
Langsdale from Texas stopped in yesterday on their way to Burnt Lake. They were
visiting the site where they were engaged 27 years ago.

and Pat Langsdale

7/25/04 – Sawbill customer Shawn Peyton
bragged to us back in May that he caught a monster Northern Pike up on Trail Lake.
Yesterday he sent us the proof via email. Trail Lake sits exactly on the halfway
point of the rugged and infrequently-used Louse River. Ordinarily, we don’t like
to disclose the location of big fish on this page, but we are confident that,
as in the past, only the most determined anglers will make the trip to Trail.
I am always trying to convince our more adventurous customers to give the Louse
River a try. It’s got the whole package–solitude, scenery, fishing, nasty portages–everything
you could want out of a wilderness trip. Shawn gives some great description in
an article he published

Sawbill customer Shawn Peyton and fish pause for reflection.

campers recently discovered a female’s wedding band on a campsite on Polly Lake.
The ring, pictured below, has "BECKY 9-20-02" and "14K-L"
engraved on the inside. Please contact us if you feel you have any relevant information
which could help us track down the ring’s owner.

Is this your ring?

7/23/04 – Every few
years or so, we Sawbill crew members like to take a few days to reorient ourselves
with our popular canoeing routes. It’s a tough gig, but it’s only fair to our
customers if we know the facts before counseling them to go this way or that way.
Crew members Dave Freeman, Jeff Green, former crew member Eric Frost (’97 – ’02)
and I decided to check out the remote Frost River
this past week. The highlight of any visit to Frost Lake is a visit to the fabled
brown sand beaches. After winding our way through miles of river and climbing
over a half-dozen or so beaver dams, we reached to headwaters and settled into
a nice rhythm of swimming, fishing and relaxation.

member Jeff Green passes out immediately after being told he accidentally paddled
to Mexico.

7/19/04 – On Saturday night we got a call from
the Forest Service requesting our assistance. A man and his 12 year old son were
stranded on Malberg Lake, a 4-hour paddle North of Kawishiwi Lake, when their canoe
was ripped in half after flipping in a set of rapids. Eric Frost, a former crew
member, and I set out yesterday morning to bring them a new canoe. It took us
a few minutes to get used to our silent partner, the second canoe dragging behind
ours, but we soon settled into a steady rhythm as we made our way North from Kawishiwi
to Malberg. Painted turtles, loons, mink, and pitcher plants captured our attention,
and soon we were paddling up to the father and son waiting for their canoe. The
bow and stern of their old canoe lay in a pile on the sand beach by their campsite.
After a few minutes of visiting and a thorough canoe orientation we hopped back
in our canoe.

sure hope our canoe doesn’t come back looking like this!

of retracing our route back to Kawishiwi we decided to take the lesser traveled
Louse River back to Sawbill. It was one o’clock by the time we started back, and
we knew we had a solid 7 or 8 hours of paddling ahead of us. The small lakes and
shallow marshy rivers that make up the Louse River are connected by a series of
narrow foot paths that often combine steep hills, sharp turns, and boot-sucking
mud, which can make for some very interesting portaging.

reward, however, was total solitude and several truly memorable animal encounters.
I am sure we will remember the three river otters that spent 5 minutes barking
at us as they danced around our canoe, enjoying the moment as much as we did.
However, for me the real highlight of the trip was was the countless water lilies
in full bloom. It is so easy to get lost in the intricate white, yellow and green
patterns of a dense bed of lilies. – Dave

Frost paddling through a maze of water lilies.

you could only smell a photo!

7/17/04 – The 2004 Sawbill Beard
Off has turned into a very heated competition. As we enter the final stage of
the competition all competitors are concentrating on growing the best beard possible.
Yesterday, a man with one of the bushiest beards I have ever seen came into the
store. Anxious to gain the upper hand on my competitors I walked over to the man
and started telling him about our Beard Off. I was hoping that this Jedi Master
of beards would provide me with some kernel of knowledge that could transform
my beard into one that Santa Claus would be proud of over night. Unfortunately,
I was not able to glean his beard growing tips, but I was able to convince him
to pose with us for a photo. -Dave

Pat, Jeff, and Dave pose with a man with a REAL BEARD!

– For one night every summer Sawbillians spin, promenade, waltz, and jig at the
Dome Dance. This year’s Dome Dance lived up to its growing reputation and everyone
had a wonderful time dancing the night way. A huge warm fuzzy to Terence and Mark
for the beautiful music and masterful calling.

and Clare sharing a waltz.

take four steps in with a big Yaaaah Hoooo!!!

whole crew smiling for the camera. Don’t we look great!

– Molly and Taramin, one of Molly’s friends, left on a canoe trip on Sunday. All
of the hype that snoosing has received lately put them on high alert, and we were
unable to get snoose items in their packs before they left. Unfazed, Alison and
I decided to leave on a top secret snoosing mission at 6 am yesterday. Sunday
night we packed a light lunch, rain gear, cameras, and our snoose item of choice,
Roscoe. Roscoe is a two foot tall plastic penguin that has been floating around
Sawbill for many years. We felt that Roscoe really needed something more to complete
the snoose so we dressed him in "the sling-shot". The sling-shot was
crafted by Sawbill’s employee Sonya Hanson, it is a style of bathing suit somewhat
popular in California that resembles a thong that is held up by suspenders rather
than a waistband. After securing "the sling-shot" to Roscoe with a liberal
supply of tape, our snoosing trio was ready to hit the water.

