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February 2004

2/27.04 – Last night was Carl Hansen’s
acting debut at the famous Grand Marais Playhouse. He received
good reviews for his performance in the Playhouse’s Ten Minute
Theater Festival. Today is Clare Hansen’s 16th birthday. Happy
birthday Clare!

Carl, in costume,
contemplates Clare as she turns sweet sixteen.

2/18/04 – We received the following email
and photos from Bob Henry. The "CCC" he refers to is
the Civilian Conservation Corps camp that was located on the
Sawbill Trail 6 miles south of Sawbill Lake. It was a large camp
with hundreds of men. The CCC was a very successful federal
program to create employment for young men during the depression.
– Bill

Bill & Frank
I am sending an attachment of photos from 1958, when my dad,
Wayne "Pinky" Henry stayed at the campground with his
siblings. Wayne began his Sawbill journey back in the 30’s at the
CCC just South of Sawbill Lake. I began annual visits in 1961,
and enjoy my annual trips. Feel free to share this on your
newsletter if you wish. Thank you for years of service and great
memories. Wayne passed away in 1968 at only 51 years of age.

Bob Henry

Pinky Henry with an early
pop-up camper at Sawbill (not sure of exact location). The
Sawbill Lake canoe landing in 1958.

Alton to Sawbill Lake
portage, looking toward Sawbill. The narrow gauge railway
extended into the water so boats could be floated on to the car
and pulled across portage. The railway was removed in the early

2/17/04 – We had a number of former Sawbill
crew ladies visit over President’s Weekend. Eight former crew
members joined us for coffee, visiting, cross country skiing,
wine, game playing, and laughter. Patti Olson, Michele Thieman,
Annie Strupeck, Beth Rolf, Sandy Zinn, Ellen Lock-Bagnato, Kate
Surbaugh, and Steve Surbaugh (not a lady, but oh well) were in
attendance, at least for part of the weekend.

Michele, Sandy, Ellen,
Patti, Beth, Annie, and Cindy. Not pictured – Kate and Steve.

Adam Hansen and Dave Freeman
have posted the
first update from their two month sled dog adventure in northern Manitoba. – Bill

2/12/04 – Last summer, a black wolf hung
around the Sawbill Trail. He was nearly fearless and approached
within a few feet of cars and campsites. He never seemed hostile,
but clearly was seeking out human beings. We guessed that he was
a wolf/dog hybrid or had been raised in captivity. This fall he
moved down near Highway 61 and became well known among the
residents of Tofte. We feared for his safety as there are still
uninformed people who shoot every wolf they see. In the end, it
was a speeding car on Highway 61 that killed him. His body was
recovered by the local game warden and there is some talk about
getting permission to have him stuffed for educational purposes.

The distinctive black wolf seen by many Sawbill
visitors during the summer of ’04.

On the same day that the black wolf died,
Carl Hansen took a hard fall on his snowboard while riding at
Lutsen Mountains. He separated his shoulder and is now sporting a
magnificent rainbow colored bruise from his shoulder to his
elbow. It prematurely ended his season with the Cook County High
School cross country ski team. Carl is healing fast though and
expects to be back on his snow board and cross country skis this
weekend. – Bill

2/8/04 – Frank Hansen turned 83 years old
on Friday, February 6th. He is in good health and spirits.

I just returned from delivering Adam and
Dave to Norway House, Manitoba, where they have embarked on their
two month sled dog adventure in the wilds of Canada. We had a
great trip up with frequent stops to let the dogs stretch their
legs. We speculated about what the dogs thought of downtown
Winnipeg. They all had their noses poking out of their boxes as
we negotiated the busy streets. Everywhere we went, we were
treated to the warm Manitoban hospitality. Dean McLoed and his
family were very kind to us in Winnipeg. They let us keep the dog
truck in their driveway overnight and helped us exercise the team
in the local dog park. We also visited the St. James Ravensway
School where Dean is a science teacher. He happened to be
teaching an interim class on winter camping skills, so Dave and
Adam’s appearance was well timed. In Grand Rapids, Manitoba we
met up with Gerald McKay and his friend Preston. We spent the
night at Gerald’s house and they accompanied us on the four hour
drive up to Norway House where they introduced us to several of
their friends and relatives. Both men are born and raised in
northern Manitoba and had many good stories to tell. their
lifestyles are similar, in many ways, to the lifestyle here in
the northwoods of Minnesota. Their lakes, rivers and woods are
similar, and they have even have Lake Winnipeg, which has a
similar feel to Lake Superior. They have a deep sense of their
history and a great sense of humor.

Adam and Dave got underway by dog power on
Saturday, February 7th. They will be
posting journal updates three times a
– Bill

Adam rides the dog
sled as Gerald McKay drives and laughs. Lichen watches the big
world unfold during the 20 hours of driving to Norway House.

Posted on

January 2004

1/29/04 – Adam and Dave have been up on Frost Lake for the
last four days on a training trip before they depart for northern
Manitoba. They have had a good test with 10" of snow on the
first day and temperatures of -30F last night. They were actually
due back yesterday, but the heavy snow and slush between the lake
ice and snow cover slowed them down. You can read their
journal entries on-line.

My regular sunset ski was a
chilly one last night with temperatures at 5 PM reading -16F and
dropping. A 25 mph northwest wind added to the face numbing
conditions. Part of our ski trail runs on an old logging road. As
I crested a small rise I was surprised to see a large, black
animal about 20 yards ahead. It was late twilight, that time of
day when objects appear in silhouette, with all detail lost. At
first I thought it was the large black wolf that has been a
regular visitor for the last year. It turned out to be a moose
calf. It stopped when it saw me. We looked each other over and it
ambled off behind a row of spruce trees. On my next loop around
the trail, the calf’s mother was standing in the same spot. She
was unwilling to move, so I respectfully skied around her. I was
happy to return to a warm, inviting house after my ski, instead
of spending the night bedded down in the snow like the moose. –

The Sawbill Store
hunkers down under 3′ of snow and -30F temperatures.

