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Sawbill Newsletter Archives: August 2004
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « July 2004 | September 2004 »
8/31/04 - On Sunday evening, Jeff and I joined 3 other sea kayakers on the East Bay's grey pebble beach in Grand Marais to celebrate the full moon. Decked out in wetsuits, paddle jackets, PFDs, and spray skirts, we were warm and ready to hit the water. Spirits were high despite the light rain that splattered against the decks of our kayaks as we prepared to launch. As the sun set in the west, we slid our sleek crafts onto Lake Superior's mirror smooth surface and paddled out of east bay and around Artist's Point. During the summer, evening paddles to watch the full moon rise over the lake are a tradition that John Amren, owner of Superior Coastal Sports, and other local paddlers look forward to every month. Chatting with friends new and old, we floated together admiring the harbor and the lights of Grand Marais from our unique vantage point.

Our conversation stopped when I noticed the first golden sliver of the moon break the horizon. Without speaking, we turned our kayaks to face the rapidly rising moon and paddled toward it, drawn like insects to a street lamp. Within minutes, the full moon’s fiery orange glow was fully visible. We enjoyed the moons gentle glow in silence for several minutes before it began to disappear behind the dense layer of clouds that covered the lake.

With the moon gone we gather once again and visited some more, and talk about how nice it was to watch the moon rise from our kayaks. Perhaps an excuse to go paddling with friends is as much a part of this monthly tradition as the full moon its self.

Jeff Green paddles toward the rising full moon in front of Artist's Point on Sunday.

8/30/04 - Congratulations are in order here at Sawbill! When Jasmine arrived this spring, she brought a lot of energy and a giant rubber ball that was 26 inches in diameter. Every morning I would stroll into the Mobe to be greeted by the fragrant aroma of exotic smelling incense and Jasmine's eager smile as she worked and stretched her body with the help of her giant ball and some relaxing music. The ball soon became a favorite toy amongst the crew. Many hours have been spent this summer laughing and cheering as crew members crash and burn during freestyle ball riding sessions. These sessions involve balancing on the squirrelly ball as you twist and contort your body into different positions. Jasmine, like many other sawbill crew members, has been trying all summer to choose a path to follow after leaving Sawbill. Today, Jasmine learned that she has been accepted for a work study program at the Shoshoni Yoga Retreat Center outside of Boulder, Colorado. The six month program starts in January, and by August, Jasmine will be a certified Hatha Yoga Instructor! We will miss Jasmine and her ball, but hopefully, she will return to Sawbill after her training and help us lead more relaxed and flexible lives! - Dave

Jasmine is all smiles as she prepares to cook brunch for the crew.

A hearty Congratulations goes out to long time Sawbill campers Gary and Debbie Friermuth of Hastings, Minnesota. Gary and Debbie have been visiting Sawbill for many years with their family and have always considered the BWCAW their "summer home." Last week they returned to Sawbill to celebrate their 25th anniversary. They were married on September 1st, 1979. They spent their honeymoon up here and they just keep coming back for more. Congratulations Gary and Debbie! -Dave

Gary and Debbie Freiermuth returned to sawbill, where they spent their honeymoon, to celebrate their 25th anniversary.


8/26/04 - Several people have contacted me over the past few weeks about lead-free tackle. This has lead me to do a little more research on how people can obtain lead-free fishing tackle. The reasons for moving away from tackle containing lead are plentiful, and I think Richard Andre from the OEA summed it up best when he told me, �We don’t have lead in gas or paint anymore because we know it is harmful to most organisms including humans….So why would we continue using lead fishing tackle?� Several weeks ago I went to Gander Mountain in Duluth to purchase some lead-free split shot and lead-free jig heads. They had a pretty good supply of lead-free split shot and other types of sinkers, but I was unable to find any lead-free jig heads.

“Approximately 3 million pounds of lead sinkers and jigs are deposited accidentally in United States’ waters every year�(WERC) and a single dose of .01059 ounces can kill an adult loon. But, how can people get hold of lead-free tackle and help reduce the amount of lead lost each year? Right now lead-free tackle is hard to come by. In Cook County, Buck’s Hardware sells lead-free jig heads, and Sawbill sells lead-free split shot. Both businesses are planning to expand their lead-free lines next year. I was not able to find lead-free tackle at the Beaver House, or the Holiday Station in Grand Marais. If you are unable to find what you are looking for locally you might consider ordering products over the Internet. Lead Free Jigs ( is an on-line retailer of tin-bismuth alloy sinkers and jigs in a variety of styles, or also sells a wide variety of lead-free tackle. The “Gremlin Green� split shot that I have been using is made out of tin and works very well. The only disadvantage is that you have to use a slightly larger split shot because tin is not as dense as lead, but I have not noticed a difference in fishing success. I have also been very happy with the Bismuth/Tin jig heads made by John's Freshwater Jigs. Over all I really haven’t been able to tell the difference between the my old lead tackle and the new lead-free stuff that is slowly filling my tackle box, but when a fish broke my line with a lead-free jig in its mouth last week I wasn’t quite as upset! - Dave