We sped along breaking the lakes glassy surface with every paddle stroke.

Our best intelligence told us that Molly and Taramin were
camping on South Temperance Lake, about 3 hours of fast paddling from Sawbill.
As the miles drifted by, the sun rose higher and the temperatures soared into
the 70’s. When we reached Jack Lake we began sneaking up to campsites to see if
our snoosees where there. Finally we tromped across the 240 rod portage that connects
Weird Lake to South Temperance. Sure that we would find them, we removed Roscoe
from the pack and made plans for our attack. As we inched along the shoreline
we saw Molly and Taramin enjoying a morning swim off their campsite. As we slid
the canoe up to the campsite Taramin saw us and exclaimed, "Isn’t that Alison?"
Alison waved Roscoe at them as she leapt onto their campsite. They began swimming
as hard as they could back to shore, but it was too late. We quickly paddled away,
encouraging them to take good care of Roscoe.

Roscoe peeks out of Alison’s pack as we tackle a portage.

the sweet smell of victory, our paddling cadence decelerated to a more normal
pace and we started looking for a place to stop and have lunch. After we were
sure that they were not following us, we found a nice sunny rock and stopped for
a break. The rock proved to be the perfect spot for a swim, and after summoning
up a little courage we began hucking our selves into the cool lake. After gobbling
down a few sandwiches it was time to it the water. We still had three hours of
paddling ahead of us and there was work to be done back at Sawbill.

Alison lets out a whoop as she pops to the surface.

Our muscles
were beginning to tire as we paddled south down Sawbill into a growing headwind.
We had been on the water 8 hours and had covered over 20 miles of lakes and portages.
We slowly paddled down the lake recounting the day’s events and thinking up future

7/11/04 – Yesterday afternoon the unthinkable happened.
The water pump from our well gave out causing a water crisis. Showering, flushing
the toilets, washing dishes, even brushing our teeth became a chore. The whole
crew pitched in by hauling water from the campground and taking dips in the lake
to replace hot showers. Luckily we were able to get a new pump installed this
morning and everything is back to normal. Going without water for a day makes
you realize that you really take running water for granted.

could feel my beard growing as we all stood around watching the well get fixed.

steady soaking rain lulled me to sleep last night and continued to drop much needed
rain all night long. In the morning I found a beautiful Luna moth trying to dry
its water-logged wings. The 6-inch long moth sat motionless as I took several
photos and admired the intricate patterns that adorned its wings. Luna moths are
rarely seen because they only fly at night and each moth is only alive for 6 or
7 days after emerging from its cocoon. Luna moths are unable to eat because they
do not have mouths. They rely on the nourishment gained from the leaves that they
devour as a caterpillar to see them through their brief winged life. – Dave

Luna Moth drying its wings after a rainy night.

7/9/04 –

(Sonya’s Dog), Homer, and Sunny discuss themes for the second annual one eyed
dog conference, tentatively planned for July 16th, 2005. Sunny’s lecture on advanced
dog treat detection for one eyed canines drew a large crowd. She is planning to
publish several exciting papers on dog treat detection and several other topics
in the OCCS’s (Optically Challenged Canine Society’s) quarterly newsletter. When
asked about this year’s conference, Toby said," I have always felt ashamed
and alone because I poked my eye out with a squeaky toy….. Meeting other one-eyed
dogs has helped me realize that there are optically challenged dogs out there
living happy, healthy lives. Sunny and Homer have taught me so much. I can’t wait
for next summer’s conference!" – Dave

7/8/04 – A beautiful
day brought day trippers out in droves, keeping the store and the rental department
busy all morning. Now people are returning with stories of moose sightings and
great fishing. Today was certainly a great day to be out paddling. Some of our
crew members have been gone for the last few days enjoying this fine weather.
Walter, Alison, and Sonya are all gone right now and it doesn’t feel the same
without them. Walter headed home to Indiana for Freshman orientation: he will
be starting college at Purdue at the end of August. Sonya and Alison are exploring
the north woods on foot and by canoe.

For many years now a
game of cat and mouse has been played between crew members leaving on trips into
the wilderness and crew members left behind to run Sawbill. We worked hard this
week, and we are confident that both Alison and Sonya were carrying a little something
extra when they left Sawbill. The idea is to find creative, sometimes heavy objects
that people will have no use for during their trip. Once items have been selected,
the crew does everything in their power to slip items into the travelers’ packs
in strict secrecy. If an item is successfully placed in someone’s pack and they
leave on their trip without noticing it, they have been "Snoosed"! No
one wants to be snoosed, so potential snoosees often carry their packs around
with them as they pack, lock packs in their cars, pack their packs in the middle
of the night, or in extreme cases pack a set of dummie packs and then pack their
real packs in secret.

and her family pose for photos as snoosers cram useless items into their packs.

At the same time, the snoosers are constantly looking for
new ways to trick the snoosees. The most common method of snoosing is the "lay
in wait" method, which involves waiting around until a potential snoosee
leaves a pack unattended. The "distraction" method, which involves setting
up a distraction that will draw a crew member away from the packs long enough
for other crew members to sneak in and plant the snoose items, is also common.
We used this "distraction" method while snoosing Sonya and her parents.
Another method is to stick items in sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and tents and
hope that the snoosees choose those items when they pack their packs. In extreme
cases, snoosers will paddle out into the BWCAW at night in search of crew members’
campsites. Once located, a highly trained set of snoosers can wreak havoc on a
campsite. One of my favorite snooses involved trading someone’s 42-pound, ultra-light
kevlar canoe for a 63-pound Alumacraft in the middle of the night!

all we can do is wait for the snoosed to return from their trips and scheme about
future snooses. Unfortunately, I think I will be the next crew member to go out
on a trip. I’d better have my wits about me while I pack. – Dave

7/6/04 – The US Forest Service tells us they are finding more
evidence than in the past of campers in the BWCA burning their garbage–especially
plastics. They have issued a warning to permit issuing stations (which we, in
turn, are passing on to you) basically stating that rangers will be looking
for this violation and will not hesitate to issue citations.

