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Sawbill Newsletter Archives: September 1999
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « August 1999 | October 1999 »
9/30/99 - We had a visit from Bev Hagar (nee Wine) the other day. She thinks that Wine Lake may be named after her. In 1945, her boyfriend took a Sawbill canoe trip and visited a beautiful unnamed lake. When he returned, he told Bev that the beautiful lake reminded him of her, so he named it after her. She had forgotten this until she saw her old boyfriend again at their 50th high school reunion. Her father had died in a swimming accident in 1945 and this tragedy drove many other memories out of her mind. Her son and a friend decided to take Bev to Wine Lake for her 70th birthday present. She did say that her ex-boy friend was an eagle scout, so "he may have named the lake after me, or it may have already been named Wine Lake and he just took advantage of that fact." We have a map from 1928 and Wine Lake was not named then. Ms. (Wine) Hagar did transfer a bottle of good wine into a Nalgene bottle to toast her 70th birthday on Wine Lake.

Matt Caron, who completed an ambitious solo trip last week sent this gorgeous photo he took just after dawn on September 21st.

John Abbott sent along this picture of his son Dave. He says they took to calling him "Trooper Dave" and you can clearly see why.

9/29/99 - I spent a pleasant morning fishing with Duluth News Tribune outdoor writer Sam Cook. Sam and I enjoy fishing together because we are both content to enjoy a beautiful day and not worry too much about catching fish. That was indeed the case yesterday. It was a glorious, warm, windless day. The colors were brilliant gold against a flawless blue sky. We did each catch a small perch, but not the chunky Rainbow Trout we were hoping for.

David Armstrong sent along these pictures of his daughter, Danielle, admiring ancient rock paintings and displaying a trophy fish. The Armstrongs, who live in Silver Springs, Maryland, enjoyed a two week BWCA Wilderness trip at the end of August.

9/25/99 - As the days shorten and the cross country ski season draws nearer I frequently run long distance after dark. This week I have been enjoying clear skies, brisk temperatures and a waxing moon. One night, I surprised a moose (or vise versa) who was standing about twenty feet off the road. She gave a startled snort and then started running through the woods parallel to my course. In the dark, she was crashing through the underbrush at an alarming rate. It's amazing what a large dose of adrenaline can do for your running speed.

Last night, I was about four miles down the road, when a sound stopped me in my tracks. A pack of wolves was howling under the huge pie plate of a moon. They seemed to be located roughly a half mile ahead of me and slightly to the east. In spite of my rational mind thinking how beautiful and sublime the moment was, my brain stem was sending a tingle of fear into my stomach. I was planning to run another mile, which would take me on almost a direct course toward the pack. I briefly considered turning back, but decided it would be much more exciting to continue with the chance that I might actually see the pack under the moonlight. I thought of Sig Olson's famous essay about being surrounded by a wolf pack while hiking alone, at night, on the Kawishiwi River. I also thought about the ability of a wolf to break a moose femur in it jaws. That inevitably led to thoughts of the occasional mountain lions that are spotted near here.

Ultimately, the remainder of the run was uneventful, although a few well placed shadows raised my heart rate from time to time. Today, in the daylight, I'm grateful for the presence of these awesome predators in our shared ecosystem. It reminds me that human beings do not have exclusive dominion of the night woods. There are beings out there that are smarter, faster, and far more at home than I.

Yesterday morning, Minnesota Public Radio's "The Morning Show" with hosts Dale Conelly and Jim Ed Poole, broadcast live from the North House Folk School on the harbor front in Grand Marais. Observant listeners (The morning show is heard over 29 stations in 7 states and on the web a may have recognized yours truly as one of the judges of the stone skipping contest. The judges used the aliases of Larry, Curly and Moe to protect their anonymity. The Morning Show visit was a kick off to a capital campaign that will bring two new MPR stations to Grand Marais. Visitors to the area will be able to listen to this fine radio service at 88.7 and 89.7 FM beginning in November of 2000. - Bill

9/22/99 - The Forest Service has announced an increase in the BWCA Wilderness permit reservation fee for next season. The $9 fee that goes to the private contractor running the reservation system will rise to $12 next year. The $10/person user fee which is used by the Forest Service to fund their work within the wilderness will remain the same. In another change, the user fee will not be collected in full, as it is now, when the reservation is made. Instead, a standard deposit of $20 will be taken when the reservation is made and the balance will be due (or refunded for solo trips) when the permit is picked up. In other words, every reservation will require a $32 payment next year ($12 reservation fee + $20 deposit on the user fee).

The private reservation service, ReserveAmerica, provided very poor service this year. Many mistakes were made, their website is slow and confusing, and phone calls often involved 20 minute holds accompanied by some of the worst canned music imaginable. The Forest Service assures me that the problems will be addressed during the off season and next year will be better.

9/21/99 - We had our first snow flurries yesterday. It froze hard last night with a low of 27 F. The fall colors will reach their peak sometime this week, probably during the full moon this weekend.