8/25/04 - This morning as I was moving pop from the pop shed to the cooler when Fran Sampson, a Sawbill Campground host, told me that there had to be something wrong with the thermometer on the side of the pop shed. It said it was 67 degrees and she sarcastically remarked that she hadn't seen such balmy temperatures since leaving Florida almost a month ago. It is true that cold weather descended on Sawbill when the Sampsons arrived and the weather has been cooler and wetter than normal all month, but today was absolutely gorgeous! Warm sunny weather made me yearn for a dip in the lake. Unfortunately I have been working, working, working, all day. I guess I will have to settle for an evening paddle.

Chris Hanzelin sent us several photos that he took on Cherokee Lake earlier this month. A fire broke out on an island in the middle of the lake and he watched as Forest Service fire fighters put the fire out with the help of a plane and a helicopter. - Dave

8/23/04 -

The sun preparing for a spectacular departure.

Steady winds have brought constantly changing weather to Sawbill along with some spectacular sunsets.  Last week I caught a glimpse of the Western horizon at sunset and could barely fight off the urge to grab a canoe and run to the lake to soak in the warm red glow reflecting off clouds that were towering over Alton. Slowly trolling over my favorite fishing haunts while watching the sun’s last rays descend below the horizon sounded like the perfect way to end the day.  Unfortunately, my list of duties for the day was still long and I had to buckle down and keep working.  A few days later Alison and I finished our work early and were able to escape for a few hours on the water.  The gusting winds that had pummeled paddlers for days finally released its grip on Sawbill as the sun slipped towards the trees.  We stopped paddling east of Kelso Bay and watched the giant, wind whipped clouds turn cherry red as the sun disappeared.  Time passed, the clouds disappeared, and the first stars began to fill the moonless sky.  Soon the Aurora Borealis left its faint glow on the northern horizon.  The Aurora’s familiar shades of yellow and white slowly turned to green, finally producing a red glow that mirrored the recent sunset.  Red northern lights are rarely seen because they are only produced by our suns strongest solar flares.  I have tucked that night away with a handful of other spectacular encounters with the Aurora Borealis; you can gaze at the night sky for hundreds of hours without to seeing red northern lights! - Dave

A red sun setting over North Sawbill Lake.

8/21/04 -

The first leaves of the season are starting to change colors.

Fall has been in the air here at Sawbill and my thoughts often turn toward frozen lakes covered in a glistening white blanket of freshly fallen snow.  Sure, my favorite season is still along way off, and the skis will remain stowed, the sled dogs tethered for several more months, but I can still feel winter coming.  Yesterday I noticed the first real signs of an early fall when I found a handful of moose maple leaves changing color.  Their gentle golden glow hint at the kaleidoscope of colors that will greet north woods travelers a month from now.  The moose maple are always the first to start changing colors in the fall, and before long their fiery red leaves will blanket the under story.

Cooler nights, gusting winds, and hints of fall colors are not the only sign that fall is coming.  Our beloved crew members are beginning to leave as well.  Kari, Walter, and Sonya have all left for school, and Alison leaves in the morning.  Sawbill will not be the same with out them.

I might get a few hate emails for letting this little secret out of the bag, but fall is a spectacular time for a canoe trip.  If you have not visited Sawbill in September or October I would strongly recommend a visit.  Fewer visitors, bug free camping, fall colors, rutting moose, and good fishing are just a few things that make fall my favorite time for canoeing in the north woods.  - Dave

Jeff Green shows off the birthday cake that Cindy made for him last week. Happy birthday Jeff! Tasty cake Cindy!

8/17/04 - A wedding ring was found on Beth Lake over the weekend. If you lost your ring contact Scott at he has the ring and is looking for its owner. - Dave