In other news, we have failed to report so far that former Sawbill
crew member, Nathan TerBeest (’97 – ’03), and his longtime lady friend, Belinda,
tied the knot on June 19 in lovely Sioux Center, Iowa. Sawbill was well represented,
and everyone seemed to have a Nathan story good enough to make his Mother-in-Law-to-be
blush. Nathan’s skill and charm are already missed up here; we made the same
plea to him we give to all of our former employees who leave Sawbill for the
real world: quit, come back.

Nathan and Belinda TerBeest maintain composure on their wedding

7/5/04 – Another July 4 weekend come and gone–plenty of action
at Sawbill. We had (another) festive dinner Friday night featuring beach-themed
food and attire. Former crew members Paul Lundgren, Will Decker and Sandy Zinn
were on hand to commemorate the creation of the now-imfamous Sawbill Beach club,
an organization they helped found sometime back in the depths of Sawbill antiquity
(possibly the late ’80s).

I wish they all could be Sawbill girls …

Words escape me …

7/2/04 – One of my favorite BWCA lakes of all time has to be Makwa–huge
cliffs, clear, deep water, and great lake trout hunting. With the impending
July 4 rush still a day away, Lida and I couldn’t resist the chance to go up
there for a casual lunch date yesterday. After 1 1/2 hours of cliff jumping
and sunbathing, and a lunch of ultra-thick thuringer and cheese sandwiches,
we headed back to Sawbill via Little Saganaga (another great lake). It should
be noted that during the course of the day, Lida spotted three Western Painted
turtles, and I saw only two.


Lida deftly paddles the new Bell Kevlar Seliga.

In a competition utterly unrelated to turtles, the First Annual
Sawbill Beard-Off is well underway and several key trends are beginning to emerge.
Dave Freeman and Pat Nash are locked in a dead heat for the Length, Thickness
and Overall Aesthetic categories; Walter Booker looks like a shoe-in for "Best
Skunk Spot"; Jeff Green and Loren Mcwethy are vying for the prized "Most
Vagrant-Like" award. Meanwhile, Adam Hansen appears to be running away
with the fan favorite "Best Trash ‘Stache."

In a move that is sure to shake up the competition, former crew
member Erik Hoekstra (’98 – ’00) shaved off his beard of four years and threw
it into the ring. Will he catch the other competitors? Check back here to find

Left: Former crew member Erik Hoekstra is back on the straight
and narrow. Right: Current crew member Jeff Green is not.

Posted on

June 2004

6/30/04 – The past few days
have been just gorgeous! The cold and wet weather that hung around for most of
June has transformed into warm, sunny days that make you want to lounge on a secluded
beach for hours soaking up the suns warm ray.

Sawbill customer
Dave Boser sent us several photos from a recent trip to Cherokee Lake. Below is
one of my favorites. – Dave

Sunset on Cherokee Lake


– Last week the Bullhead Water-Lilies sprang to the surface of the shallow ponds
surrounding Sawbill. Their bright yellow buds and broad green leaves add a splash
of color to the shimmering surface of some of my favorite moose haunts. Last night,
Alison and I hopped into kayaks and set out to check on their growth. Portaging
the kayaks down to the lake is an awkward, hand-cramping ordeal, but once in the
water kayaks are a joy to paddle. After an hour of paddling into a strong north
wind, we ducked into a narrow, log choked passage, which connects Sawbill Lake
to Handle Creek. More lily pads had burst to the surface and last week’s tightly
closed flowers where starting to unfold, exposing their golden petals to the evening’s
last rays of light. We drifted slowly over the masses of lilies lost in thought.
Eventually the trees’ shadows reached across the mirror smooth water, shielding
me from the sun’s warmth. Sadly, I realized it was time to leave. As we turned
our kayaks toward Sawbill, I found comfort in returning soon to check on the water-lily
garden. – Dave

– A sunny Saturday has caused a flurry of activity around Sawbill. The store has
been busy all morning, and canoes are flying off the racks. Before we know it
the 4th of July will roll around, and the busy season will be here.

night most of the crew went for a paddle after closing. We broke into small groups
and slowly paddled around Sawbill Lake. The moon shown through a thin layer of
clouds to the South, but the northern horizon was clear and speckled with stars.
Viewed from a canoe on a calm clear night, our backyard is hard to beat. – Dave

Loren, our newest crew member, and Lida testing out the Hansen’s wooden canvas
canoe built by master canoe builder, Joe Seliga.

