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Crew Bonding

5/15/2019 – The Sawbill crew is increasing and there’s plenty of hard work going on around here from everyone. There are 12 of us now (14 including Sig and Kit) and the group is getting pretty big. With a community like this, it’s important inside and outside of the work environment to have a strong team that can work together well. A team that knows each other and connects well goes far in the workplace.

So far, the crew members have been doing a great job organizing small bonding sessions on the daily to get to know each other more. One highlight was when most members went on the first night paddle of the season (and my first ever)! The crew took out two of the new Northstar 20s to test immediately following sunset. After portaging to Alton lake, we stopped at a little island to explore, chat, and watch the stars come out. As the duffer of the group, I can attest that the new canoes are quite comfortable and speedy! It was a beautiful night. Paddles while two or three people have off in the mornings have been happening as well. It’s a great way to practice canoe skills while hanging out with a fellow crew member.

The Northstar 20 pitched on the small island while crew members chatted.
Everyone listening attentively as Paul explains how movement and marching can lower your heart rate! Bonding happens in many forms and conversations.

Another way that team members have been connecting is through many, many games of hockey. The Stanley Cup playoffs have been on constantly most nights the past couple of weeks. While some are huge hockey fans, others are simply learning about the sport and what happens in a game besides fighting. Yesterday night hockey was accompanied by delicious caramel marshmallow brownies made by Mia. Clearly, snacks bring everyone together.

Hockey is a lot easier to watch with some delicious popcorn in your hand. Thanks for making it Jessica!

Foosball is another major sport around here. With a tournament coming up, many crew members have been practicing their skills and learning from the talented professionals, Luke and Jessica. Others prefer competition in the form of cards or cribbage. With a customized 3D printed board of Sawbill Lake, it’s easy to find the motivation and even easier to find another pal willing to play. Additionally, a bonfire and a couple movie nights have been initiated during the colder nights. It’s safe to say there’s a lot of bonding going on and it’s pretty easy when there’s such a good team here at Sawbill. Cheers to more hard work and play!


A beautiful morning paddle on Sawbill lake & Kelso river with Brian.
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Signs of Spring

5/14/19 – The weather is warming up and the crew members aren’t the only grateful ones. In the last week, there’s been plenty of signs of new life and growth around the Sawbill area. There is a huge diversity of plant life in the BWCA and while the coniferous trees are as green as ever, other floras are starting to catch up. For instance, crew members have gotten the pleasure of watching daffodils persevere through the recent snowstorms to finally bloom right outside of their kitchen window.

Yellow daffodils bloom outside of the crew member house.
In addition to the yellow flowers, one solo white one is seen in the patch as well.

Another rapidly growing plant are the many types of mosses, growing greener by the day. The type of moss seen below, presumed to be sphagnum of the sphagnaceae family, was spotted on Britton peak on the Superior Hiking Trail. There are 33 species of sphagnum moss in Minnesota and that’s just one genus. Think of the variety when considering all categories and families! These little guys play an essential role in our ecosystem. They are food for some, shelter for others, reduce erosion, stabilize soil (especially important after a fire), and retain water and humidity for the habitat. Needless to say, they’re important and honestly pretty cute.

Moss on Britton peak with a couple fingers for scale. So small!

Lastly, the common but classic pussy willows are patiently waiting to bloom, signifying the end of winter. Though I haven’t spotted any of their flowers yet, surely there may be some already blooming. With over 20 species of pussy willows in Minnesota, it’s a pretty common site to see them in the marshy, wet areas of the boundary waters. I expect to see some bees feeding on pollen soon here as the flowers are starting to emerge. Unfortunately, there has already been a noticeable increase in mosquitoes just in the past week. If you’re taking the trip up to Sawbill, don’t forget your bug spray! Happy Spring!


Pre-bloom pussy willow branch on the Sawbill Trail.
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New Crew!

5/13/19 – This past week, Sawbill welcomed 4 new crew members to the BWCA! Mia Pudas was the first to arrive last Sunday the fifth. Mia is from Eden Prairie Minnesota and she joins us for her first season after a number of family trips to Sawbill. She just finished her first year as an Electrical Engineering major at Michigan Tech. Next, Mathew Campbell joined us from Duluth Minnesota to fill the shoes of his older brother and long time crew member Tyler. Matthew is studying English and Psychology at Dakota Wesleyan University. He has been a camper at Sawbill for many years and is excited for his first year on the crew. Sawyer Laird came next all the way from Lowell Michigan. He is an Outdoor Recreation major at Central Michigan University and is ready to share his passion for the wilderness with Sawbill. Lastly, David Kelm arrived on Friday after completing his first year as a Political Science major at Concordia College Moorehead. Please join us in welcoming the new crew members to Sawbill!