9/20/99 - Scraped ice off the windshield for the first time this morning.

9/18/99 - Ed Dallas, Poet Laureate of Sawbill, sent this haiku:

with each paddle stroke
a whirlpool spins and fades
behind my canoe

Long time wilderness campers, Carol Loch, Mary Bart, and Barb Hultman sent this picture of themselves in front of the Sawbill store. This year, hampered by various injuries, they limited their stay to the Sawbill campground. Next year they vow to return to the wilderness.

Ted Heinonen, artist, musician, and all around good guy, sent this still commemorating the '99 Fish 'n' Pick gathering in the Sawbill campground.

9/14/99 - We are growing gills in anticipation of a permanent underwater life here at Sawbill. It has rained 12 out of the last 14 days. In spite of the unrelenting gray weather, most returning canoeists are still professing to having a good time. They are saying things like, "We had a wonderful time - it could have rained a little less, but..." Fishing has been generally quite good and the forecast is positive for tomorrow. The Fall colors have just begun to show themselves in the last day or two. We are still a week or better away from the peak. - Bill

9/8/99 - Last month we had a report from Phil Coates about a renegade squirrel in the Sawbill campground that stole the peanut butter knife from Phil's table. Another member of the group, Joe Johnston, got this picture of the pirate in the act.

9/7/99 - Another Labor Day weekend has come and gone with no shortage of activity and excitement here at Sawbill.

Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota sent us a fair chunk of their freshman class for a four day canoe trip. This is a tradition with Carleton and Sawbill going back some fifteen years. As always, they are well organized, have high wilderness ethics and are generally pleasant to deal with.

Another Sawbill Labor Day tradition is a group of fine Minnesota musicians who camp together in the the Sawbill Campground. They call it the "Fish'n'Pick" and that is just what they do. Fishing occupies their days and jamming 'til the wee hours consumes their nights. Over the years we have made a campfire available in our canoe yard so they can play and sing without disturbing the campground. The music has evolved over the years from straight ahead Bluegrass to acoustic original music. Some of the state's most talented instrumentalists and song writers participate. Great fun for us.

Lloyd Gilbertson, dog musher and former neighbor, sent an email today wondering if any Sawbill newsletter readers would be interested in hiring on with him for the winter as a dog handler. If you like dogs, like to work hard, and have the freedom, it would be an intriguing adventure. I can attest to Lloyd's fairness and good nature. He now lives in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. His email address is:

As an aside, Lloyd invited me to go on his Y2K9 New Year's Eve sled dog trip :-) I will definitely do so if possible.

On the down side of the weekend, a few cars were broken into on the Sawbill parking lot. This has not happened for many years. Sawbill always seems like a magic place where crime doesn't happen, but I guess it really can happen anywhere. The Cook County Sheriff responded quickly and arrested a young man who was staying on the campground and driving a stolen car. They found the valuables that were missing from the cars and will quickly get them reunited with their owners. We are blessed with excellent and professional law enforcement here in Cook County.

9/3/99 - We received the following email from Jim Mason of Mason City, Iowa:

Hi there,

I've just returned from another wonderful BWCA experience that began and
ended at the Sawbill Outfitters. I just wanted to drop you a line of thanks
and share an experience I had that might be appropriate for the newsletter.

I've always enjoyed interacting with birds. On our first day in, I decided
to go for a swim across Alton. When I got to the other shore, I noticed
three loons had taken a keen interest in me. Apparently they had not seen
anyone swimming in their water before and were investigating. They made
their noisy inquiries and I did my best to return them in their language.
Somehow, the cold water made it easier for me to duplicate their calls. They
kept getting closer and closer trying to figure out what I was. All they
could see was my head, which is about the same size as they are. Then, a
bald eagle joined into the chorus. The eagle was perched on top of a large
pine near the waters edge just behind me and was chittering away along with
us. The eagle, the loons and a loony human were carrying on a conversation.
It was a remarkable experience, one I'll take with me to my grave. This went
on for what seemed like quite a while. The loons got within about 10-15
yards of me. I could see their eyes and one seemed to have a reddish glow
about his head. I started to get a little nervous about the eagle. Did he
think I might be food? I realized that if he decided to try to come down and
grab me, I may have already received my advance notice. So, I hauled myself
out on the rocks so they could all see I was just a human. That ended the
interactions but I got to leave with one of my favorite wildlife experiences

My partners dubbed the place where this all happened, the protruding
rocks just west and south of the Sawbill/Alton portage, Loony Yanni Point
in commemoration of the event.

My thanks to Anna and John for getting us off to a good start.

Jim Mason.

Sawbill Outfitters is a proud member of Northeastern Minnesotans For Wilderness which is working to organize the many people who support the wilderness and happen to live in northeastern Minnesota. Visit their site for more information on BWCA Wilderness issues and what you can do to help protect the BWCA Wilderness.

Current Sawbill Newsletter | « August 1999 | October 1999 »

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