6/24/04 –
Sawbill Poet Laureate Ed Dallas paid us a visit after a canoe trip last week.
Ed took his son and three of his fellow West Point graduates on a canoe trip to
celebrate their graduation. Below are two Haikus that Ed wrote during their trip.

camp dance hall

six wood ticks quickly two step

across hot skillet

portage trails
near boot tracks
pink lady slippers

night 13 of us – the whole crew minus Scott, who is recovering from jaw surgery
– hopped into four cars at 9:15 PM for a night on the town! Our mission was to
showcase the Sawbill musicians at the Gunflint Tavern’s open mic night. Usually
every Wednesday the Tavern is hopping and bopping to unpolished tunes played by
Grand Marais’ finest amateur musicians. Last night the Tavern replaced open mic
night with a 3- piece band. Things were pretty slow when we arrived, but the Tavern
was soon filled with dancing crew members. After a few dances, our musicians got
antsy, so we moved our party to Artist’s Point. Adam, Jeff, Pat, and Alison’s
music blended with the crashing waves, crisp air, and star-filled sky to produce
some great music.
I may be
living up to my nickname "Gramps" when I say this, but I don’t care.
I have seen a seen a few Sawbill crews come and go in my day, and I think it is
safe to say that this year’s crew is a keeper!

Green singing "The Emily Song" accompanied by Pat on Bass, Adam on Guitar,
and Alison on Cello.

Newsletter editors Alison and Molly hard at work correcting countless spelling
and grammatical errors.
Warm Fuzzies are definitely in order!

– Walter and I slid our canoe into the lake at 7:00 this morning looking for a
few fish and a little adventure. We left Sawbill Lake and headed up a narrow winding
creek. Water levels have started to drop and the lower water makes travel harder
on these seldom-traveled trickles of water. As we neared the next lake, a young
cow moose came into view. The moose stood calmly looking at us for several minutes.
Assured that we were friends, she let down her guard and took several long drinks
of cool water before continuing on her way. Energized by the encounter, we paddled
on and soon came to our first portage. Following narrow, moss-covered trails maintained
by four-footed travelers rather than humans is hard, but rewarding. Crashing through
alder and weaving our way over and under downed trees, we slowly made our way
north. Following game trails makes me slow down and watch my feet, and in the
process a whole new world comes into view. If getting to the next lake is my only
goal, I grow impatient when the brush gets thick or the mud sucks at my thighs.
But by taking advantage of my slow progress – savoring the delicate details of
a blooming lady’s slipper, or the earthy aroma of a beaver’s home – I am able
to enjoy where I am rather than focusing on where I hope to end up. For me this
is a much more enjoyable way to travel.

Before long we pulled
over one last beaver dam and paddled out onto our lake. After rigging our fishing
poles we let a gentle breeze carry us down the lake. As the rocky shoreline drifted
by, we lobbed spoons next to the fallen trees that lined the shore. The northerns
seemed ravenous as they attacked our lures over and over. If our lures’ large
treble hooks did not penetrate a fish’s bony mouth on the first bite, it would
often attack again and again until it was finally hooked. After several hours
of action-packed fishing, we pulled our canoe back over the last beaver dam and
retraced our steps back to Sawbill. – Dave

skinny friend taking a drink.

Stemless Lady’s Slipper that we came across this morning.

Lady’s Slippers have a deceptive pollination system. Bumblebees are lured into
the pouch of the labellum through the slit in the front, attracted by the bright
color and sweet scent of the flower. Once inside, they find no reward, and discover
that they are trapped–with only one point of escape. Inside the pouch, there
are hairs which lead to a pair of openings, one beneath each pollen mass. First,
however, the bee must pass under the stigma, so if it bears any pollen from a
visit to another flower, it will be deposited before picking up a fresh load,
thus preventing self-pollination. Unfortunately, the bees quickly learn from their
experiences and soon avoid C. acaule flowers. Thus, like several other orchids
in our flora, they are dependent on naive bees, and generally experience very
low pollination rates (Davis 1986).

displays the smallest fish of the day.

6/21/04 – Moose have
been all over the roads this spring. Last week Bill and Carl Hansen saw a moose
and two calves on their way home from town. Customers have been entertaining us
with stories of moose sightings, and I have started to drive much slower. I love
my Honda Civic, but I do not think that my car or its passengers would be in very
good condition after crashing into a moose! After 8 months of scraping by on leaves,
cedar boughs, and other less tasty morsels, the moose are finally able to return
to the shallow lakes and marshes for some real food. The longest days of the year
cause the aquatic vegetation to grow rapidly and the moose are taking advantage
by hanging out in shallow water to eat, eat, and eat some more. Crescent Campground
hosts Jo and Bill Koski came across a young bull moose feeding in a shallow marsh
near Two Island Lake on their way into Grand Marais. Joanne used her new digital
camera to take a bunch of great photos. She said that she and the moose really
connected, and that the moose actually talked to her by making grunting noises.
I think Joanne "The Moose Whisper" Koski has a nice ring to it. Great
photos, Jo! – Dave

– The weather is warming up, and swimming is becoming down right enjoyable. I
have always found that you can judge fishing by the crew’s swimming habits. In
the spring, crew swims consist of quickly stripping down to swimming attire as
you summon up the courage to jump off the dock. Then, as soon as your toes are
touching the water, you are scrambling to haul yourself out of the frigid water.
This time of the year, the lake trout are cruising the shallows and biting like
crazy, and you can’t catch a small mouth if your life depends on it. When the
water warms enough for people to actually stay in the water for several minutes
the small mouth start biting and the lake trout head for deeper, cooler water.
I noticed the season’s first dragon flies crawling out of their larva cases at
the end of a portage and realized that soon the black flies will be gone, the
lake trout will be deep, and spring will turn into summer. Walter and I crouched
next to these amazing creatures as they struggled through different states of
emergence. They live for several years as larva before crawling onto these rocks
to break out of their hard shells, dry their wings, and take flight. I hope the
chance to soar through the air and gobble up black flies was worth the wait.

with the warm weather, we were able to trick a few lake trout into biting. Walter
felt the powerful surges of his first lake trout, rod bending, reel screeching,
a green monster flashing in the crystal clear depths. The smile on his face made
the long miles and hard portages disappear.
– Dave

shows off his first lake trout before watching it swim away.

on hamburgers and watching the sunset, we both
agreed that there were few
places we would rather be.