From left to right: Mia Pudas, Matthew Campbell, David Kelm, and Sawyer Laird

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Opening hours

5/11/19 – This Thursday, the Sawbill store officially opened with spring hours! From now until Memorial Day, the store will be open from 8 am to 7 pm, and after Memorial Day we return to our normal summer hours from 7 am to 9 pm. Mother nature decided to help us celebrate our spring hours with four inches of new snow on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Luckily, it was all melted by the afternoon due to rising spring temperatures! Summer is just around the corner.


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Beach Club Birthday

5/7/19 – Today is Kit Shirley’s 3rd birthday! She celebrated by eating cupcakes with her friends and listening to her favorite musician, Bob Marley. The crew also made Kit a treasure map, which led her on a fun scavenger hunt around Sawbill – thanks team!

Kit contemplates her next move on the treasure map.

Former Sawbill Crew Jessa Frost and her son Owen help Kit celebrate.

Another cause for celebration was the annual opening of the Sawbill Beach Club! A quick dip was followed by a toasty sauna.

Jessica, Luke, Dan, Huckleberry, Paul, Allison, Mia, and Drew. A brave spring crew!


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Ice Out – May 5, 2019!

May 6, 2019 – Yesterday evening we watched as a steady north wind blew the remaining floating chunk of slushy ice south to Sawbill’s outlet at Sawbill creek. Kawishiwi and Baker Lakes are also out. Brule and Alton are still locked up with ice. Welcome to paddling season!


Final remaining ice on Sawbill Lake, blowing south, leaving an open lake.
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Here Comes the Sun

5/3/19 – Cold and snowy would aptly summarize the past few days, but lucky for us the tides seemed to have shifted, at least for now. Current conditions include sunshine, a steady warm breeze, and a temperature of 45 degrees. We still have a few inches of snow on the ground, but it is dwindling fast. -Jessica

The ice is still holding out, but each day we see more and more open water creeping in from the shorelines. We’ve stopped venturing out after our 3″ measurement of solid ice on April 28th.
In recent days we’ve noticed an uptick in the amount of waterfowl paddling around just south of the canoe landing. If you squint really really hard you can see a male common merganser (white speck in the water). Also floating about was a male hooded merganser.
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Spring Snow

4/30/19 – It seems we have the dubious distinction this morning of having received the most snow in the spring storm yesterday! With just short of 16 inches falling throughout the day, we had to scramble to dig out the shovels we had stored away for the year. While we practice patience waiting for it to melt, we are focusing on cleaning our indoor spaces, repairing gear, pricing new inventory, and of course utilizing our wood fired sauna to boost morale.

This morning’s final measurement on the back deck of our outfitting department.
Despite all appearances, we are here! Hard to believe paddlers will be walking through these doors in a matter of weeks.
The snowbank on the ground is the result of the first time the snow slid off the roof a few weeks ago. Looks like we’ll be adding to the fondly named “Sawbill Glacier” again soon as the newest snowfall slowly slides off the screen porch roof.

While the forecast is calling for a high around 38 degrees for the next few days, things should warm up again on Friday. Once the weather turns back in our favor melting happens quickly up here. We are hoping to be on the water around the end of the first week of May. Stay tuned!


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Dwindling Ice

4/28/19 – Measuring the ice is a time honored tradition for new Sawbill crewmembers. This week we welcomed Allison, a recent graduate of UW Eau Claire, for her first season at Sawbill.

Allison will be here through the Fall season – welcome!

It’s been sunny and windy, two key components of ice out, although it has been getting down to 27 degrees at night still.

Looking south from the canoe landing, the ducks have been enjoying the open water around the Sawbill Creek outlet. The dock on the left is the canoe landing dock in its winter storage spot.

As of this morning, the ice is measuring at 11 inches thick, with roughly 3 of those inches being clear ice. The rest is a sloppy mix of slush, candled ice, and water.

Luke looks on as Jessica shows the official ice thickness. If the slush gets much deeper, they’ll have to start wearing waders out there!

The crew did an ice-out check on a couple of lakes in the area yesterday evening. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. They report that Baker lake is officially ice free and Crescent lake is not far behind.

Jessica, Allison, Drew, Huckleberry, and Luke contemplate the imminent opening of the beach club at the Sawbill lake landing.

Happy Spring!


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Ice Update

4/26/19 – The lake is finally starting to show signs of melting. The last few days we’ve noticed quite a bit of slush on the lake along with the steady growth of open water near the Sawbill Creek outlet. Yesterday we measured 17 inches from the bottom of the ice to the top of the slush. About 8 of those inches were clear ice, while the top 9 inches seemed to be candled and slushy. -Jessica

The ice near the shore is beginning to break up a bit so we are now employing an Alumacraft to bridge the gap to thicker ice and not venturing far to drill our test hole. Pictured above: Jessica and new crew member Drew.
This piece was easily broken off of a larger sheet of candle ice (columns of ice that fit together like puzzle pieces) found along the shoreline.
A welcome burst of color among the remaining snow drifts.