1/20/04 – We have been enjoying some real
northwoods winter weather and activity recently. Last night the
temperature dipped to -26 F. Adam and Dave’s dog team has been
living on the Sawbill parking lot for the last couple of weeks.
Every day they take a run out into the wilderness as they toughen
up man, beast, and equipment for their big adventure to come. With the cold temperatures and
18" of new snow in the last week, conditions have been
perfect for sub-arctic training. The dogs are friendly and well
socialized. They each have a distinctive personality and several
are real characters. – Bill

Adam feeds the team. L – R:
Thistle, Daisy, Munchkin, Fennel, Saylex, and Lichen. Homer
lounges near the sled while the "working" dogs eat

Adam gives Munchkin a hug.
She is the mother or grandmother of the other five dogs.

1/7/04 – The howling of sled dogs is
floating through the air as the thermometer heads for -20 degrees
F again tonight. Dave Freeman and Adam Hansen of are living at Sawbill as they train for their two
month sled dog adventure in northern Manitoba. Beginning in
February, the six alaskan huskies and two men will be in the deep
frozen wilderness while staying connected to hundreds of school
children via satellite phone and the internet. I will be putting
more information about their journey here in the near future.

Lynx are being sighted with regularity all
over northeastern Minnesota in the last couple of years. The
University of Minnesota has managed to live trap a few, including
one quite near Sawbill, and track their movements via radio
beacon collars. You can see the maps of the lynx’ travels at the
Lynx of the Great Lakes website
Lynx #5 is the one that was trapped near here. We saw it
ourselves several times during the last year.

Canada Lynx are again fairly
common in Northeastern Minnesota. (Photo from U of M)

Here are a few more pictures
from the fun we had over the holiday season:

Holiday greeting on Sawbill
Lake for passing satellites courtesy of Tess Dornfeld.

(L-R) Nathan, Belinda, Max,
Kari, Ruthie, Carl, Lida, Homer, Tess, Clare, Carol, Kirk, and
Britta. Sawbill crew – past, present and future – on Sawbill Lake
at the stroke of midnight 1/1/2004.

Kari and Clare return from a
snowmobile ride. Lida showing the effect of a 16 kilometer
backcountry ski to Smoke Lake at -10 degrees F.

Posted on

December 2003

12/31/03 – This is a surprisingly busy time
of year at Sawbill. It is the time when we are constantly
surrounded by family, friends, former and current crew members.
The days are filled with cross country skiing, downhill skiing
and snowboarding, ice fishing, cooking, eating, drinking, game
playing. laughing, saunas, music, dancing, and constant
conversation. In between visitors, we have been traveling to
Carl’s cross country ski meets and practices. Tonight we will
bring in the new year with board games and the traditional
midnight ski. We are thinking of everyone who is not with us and
hoping for you to have the happiest, most peaceful new year

While walking across the lake to set up the
fish house we came across the very fresh footprints of a large
lone wolf. Perhaps it is the black wolf that we have been seeing
all year. He was most recently sighted by the county grader
driver just a few miles north of Tofte. It is not unusual for him
to travel over twenty miles in one day. – Bill

Ruthie maintains vigilance
in the traditional Minnesota manner while Bill baits a hook in
the background. Ruthie, Bill, Adam and Clare Hansen show off the
result. (Photo by Lida Storch.)

12/15/03 – Brian Tofte and his son, Eric,
were fishing on Sawbill Saturday when a mink came running across
the lake and ran right up to Eric. He started feeding it minnows
and it hung around all afternoon.

Eric Tofte and his new friend on Sawbill Lake
about half a mile north of the canoe landing, 12/13/03.

12/11/03 – The great horned owl that ran
into Cindy’s car
awhile back is now a resident of the Minnesota Zoo. Although
he recovered from his trauma pretty well, the vets at the Raptor Center
determined that his eyesight was damaged enough that he shouldn’t
be released back into the wild. – Bill

12/10/03 – Schroeder resident, Charles Lamb, and his son Will
have been fishing regularly on Alton Lake. They came in about 9
PM last night and reported good walleye fishing. They had been
getting just a few fish per day.

Last weekend was a festive one here at Sawbill. Some of us
traveled to the big city of Duluth for two days of bowling,
movies, shopping, holiday parties and meetings. On Sunday we
gathered our Christmas tree, an elaborate event that includes
many odd traditions and jokes. Eventually, we did return with a
lovely tree. We also celebrated Carl Hansen’s 14th birthday.
Cindy out did herself with a custom cake portraying Carl, Clare
and Bill on their snowboards and Cindy on skis having a close
encounter with a tree. – Bill

Carl and Clare scout for, and finally cut the
perfect tree.

The tree after it has been trimmed and the
famous cake depicting a typical scene at Lutsen Mountains Ski

12/4/03 – – This is supposed to be our “quiet��? time of
year, but with two teenagers in the house, and the holiday season
upon us, it seems we never sit down. We did get the phones
working again, thanks to our dedicated technician, Steve Schuh.
Hopefully, they will stay fixed for awhile.

We started cross country skiing here at Sawbill on Sunday,
November 30th. That is a little later than usual, but
with the winters we have these days, we are grateful to be skiing
at all. The trails in the woods don’t have quite enough snow to
ski on yet (~10��?), but the unplowed campground roads are
groomed to perfection. The lake formed a fair amount of slush
after the heavy snow landed on relatively thin ice. The slush, in
turn, froze during the last couple of cold nights, so travel on
the lakes is pretty good right now. – Bill

Posted on

November 2003

11/26/03 – Our phone is working again, at least enough to get
calls that come our way. The whole system should be fixed by
tomorrow afternoon.

We had just one more lovely day of ice skating on Sawbill Lake
last Saturday before seven inches of snow fell. Carl and I skated
all the way to the north end of the lake, about five miles, one
way. On the large center section of Sawbill. the ice was a huge,
perfectly smooth black sheet.

Carl strides across a
flawless surface just before 7" of snow ended lake skating
for the year.

