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Sawbill Newsletter Archives: May 2000
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « April 2000 | June 2000 »
5/29/00 - Whew! The busy Memorial Day weekend has passed. Paul Lundgren, a former Sawbill crew member, and his friend Cindy came to help us out. I would like to thank all the other former crew members who have pitched in to help us this spring: Steve Surbaugh, Kate Surbaugh, Natasha Warner, Jason Morse, Karl Hansen, and Lee Stewart. Special thanks to Kathleen Heikes, who is not a former crew member, but also helped out immensely during the start up season. It is great fun for us to have these fine friends come, visit and work along side us for awhile.

Many canoeists reported seeing moose this weekend. The babies are all born now and the mothers keep them near water for the first few weeks of their lives. Several sets of twins were spotted. - Bill

5/25/00 - Memorial Day weekend had begun with a noticeable pick-up of the pace here at Sawbill. Five of our summer crew members have arrived from the early adjourning colleges. It is a huge relief to have the extra hands at this busy time of year and great fun to share the cheerful energy of these remarkable young men and women.

Speaking of young people, we seem to have about half the population of high school age kids from Rochester, Minnesota here at Sawbill. Kids from all three high schools in the town famous for the Mayo Clinic have taken canoe trips out of Sawbill in the last week. They are a clear eyed and polite group with leaders that are clearly respected teachers. They have battled black flies and high winds this week, but their spirits remain high. - Bill

5/22/00 - Another round of significant rain is encouraging the forest to don its coat of summer green. The leaves are about halfway out now. Woods anemone are blooming and the broad leaf aster are starting to appear. Violets and bunchberry can't be far behind. Unfortunately, the black flies have also made an early appearance. These small, but voracious, gnat like creatures are known as "the flying mouth of the north." They have not been too plentiful so far, thanks to the cold weather and brisk winds. They should peak during the Memorial Day weekend when human blood is at its most plentiful. Normally, the black flies are only around for a few weeks. We are hoping they will disappear on the same early schedule they arrived on. Head nets and a judicious application of repellent are highly recommended for the next couple of weeks.

Open fires continue to be banned in roughly half of the BWCA Wilderness. In our area, Alton and Sawbill Lakes are in the ban area. West and north of Alton up to Mora Lake, fires are allowed. East of Alton, fires are banned. The local Forest Service office tells me that the ban is likely to continue until the end of June, irregardless of the weather. The Forest Service has amassed an incredible arsenal of fire fighting weapons, including the amazing Sky Crane helicopter, capable of dropping 2,400 gallons of water at a time.

5/17/00 - We received this email today from Ed Dallas, the poet laureate of Sawbill:

Bill -

Well I'm back from the flagging trip on the Kek Trail. We flagged from
Bingshick to Seahorse plus another 1/2 mile. It is a mess out there! In a
few places we were 8 - 10 foot off the ground, looking for that 6" wide
path. We canoed in on last Friday from Round Lake and camped on Bat Lake,
just off Gillis Lake. It snowed off and on on Saturday and Sunday, which
was great as it kept the blackflies at bay. On Sunday it coated the ground
for awhile. On Monday it got warm and the blackflies came out in force!!
Tried to eat us alive!!! The trip was great as we got our job done and also
saw moose, deer, a bear, saw a grouse drum, from about 15 feet away, and ( I
hate to bring this up ) a camp marten. Saw him each night in camp. I think
he was wearing a "Sawbill T-shirt" but the light was bad and once a guy hits
50 his eyes go and if he does not have his contacts in .........well I'm not
sure about the T-shirt. We did catch some trout and had one mighty fine fish
boil for supper on Saturday night. I bet you guys are working hard now, hope
you find time to get out in the canoe. Say "hi" to the kids and Cindy for
me. I guess the "office move" back to the store went well. Maybe I can help
with the move come fall. I leave you with this haiku:

after the windstorm
old trail now pink ribbons through
maze of broken trees

Have a good one,


5/14/00 - Dr. Steve DeVries is a professor at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. Every year, Steve, along with co-leader Jeff Reihle, brings a group of college students on a canoe trip through Sawbill as part of a class. In the last fifteen years or so, they have endured almost unrelenting bad weather. In spite of this dampened reputation, Steve remains relentlessly positive, enjoying every moment of his time in the wilderness.

