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Sawbill Newsletter Archives: June 2004
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « May 2004 | July 2004 »
6/30/04 - The past few days have been just gorgeous! The cold and wet weather that hung around for most of June has transformed into warm, sunny days that make you want to lounge on a secluded beach for hours soaking up the suns warm ray.

Sawbill customer Dave Boser sent us several photos from a recent trip to Cherokee Lake. Below is one of my favorites. - Dave

Sunset on Cherokee Lake


6/27/04 - Last week the Bullhead Water-Lilies sprang to the surface of the shallow ponds surrounding Sawbill. Their bright yellow buds and broad green leaves add a splash of color to the shimmering surface of some of my favorite moose haunts. Last night, Alison and I hopped into kayaks and set out to check on their growth. Portaging the kayaks down to the lake is an awkward, hand-cramping ordeal, but once in the water kayaks are a joy to paddle. After an hour of paddling into a strong north wind, we ducked into a narrow, log choked passage, which connects Sawbill Lake to Handle Creek. More lily pads had burst to the surface and last week's tightly closed flowers where starting to unfold, exposing their golden petals to the evening's last rays of light. We drifted slowly over the masses of lilies lost in thought. Eventually the trees' shadows reached across the mirror smooth water, shielding me from the sun's warmth. Sadly, I realized it was time to leave. As we turned our kayaks toward Sawbill, I found comfort in returning soon to check on the water-lily garden. - Dave

6/26/04 - A sunny Saturday has caused a flurry of activity around Sawbill. The store has been busy all morning, and canoes are flying off the racks. Before we know it the 4th of July will roll around, and the busy season will be here.

Last night most of the crew went for a paddle after closing. We broke into small groups and slowly paddled around Sawbill Lake. The moon shown through a thin layer of clouds to the South, but the northern horizon was clear and speckled with stars. Viewed from a canoe on a calm clear night, our backyard is hard to beat. - Dave

Loren, our newest crew member, and Lida testing out the Hansen's wooden canvas canoe built by master canoe builder, Joe Seliga.

6/24/04 - Sawbill Poet Laureate Ed Dallas paid us a visit after a canoe trip last week. Ed took his son and three of his fellow West Point graduates on a canoe trip to celebrate their graduation. Below are two Haikus that Ed wrote during their trip.

canoe camp dance hall
six wood ticks quickly two step
across hot skillet

muddy portage trails
near boot tracks
pink lady slippers

Last night 13 of us - the whole crew minus Scott, who is recovering from jaw surgery - hopped into four cars at 9:15 PM for a night on the town! Our mission was to showcase the Sawbill musicians at the Gunflint Tavern's open mic night. Usually every Wednesday the Tavern is hopping and bopping to unpolished tunes played by Grand Marais' finest amateur musicians. Last night the Tavern replaced open mic night with a 3- piece band. Things were pretty slow when we arrived, but the Tavern was soon filled with dancing crew members. After a few dances, our musicians got antsy, so we moved our party to Artist's Point. Adam, Jeff, Pat, and Alison's music blended with the crashing waves, crisp air, and star-filled sky to produce some great music. I may be living up to my nickname "Gramps" when I say this, but I don't care. I have seen a seen a few Sawbill crews come and go in my day, and I think it is safe to say that this year's crew is a keeper!

Jeff Green singing "The Emily Song" accompanied by Pat on Bass, Adam on Guitar, and Alison on Cello.

Sawbill Newsletter editors Alison and Molly hard at work correcting countless spelling and grammatical errors.
Warm Fuzzies are definitely in order!