6/17/04 –
The finer points of beard growing have long been a topic of discussion amongst
the Sawbill Crew. We have talked about having an official beard growing competition
for several summers, but until now no such competition has taken place. I am proud
to report that the first annual Sawbill Beard Off has officially begun! Over the
next six weeks you will be able to laugh and cry along with the competitors through
weekly Beard Off updates posted right here on the Sawbill newsletter. You will
also be able to use sophisticated online polling techniques to vote for your favorite
beard in several different categories and help judges decide who will be crowned
2004 Sawbill Beard Off Champion. Please send all fan mail to

The beard off athletes posed for photos during the 2004 Sawbill Beard Off
pre-shave warm up held in the Mobe.


might not grow the thickest beard, but with shades like those, he will be hard
to beat in the style category.

Dad told him not to grow a beard this summer before he left his Indiana home.
Walter is throwing caution to the wind and growing a beard anyway. The media buzz
so far is "Rookie of the Year" for this promising young beard grower.

is a long time beard grower, first time competitor. He plans to use a peanut butter
based facial mask to increase hair growth.
eyes are currently on Pat "the stash" Nash. This man’s face is like
a chia pet. He is expected to win the total growth category by at least an ounce.
It is people like Pat that make Beard Offs so exciting.

of a wedding, Adam Hansen
will be joining the Beard Off a few days late.
will be focusing on the longest neck
hair category, but Jeff is hoping
give him a run for his money.


6/16/04 –
Yesterday morning Alison and I were sitting in the store waiting for the first
customers of the day to arrive. It has been busy around Sawbill, but Tuesday mornings
can be pretty slow. Conversation wandered from subject to subject as we tried
to stave off boredom, and eventually our conversation got stuck on the finer points
of the laws governing the Catholic church, a bit on an odd subject considering
neither of us are Catholic. However, as I sifted through countless piles of useless
information stored in my brain I came across an interesting bit of history. I
informed Alison that in the 1700’s the Pope had sent a high ranking member of
the church to Canada for a visit. Many of the French Canadian fur traders, often
referred to as Voyageurs, were Catholic and they did their best to follow the
rules set forth by the Catholic church. The Voyageurs often found it hard to refrain
from eating meat on Fridays and one of their favorite foods was beaver meat. During
the church officials’ visit he decided that since beavers have scales on their
tails and they spend most of their time in the water they are a type of fish.
Because of this he decided that it was OK for Voyageurs to eat beaver on Fridays!
Alison was a little skeptical so we decided to go strait to the top for an answer.
Are beavers still considered acceptable fair on Fridays during Lent? With a quick
Google search we found the Pope’s address in Vatican City. We wrote the Pope a
letter and we are now anxiously awaiting his reply. – Dave

Alison mailing our question to "His Holiness Pope John Paul II"

– Visiting at Sawbill this week were Phil and Fran Higley. Their visit led us
all to think of the history of Sawbill Lodge, the American plan resort that stood
at the south end of Sawbill Lake from 1934 to 1983. Phil is the nephew of Jean
Raiken, the first and longest owner of Sawbill Lodge. He was a guide for the lodge
for a number of years through 1956. Fran accompanied Phil to Sawbill one summer,
working as a waitress. We enjoyed looking at their photos and talking with them
about the lodge. – Dave

Phil and Fran Higley

6/12/04 – Catching a mess of lake trout
last week was a ton of fun, and last night’s festive dinner was icing on the cake!
Crew member Pat Nash brought home a 8.7-pound monster and claimed the prize for
the largest fish of the trip. What was his prize, you ask? Nothing short of a
festive dinner in his honor.

Normally the crew gobbles down
their dinner at 5:45, but once or twice a summer we find an excuse to host a festive
dinner. Festive dinners take place at 9 PM after we close, and they all include
a huge spread of food and a theme. Some of my favorite memories from past festive
dinners include a toga party where several crew members wore togas made from old
blue plastic tarps, and a disco party when Bill came running into the mobe wearing
skin tight polyester pants yelling "the wolves are howling, the wolves are
howling!" causing everyone to rush outside. We formed a sweaty mass of wriggling
lycra on the porch where we enjoyed the chorus for several minutes before returning
to our own party.

The theme for last nights festive dinner
was "The Pat Nash Fish Fry". Lida, the head cook, spent 8 hours preparing
cheese cake, home fries, salads, asparagus, and a beautiful fruit plate that was
the spitting image of Pat’s monster fish. Adam and I were in charge of cooking
the fish. We filled two ovens and the grill, and we still have 3 fish left to
cook. At 9 PM everyone converged on the mobe, dressed like Pat Nash, ate more
fish than I thought was possible, and partied the night away! Man, it’s good to
be at Sawbill. – Dave

Crew enjoying "The Pat Nash Fish Fry"!

Lida shows off her fish shaped fruit plate and a hot pan of baked lake trout.
Great job Lida!

