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Sawbill Newsletter Archives: January 2000
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « December 1999 | February 2000 »
1/27/00 -

Red fire in the sky and gleaming diamonds in the tree tops greeted the dawn in the north country.

1/25/00 - Here, in the center of the pine marten metropolis, we are able to observe pine marten behavior in some detail. We now have identical twin martens visiting our bird feeder. The perfectly matched pair perch on the narrow ledge of the feeder and munch sunflower seeds. They seem perfectly at ease with each other, with no sign of dominance or territorial issues. I'll try to snap a photo during their next feeding session.

1/21/00 - I don't know if ski trails are magnets for wildlife, or if I just spend so much time on skis that I see my wildlife there. Yesterday, near Tofte, I found a beautiful set of bobcat tracks. They look just like the kitty tracks on the hood of your car, except about four times bigger. The tracks were interrupted by a neat pile of bobcat scat, something I haven't seen for twenty five years.

Paralleling the bobcat tracks, but going the other way, was a set of huge wolf tracks. The wolf was running flat out, digging deep holes in the hard packed snow. I once clocked a wolf at forty five miles per hour on the Sawbill Trail. All the more remarkable because the wolf only had one front leg. At top speed it made an abrupt left turn off the road - on to a ski trail.

Last night I was leaving the house to meet Clare on the late bus in Tofte. I let the happy retriever, Sunnie, in as I went out. I walked to the pickup and opened the door to throw the mail on the dash, when a movement caught the corner of my eye. On the ski trail, not eight feet from where I was standing, stood a red fox, breathing hard. It seemed completely unconcerned with my presence, looking at me frankly and sniffing the air carefully and methodically. What a symphony of information that sensitive nose must experience. It stood its ground while I walked around the truck and got in. I flipped on the headlights and it didn't even flinch in the glare. Every hair was vividly visible and little puffs of steam came from its nose with each breath. When I turned the key and the starter engaged, it turned and flicked away down the dark ski trail. - Bill

1/17/00 - Toady is the kind of day we expect in the middle of January. Temperatures rose steeply during the night and snow started to fall just before dawn. It is coming down hard here at mid-morning. The snow belt area (2 - 10 miles away from Lake Superior) is getting the benefit of "lake effect" snow. This will finally set up the ski trails along the North Shore with the base they need to last the rest of the winter. - Bill

1/13/00 -Cross country skiing is dominating my life this week. Last weekend I skied in the Grand Marais International Races. On Saturday, I finished 6th in my age class in the 15K classical style race. On Sunday, I finished 3rd in my age class in the 15K free style race. Not bad for an old duffer. Karl Hansen is the trail groomer for the 60K of trails between Tofte and Lutsen. I have been training him in the operation of the groomer, a very impressive machine known as a Kassbohrer Pisten Bully. We discovered that the July 4th storm had thrown many trees across the trail and have spent many, many hours pretending that we are loggers. Karl turned to me yesterday and said, "I remember now why I didn't go into logging." We got it done though, and skiing is quite good now.

We have several former crew members visiting. Michele Thieman, Annie Strupek (freshly back from a year in Japan), Harriet Settle, Dave Freeman are all here right now. Jeff thompson and Natasha Warner are coming up on Saturday. Quite a little reunion. - Bill

1/6/00 - There's something so attractive to dogs about humans running. As I move between buildings in the winter, I rarely "suit-up", preferring instead running to ward off the cold. From behind, and I never hear her coming, our retriever bowls by my heels. It is an exuberance of gold dog on white snow, and I smile hollering glad tidings, no matter how close she comes to knocking me on my keester. Dogs seem to sense in the energy of running, the robustness of the movement, something good going on. Our two dogs rarely move fast unless some excitement warrants it, like the time a moose walked just about to the store, almost tripping over two very surprised retrievers - that was a big chase! The dogs don't want to be left out of the action, they are eager to know all that is happening in their domain. I wonder what the dogs are thinking just before I come onto the scene. Probably just sort of looking around, suspecting or hoping for something out of the ordinary, and then they see me running, confirming their hunch, "Aha, something is brewing over there!" I hope my disappearance into a building is not too disappointing. Though, I suspect it is, because they must remember and cherish as well as I, the times we have chased bears or rascally pine martens. Yesterday, when Sunny bolted by me, she gave me such a strong sense of place. This is what is happening at Sawbill, right outside the door, these two beautiful, curious dogs are roaming the snowy forest margins, seeking the excitement that often comes sneaking out. I knelt with Sunny, as she looked from left to right, and east to west, and felt the lively cold on her back as it sank into my bones. I looked and listened with her, noticing several lines of tracks radiating off to the activities and homes of various boreal denizens. I thought this dog has it right, excited and curious at the drop of a hat, attentive to the moment, and fully engaged in and knowledgeable about her home. OB

1/3/00 - On New Year's Eve, Karl Hansen and Lee Stewart got married in the Sawbill Campground. The ceremony was held in the campsite where they first met each other, 43 years ago. In the twilight, the path to the service was lit by candles burning in large blocks of ice. A fire burned brightly in the fire grate. The Rev. Peter Monkries officiated over a brief (thankfully) ceremony with approximately forty friends and family looking on. Snow drifted straight down and the guests lit sparklers to celebrate its conclusion.

Rev. Peter Monkries, Karl Hansen and Lee Stewart.

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