11/24/03 – Due to a bizarre combination of circumstances, all
three of our radio phone systems have been out of order for the
last few days. We hope to have them fixed soon, but in the
meantime you can reach us by email. Sorry for the inconvenience.
– Bill

11/21/03 – After the recent warm spell, the temperature
dropped last night and froze the standing water on Sawbill Lake
in a continuous smooth surface. This is what we wait for. I put
the blades on just before sunset and headed out. Sawbill was
frozen about 4" thick in most places and about 2.5"
thick in some places. There is still open water around the tips
of the islands and points, so a skater has to stay alert. I
thought Alton would be fun to skate on too, but I received a
surprise when I walked across the portage. Alton is still
completely unfrozen! – Bill

Sawbill Lake as seen
from just in front of the portage to Alton (notice skate tracks
in foreground) and Alton Lake as seen from the end of the portage
– 11/21/03.

11/19/03 – Being that Sawbill is at the end of the road, my
daily exercise often consists of running, somewhat monotonously,
up and down the Sawbill Trail. In spite of repeating the route
literally thousands of times, I always see something that makes
it interesting. On Monday, I was outbound at about quarter to
five. As I passed through the grove of mature aspen trees about a
mile and a half from Sawbill, I heard one of the trees crack
loudly during a brisk gust of wind. It particularly got my
attention because I was knocked cold by the falling top of an old
aspen about eight years ago. Although waking up in the middle of
the woods with a headache and no short term memory was an
interesting experience, I have no desire to repeat it. Nothing
fell this time though and I continued my run. On the way back, in
exactly the same spot, another gust of wind brought the
unmistakable sound of a tree breaking in half. As I looked up, I
saw about forty feet of aspen tree falling right at me. A few
quick steps took me out of harm’s way, but the tree came to rest
less than five feet from where I had been running when it started
its descent. Both of the dogs, who were running with me, lay down
and curled up into balls when the heard the crash. The rest of my
run was nearly effortless as the adrenaline worked its way
through my system. It is just a reminder that forest is beautiful
and benign, but ultimately has no feeling, one way or the other,
for we who pass through it. – Bill

11/18/03 – Long time Sawbill crew member and current
University of Chicago student, Ruthie Hansen, has published an
article in the hip new Chicago area on-line magazine Gapers Block
She describes the preparation of "queso" which is
familiar to all Sawbill crew members from the last decade.

11/16/03 – It has been a truly quiet week at Sawbill. After
the cold snap that iced over the lakes (4.5��? thick as of
yesterday) we got more snow and the temperatures have warmed up.
We are disappointed that the lakes have not been suitable for ice
skating this season. Skating is one of the great joys of living
in the north woods in the rare years when the ice is thick and
smooth enough. Our friend and noted author, Peter Leschak, says
it well in his recent
essay in the Minnesota Volunteer Magazine.

Meanwhile, we have been brainstorming alternative methods of
frozen lake recreation. Carl Hansen, and his cousin, Will
Hutchinson, decided that Sawbill Lake would make a good driving
range to hone their golf swings. They painted a few balls dark
green, recruited Homer the retriever as an automatic ball return,
and hit the links.

Carl and Will showing
good form on a wide fairway.

While the boys were golfing, Cindy Hansen was hosting her
annual Christmas cookie baking marathon. Her sister, Sherrie
Hutchinson, niece Anna, nephew Will, joined the rest of the
Hansens in kicking out a few hundred cookies.

Anna reaches for just
one of the many decorated sugar cookies on the countertop.

11/7/03 – Sawbill Lake froze over yesterday, November 6th.
This is a fairly normal date for ice up. In recent years, we’ve
been averaging a later ice up date. We have about 5" of snow
standing on ground. The ice is not safe for travel yet, but it is
supposed to be below zero tonight, so that should firm things up

Sawbill Lake as seen
from the canoe landing at 1 pm on Friday, 11/7/03.

Posted on

October 2003

10/30/03 – Tomorrow is my final day of working at Sawbill.
After 2 1/2 years, its time for me to move on to a new adventure.
The time I’ve spent here will always be something held very
dear in my heart. I’ll miss the calm of the lake, the silence
of the air, and the brilliance of the stars. I’ll miss the
excitement of the first customers of the season – and the
excitement of the last customers of the season. I’ll miss the
Beach Club and late night swims. I’ll miss the sauna – oh,
the lovely, lovely sauna. I’ll miss Homer and Sunnie and even
Alice the ornery cat. I’ll miss the Hansen’s who have shown me
so much warmth and generosity and have truly welcomed me into
their family. And I’ll miss writing about all of these things.

As hard as it is to leave this place and these people, I know
that Sawbill is something that becomes a part of your soul, and
you can hold onto it even when you’re not here. Once you’ve
been a part of Sawbill, it becomes a part of you. – Beth

10/30/03 – Justin Lee, who travels all the way from Singapore
for his annual Sawbill canoe trip, sent this link to
pictures from his most recent BWCA Wilderness experience.
underwater fish photos are excellent.

It looks like winter might be here to stay. Although Sawbill
Lake isn’t frozen yet, we are getting a little more snow
everyday. – Bill

10/27/03 – Former Sawbill crew members Dave Freeman and Eric
Frost are starting another educational adventure with their
non-profit organization Wilderness Classroom.
They have just arrived in Costa Rica for two months of exploring
that beautiful and interesting country. They will be joined for
the first few weeks by Erik Hoekstra, another former Sawbill crew
member. You can follow their progress by reading their "Notes
From the Trail"
on the web. – Bill

Current Sawbill crew member, Adam Hansen, will be working with
Wilderness Classroom for the next six months or so. He is helping
with logistics during the Costa Rica Project and will be joining
Dave for the Boreal
Forest Project
, a several hundred mile, two month sled dog
trip in northern Manitoba during February and March.

Sawbill is thrilled to be a sponsor of this wonderful
educational initiative. – Bill

10/26/03 – We had hoped that the solar flare activity during
the past few days would bring some northern light activity here.
The days have been cloudy but the nights have cleared off. The
stars have been sparkling, but, unfortunately, no northern lights
have been in the sky.

