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Email: info@sawbill.com
Phone: (218)663-7150
Fax: (218)663-7980
Mail: 4620 Sawbill Trail
Box 2129
Tofte, MN 55615


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Sawbill Newsletter Archives: July 1999
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « June 1999 | August 1999 »
7/31/99 - A party camping on Alton Lake noticed an injured loon. They pursued it in their canoes and fairly quickly cornered it against shore. Its beak was tightly wrapped in fishing line and it had a broken lower jaw. They removed the line, placed the large water bird in a cooler and brought it in to us. We called Laura Erickson, who is a bird physiologist and radio personality in Duluth. Laura advised that it would need surgery at the Wildlife Veterinary Center, University of Minnesota , St Paul. A few more quick phone calls and a plan fell into place. Dale Stephens, a Sierra Club group leader who was just returning from a canoe trip, agreed to transport the loon to Laura Erickson in Duluth. The Northwoods Audubon Center in Sandstone, Minnesota, volunteered to meet the loon at Laura's house and transport it to the clinic in St Paul. Laura applied expert first aid and provided advice for hydration and emergency feeding. The Audubon folks documented where the loon was found so it can be returned to its proper territory if it survives. We'll keep you posted. - Bill

7/29/99 - Although we have not heard officially, it is likely that the Forest Service has ceased the use of chainsaws within the wilderness on the Tofte District. This includes most of the areas that Sawbill customers normally visit. This is consistent with their normal policy of using non-mechanized methods for maintaining portages and campsites. The law clearly give them the option of using power tools, but they generally avoid it, out of respect for wilderness values.

Ed Dallas, Sawbill's Poet Laureate, is starting a trip out of Sawbill today with his family. If, in the next week, you encounter a large bearded man exclaiming poetry on a portage somewhere north of Sawbill, then you know you've found Ed. - Bill

7/26/99 - We had a little scare last night when the Forest Service called to warn us about a large storm headed our way. It was moving in from western Minnesota with 100 mph winds, funnel clouds sighted, and large hail. With the July 4th storm fresh in our minds, we took the warning very seriously. We notified everyone we could contact, moved our vehicles to the center of the parking lot, and started tracking the storm on the web. Fortunately, it dissipated before it got here and we got by with a few jolts of nearby lightning and a quarter inch of rain. Cooler air moved in behind the front. It is good to see people in long pants and flannel shirts again. - Bill

7/25/99 - The beautiful weather has put a smile on the face of all canoeists and kept the Sawbill crew hopping. When the weather is perfect, everyone shows up on time, stays out as long as they can, and lingers on the porch enjoying the afterglow of their wilderness time. The only complaint is the decline in fishing success, which is inevitable with warm, sunny weather. - Bill

7/20/99 - Mushrooms are congregating in the forest. In the past few days, bulbous lumps of color broke through the brown duff and are cooling under the large leaf asters. They stand mutely, as curious and enticing as knobs or dials on an alien dashboard. I cannot pass one without bending down, checking for gills or pores, feeling the cool texture of the caps, and sniffing the moist, earthy perfumes. Inevitably, close inspection of one mushroom leads to the discovery of others. Long, wispy tendril like mushrooms, corals, or bright emerald green caps coated with slime - I roll to each on soggy knees, carried by the thrill of color and shape, carried like the spores on the winds of discovery. Yesterday, gorgeous specimens of Fly Agaric dotted the path behind the shower house. I wanted you all to see their beauty. The second picture is a strawberry's tattoo of spore. Colorful, delicate spore prints like these are a treat, part of the rich rewards that is the study of minutia in the Northwoods. OB



7/19/99 - One pleasant side effect of the big storm is the wonderful smell in the air. Those of us lucky enough to live here don't normally notice the pine scented air, unless we have been away for awhile. Now, with all the disturbed vegetation, the piney odor is so strong as to be unmistakable. Also, the air seems remarkably clear these days. The sky is sharply blue and the clouds achingly white. - Bill

7/17/99 - Life has returned to normal (whatever that is) after the big storm. The tadpoles are sporting legs, grasshoppers are clacking around the parking lot, and the blueberries are just starting to come ripe on the southern exposures. At dawn, the ravens have long and complex conversations with each other. They discuss the day's activities, tell a few jokes, laugh raucously, and fly off to work shouting encouragement to each other. - Bill

7/14/99 - The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has produced some beautiful maps of the storm damage and the ongoing work to repair campsites and portages. They also have a cool satellite view with the storm damaged area superimposed. The latest word from the Forest Service is that all the routes within normal canoeing distance from Sawbill are open, except for the Louse River, the Frost River, and a few dead end lakes. We expect that the Louse and the Frost will be cleared quite soon. They are probably possible now, if you allow extra time.