This year, the forecast looked hopeful. A chance of showers on the first day and partly sunny for the four days following. On Thursday, it started to rain hard about fifteen minutes before they arrived, but the forecast called for improvement. "That'll change." said Steve, without rancor. Friday, in all honesty, wasn't too bad - warm with just some fog and a few light showers. Saturday - snow started to fall early and continued off and on all day in the teeth of a 25 mph northwest wind. Still, the forecast called for improvement.

Today, we woke up to this:

The Sawbill Outfitters Store 5/14/2000

Steve is due to end his trip tomorrow. The forecast is for clearing and warmer this afternoon, but I'm not planning to take the long johns off until the Cornell group starts back to Iowa. - Bill

5/12/00 - Yesterday was John Oberholtzer's last day of work at Sawbill. "OB" has worked about fifteen years, off and on, here at Sawbill. Those of you who don't know him in person will recognize his name from this newsletter where his beautiful writing has been featured for several years.

As a send off, Cindy designed a timed course of common Sawbill jobs. In order of their appearance below, the picture are:

packing a cookkit for 8 people, putting canoes back on the rack,

(the Forest Service airplane observes from above), washing a pack,

turning off the high pressure washer, locating the wing nut wrench in the workshop (and putting it in his pocket so no one else can find it), stocking the firewood,

stocking the ice, stocking the Diet Coke,

preparing a dishwashing kit, fetching the towels from the men's shower room to the laundry, finding a jar of beets in Frank and Mary Alice's cold room,

making queso and chips for the crew, and the crew enjoying the queso and chips. Total time elapsed: an incredible 17 minutes 57 seconds.

We were tempted to give OB a gold watch, but decided a Peter Puddicombe paddle was more appropriate. His smiling face, capable hands, and empathetic heart will be deeply missed by crew and visitors alike. I hope he will contribute the occasional piece of writing to this newsletter. He will stay in the area and is planning to expand his passion for writing and wilderness travel . - Bill

5/5/00 - The US Forest Service announced on May 3rd tighter restrictions on campfire use in the BWCA Wilderness. The restrictions come amid a sustained period of very dry conditions across northeastern Minnesota .

The USFS has upgraded the fire danger index in the BWCA Wilderness from a "low" to a "moderate" danger rating. This is due to a lack of soaking spring rains and low snowfall during the past winter.

Campfires will be prohibited in the areas affected by last summer's blowdown, where over 350,000 acres of forest was affected by high winds. This includes all camp and cooking fires. The fire ban in the affected area will likely be in effect at least until June, when early summer rains usually soak the area and reduce fire risk. at: A map of the area covered by the campfire ban is available on the Superior National Forest website. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also has a helpful web site that contains fire related information for the entire state of Minnesota, including the BWCA Wilderness.

There are currently no restrictions on the use of campfires in areas not affected by the blowdown; however, as always, caution is encouraged.

5/2/00 - More crew news: We had a visit overnight from Jeff Thompson, former Sawbill crew member and charter member of the Sawbill Frisbee Golf Association. Jeff is a talented newspaper photographer. He has been working for a chain of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin newspapers based in Duluth, but has just been hired by the Mankato Free Press in Mankato, Minnesota. He stopped by for a quick northwoods fix before moving his life's possessions to farm country. Jeff hopes to relocate to northern Minnesota eventually.

5/1/00 - Sawbill crew member Ruthie Hansen has chosen the University of Chicago as her venue of under graduate study. Congratulations Ruthie.
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « April 2000 | June 2000 »


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