We spent the better part of the afternoon putting canoes away
for the winter. Cindy then traded in all the fishing poles,
tackle boxes, and snorkel gear on her porch for skis, snowboards,
and sleds. Snow is predicted for tomorrow and tuesday. We’re
hoping for lots. -Beth

10/24/03 – An unexpected snowfall greeted us this morning. At
least an inch of heavy wet snow is already on the ground and more
continues to fall. A gray fog hangs in the air since the
temperature is hovering right around freezing. As I walked over
to the store this morning and a bright red pine grosbeak perched
on a snow covered tree branch – standing out like a christmas
ornament. Many of the winter resident birds have arrived –
including evening and pine grosbeaks, purple finches and juncos.
-Beth (pictures by Bill)

Snowy Sawbill

10/22/03- Last Saturday was pumpkin carving night! Cindy,
Carl, and Clare picked out some interesting pumpkins to challenge
our creative skills this year – but we carved our fingers raw and
came up with quite a batch of jack-o-lanterns. Kari and Adam
teamed up and created Split Personality Pumpkin. Adam carved
Kari’s likeness on one side and Kari carved Adam’s on the
opposite. Carl, wishing crew member Missy could be here in
person, somehow managed to capture her vibrant personality in his
creation. My friends who were visiting went more for the horror
angle, and created a masterpiece that is sure to give the kids
nightmares. Former Crew member Carol Winter and her husband Kirk
Dornfeld and their family was also here for the big event and
carved up outstanding pumpkins as well. -Beth

Split Personality
Pumpkin – First its Kari, then its Adam (including Adam’s facial
hair experiment), We call it "Tastes like Chicken" and
a pumpkin version of Missy.

Witches dancing on
cauldrons. The Crazy Carving Crew (Carl is missing from the


10/20/03 – For the first time since early May, we have no
customers in the wilderness here at Sawbill. All the canoes are
safely back in the yard after a busy summer season. This is a
poignant time of year for us. The chief joy of this business is
the vivid, interesting, and friendly clients that we are
privileged to deal with day to day. However, we always have a
bittersweet feeling at this time of year. It is a relief to see
the end of the 14 hour days, relax a bit, and enjoy the peace and
quiet the envelopes us. There is still plenty of work to do.
Taking inventory, draining water systems, putting canoes and
equipment into storage, and a hundred other chores will occupy
our days for the next few weeks. But the end is in sight and we
are all grateful. Grateful for the opportunity to live in this
unique corner of paradise; grateful for another safe and
successful season; and grateful to all of you who make this a
special place of trust and renewal. – Bill

10/15/03 – We have an update from the University of Minnesota
Raptor Center on the two raptors that were rescued near Sawbill
this year. The sharp shinned hawk chick that was found on the
Sawbill Trail this summer has been released back into the wild in
the same spot were it was found. It spent a couple of months at
the Raptor Center recuperating, growing up, and being trained to
hunt. The great horned owl that flew into Cindy’s car last week
is now at the Raptor Center where it is alert and eating well.
The veterinarians are treating an injured eye and hoping for a
full recovery.

The Forest Service completed three fairly large prescribed
burns in the BWCA Wilderness last week. What follows is their
official report:

Kekekabic Lake Fire – This is a 2,618-acre unit situated along
the western edge of the Gunflint Trail. Kekekabic a blowdown unit
associated with the 1999 July 4th Storm. The unit was ignited at
1300 on October 9th utilizing a PSD and two helitorchs. Vigorous
fire behavior was observed in the areas of pure blowdown. In
areas of 50% or less blowdown, low to moderate fire behavior was
observed. No significant events reported. Only 80% of the unit
was ignited. However, the dry weather over the past two days
enabled the fire to spread into the unburned portions of the
unit. Kekekabic is 100% complete.

Arc Lake Fire – This is a 2,633-acre unit located inside the
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) just to the west of
the Gunflint Trail. Arc Lake is a blowdown unit associated with
the 1999 July 4th Storm. Unit was ignited at 1000 on October 10th
using a PSD, two helitorchs, and hand ignition. As expected,
areas of blowdown burned intensively while areas with no blowdown
did not sustain fire spread. Objectives were met with no
significant events reported. Only 90% of the unit was ignited,
but the dry weather yesterday evening and this morning enabled
the fire to spread into the unburned potions of the unit. Arc
Lake – is 100% complete.

Honker Lake Fire – This is a 1,553-acre unit located inside
the BWCAW. Honker is a blowdown unit associated with the 1999
July 4th Storm. The unit was ignited this morning using a PSD and
two helitorchs. Approximately 75% of the unit was ignited before
a strong, wet weather system shut down operations. Objectives
were met with no significant events reported. Honker is 75%
complete at this time.

Future Plans: Cool, humid weather has settled into the area
for the next few days – effectively shutting down burning
operations. Top of the Trail ICP will be completely demobed by
Sunday October 12. If the weather cooperates, the Superior
National Forest plans to continue to burn blowdown units until
winter weather finally shuts down operations. This will be the
last update until such time.

Total acres completed during this effort: 6,401
Cost per acre (estimate): $55
For further information contact:
Ellen Bogardus-Szymaniak
(218) 327-4571 (office)

10/12/03 – We received a couple of messages from canoeists who
were out during the bad weather a couple of weeks ago. Scott
Durnell sent this link
to 109 images from his recent trip.

Jack and Debbie Cook sent the following note and picture from
their trip:

Hi Bill,
I just wanted to drop you a note of thanks for our memorable Ella
Lake trip. Deb and I are very appreciative of the hospitality
you and your crew showed us. We are already looking forward to
next season. Attached is a photo from our adventure, and I’d
like you to note two things. From the marks on the side of the
tent, you can see the ol’ Eureka withstood the polar bear attack,
and I am safely inside while my wonderful wife is out is the
elements taking the shot. I think next year on the Outfitting
Reservation Form, in the weather column, we’ll check the sunny
and 60 box instead of the snow and 30! Thanks again, and I wish
you and your family well. Also thank Beth for her help, Deb and
I will miss her next time.

Jack Cook waves from
the comfort (?) of his tent on Ella Lake, October 1st, 2003.

