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Sawbill Newsletter Archives: March 2000
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « February 2000 | April 2000 »
3/28/00 - OB reports the ice to be 10" thick on Sawbill Lake. The upper 8" is honey combed and candle sticked. Only the lower 2" is solid ice. OB ice skated on Crescent Lake yesterday on his way to work. He reported the best skating conditions since last Fall. That should be the last ice skating of the year, but you never know... - Bill

3/27/00 - My old friend, Steve Krahn, sent word of an old Sawbill Outfitters brochure for sale on eBay. It will be interesting to see what it brings. What does it say about us that our old stuff is now considered "collectible?" - Bill

3/24/00 - It is raining hard here this morning. After a nearly 60 degree day yesterday, I am thinking the lake ice is no longer safe for skiing (sigh). I am a bit more conservative about ice conditions after I fell through, skis and all, two years ago. I have no desire to repeat that near death experience.

Ruthie Hansen has been accepted for admission to the University of Chicago. She now has an important, but pleasant choice ahead of her.

Ed Dallas, Poet Laureate of Sawbill writes:

black lake ice
so thin
even crows stay off

3/21/00 - Here is some happy news from the Sawbill crew. Patti Olson, a multi-year crew member of recent years past, wrote yesterday to let us know that she is engaged. Her proposal came on St. Patti's day. You have to love a guy who likes a pun. Congratulations Patti and Chuck :-)

Ruthie Hansen is enjoying the last half of her senior year at the Minnesota Arts High School. She has been accepted by Kenyon College in Ohio and Lewis and Clark College in Washington state. She is waiting for word from several other institutions before she makes up her mind. She will be full time at Sawbill again this summer, after spending a good part of last summer in Israel. - Bill

3/17/00 -

Jeff Reihle from Mt Vernon, Iowa sent us this unique canoe picture. This was actually a stock Old Town model in the 70's. I saw one on Kawishiwi Lake during that era. From a distance, I thought it was a "Budweiser" canoe, which was another classic of the era. Probably in better taste than the paisley. - Bill


3/16/00 - Owlman Bill Lane is back in the area for his annual survey of Boreal and Sawhet Owls. The return of winter weather has slowed down owl breeding activity, but while it was still warm, Bill reported hearing many owls. This is encouraging after several years of declining owl activity. Bill does hypothesize that the blow down areas will see a drastic decline in cavity nesting bird populations. It may be that owls from that area are moving into the territories located in the non-windblown portions of the forest. After imitating the call that OB and I heard a couple of weeks ago on south Alton, Bill informs me that we were hearing a Sawhet Owl, not a Boreal. - Bill

3/10/00 - I heard a hawk whistling today. It reminded me of warm sunny wind, the kind of days that move the white pines, when the hawks cruise above Sawbill so fast their calls seem to be everywhere at once. Two bald eagles rolled like ribbons out of some aspens today. They went straight down the road, bouncing ascension, heads twisting, watching my car under their bellies. Glad to see them again. We are earning sunlight, up to 11.5 hours today. As the days lengthen, so too does the fun at the end of the day. I am off to explore Crescent Lake on my new ice skates (they attach to my cross country ski boots!) Evening exercise without headlamps strikes the most significant blow to winter. My psychology slips toward Spring. OB

3/8/00 - Yesterday, we skied up Sawbill, down to the south end of Alton, over to Beth and back to Sawbill in under two hours. Several of us wore running shorts only and were perfectly comfortable in the nearly 70 degree heat. Unfortunately, the digital camera failed, so it will have to live in our memory as another northwoods peak experience.

Today, we are having a thunder storm (unheard of in early March) and 4 - 8" of snow are predicted tonight and a low temperature near 0 degrees tomorrow night. Never dull. - Bill

3/4/00 - It was another perfect day for skiing on the lake. I visited the little pond directly north of Sawbill Lake. On the frozen surface were the tracks of a large wolf. The track were quite old, but distinct. This is a phenomenon of the melting lake ice. Every track deposited during the winter re-emerges as the snow cover melts and evaporates. The denser snow created by the tracks deteriorates more slowly, causing every track from the winter to emerge like invisible ink heated with a candle. As I pondered the wolf tracks heading north, a southbound jet passed high overhead leaving a brilliant white contrail against the deep blue sky. Both of the tracks were dramatic records of a passing, both of the track makers were unaware of me, and both were ethereal - passing quickly into oblivion. With these thoughts on my mind, I turned and confronted my own tracks on the ice, looking like giant bird tracks.

We were visited over the weekend by former crew members Ellen Lock, Annie Strupeck, Michele Thieman, and Sandy Zinn. What was planned as a "women's ski weekend" became the "women's hiking weekend" due to record high temperatures. Ellen is getting married in May, so we had a wedding shower Sawbill Style on Saturday night. Even Frank got in on the fun and games. - Bill


3/3/00 - We had a recreational triple header on the frozen lakes today.

OB and I met at 8 A. M. for ice skating on Crescent Lake. The surprisingly smooth ice allowed us to range freely across Crescent and even up the river to Boulder Lake. It was hard to leave because we knew that this might be the last chance for ice skating this season. Crazy cracks made beautiful abstract patterns in the ice interrupted by lovely symmetrical formations resulting from repeated freeze and thaw.

Later in the afternoon, Sawbill Lake's surface had softened slightly, allowing a ski edge to bite perfectly for ski skating. The wet surface made the glide nearly frictionless and twenty kilometers passed under my skis in one hour and twenty minutes. We drilled a hole and measured 19.5" of ice.

After dark, OB and I ventured out again. Now the surface had refrozen so our ski skittered when we tried to skate. We soon discovered that double poling was nearly effortless and found ourselves on the south end of Alton Lake in no time. As we stood quietly for a moment a Boreal Owl began its mating call in the woods near by. It is unbelievably early for these plucky little owls to be thinking of romance. - Bill

3/2/00 - I ice-skated on Lichen Lake this morning. Unusual activity this time of year. The warm weather and rain has resurfaced the lakes on the Grade Road, many of which look good for skating. I plan to try Crescent Lake tomorrow. This is not the black ice of Fall. It is whitish opaque to dark gray and surprisingly smooth considering all the meteorological variables it was born out of. There were many patterns on the ice. Large sections were paved in small jigsaw size pieces, like skating on an exotic inlaid courtyard. Other areas were covered in cinder block size tiles. They were slightly arced, like the brickwork strokes in a Van Gogh sky. All the cracks in these sections were just below a veneer of ice, perfect for skating. Rocks are hatching through the ice, providing dry mid-lake seats for soaking in the morning sun. The ice was shifting and heating this morning, sounding like a pod of whales whistling and singing below. I hardly heard another sound, just a couple of woodpeckers. It was a great way to start the day and a dandy elixir to chase away the melted snow blues. OB

3/1/00 - Ken Harmon, excellent wilderness photographer, sent us this picture of snowshoeing near the Gunflint Trail around the middle of February. Less than two weeks later, I took the picture below it of the slush and dark ice on Sawbill Lake. Several days of 55 degree weather have had a dramatic impact on the snow and ice. - Bill

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