8/16/04 - My lower back muscles are still tight after Saturday's dragon boat races, and a quote from fellow paddler Will Decker keeps running through my head."I have not exercised that hard in 10 years; at the end of the race my arm muscles were just burning!" Will exclaimed as he enjoyed a cold beer after the races. I think most of the Sawbill Canoe Outfitters' 25 paddlers were surprised at how physically demanding the 2-minute sprint across the Grand Marais harbor in a 22-person "canoe" could be, but we were also blown away by how much fun dragon boat racing was. Annie Strupeck, my partner in the "engine room" (the middle section of the boat) came up from Minneapolis for the race. As we climbed out of the boat after the last of three races everyone was laughing and celebrating Sawbill Canoe Outfitters' first place finish in our three boat heat. Annie hit the nail on the head when she said," I love the adrenaline rush you get when everyone is yelling, and grunting, and pushing each other to paddle harder.... I can't wait for next year's Dragon Boat Festival." For some the Dragon Boat Festival was all about who could propel their 650 pound boat down the ½ mile course the fastest, but most people were just there to have a great time. Our team's paddlers came from all walks of life, ranged in age from 14 to 63, and came from as far away as Chicago. Between races, there was plenty of time to make new friends, catch up with old ones, and fill our bellies full of an endless supply of tasty food cooked up by Keck Melby and Arline Johnson. I think Keck fed half of Cook County with his dragon dogs, foot long bright red hot dogs, which he had to special order for the event. One dragon boat junky from Thunder Bay told the crowd at the awards ceremony that they had brought the highly contagious "dragon boat virus" with them from Canada and released it in Grand Marais. I think everyone who attended this year's festival was infected, and I can't wait to see how it spreads over the next year! - Dave

The Sawbill Dragon Boat Team smiles for a photo before a race.

There were too many good photos from the Dragon Boat Festival to fit on this page so I made a special page with more photos.

Click here for more dragon boat photos.

8/12/04 - Yesterday at 3 PM the forest service lifted the campfire restrictions for the BWCAW. This means that campfires are allowed at any time within steel fire grates at designated campsites inside and outside of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Like clockwork, the fire restrictions were lifted and the heavy rain that has drenched the forest for the past 5 days has stopped! Today is clear and sunny, and people are emerging from their tents to go canoeing! -Dave

8/11/04 -

On Monday Jessica Chang visited Sawbill from Savage, Minnesota. She brought her pet guinea pig, Junior, with her, and decided to introduce Junior to the BWCAW by taking him on a canoe trip. As far as I can tell Junior was the first canoe tripping guinea pig to visit Sawbill in its 48-year history. Sawbill is proud to add guinea pigs to the list of pets people have brought on canoe trips, which includes dogs, cats, and parakeets. What wacky critter will be next? I am hoping for an emu, but a baby hippo would also be pretty cool. -Dave

8/9/04 - On Saturday Frank, Mary Alice, and I joined a growing crowd on the edge of Crescent Lake. A dozen people milled around the roadside pull-off where Bill and Jo Koski often go to use their cell phone, and a dozen more onlookers sat in their motorboats near shore. Everyone was buzzing about Freedom, the Bald Eagle that was near death when he was found by Bill and Jo Koski three weeks before. The Koskis set off a chain of events which brought the eagle to the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center in St. Paul. In a few minutes, Freedom would return to Crescent Lake and be released.

Gail, a naturalist from Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, talks to the crowd as she prepares to free the eagle. One young observer had to move in closer inspection.

After several minutes, Gail Buhl, a naturalist at Wolf Ridge Environmental Center, arrived with a large cage containing Freedom. Gail rescues 4 or 5 Bald Eagles a year along with approximately 50 other raptors. Gail helped get Freedom ready for his trip to the Raptor Center, and she said that "this was a very unusual case and we had a hard time figuring out what was wrong." After arriving at the Raptor Center, Freedom was put through a series of tests to find out what was wrong with him. In the end, veterinarians determined that the eagle has a heart murmur, but they could not determine what caused the bird to become so sick. After several weeks of close observation, cage rest, and a nutritious diet, experts concluded that Freedom can live a healthy life with his heart murmur and that he was ready to be released into the wild.

Jo and Bill Koski holding Freedom seconds before he flies out of their arms.

The crowd grew silent as Gail explained how the next few minutes would unfold and watched as the naturalist crawled into the large "dog crate" containing Freedom and removed the bird, who was covered in a large blanket. I was surprised at how calm the giant bird was as Bernie Brooks, a local bird rescuer, and Gail unwrapped the predator's sharp talons and prepared for the eagle's release.

Bill and Jo Koski were given the honor of releasing Freedom. They listened carefully and donned thick leather gloves for the task. Finally Jo cradled Freedom in her arms while Bill grasped the bird's mighty talons. With a gentle toss they launched Freedom into the air and he soared to a nearby tree. After eyeing the scene for a few minutes, he took off once more and flew out of view. Jo's eyes swelled with tears as the powerful turn of events filtered through her mind. "We could live for 500 years without another experience like that," she told her husband. I bet Freedom was thinking the same thing. -Dave

The crowd cheers as Freedom flies away.

8/6/04 - We are happy to report that the wedding ring found on Polly Lake several weeks ago has been returned to its owner!