10/10/03 – Strong breezes over the past two days have blown
down most of the leaves – but the tamarack trees are glowing
gold. The warm weather has continued, but rain is predicted for
tomorrow. -Beth

Fall has arrived at
Sawbill Lake

10/08/03 – A flash of summer-like weather has distracted us
from work for the past few days. Lunch outside, an afternoon
hike, long paddles and even a quick swim by Bill (the rest of us
just watched in amazement) have all taken priority over what is
on the work schedule. While the peak leaf color has passed, the
birch and poplar still have some brilliant yellows hanging on and
the warm sunlight is showing them off today. The leaves on the
ground have begun to dry out and are taking on the familiar smell
of fall. This is all quite a change from a week ago when heavy
snow showers made it impossible to see the opposite shore of the
lake. The warm weather is supposed to hang on through the
weekend. -Beth

10/6/03 – We received this nice note from David Poretti the
other day:


I just wanted to drop you a note of thanks – not only for the
last trip but
for all the others as well.

The folks I brought up had little or no camping experience, and
prospect of a BWCA trip was very intimidating and exciting for
them. With
your helpfulness, their experience was very positive, and now
they can’t
wait to come back up again! It took me a while to convince them
that they
really didn’t want to see a bear or a moose up close, but they
did get an
opportunity to dissect bear poop (one of the deposits we found
had poop
with several undigested M & M’s, another was very fresh –
still moist).
Even having breakfast in a downpour didn’t dampen their sprits –
they were
very happy that we had set the tents properly and that everything
dry through the rainstorm – and that I was able to cook a hot
meal in the
rain – they also learned a lot about themselves and the things
that they
can do while they got some practice and lessons in problem
solving without
going back to your shop to buy the remedy!

Finally, your generous help in providing tools to detach and
reattach the
battery cable for my friends car was much appreciated, as were
the jumper
cables, though it turns out that we didn’t need them.

I am looking forward to next spring when I can return to the
Garden of

I hope you guys all have a great fall and winter, and find time
to have
some fun!

David Poretti

10/5/03 – Driving home from our night
out in Grand Marais last night, a great horned owl dropped
straight out of a tree and ran into the passenger side fender on
the truck. It was lying unconscious on its back in the middle of
the road, but was still breathing. Kari gently scooped it up in
her fleece jacket and placed it in the back of the truck. By the
time we got back to Sawbill, the owl had revived and was standing
up. We left the doors to the back of the truck open all night,
but it was still sitting there in the morning. It was very aware
of its surroundings and even puffed up to several times its
normal size when it saw Homer the dog walk by. This morning, Dave
took it down to bird rehabilitater, Bernie Brooks, in Tofte.
Bernie will feed and water it before handing it off to the Raptor
Center at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities.

The great horned owl
hit the side of the truck hard enough to leave a dent.

Last night was the homecoming dance at the Cook County High
School. The entire fall Sawbill crew, along with visiting former
crew member, Dave Freeman, went down to see Clare make her
entrance in her formal dress. After the dance started, we all
went to the Gunflint Tavern to hear our friend and long time
Sawbill camper, Pete Mathison, play bass with virtuoso mandolin
player Chris Silver. – Bill

L – R: Dave Freeman,
Beth Rolf, Clare Hansen, Adam Hansen, Kari Anderson-Herman, Missy

Posted on

September 2003

9/30/03 – Well, the snow accumulated overnight. The best part
about the first snow is the subtle, fresh smell that presages the
deep cold to come. – Bill

9/29/03 – We had our first snow today! There were a few flakes
this morning and then several showers of heavy, wet flakes this

Can you see the
flakes against the life vest washing wall?

Adam, Clare, and Carl Hansen had a successful hunt for grouse
yesterday. Adam acted as the guide, Carl did the shooting, Clare
rung their necks and they all helped with the cleaning. If they
get a few more next weekend, we’ll all enjoy the eating. – Bill

Happy hunters, Carl,
Adam, and Clare Hansen.

9/25/03 – Our used equipment is now on sale. We have a good
selection of canoes, packs, tents, life vests, stoves, tents,
Thermarest sleeping pads, sleeping bags and cookkits. You can see
pictures and specifications at Used
Equipment For Sale – Updated for Fall 2003

9/24/03 – Rob Lerman, from New Jersey, and Chris Twarok, from
Virginia, sent along these pictures from their recent canoe trip.
They said the eagle kept them nearly constant company on Cherokee
Lake, including waiting each evening for them to clean their

9/22/03 – We received this lovely email from Mark Kitzing

I was sitting here looking at pictures from the Sawbill area
and thought I’d share a thought.

The Paddle

The paddle leans on the thwart
I place on leg over the side and let the water
run off the other before sitting
I center myself on the seat
I hold the paddle

I hold the paddle with a familiar feel
The wood feels right in my hands
The varnish feels smooth
The worn areas with less are held

The paddle strokes three times
I switch sides with water dripping a bit on the
The paddle glides through the water several
The paddle makes an outward move as it leaves to
enter again

The paddle switched sides
The paddle in my hands, left hand on top, right
on the shaft
The paddle moves my arms shoulders, and waist
The paddle in my hands

Anyways, we’ve been up your way many years now, my first to the
BW was 1969, and for a long time yours has been our destination.
Kids are in college now. They grew up with at least one yearly
trip from the age of three. Sometimes we’d canoe trip and others
we’d stay at the Forest Service campgrounds. It’s been my wife
and I the last couple of years. Just wanted to thank you for
providing the canoes I’ve used for many years from your livery.
I guess I’m in a mood brought on by an evening of the sound of
rain, acoustic music, and a hint of fall.


9/20/03 – We had 2.5" of rain here yesterday. It was
great to see the puddles standing in front of the store. It is a
beautiful sunny day today. Everything is washed clean and fresh
in the crisp fall air.

A hard, all day rain
is a welcome sight after a dry summer.

Even though we haven’t had our first frost yet, the chill in
the air inspired Ed Dallas, the Poet Laureate of Sawbill, to send
along this little poem:

autumn canoe trip
both hands hold the coffee cup
morning frost

9/17/03 – The fall colors are just getting underway here in
canoe country. In the hills above Lake Superior the maples are
nearing their peak. Here at Sawbill there are splashes of color
in the underbrush but the trees are sill mostly green. That
should change this week though. The white and red pines are all
showing a tinge of orange as their older needles drop. The
tamaracks save their glory for the end of October. After all the
other leaves have departed, tamaracks, the only conifer to lose
all its needles each year, blaze with gold glory.