6/23/04 - Walter and I slid our canoe into the lake at 7:00 this morning looking for a few fish and a little adventure. We left Sawbill Lake and headed up a narrow winding creek. Water levels have started to drop and the lower water makes travel harder on these seldom-traveled trickles of water. As we neared the next lake, a young cow moose came into view. The moose stood calmly looking at us for several minutes. Assured that we were friends, she let down her guard and took several long drinks of cool water before continuing on her way. Energized by the encounter, we paddled on and soon came to our first portage. Following narrow, moss-covered trails maintained by four-footed travelers rather than humans is hard, but rewarding. Crashing through alder and weaving our way over and under downed trees, we slowly made our way north. Following game trails makes me slow down and watch my feet, and in the process a whole new world comes into view. If getting to the next lake is my only goal, I grow impatient when the brush gets thick or the mud sucks at my thighs. But by taking advantage of my slow progress - savoring the delicate details of a blooming lady's slipper, or the earthy aroma of a beaver's home - I am able to enjoy where I am rather than focusing on where I hope to end up. For me this is a much more enjoyable way to travel.

Before long we pulled over one last beaver dam and paddled out onto our lake. After rigging our fishing poles we let a gentle breeze carry us down the lake. As the rocky shoreline drifted by, we lobbed spoons next to the fallen trees that lined the shore. The northerns seemed ravenous as they attacked our lures over and over. If our lures' large treble hooks did not penetrate a fish's bony mouth on the first bite, it would often attack again and again until it was finally hooked. After several hours of action-packed fishing, we pulled our canoe back over the last beaver dam and retraced our steps back to Sawbill. - Dave

Our skinny friend taking a drink.

A Stemless Lady's Slipper that we came across this morning.

Stemless Lady's Slippers have a deceptive pollination system. Bumblebees are lured into the pouch of the labellum through the slit in the front, attracted by the bright color and sweet scent of the flower. Once inside, they find no reward, and discover that they are trapped--with only one point of escape. Inside the pouch, there are hairs which lead to a pair of openings, one beneath each pollen mass. First, however, the bee must pass under the stigma, so if it bears any pollen from a visit to another flower, it will be deposited before picking up a fresh load, thus preventing self-pollination. Unfortunately, the bees quickly learn from their experiences and soon avoid C. acaule flowers. Thus, like several other orchids in our flora, they are dependent on naive bees, and generally experience very low pollination rates (Davis 1986).

Walter displays the smallest fish of the day.

6/21/04 - Moose have been all over the roads this spring. Last week Bill and Carl Hansen saw a moose and two calves on their way home from town. Customers have been entertaining us with stories of moose sightings, and I have started to drive much slower. I love my Honda Civic, but I do not think that my car or its passengers would be in very good condition after crashing into a moose! After 8 months of scraping by on leaves, cedar boughs, and other less tasty morsels, the moose are finally able to return to the shallow lakes and marshes for some real food. The longest days of the year cause the aquatic vegetation to grow rapidly and the moose are taking advantage by hanging out in shallow water to eat, eat, and eat some more. Crescent Campground hosts Jo and Bill Koski came across a young bull moose feeding in a shallow marsh near Two Island Lake on their way into Grand Marais. Joanne used her new digital camera to take a bunch of great photos. She said that she and the moose really connected, and that the moose actually talked to her by making grunting noises. I think Joanne "The Moose Whisper" Koski has a nice ring to it. Great photos, Jo! - Dave

6/18/04 - The weather is warming up, and swimming is becoming down right enjoyable. I have always found that you can judge fishing by the crew's swimming habits. In the spring, crew swims consist of quickly stripping down to swimming attire as you summon up the courage to jump off the dock. Then, as soon as your toes are touching the water, you are scrambling to haul yourself out of the frigid water. This time of the year, the lake trout are cruising the shallows and biting like crazy, and you can't catch a small mouth if your life depends on it. When the water warms enough for people to actually stay in the water for several minutes the small mouth start biting and the lake trout head for deeper, cooler water. I noticed the season's first dragon flies crawling out of their larva cases at the end of a portage and realized that soon the black flies will be gone, the lake trout will be deep, and spring will turn into summer. Walter and I crouched next to these amazing creatures as they struggled through different states of emergence. They live for several years as larva before crawling onto these rocks to break out of their hard shells, dry their wings, and take flight. I hope the chance to soar through the air and gobble up black flies was worth the wait.

