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Phone: (218)663-7150
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Mail: 4620 Sawbill Trail
Box 2129
Tofte, MN 55615

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Sawbill Newsletter Archives: April 2000
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « March 2000 | May 2000 »
4/29/00 - Despite a brisk snowfall yesterday afternoon, several parties have taken advantage of the early Spring and are out canoeing. Lloyd Geving, a Sawbill camper since birth, wrote that he and his son Carl were getting equipment ready for an early season trip last week. Carl asked about the possibility of taking their new puppy along. Lloyd said that it would be OK and moments later snapped this picture.

4/25/00 - Yesterday was a symphony of seasonal firsts. Clare spotted the first chipmunk of the season. it is the "tame one from the campground" and took sunflower seeds from her hand. Cindy saw several grouse on the road in their mating display - necks ruffed up, tails fanned, strutting like high school boys at the prom. The aspen trees around Sawbill suddenly sprouted catkins and the buds are swelling on the hazel brush. The first mosquitoes made their appearance. It is a species that always appears early. they are larger than the average Minnesota summer variety, but are fortunately quite sluggish. The woodcocks were executing their dramatic twilight mating flights. They shoot out of clearings and rise straight into the air to dizzying heights. Their wings make a distinctive musical sound. They spiral down to land in almost the exact same spot they departed from, take a breather, and repeat the process. The last sign of Spring was the appearance of the Hansen family's badminton net. Clare proceeded to trounce me in the inaugural game. - Bill

4/24/00 - Cindy, Carl and I went for a bike ride yesterday. We rode on a little used logging road about seven miles from Sawbill. Along the way, the road skirted a large pond. Carl and Cindy rode a bit ahead when I slowed down to gaze at the beautiful blue water. My eye caught a flash of grey on the far side of the pond. As I watched in amazement, a big, beautiful wolf emerged from the underbrush. Carl and Cindy hurried back and we were able to watch the silver-grey wolf for about 30 seconds as he worked his way along the edge of the pond. We are so lucky to live in this wonderful part of the world. - Bill

4/21/00 - Ruthie Hansen, Annie Olson, and Danielle Trego just returned from a sunset paddle and report that Alton Lake is still frozen over. The three young ladies are visiting for Easter vacation from their schools in the Twin Cities. - Bill

4/20/00 - We received a report last night that all the lakes along the Gunflint Trail are still ice covered. There was a party canoeing out of Sawbill last weekend, but they came and went without comment, so we don't know what they found (except 4" of new snow). I suspect that the larger lakes are still iced in, but they should go out in the next few days. - Bill

4/13/00 - The ice is officially out on Sawbill Lake as of yesterday, April 12th, a full six days ahead of the previous recorded record for early ice out. The pictures below tell the tale. At noon yesterday, we drove to the end of the campground and encountered quite a large sheet of pretty solid ice. OB even walked on it. After supper I went for a paddle and the large sheet of ice had decreased by about a quarter, eaten away by the wave effect from a brisk southerly wind. I worked my way around the ice and when I got through the narrows that mark the boundary of the wilderness I was stunned to see the rest of Sawbill Lake completely ice free. The official rule is that the lake is out when it is more than 90% ice free. Don't rush up for a canoe trip right away though. The bay containing the portage to Alton is still frozen and I'm sure any other bays and lakes as well. We got two inches of snow last night, but as soon as it warms up again, the remaining ice should disappear fast. - Bill

While on my paddle I saw green head mallards, golden eye ducks, black mallards, and bufflehead ducks. I also rammed an ice berg that was completely awash and almost undetectable in the water. The little solo canoe rocked just enough to remind me that the water is 32.1 degrees and I needed to pay a little more attention. It felt great to be paddling again. - Bill

South end of Sawbill Lake at noon on April 12th, 2000.

The center portion of Sawbill Lake at 7 P.M. on April 12th, 2000.

4/5/00 - We got 4" of snow the night before last and temperatures in the teens last night. This will slow down the early Spring, but probably not by much. The south end of Sawbill Lake is about one half ice free. - Bill

4/4/00 - The Forest Service has released the following advice for the '00 season.

The windstorm that swept parts of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on July 4, 1999, blew down trees over a 350,000-acre area. This storm has changed that area of the wilderness for years to come, and has created the opportunity for new experiences and new risks for BWCAW visitors.

Choose a camp stove instead of a campfire. If a campfire is allowed and there is little or no wind, build it in the fire grate and keep it small. Keep flammable materials and firewood far away. Drown the fire with water until all embers, rocks and sticks are wet. Stir the remains, add more water until the fire is extinguished and cool to the touch. Do not bury coals as they can smolder and break into flames much later. Be sure the campfire is completely extinguished before you leave, even if for a short time!

There may be hazards due to downed and weakened trees and trees may continue to fall. Stay alert and heads up, fallen or leaning trees may snap back unexpectedly when cut. Avoid camping and walking under damaged and leaning trees. Root wads above the ground may also be unstable and dangerous.

There may be fire restrictions in all or part of the BWCAW. These are for your safety and to reduce the threat of large, dangerous wildfires. Before entering the wilderness, please check on fire restrictions. Contact any Superior National Forest District Office or forest headquarters, (218)626-4300, or check the Superior National Forest website for specific information and maps.

There is a significant increase in the likelihood of fires in the blowdown area as a result of the storm. Wilderness visitors can expect: wildfires that start and spread, even in wet conditions. Wildfires that burn more intensely and may spread rapidly. Wildfires that easily jump barriers such as small lakes and streams. Increased risk of being trapped by a wildfire with difficult escape routes.

The fire may be miles from you and pose no threat to your safety. If the fire is nearby or moving in your direction, travel away from it at a right angle, if possible. That means going south or north if the fire is approaching from the west. While you travel, try to stay close to a large body of water until the fire passes. In extreme cases, paddle to the middle of a lake, wear your life vest and submerge yourself under your overturned canoe, where you can breathe the cool, trapped air to protect your lungs and airways until the fire passes.


Wind: Most fires travel east and north. Make sure you have a safe route to follow in case wind direction changes. Embers can blow more than a mile, possibly starting new fires. As humidity increases in the early morning and late evening, fire activity may decrease. Travel may be safer at these times. Tall smoke plumes indicate a very hot fire. If you see a tall smoke plume upwind of you, seek a point of refuge, such as a lake.

Look at maps, alternative routes and your proximity to a large body of water. Stay close to water. If there is a safe way around the fire, with broad expanses of water, consider traveling from the area. If you must travel through burned areas, watch for burning stump holes and hot embers. Burned trees can fall easily.

If you feel threatened, get on a large lake. Stay upwind, but be aware that large fires can burn unpredictably in any direction. If the fire is upon you, take your canoe into the water. Put on your life jacket, paddle to the middle of a lake, tip over your canoe and go under it. You can breathe the cool, trapped air under the canoe until the fire passes.

4/3/00 - Two ravens sit on the swing set and ponder the temporary return of winter today. We saw our first grackle today - a reliable sign that the snow is not long for this world. The lake is too shaky to even measure the ice. I would guess that it is only about 6" thick and quite degraded. I'm thinking the ice will be out by the weekend or shortly thereafter.

This small brown bat was discovered snuggled up in our back door frame this weekend. Although it seemed to be sick or injured, perhaps it was just sleepy, as it disappeared shortly after dark. - Bill

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 | « March 2000 | May 2000 »


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