A black wolf has been spotted by many Sawbill campers over the
last week. He is coal black from head to toe with wild yellow
eyes. He may be an escaped or released domestically raised wolf
because he seems to seek out human beings. He shows no sign of
hostility, but at over 100 pounds, he is not to be trifled with.
I suspect that he will end up gracing numerous calendars and
postcards in the next few years as he has been much photographed
recently. – Bill

9/11/03 – A long string of beautiful sunny days and cool,
clear nights have planted us firmly into fall. The maple leaves
have begun changing colors and splashes of red, yellow, and
orange in the trees are increasing. The annual group of Carleton
College freshmen orientation trips has come and gone – the weather
was about as perfect as it can get in September and lots of
smiling faces returned after their four days in the BWCA. We’ve
shifted into our early fall hours and we are open from 8 am to 8
pm, seven days a week. The water levels are a little below normal
but nothing that should hinder any routes. The fish have been
biting like crazy over the last two weeks – lots of walleyes and
small mouth bass stories being reported.

We’ve had a number of inquiries about selling used equipment
and canoes this fall. We will be ready to start selling canoes
and equipment in a few weeks and will post it on the website when
its all set to go.-Beth

 9/3/03 – FIRE BAN LIFTED! This fax just arrived from the U.S. Forest

September 3, 2003

Contact: Dave Schmidt, 218/626-4300

Susan Alexander, 218/626-4323


As of midnight, Thursday, September 4 (12:01 a.m. Friday, September 5, 2003),
current restrictions on campfires in the Superior National Forest will be
lifted. This means that campfires will be allowed at any time within steel fire
grates at all designated campsites inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area
Wilderness. Campfires will also be allowed any time in dispersed and developed
campsites outside of the Wilderness.

As always, visitors are encouraged to use a camp stove but if a campfire is
preferred, follow these simple guidelines:

Keep it small.

Be sure the campfire is completely extinguished before you leave.

Pour water on the campfire and stir until it is cold to the touch.

Please be responsible with all campfires.

9/1/03 – Today is Mary Alice Hansen’s 80th birthday. She has had several
parties in recent weeks, but we had a quick celebration in the office this

Mary Alice Hansen admires her candle
blowing skill.

Monty Mertz sent us this lovely description of his recent canoe trip:

Dear Bill & Cindy:

I just wanted to share with you how much we enjoyed our BWCAW trip again this
year, and the great service you provide.

We have an annual tradition of at least one trip with family to the BWCAW every
year for the past several years.  The core group is myself, Monty Mertz,
and my now 20 year old son, Taylor.  We are from Fargo.  We bring
along my 79 year old father-in-law, who is a retired Norwegian farmer.  He
lives in Fargo now.  Also included every year is my wife’s brother, Steve
Erickson, and his son, Shane, who is now 25.  Shane is a pilot and lives
in Grand Forks and Steve is a NWA Captain and lives in Prior Lake.  We
have included other in-laws and friends, but this is the core group.  

This year we paddled into Vern, from entry 40 on Homer,  on August 4th,
and spent five nights on the middle camp site on the South side of the lake.
 Even though this area has the damage from the fire, the view from that
camp site is just fine.  

We had really pristine weather and very few bugs.  The water was perfect
for refreshing swims.  Vern is a really clean lake with a rocky bottom, no

Steve and Shane are hard core fishermen, and they caught some really big
Walleyes, in Pipe and Whack.  They got close to a cow moose that was
feeding one day.  

We heard wolves every night we were there.  I have an authentic
hand-carved Indian flute, and I played it for a few minutes the first night
after dark, and within thirty seconds of stopping playing, this group of wolves
started up across the lake to the North, and were answered almost immediately
by another group to the South east.  Really really cool.  

Another really fun thing was a pair of mature bald eagles took up residence
right across the lake for a full day after we put fish guts on a flat rock
right across from our site.  They worked on the guts all day, sitting in
two trees between snacks.  It was so calm we could hear even the smallest
noises they made.

The wild berries were unbelievable!  We portaged into the next lake to the
West, and picked blueberries and raspberries, there were millions.  We
caught a glimpse of a bear just this side of the portage one day.  

We also climbed this big rock face on the far end of Vern one day.  The
pictures I am sending includes the four of us at the top of the rock.
 Grandpa did not make the climb, so he is not on the picture of the group
at the top.  

I always get some really amazing pictures every year.  I am sure you get
lots of them, I hope you enjoy these.

When I am not in the BWCAW I am planning the next trip.  I wish I could go
more than a couple of times a year.  I am addicted!!


Monty G. Mertz

Vern Lake scenery. The hills around
Vern burned in 1995.

Posted on

August 2003

8/31/03- Longtime Sawbill campers, Ted Heinonen and George Domstrand,
discovered a small but tenacious forest fire near campsite #5 this morning.
Several cedar trees were burning from the inside out. Ted, George and several
Sawbill crew members poured buckets of water on the trees to keep the fires
under control until the Forest Service fire-fighters arrived to extinguish the
blaze. The two person professional fire fighting crew took almost five hours to
get the job done. They pumped thousands of gallons of water onto (and into) the
trees in an attempt to save them, but ultimately had to cut three of them down.

UPDATE: Forest Service firefighters report that they found no evidence of a
campfire at the scene of the fire. They suspect lightning as the cause of the
fire, although none of the affected trees bear the characteristic burn mark of
a fire strike. We haven’t had any lightning here for several days, so if
lightning did cause the fire, the trees have been smoldering on the inside for
quite a long time. The true cause of the fire will probably remain a mystery.


A large tree smolders (left) . Sawbill crew members Lida Storch and Jeff
Green help keep the fire under control (right).

8/30/03- Labor day weekend is in full swing today– lots of campers,
canoeists and musicians are up at Sawbill celebrating one last hurrah before
the end of summer. -Ruthie

8/25/03 – Hanna Emerson sent us this email today:

I am sending you a picture of a mama moose
which kept us company on Vernon.  She showed up with her calf at 8:20 in
the morning and left around 6:00 p.m. in the evening. Without paying any
attention to us she kept eating in the little bay next to the campsite.
 We took a day trip and found her in the same bay upon our return.
 She also gave us the opportunity to listen to her voice!