Even with the warm weather, we were able to trick a few lake trout into biting. Walter felt the powerful surges of his first lake trout, rod bending, reel screeching, a green monster flashing in the crystal clear depths. The smile on his face made the long miles and hard portages disappear.
- Dave

Walter shows off his first lake trout before watching it swim away.

Munching on hamburgers and watching the sunset, we both
agreed that there were few places we would rather be.


6/17/04 - The finer points of beard growing have long been a topic of discussion amongst the Sawbill Crew. We have talked about having an official beard growing competition for several summers, but until now no such competition has taken place. I am proud to report that the first annual Sawbill Beard Off has officially begun! Over the next six weeks you will be able to laugh and cry along with the competitors through weekly Beard Off updates posted right here on the Sawbill newsletter. You will also be able to use sophisticated online polling techniques to vote for your favorite beard in several different categories and help judges decide who will be crowned 2004 Sawbill Beard Off Champion. Please send all fan mail to .

The beard off athletes posed for photos during the 2004 Sawbill Beard Off pre-shave warm up held in the Mobe.


Jeff might not grow the thickest beard, but with shades like those, he will be hard to beat in the style category.

Walter's Dad told him not to grow a beard this summer before he left his Indiana home. Walter is throwing caution to the wind and growing a beard anyway. The media buzz so far is "Rookie of the Year" for this promising young beard grower.

Dave is a long time beard grower, first time competitor. He plans to use a peanut butter based facial mask to increase hair growth.
All eyes are currently on Pat "the stash" Nash. This man's face is like a chia pet. He is expected to win the total growth category by at least an ounce. It is people like Pat that make Beard Offs so exciting.

Because of a wedding, Adam Hansen
will be joining the Beard Off a few days late.
Adam will be focusing on the longest neck
hair category, but Jeff is hoping
to give him a run for his money.


6/16/04 - Yesterday morning Alison and I were sitting in the store waiting for the first customers of the day to arrive. It has been busy around Sawbill, but Tuesday mornings can be pretty slow. Conversation wandered from subject to subject as we tried to stave off boredom, and eventually our conversation got stuck on the finer points of the laws governing the Catholic church, a bit on an odd subject considering neither of us are Catholic. However, as I sifted through countless piles of useless information stored in my brain I came across an interesting bit of history. I informed Alison that in the 1700's the Pope had sent a high ranking member of the church to Canada for a visit. Many of the French Canadian fur traders, often referred to as Voyageurs, were Catholic and they did their best to follow the rules set forth by the Catholic church. The Voyageurs often found it hard to refrain from eating meat on Fridays and one of their favorite foods was beaver meat. During the church officials' visit he decided that since beavers have scales on their tails and they spend most of their time in the water they are a type of fish. Because of this he decided that it was OK for Voyageurs to eat beaver on Fridays! Alison was a little skeptical so we decided to go strait to the top for an answer. Are beavers still considered acceptable fair on Fridays during Lent? With a quick Google search we found the Pope's address in Vatican City. We wrote the Pope a letter and we are now anxiously awaiting his reply. - Dave

Alison mailing our question to "His Holiness Pope John Paul II"

6/15/04 - Visiting at Sawbill this week were Phil and Fran Higley. Their visit led us all to think of the history of Sawbill Lodge, the American plan resort that stood at the south end of Sawbill Lake from 1934 to 1983. Phil is the nephew of Jean Raiken, the first and longest owner of Sawbill Lodge. He was a guide for the lodge for a number of years through 1956. Fran accompanied Phil to Sawbill one summer, working as a waitress. We enjoyed looking at their photos and talking with them about the lodge. - Dave

Phil and Fran Higley

6/12/04 - Catching a mess of lake trout last week was a ton of fun, and last night's festive dinner was icing on the cake! Crew member Pat Nash brought home a 8.7-pound monster and claimed the prize for the largest fish of the trip. What was his prize, you ask? Nothing short of a festive dinner in his honor.