6/10/04 – OB’s back! Long time sawbill crew
member John Oberholtzer moved back to Grand Marais several months ago. Last night
OB came up for a paddle and a sauna. We hit the water around 6:30 PM and made
our way up Sawbill towards the Smoke portage. He paddled Smoke Creek almost by
accident on his first BWCAW canoe trip as a teenager but had not been back there
since. Snooping around in the Boreal Forest with OB is always a fascinating, and
yesterday was no exception. Half way down Smoke Creek we left our canoe to explore
a series of old beaver ponds and gurgling streams that empty into Smoke Creek.

I always enjoy wandering with OB because he is constantly
aware of the subtle smell of a patch of earth, the distant drum of a Grouse, or
a handful of miniature purple violets hidden in the tall grass. He looks at the
forest in an unusual way, and when you’re with him, he makes you slow down and
appreciate the little things that are so easy to pass by unnoticed. As we crept
through the tangled forest we came across a giant moss covered boulder. Cresting
the boulder we noticed a six inch crack reaching down into the earth. The bottom
of the crack was filled with ice and when we peered into the crack it was like
standing in front of a refrigerator with the cool air covering our faces. I instantly
remembered stumbling upon the same spot several years ago on a similar walk. Have
people used this place to preserve food during the hot summer months? Does the
ice effect when the plants living by the crack bloom?…..This enchanted spot
lingered in our minds as we headed back to our canoe and continued on our way.

We were soon paddling South on Sawbill Lake heading home to
join the crew for a sauna and the chance to spin a few tales about our little
adventure. Our conversation wandered from family and friends, to work and plans
for the future, but it always seemed to come back to the wilderness surrounding
us. – Dave

John Oberholtzer checking out the start of an amazing blueberry crop.

An ice-filled crack in the middle of the forest.

6/9/04 – Former
crew member, Ellen Bagnato, gave birth to Taj Lock Bagnato on Wednesday, May 26
at 6:59 am.  He weighed 7 lbs. 5 oz and was 19.5 inches long. His parents
have told us, "He is incredibly healthy, alert, and perfect!!"  

Ellen and Taj

Each year the Sawbill men take a day to
paddle, swap stories, laugh a lot, and do a little fishing. I always look forward
to this annual event, and this year’s trip lived up to its ever growing reputation.
The weather was beautiful, the fish were biting, and Nathan Terbeest caught his
first lake trout. Nathan has gone on many of these outings, but for some reason
we have never been able to get his fish in the boat. The first lake trout Nathan
hooked was about 5 years ago. He was so excited that he broke his fishing rod
in half when we set the hook and continued to fight the fish for several minutes
before it finally broke his line. A few years later he hooked one that was so
big it would not fit in our net….after several failed attempts to squeeze it
into our net it broke the line and we watched it slowly swim away. This time we
could not fail. Nathan is getting married in 10 days and the thought of ending
his unmarried life with out fulfilling his dream of catching a lake trout would
be unacceptable. So armed with a strong line, spare polls, and the largest net
I have ever seen we went fishing. Nathan landed two beautiful trout, including
an 8 pound monster. Now the crew is looking forward to a lake trout feast! – Dave

Scott, Pat, Nathan, Adam, Jeff, and Dave displaying some of the fish that
they caught.

6/7/04 – Sawbill’s newest employee, Walter, arrived several days
ago and he has been spending a lot of time in a canoe exploring near by lakes.
Yesterday Walter and I took advantage of the high water levels by paddling Smoke
Creek. Smoke Creek is a ribbon of water that twists its way from Smoke Lake into
North Sawbill. The creek is often so narrow that a canoe can barely squeeze between
its banks. Paddling a narrow creek provides a unique view of the boreal forest
that is hard to match.

Nathan TerBeest, a long time Sawbill employee, came
up for a short visit. Nathan is getting married on June 19th and he decided to
squeeze in a short fishing trip before the wedding. Nathan, Adam, Scott, Jeff,
Pat, and I are leaving to tonight. We hope to fool a few fish and treat the rest
of the crew to a fish fry when we return in a few days. Bill and Joanne Koski,
the Crescent Lake Campground hosts, have returned for another summer! Joanne stopped
in this morning for a visit and we enjoyed catching up after the long winter.
– Dave

winding his way though Smoke Creek.

Nathan, Joanne, and Bill chatting in the store.

6/5/04 – Everyone on the
crew pitched in last night and cleaned the store as a group. This allowed us all
to go out for our first all crew paddle of the summer. Paddling the Kelso Loop
was wonderful under a clear star filled sky. As we paddled down the Kelso River
the largest shooting star I have ever seen shot across the sky. The white blaze
was visible for approximately 8 seconds as it crossed in front of us and disappeared
behind the trees. For the rest of the paddle people were whispering about how
they had never seen anything like it.

More and more customers are coming
every day and the calm days of spring are over. Sawbill crew members new and old
are constantly zipping here and there stocking, cleaning, renting, and helping.
The water is warming up, the fishing is improving, and the black flies are every
where….summer is here! – Dave

sun setting over Alton Bay.