Hanna Emerson

Moose on Vernon Lake.

8/24/03 – Driving home from Tofte recently, we encountered this lone wolf
along the road. Cindy has seen it several times. It has a pronounced limp in
its front leg and is fairly tolerant to being stared at and even photographed.
– Bill

Even a fuzzy night-time photo shows
the long limbs and lean build of the timber wolf.

8/21/03 – A wild storm dropped 2.03" of well needed rain last night.
There was almost continuous lightning for several hours, but none of it was
very close to Sawbill. Lake and stream levels will be rising quickly throughout
the day today. You can almost feel the trees sucking up the moisture that they
have been craving for the last couple of weeks.

Jack Brennigan and his group from Wisconsin are frequent visitors to the
Sawbill campground. They are greatly feared by the fish in Sawbill and Alton
Lakes. This week they brought a friend, Jerry Bella, for his first visit to
Sawbill and also his first fishing trip. Jerry surprised everyone by showing
great fishing aptitude. – Bill

Jerry Bella, from Berlin, Wisconsin,
proudly shows the 3.5 lb definition of beginner’s luck.

8/20/03 – The Forest Service has announced that as of midnight on Thursday
August 21st, no open fires will be allowed in the Designated Blowdown Area of
the BWCAW. Camp stoves will still be allowed in this area. The Designated
Blowdown Area includes Sawbill Lake (the campground here at Sawbill is not
included in that area, however) and areas north and east of Sawbill. A map of
the restricted area is available on the Superior National Forest website at The fire
ban is a result of very dry conditions in the area.

8/18/03 – We were surprised to see a young lady walk into the store
yesterday wearing a "powder blue" Sawbill sweatshirt. It was a model
that we sold in the early ’70s. It was still in perfect condition. She had
borrowed it from her dad, Mark Pirazzini, who was a frequent camper here back
in the day.

Kaia Pirazzini models her dad’s
vintage Sawbill sweatshirt.

8/17/03 – Fred Siebenmann was here recently for his annual canoe trip. Fred
took his first trip in 1963 when John Kennedy was President. Fred’s son, Fred,
has made almost every trip since that time with a few years off for duty in
Vietnam. Both Siebemanns are very active mountain climbers, hikers, rafters and
fisherman. We recognized Fred’s love of wilderness with a gift of a sweatshirt
that celebrates the creation of the National Wilderness System in 1964.

Fred Siebenmann on his 40th visit to

8/16/03 – We’ve had a spell of hot days this week – yesterday it was 94
degrees here. There’s a definite change in the air and the heat has dried out –
no steamy, sticky days like July. Sandals are a necessity in this kind of
weather and not only keeps you cooler, but paints a picture of your day on your
feet. The dust on your ankles from the canoe yard, the mud on the soles from washing
packs, the purple blotches on your toes from standing in the blueberry
patch…and then at the end of a long, hot day, you can take a dive into the
coolness of the lake and let the day just float away, forget your weariness,
and clean your feet off to start fresh tomorrow. -Beth

8/13/03 – The warm, sunny days continue and the last few nights have had a
cool crispness to them, bringing thoughts of fall. Lots of activity going on at
Sawbill lately. We rounded up the whole crew one day long enough to snap the
annual crew picture. A few days later we shined up our dancing shoes for the
Dome Dance. We had our first departure of a crew member – long time Sawbillian
Max Wilson headed to D.C. to begin law school. The ladies of Sawbill got
dressed up and headed out for a night on the town. And the biggest news is that
long time crew member Nathan TerBeest (son of campground hosts Jim and Rachel)
proposed to his girlfriend Belinda a few days ago – she said yes! In between
all that fun we’ve managed to fit in a little work as well….

Sawbill Crew 2003 – If the dogs can
make it with one eye, we can too…Kicking up our heels at the Dome Dance.

A lovely night out for the lovely
ladies of Sawbill. Nathan and Belinda, he newly engaged couple, celebrating the
happy news.

8/3/03 – Jo and Bill Koski, campground hosts at the Crescent Lake
campground, sighted a mountain lion on their way over to Sawbill today. They
got a long, close look at it while it stood in the road just a few hundred feet
in front of them. Jo tried to get her camera out, but couldn’t do it in time.
Mountain lions are not native to Minnesota, but are highly nomadic and
occasionally pass through. – Bill

Posted on

July 2003

7/31/03 – Many of you know or remember John "OB" Oberholtzer, who
worked at Sawbill off and on for nearly 20 years. John and his wife, Kathleen,
have become the proud parents of beautiful Hazel Anne, born Saturday July 26th
at 9 a.m. tipping the scales at 6 pounds 6 ounces and 19 inches long.

OB, Hazel (future Sawbill crew
member?) and Kathleen.

7/30/03 – We received the following email and picture yesterday:

Beth and Bill
My almost 10yo daughter and I completed her 3rd trip and my 4th into the BWCAW
through the Sawbill landing in mid-June. In the Fall of ’99 you posted a
picture of Danielle w/ her "big" fish.
This time she was bit more successful and landed a 2lb+ Northern Pike caught at
the put in on Alton Lake on the northern portage between Sawbill and Alton Lks.
In this picture she is wearing a green fleece jacket which she managed to lose
on one of the portages between Pan Lake and the Kawishiwi River.
I am happy to report that a young Boy Scout on a trip into that area found the
jacket, packed it out and brought it home to his Mother. She washed the jacket,
noted the phone number on the label and gave me a call. A few days later the
package with the jacket arrived back in Maryland. The young man’s name is Sam
Gaughan and he lives in Dayton, Ohio. We are grateful for his good deed.
I visit your web site often and often wish I could visit Sawbill more frequently.
Please keep up  the good work you do.
Dave Armstrong

Danielle Armstrong is growing and so
are the fish she’s catching.