The Forest Service announced yesterday that they will issue no new permit reservations for Brule Lake entry until more campsites have been cleared. They will honor all existing reservations. Additionally, they will not issue tickets to people camped on undesignated campsites if they have made a reasonable effort to find a designated site. Everyone needs to remember that human waste should be deposited at least 150' from the nearest lake, campsite or trail and should be buried 6" deep. The immediate area should be "naturalized" by spreading needles and leaves to match the surrounding terrain. Fires are still allowed only in the fire grates provided at designated campsites. If camping on an undesignated site, or if the fire grate is not accessible at a designated site, you can use camp stoves only for cooking. - Bill

7/11/99 - The Forest Service is throwing a lot of resources at cleaning up the damage from last week's storm. Portages in our area are in fairly good shape considering the intensity of the storm. By the end of today, the Lady Chain and Cherokee Loop routes should be clear. We have yet to hear specific reports on the Louse River or Frost River. We have heard that the portage into Frost from Gordon is clear and the portages out of Malberg into Boze are in good shape. Hog Creek to Perent Lake is clear. There was lots of damage over by Brule, reports former crew member Ellen Locke and her boyfriend Greg Bagnato. They just returned from a trip to Davis and over to Winchell. They only encountered eight windfalls on the portage from North Cone into Davis. Everything else had already been cut by Forest Service sawyers. Ellen and Greg were tan, relaxed and impressed with the power of the storm. Greg reports that the massive cedars on the Lily portage trail were knocked down. These are beautiful, gnarled cedars, and I was sad to hear the news. However, they will lay on that ground long after my grandchildren are dead - I will just have to discover a new aspect of their form. Many portages are still not checked, so plan on stopping in and chatting with us to receive the most recent information. Campsites are in various states - some usable some not. Plan on finding a camping location earlier in the day than usual. Camping is still only permitted on designated sites. - OB

Here at Sawbill we continue to clean up from all the blow down. We have had fun counting tree rings on the fallen trees. The sky is much more evident around here and has been blue and sunny for the past two days. The huge, beautiful white pine that we lost in front of the store left quite a large tipped up stump in our picnic area. Peter Hall, a local logger, was nice enough to help us with some clean up. He is pictured here wrestling the old giant out of the ground. The roots were massive, and when all was done, a deep, brown hole was all that was left after a hundred years of life. OB


- OB

7/7/99 - Now that we've had time to assess the damage from Sunday's storm, we are counting ourselves very, very lucky. Although many trees went down here, in the campground and in the wilderness, it appears that no one in this immediate area was hurt. One family on the campground had two tents set up on their campsite. When the storm hit, they all dived into one of the tents. The other tent was totally destroyed when two huge trees fell across it moments later. Another group was driving over to Kawishiwi Lake with two canoes on a trailer. A large tree fell right across the trailer, destroying both canoes. Our worst loss here at Sawbill was our largest and most beautiful white pine, right by the picnic table in front of the store. It uprooted and fell just a couple of feet from our communication tower guy wires. - Bill

Almost everyone who was in the BWCA Wilderness came out and went home on Sunday. However, several groups began canoe trips yesterday and this morning. Gary Robinson, wilderness ranger, went up to Cherokee and west and east as far as Beth and Burnt Lakes yesterday. He said the portages were difficult, but usable. - Bill

The Duluth News Tribune is reporting that 19 people were airlifted out of the wilderness with injuries. No deaths have been reported in the BWCA Wilderness, but a few of the injuries were severe. - Bill

7/5/99 - Things here are busy and a little hectic. We had a thunderstorm pass through here at about 2:00 p.m. yesterday afternoon, which lasted about a half an hour, with tornado-like winds and heavy rain. It took a lot of trees down and the Sawbill Trail was impassable until about 7 p.m. last night. There have been no injuries reported so far and all campers and Sawbill crew are accounted for. We are all a little weary, as this twist of events on the 4th of July has added more excitement to this normally peaceful place. It is events like this that bring to our attention, once again, to the awesome force of Mother Nature.

Incidentally, Bill, Cindy, and their children are on a family vacation in Canada and John Oberholtzer, known to many as OB, is in Michigan at a family reunion. Needless to say, the exciting stuff happens when the Hansens leave! The melodious sounds of chainsaws drift this way as I sit here and survey the damage done by the storm. Luckily, no one was hurt, and the forest smells of a Christmas Tree farm with many cut pine trees lying amidst the forest floor. The adventures of yesterday blend in with today's work, and the telltale stumps of the trees that fell will soon be all that reminds us of these exciting events. LTB, NW, EF
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « June 1999 | August 1999 »

 


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