6/3/04 – Several inches of rain in 48 hours
caused Sawbill’s water level to rise almost a foot. The buzz around Sawbill was
that the loons’ nest would be flooded, so I snuck out for a paddle yesterday to
check on the loons and their nest. I found the nest surrounded by water, but the
egg was sitting high and dry about 3 inches above the water line. Good news, except
that the parents were nowhere to be seen. Hoping the parents would return from
a fishing trip soon I left the little brown egg and paddled and portaged over
to Alton Lake to wet my line. As I returned to the Alton to Sawbill portage I
was drawn to the roar of Alton creek, which leads out of the bay south of the
portage into Sawbill. Normally Alton Creek is just a trickle and doesn’t even
show up on most maps, but after the constant soaking we received last week the
creek had jumped its banks and formed a watery maze rushing through a dense cedar
thicket. I decided to follow the creek to Sawbill and began wading through the
foot deep ice water pulling my canoe over and around a labyrinth of downed trees
that choked the stream. After several minutes the stream became too steep for
wading and I was forced to shoulder my canoe and bushwhack along the creek toward
Sawbill. Ten minutes later I slid my canoe into Alton pond and paddled through
its narrow mouth into Sawbill…… My heart sank as I paddled by the loons nest
and saw the egg still sitting unattended……Returning several hours later I
could just make out one of the loons sitting on the nest under the moon lit sky.
Tonight is the full moon and the crew is going for a paddle so we can check up
on the loons again tonight! – Dave

Alton Creek surging towards Sawbill.

The loon’s nest holding back the flood and waiting for Mom and Dad to return.

6/1/04 – Tom (Hawk) Jensen sent along these pictures of his son-in law’s
dog (is that a dog-in-law?) taken on Cherokee Lake on opening weekend.

Posted on

May 2004

– Resident meteorologist Frank Hansen reported that Sawbill has received 1.82
inches of in the last 24 hours, and it is still raining! According to Frank this
is the most rain we have received in a 24 hour period in several years. Rain rain
go away and come again some other day!

If you called several days ago to
see if we had found your digital camera accessories, please call us back because
we think we have the box of accessories you were looking for. – Dave

Dave, Sonya, and Pat take a breaking from canoe repair.

– I awoke at 5 a.m and traces of fog visible through my window urged me to rise
early. I began trotting towards the landing with a canoe on my shoulders and a
paddle in hand when I caught site of the lakes mirror smooth surface. Sawbill
was layered in fog making it hard to distinguish where the water ended and air
began. A juvenile bald eagle eyed me as it scanned the shoreline for a meal, its
molted coat catching the golden rays of the pre-dawn light as it flew.

North the bow of my canoe pierced the lake’s glassy surface. A loon preened and
stretched it wings before diving for a fish. Its mate sat near by keeping a single
speckled egg warm and safe. Loons mate for life and take turns guarding their
nests and looking for food. Floating in the silence, my mind wandered back to
the pairs courtship dance and haunting calls I witnessed a few days ago. With
some diligent parenting and a little luck there will be three loons leaving Sawbill
in the Fall. – Dave

loon on its nest on sawbill Lake

Sunrise on Sawbill Lake

5/28/04 – Memorial Day Weekend arrived this
morning in typical fashion, with several groups jockeying to be the first out
the door and on the water at 7 a.m. They are enjoying a truly beautiful day today
in the north country, so I can’t blame them for being eager. The sky is robin’s
egg blue, the water is azure, and the trees are fresh green. The leaves are just
beginning to peek out. This is one of the latest summer onsets in recent memory.

cold water temperatures (50 degrees at the surface yesterday), walleye fishing
is starting to pick up–mostly males caught so far. The northerns are biting well,
too, although it seems like the smaller sizes are more active. A few early butterflies
have appeared, the warblers are singing their hearts out, and yesterday I saw
two beautiful rose breasted grosbeaks. Their song sounds like a robin that has
had musical training.

brand, spanking new canoes for your paddling pleasure?

5/15/04 – Last night
at 12:01 the Minnesota fishing season started. Yesterday we had several groups
head out to their favorite fishing spot ready for that first cast of the year.
The temperature dropped below freezing again last night and the puddles around
the store were frozen this morning when I woke up. Clear sunny skies soon unveiled
a beautiful day for paddling and maybe a little fishing. Bill and I spotted a
enjoying the morning sun. These lightening fast little predators are
always a treat to see.

We have also added Online
Reservation Forms
to our website. Feel free to use these secure forms to make
a reservation for your next trip.

– Dave

5/13/04- A storm caused our
main phone lines to go out at approximately 5:30 PM last night. Bill was able
to get the phones working again around noon today and the phone has been ringing
off the hook ever since. We are sorry if our phone troubles caused you any inconvenience.
Life in the woods is never dull! I guess having your phones stop working for a
few hours is a small price to pay when you live a stone’s throw from the BWCAW!

for your call,

– Dave

5/8/04 – For the first time
ever, Sawbill is holding a huge used and overstock equipment sale in the spring/summer.
This sale features a stock of unusual items which we will not be selling again
for the foreseeable future, including solo canoes, three-person canoes, kids’
and infant life vests, packs, paddles (canoe and kayak), rain gear, and loads
of other stuff. Proceed to the
Used Equipment
for more information.

– The ice is out on Sawbill Lake. Today (May 1) is the statistical average for
ice out on Sawbill Lake since records have been kept. How’s that for exciting?
Unlike most years, when the ice is totally finished off by a period of warm weather,
the ice is receding slowly this year. Alton Lake still has a few inches of ice,
and we assume the larger, northern lakes, like Cherokee and Little Saganaga,
are still frozen. Baker and Kawishiwi Lakes are confirmed open.

for us at the ranch, we spent the day detailing our new fleet of Wenonah MN2s,
MN3s and Prisms, getting them ready for the rigors of rental. We are expecting
Santa Claus to bring us some more shiny new boats next week from Souris River,
Bell and Alumacraft.