Yesterday, Walter and I snuck away from a bustling Sawbill Canoe Outfitters for a few hours of fishing. We paddled down Alton Lake and then took the 200-rod portage from Alton into Wonder Lake. Wonder Lake was hit hard by the 1999 4th of July wind storm and much of the portage snakes through a forest that is busy regenerating. The sun-soaked portage trail is lined with lush, green blueberry plants, which are covered in clusters of blueberries that range from tiny newly formed mint green berries to juicy dark purple berries that you must pop directly in your mouth. The lure of giant fish moved us steadily along the portage on our way to Wonder, but as we trudged back to Sawbill the urge to stop and pick mouthfuls of the sweet berries was too much to bear. We picked as we walked and when we came across an especially succulent patch we put down our canoe and packs and got to work picking. - Dave

Walter uses some self control to collect a handful of berries before gobbling them up.

8/4/04 - What started out as a typical Saturday night for Crescent camp hosts Bill and Jo Koski turned into a hair-raising Bald Eagle rescue when they found an eagle dying on the shore of Crescent Lake. Shortly after finding the Bald Eagle they learned that some boaters had found the bird bobbing in the water, near a dead and floating fish. The fishermen moved the bird to shore, hoping he would rest, dry out and return to his family. "The only thing I knew for certain was that we simply could not just drive away and forget about him. Yes, sometimes nature can be so cruel….but then sometimes we humans are given a chance to intervene" said Jo. After a few phone calls Bill and Jo tracked down Bernie Brooks, a raptor rescuer that lives in Tofte. Bill held the giant bird on his lap for the 25 mile drive to Tofte. Numerous times Bill had to shake him to keep him conscious. His great eyes repeatedly closed and his head began to bow in defeat as though the last ounce of fight had escaped him. "Bill and I would not accept this, and I kept driving faster," stated Jo. When they reached Tofte, Bernie Brooks took charge instantly and made arrangements for the bird to be transferred to the Raptor center in the Twin Cities. "Freedom", which is the name that Bill and Jo gave the eagle, has safely reached the Raptor center, and is doing better. Unfortunately, he has a severe heart murmur and will probably not be released back into the wild. The next night, Joanne returned to the spot where they had rescued Freedom. There, soaring above her were two Bald Eagles. "They circled closer and lower until they were only a few feet from my truck… I only hope they could sense that my red truck could be a sign to them that Freedom is going to be OK," recalled Joanne. -Dave

Freedom the Bald Eagle on the edge of Crescent Lake

Bernie Brooks examining Freedom at her home in Tofte

8/1/04 - There are few summer nights when I don't hear a loon's haunting calls as I am drifting off to sleep. Loons and the North go hand in hand, and a trip into the Boundary Waters without these elegant birds would be hard to imagine. Last week, the fishing was slow and I soon turned my attention to a loon that kept diving for fish about 50 feet from my canoe. After several dives the loon burst to the surface with a 12 to 14-inch Northern Pike in its mouth. After wrestling with the wriggling fish for several minutes, the loon grasped the still struggling fish by the head, tipped its head back, and slid the whole fish down its throat. I ran the amazing event through my mind, remembering an article about the harmful effects of lead fishing tackle on loons and other birds. That "monster" northern could have had a lead jig head or other fishing lure stuck in its belly and in a giant meal, that loon would have sealed its fate. If a loon ingests a single lead sinker it is likely to die within 2 to 3 weeks. Research has found that in loon nesting areas, up to 50% of loon mortality is caused by lead poisoning. Plus,between 1980 and 1996, the Raptor Center reported lead poisoning in 138 of 650 eagles they treated. From 1996-99, 43 additional eagles were affected by lead toxicity.(Minnesota DNR) Luckily fishermen are starting to realize that the lead weights what we fish with can have negative effects on the plants and animals that share our favorite fishing spots. The Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance is spear-heading a campaign that encourages fishermen to exchange their lead fishing tackle for tackle made of nickel, steel, or other materials. Last year, the Office of Environmental Assistance collected over 1100 pounds of lead tackle during 22 tackle exchanges. You can learn more about lead-free tackle and how you can exchange your lead tackle for lead free tackle by visiting their website at Watching that loon swallow a huge fish made me realize that we are not the only ones fishing here, and that I should do my part and turn in my lead fishing tackle, even if it means giving up that lucky jig head! - Dave

A volunteer shows off some of the 1100 lbs. of lead tackle collected at 22 exchange events during 2003.

8/1/04 - There has been a marked increase in reports of bear activity during the past week. Polly, Phoebe, Beth and Alton Lakes seem to be the hot spots. As always, it is important to hang your food at least 12' off the ground and at least 6' from the nearest tree. For you car campers, keep your food inside a hard-sided vehicle at all times--coolers are not bear proof. Make sure car windows are completely rolled up.

Future Sawbill crew members Tori and Carter Strubbe visited this past week along with their parents, Laura and Ezra. Tori and Carter are the grandchildren of Sawbill Campground Hosts Jim and Rachel TerBeest.

"Would you like to rent a canoe?"
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « July 2004 | September 2004 »


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