Normally the crew gobbles down their dinner at 5:45, but once or twice a summer we find an excuse to host a festive dinner. Festive dinners take place at 9 PM after we close, and they all include a huge spread of food and a theme. Some of my favorite memories from past festive dinners include a toga party where several crew members wore togas made from old blue plastic tarps, and a disco party when Bill came running into the mobe wearing skin tight polyester pants yelling "the wolves are howling, the wolves are howling!" causing everyone to rush outside. We formed a sweaty mass of wriggling lycra on the porch where we enjoyed the chorus for several minutes before returning to our own party.

The theme for last nights festive dinner was "The Pat Nash Fish Fry". Lida, the head cook, spent 8 hours preparing cheese cake, home fries, salads, asparagus, and a beautiful fruit plate that was the spitting image of Pat's monster fish. Adam and I were in charge of cooking the fish. We filled two ovens and the grill, and we still have 3 fish left to cook. At 9 PM everyone converged on the mobe, dressed like Pat Nash, ate more fish than I thought was possible, and partied the night away! Man, it's good to be at Sawbill. - Dave

The Crew enjoying "The Pat Nash Fish Fry"!

Lida shows off her fish shaped fruit plate and a hot pan of baked lake trout. Great job Lida!

6/10/04 - OB's back! Long time sawbill crew member John Oberholtzer moved back to Grand Marais several months ago. Last night OB came up for a paddle and a sauna. We hit the water around 6:30 PM and made our way up Sawbill towards the Smoke portage. He paddled Smoke Creek almost by accident on his first BWCAW canoe trip as a teenager but had not been back there since. Snooping around in the Boreal Forest with OB is always a fascinating, and yesterday was no exception. Half way down Smoke Creek we left our canoe to explore a series of old beaver ponds and gurgling streams that empty into Smoke Creek.

I always enjoy wandering with OB because he is constantly aware of the subtle smell of a patch of earth, the distant drum of a Grouse, or a handful of miniature purple violets hidden in the tall grass. He looks at the forest in an unusual way, and when you're with him, he makes you slow down and appreciate the little things that are so easy to pass by unnoticed. As we crept through the tangled forest we came across a giant moss covered boulder. Cresting the boulder we noticed a six inch crack reaching down into the earth. The bottom of the crack was filled with ice and when we peered into the crack it was like standing in front of a refrigerator with the cool air covering our faces. I instantly remembered stumbling upon the same spot several years ago on a similar walk. Have people used this place to preserve food during the hot summer months? Does the ice effect when the plants living by the crack bloom?.....This enchanted spot lingered in our minds as we headed back to our canoe and continued on our way.

We were soon paddling South on Sawbill Lake heading home to join the crew for a sauna and the chance to spin a few tales about our little adventure. Our conversation wandered from family and friends, to work and plans for the future, but it always seemed to come back to the wilderness surrounding us. - Dave

John Oberholtzer checking out the start of an amazing blueberry crop.

An ice-filled crack in the middle of the forest.

6/9/04 - Former crew member, Ellen Bagnato, gave birth to Taj Lock Bagnato on Wednesday, May 26 at 6:59 am.  He weighed 7 lbs. 5 oz and was 19.5 inches long. His parents have told us, "He is incredibly healthy, alert, and perfect!!"  

Ellen and Taj

Each year the Sawbill men take a day to paddle, swap stories, laugh a lot, and do a little fishing. I always look forward to this annual event, and this year's trip lived up to its ever growing reputation. The weather was beautiful, the fish were biting, and Nathan Terbeest caught his first lake trout. Nathan has gone on many of these outings, but for some reason we have never been able to get his fish in the boat. The first lake trout Nathan hooked was about 5 years ago. He was so excited that he broke his fishing rod in half when we set the hook and continued to fight the fish for several minutes before it finally broke his line. A few years later he hooked one that was so big it would not fit in our net....after several failed attempts to squeeze it into our net it broke the line and we watched it slowly swim away. This time we could not fail. Nathan is getting married in 10 days and the thought of ending his unmarried life with out fulfilling his dream of catching a lake trout would be unacceptable. So armed with a strong line, spare polls, and the largest net I have ever seen we went fishing. Nathan landed two beautiful trout, including an 8 pound monster. Now the crew is looking forward to a lake trout feast! - Dave

Scott, Pat, Nathan, Adam, Jeff, and Dave displaying some of the fish that they caught.