Posted on

April 2004

4/28/04 – Steve Wilbers, noted author and
long time Sawbill canoeist, has compiled an excellent
chronology of the BWCA Wilderness. He has it broken down into four different options:
long, short, wilderness management,
natural history.

Sawbill Lake at Noon on
April 28th. At least a couple of more days until the ice is gone.

4/27/04 – Sawbill Lakes ice is no longer
safe to stand on to drill a hole. From shore, it looks like about
a foot of total ice, although much of it is highly degraded.
Yesterday had a high temperature of 34 degree with snow falling
off and on all day. Last night the low was 18 degree. Today it is
in the high 30s with snow showers. Warm weather is in the
forecast though. If that holds, the ice should go out during the
weekend. Predictions are always dangerous though 🙂 – Bill

4/22/04 – The ice is now 16" thick
with 9" of slush on top and 7" of hard ice underneath.
The forecast calls for a couple of cold nights, but then high
temperatures in the low sixties over the weekend.

4/19/04 – Our first new crew member, Molly
Breslin, arrived yesterday from California by way of Illinois.

Molly in a late April snow shower at the
Sawbill Lake canoe landing.

The official ice thickness measurement was a bit
of a challenge today. An even inch of rain yesterday left the
lake with 8 – 10" of slush on top of ~10" of hard ice.
The slush was just deep enough to go over the tops of my boots,
giving my feet a refreshing slush treatment.

An inch of rain creates deep slush on top of
10" of solid ice on Sawbill Lake.

Cindy, Carl and Clare Hansen return today from a
10 day visit to the Caribbean island of Anguilla. Cindy’s step
father has a house there that he is kind enough to let us borrow.

Carl, Clare, and Cindy suffering in the

4/13/04 – We’ve been getting lots of
questions about the ice, how thick it is, etc. So visiting
former-crewmember Eric Frost, his girlfriend Jessa, and I headed
out to explore the Kelso Loop by ski and report back to you. The
ice on South Sawbill Lake is 27" thick. The Kelso River is
about 15 percent open, as is Kelso Bay on Sawbill Lake. We were
able to ski around the open water, but I don’t think we’ll
attempt it again this season.

One of our beloved golden retrievers,
Sunnie, fell through and needed my assistance to get back on the
ice. I crawled over to her on my belly and yanked her out by her
collar. She immediately showed her appreciation with a full body
shake inches from my head. Loyal readers of this page will
remember Sunnie’s late brother, Gust, who died a few years ago
when he fell through the ice exploring Sawbill Creek by himself.
This is a wonderful place for animals, but not without hazard.

4/6/04 – Adam and Dave are back from their
adventures. They are very tanned, but only on their faces.

It is melting very fast here. The high is
going to be near 60 today. The lake has been perfect for ski
travel, but I would start to worry about ice integrity pretty
soon. Cindy and I are going on vacation this week, but I will
encourage Adam and Dave to start testing the ice thickness and
reporting the results here. – Bill

Latest Update from Adam and Dave on the Wilderness
Classroom Adventure in northern Manitoba.
Last update.

Posted on

March 2004

3/24/04 – We received a surprise visit
today from former Sawbill crew member Jeff (Tuffy) Thompson (1995
– 1998) and his girlfriend, Lynn Schrader. He had not visited for
several years and was amazed by the remodeling of our main
building. Jeff is currently a graduate student at the University
of Missouri School of Journalism in photo journalism. He was
recently awarded a "Pictures of the Year International Excellence
for his photo story of the great Iowa bicycle tour, Ragbrai. This is one of the world’s most prestigious photo
journalism awards. When Jeff worked at Sawbill, he was once
assigned the job of building a quick three-roll toilet paper
holder for our public bathroom. Rather than the simple t. p.
holder we had in mind, he spent nearly a month crafting a canoe
theme t. p. holder masterpiece. When we remodeled two years ago,
we took great pains to preserve Jeff’s creation and install it in
the new public bathroom. Who knew that it was a precursor to a
major artistic career. Some day it will be worth millions as an
original Thompson.

Jeff (Tuffy) Thompson checks
the function of his famous toilet paper holder. Jeff with his
girlfriend Lynn, who had no idea the range of Jeff’s youthful

One of Jeff’s award winning
photos. The
entire photo story is at

3/21/04 – Spring has not sprung here at
Sawbill yet. Last night the temperature hit one degree below
zero. The sun light lasts well into the evening now and the sun
feels strong during the day. I expect the next week will bring
some significant thawing. In a couple of weeks, we’ll start our
annual ice-out watch here on the newsletter.

In case you haven’t been following the
Wilderness Classroom Adventure, here is a picture of Adam on the
trail in northern Manitoba.

Looks like fun!?

3/10/04 – In the great American tradition,
Clare’s sixteenth birthday was followed by that other important
rite of passage, getting a driver’s license. It is a great relief
to us (especially Cindy) that Clare will now be able to drive
herself and Carl to and from school each day. This will reduce
our mileage and increase our hours of sleep significantly. Clare
headed off bright and early this morning with Carl riding
shotgun. They ended up being late to school and hopefully learned
a valuable lesson about driving on backwoods gravel roads at the
same time. I’ll spare you the details, but no damage was done,
except possibly to Clare’s driving reputation…

Clare exudes confidence as
Carl prepares for the worst on their first day of solo school

3/1/04 – Ed Dallas, the Poet Laureate of
Sawbill, sent along this evocative haiku today:

Sawbill tradition
each fish gains a pound or two
around the campfire