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

sawbill camp store~~~
with each bottle of pop
the walleye gains two pounds

7/27/03 – Steve Gendron volunteers for Loon Watch, which is an annual loon
census. This year, he found 5 adults and juvenile on Sawbill Lake, 4 adults and
2 juveniles on Smoke Lake, 2 adults on Burnt Lake, and 0 loons on Flame Lake.
Overall, these census numbers a in line with those in recent years.

The Zackley Youth Group from the 1st Congregational Church of LaGrange,
Illinois was here last night and this morning before departing on their annual
canoe trip. They have been Sawbill customers for near 40 years. It is a great
pleasure for us to share in a tradition that has positively effected the lives
of so many young people. They always have great spirit and humor. Many Zackley
alumni have become Sawbill Crew members and/or loyal customers on their own
over the years.

Some folks staying on the Sawbill campground brought a fledgling raptor that
they found in the middle of the Sawbill Trail. We called the Raptor Center at
the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. They asked us to take the little
hawk to a licensed wild bird rehabilitator in Tofte, Bernadette Brooks. She was
able to get it to eat and drink water until it could be transported to the
rehab center at the Raptor Center. We guessed from it’s size that it was either
a Kestral, Merlin, or Sharpshinned Hawk. Bernadette was unable to positively
identify it either, at it’s early stage of development.- Bill

A baby raptor, rescued from the
Sawbill Trail. It is now living at the Raptor Center in Minneapolis.

7/24/03 – The fish stories keep pouring in. Today we heard a good one – and
saw the fish to back it up. Shaun Timmerman, 6 years old, from St. Peter, MN
was fishing from the shore of the north end of Sawbill Lake when he got a big
bite. His 13 year old brother, Ryan, stepped in to land the fish, which turned
out to be a 4lb. small-mouth bass. All of this using leeches on a small plastic
kid’s fishing pole. Eleven year old brother Evan lended his moral support
through it all. Their smiles were almost as big as the fish.

Shaun (holding the fishing pole) and
brother Ryan (holding the 4lb. bass) teamed up while Evan cheered them on.

7/20/03 – Here are a couple of more historic pictures courtesy of Brian
Tofte. The Cherokee Cabin was a federal cabin located on the point just east of
the portage to Gordon Lake. It was burned down in the late 60s I believe. –

The old Cherokee cabin in the 1930s
and canoeist on Grace Lake in 1929.

7/18/03 – We’ve had lots of visits lately from former crew members. Sue
Hankins (crew member from ’86 – ’89) and her husband Russ Meller brought their
beautiful 4-month-old baby Grace for her first trip to Sawbill. Russ whipped up
a batch of his world famous and top secret recipe chocolate chip cookies for
the crew. Mark Henning (crew member from ’88 – ’90 and ’92) came up with his
wife Lori, kids Matthew and Megan and also brought the exciting news that they
have a baby on the way. Joining Mark were his brother Lyle and Lyle’s daughter

Russ Meller, Sue Hankins and baby
Grace. You make us cookies and we put your picture on the newsletter.

7/17/03 – So what does a guy who lives in the woods and works in the woods
do when he goes on vacation? He shines up his motorcycle and heads out on the
open road to the bright lights and big city of Chicago. Bill is on a well
deserved road trip vacation to visit his daughter Ruthie in Chicago. I’m sure
he’ll have a few good stories when he returns. -Beth

Head out on the highway….Carl and
Bill make a few last minute checks of the Moto Guzzi before the trip begins.

7/14/03 – After a few days of rainy weather while on a canoe trip, a sunny
day can feel like the best thing ever (and can also cause you to do strange
things). Sawbill customers Beth Rademaker, Sara Rademaker, Ashley Marjanen and
Jan Venderly, all of Ft. Wayne, IN, decided to take full advantage of a recent
sunny afternoon and test a theory to see if they could harness a little solar
power from aluminum foil hats while on the last day of their trip. I’m not sure
they got any extra energy from the hats, but they definitely got a few curious
looks. -Beth

Are you feeling the power?

7/12/03 – Thursday night, several members of the Sawbill crew and a number
of Sawbill campers were driving up the Sawbill Trail from Tofte. About three
miles from Sawbill a cow moose was standing in the road. this is not an unusual
event in itself, but this particular moose decided to make possession of the
road a territorial issue and refused to let the cars pass. For almost an hour
and a half the moose stood and watched a line of cars grow. Finally, she ambled
off and let the parade pass. – Bill

7/11/03 – Sawbill crew members, Adam Hansen and Lida Storch, took a nice
little day paddle on Tuesday. They started at Sawbill around 4 am and traveled
around the Louse River Loop, returning to Sawbill at 5:30 pm. This is a route
normally recommended for 4 days of fairly strenuous travel. Lida is in training
for varsity crew at the University of Minnesota and Adam is just ambitious.

7/06/03 – Its been a busy holiday weekend around here. Lots of people
paddling and lots of 4th of July festivities going on. The town of Tofte has a
big celebration every year and Sawbill was well represented with Adam Hansen
being a star attraction in the Dunk Tank. A number of crew members made the
drive into to town to help support the local elementary school by buying LOTS
of attempts to dunk Adam. -Beth

The Sawbill crew eagerly waits for
Adam to take the plunge. Frank takes aim….

Hey Adam, how’s the water? The long
and short of it…Adam and Missy agree it was a great 4th of July.

7/04/03 – The National Forest Service has lifted the partial fire ban that
was in effect for the designated blow-down area. The removal of the fire ban is
effective immediately. Have a safe and relaxing 4th of July.

7/03/02 – Around 7pm last night, a strong wind kicked up and dark clouds
started thundering across the sky. We all hunkered down expecting quite a storm
to blow through. The winds blew a few branches down and just a couple of
raindrops spit from the sky but that was the worst of it. By 9pm the skies were
clearing and we were treated to a full rainbow spreading itself over the
Sawbill Store and a blazing sunset painted across the south end of the lake.

Facing east, a full rainbow. Facing
west, a gorgeous sunset.

Posted on

June 2003

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Former Minnesota Conservation Officer
Bob Kangas is enjoying his retirement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scientists confirm hybridization of Canada lynx with bobcats in Minnesota

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on

May 2003

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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