6/7/04 - Sawbill's newest employee, Walter, arrived several days ago and he has been spending a lot of time in a canoe exploring near by lakes. Yesterday Walter and I took advantage of the high water levels by paddling Smoke Creek. Smoke Creek is a ribbon of water that twists its way from Smoke Lake into North Sawbill. The creek is often so narrow that a canoe can barely squeeze between its banks. Paddling a narrow creek provides a unique view of the boreal forest that is hard to match.

Nathan TerBeest, a long time Sawbill employee, came up for a short visit. Nathan is getting married on June 19th and he decided to squeeze in a short fishing trip before the wedding. Nathan, Adam, Scott, Jeff, Pat, and I are leaving to tonight. We hope to fool a few fish and treat the rest of the crew to a fish fry when we return in a few days. Bill and Joanne Koski, the Crescent Lake Campground hosts, have returned for another summer! Joanne stopped in this morning for a visit and we enjoyed catching up after the long winter. - Dave

Walter winding his way though Smoke Creek.

Nathan, Joanne, and Bill chatting in the store.

6/5/04 - Everyone on the crew pitched in last night and cleaned the store as a group. This allowed us all to go out for our first all crew paddle of the summer. Paddling the Kelso Loop was wonderful under a clear star filled sky. As we paddled down the Kelso River the largest shooting star I have ever seen shot across the sky. The white blaze was visible for approximately 8 seconds as it crossed in front of us and disappeared behind the trees. For the rest of the paddle people were whispering about how they had never seen anything like it.

More and more customers are coming every day and the calm days of spring are over. Sawbill crew members new and old are constantly zipping here and there stocking, cleaning, renting, and helping. The water is warming up, the fishing is improving, and the black flies are every where....summer is here! - Dave

The sun setting over Alton Bay.

6/3/04 - Several inches of rain in 48 hours caused Sawbill's water level to rise almost a foot. The buzz around Sawbill was that the loons' nest would be flooded, so I snuck out for a paddle yesterday to check on the loons and their nest. I found the nest surrounded by water, but the egg was sitting high and dry about 3 inches above the water line. Good news, except that the parents were nowhere to be seen. Hoping the parents would return from a fishing trip soon I left the little brown egg and paddled and portaged over to Alton Lake to wet my line. As I returned to the Alton to Sawbill portage I was drawn to the roar of Alton creek, which leads out of the bay south of the portage into Sawbill. Normally Alton Creek is just a trickle and doesn't even show up on most maps, but after the constant soaking we received last week the creek had jumped its banks and formed a watery maze rushing through a dense cedar thicket. I decided to follow the creek to Sawbill and began wading through the foot deep ice water pulling my canoe over and around a labyrinth of downed trees that choked the stream. After several minutes the stream became too steep for wading and I was forced to shoulder my canoe and bushwhack along the creek toward Sawbill. Ten minutes later I slid my canoe into Alton pond and paddled through its narrow mouth into Sawbill...... My heart sank as I paddled by the loons nest and saw the egg still sitting unattended......Returning several hours later I could just make out one of the loons sitting on the nest under the moon lit sky. Tonight is the full moon and the crew is going for a paddle so we can check up on the loons again tonight! - Dave

Alton Creek surging towards Sawbill.

The loon's nest holding back the flood and waiting for Mom and Dad to return.

6/1/04 - Tom (Hawk) Jensen sent along these pictures of his son-in law's dog (is that a dog-in-law?) taken on Cherokee Lake on opening weekend.

Current Sawbill Newsletter | « May 2004 | July 2004 »


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