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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: July 2005
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « June 2005 | August 2005 »

7/31/05 - They just keep freaking coming. Former Sawbill crew member Natasha White (1996 -1999, formerly Natasha Warner) and her husband Ray White recently became parents with the arrival of daughter Willow White. Natasha and family currently live outside of Grand Marais. Congratulations!

Natasha, Ray and Willow White.

7/28/05 - Sometimes people do daring, adventurous, inexplicable things. Hillary and Norgay. Lewis and Clark. Magellan and de Leon. And now, Kari and Sonya.

Defying conventional wisdom and the threat of severe sunburn, Sawbill crew members Kari Anderson-Hermann and Sonya Hansen decided to tackle the infamous Kelso Loop--by inner tube.

After 7 1/2 hours of tube-assisted swimming, including through the shallow, weed-, leech- and fish-filled Kelso River, the duo completed the trek looking tired, slightly deranged, and very, very wrinkly.

Day One: Sawbill Lake. Spirits: high. Food supplies: low.

Kari and Sonya patrol the Kelso River. Baffled canoeists look on.

Always setting a good example, the adventurers made sure to fill out their day use BWCAW entry permit.

7/26/05 - Sawbill Head Cheese Bill Hansen and his children Clare and Carl recently completed a week long canoe trip in the remote waters north of Atikokan, Ontario. They reported seeing few travelers, abundant wildlife and heavy airplane traffic (the main difference between this unprotected area and the Boundary Waters). Fishing, especially for northern pike and smallmouth bass, was excellent.

Where is the portage?

Clare keeps calm while landing Carl's monster (OK, medium sized) northern.

Muddy shoes build character and enhance family togetherness.

7/24/05 - Fishing has remained steady despite constant heat and high pressure. Small mouth bass are probably biting the best right now, but we continue to receive favorable reports about northerns, walleye and lake trout.

Former Sawbill crew member and fishing enthusiast Jeff Thompson sent us this picture from a recent canoe trip he took with fellow Sawbill alums Jason "Jase" Morse and John "OB" Oberholtzer, and current crew member Adam Hansen.

The lake trout are still biting on the remote Raven Lake. Great photography Jeff!

7/22/05 - I proudly present to you the Sawbill Crew of 2005:

Top (from left): Alison Behm, Tess Dornfeld, Shannon Grace, Kirk Dornfeld, Carol Winter-Dornfeld, Adam Hansen, Molly Breslin, Kari Anderson-Hermann, Dave Freeman, Mary Alice Hansen, Bradley Rysdahl, Bill Hansen. Middle (from left): Jeff Green, Lida Storch, Carl Hansen, Clare Hansen, Jasmine Hanson, Cindy Hansen, Frank Hansen. Bottom (from left): Pat Nash, Sonya Hansen, Sunnie, Laura Smith, Homer.

7/21/05 - OK, take a breath. This is momentous stuff. Longtime Sawbill family friend Tess Dornfeld, seen below flanked her parents Kirk and Carol, began a 10-day internship here early last week.

As Sawbill closes in on its 50th anniversary next year, Tess has become Sawbill's first ever second-generation crew member. Mom Carol was renting canoes and outfitting camping trips here from 1977 to 1981. I hope this makes some of you feel as old as I do!

Kirk, Tess and Carol take a family breather during last Monday's Dome Dance.

Carol Winter, highlighted, together with other members of the legendary crew of 1980.

7/19/05 - The annual Sawbill Dome Dance lived up to expectations last night with an evening of hot music, sweaty dancing and cold home brew (Jock Mock Porter, courtesy of Sawbill crew members Pat Nash and Jeff Green).

Thanks to dance caller Terrence Smith for another great year!

Sawbill crew members Jeff Green, Clare Hansen and Tess Dornfeld "turn the dish rag."

Everybody circle left!

Dance caller Terrence Smith and his daughter (and Sawbill crew member) Laura swing down the line.

The sound of stomping feet resonates through the dome like a giant echo chamber.

7/17/05 - The blueberries are ripe! The unseasonably hot weather of the past two weeks has transformed the bitter green berries into heavy pink, blue, and deep purple morsels. Sawbill crew member Shannon Grace and former crew member Missy Peschman went on a blueberry harvesting mission today, returning after a few hours with berries by the bucket load. Pies and pancakes may be in our immediate future.

2005 is shaping up as a banner year. The blueberries are ripening fast, but plenty of green berries remain for the coming weeks.

7/15/05 - Some of the baby loons of a few months ago are turning into adolescents, still reliant on their parents but gaining small chunks of independence. This mother and child loon were spotted on Agamok Lake--Mom paddling along and junior catching a quick nap under her wing.

You're never too old for nap time.

Sensing danger, Mom abruptly ends the siesta with a piercing call.

7/12/05 - Our outfitting department is undergoing some redecorating with the help of local carpenter Don Noyce. Yesterday's big move was to take the paddle storage cabinets (known as the "paddle racks") outside, where Don will weather-proof them. The two racks are so large that, after shoving aside all mobile shelving, a team of crew members and one very dedicated customer had to maneuver them down the stairs to the store, out the front double doors, and all the way around the building to the canoe yard. What an operation! Only a few people were squished into corners and impaled on merchandise.

The paddle rack in action. Count the pairs of feet: there are seven in all.

7/11/05 - Sawbill customer Troy Vegel of Ham Lake, MN, had a big Memorial Day weekend this year...he caught his first walleye while camping on Smoke Lake with his dad Jim. He and his brother Erik also took their first turn at doing real work on the 100-rod portage from Sawbill to Smoke. It's not often that we see the phrase "carrying their own weight" quite so literally interpreted. We hope Troy will be back for another walleye soon.


7/10/05 - Have you ever read the Shel Silverstein poem titled "It's Hot!"? Something about taking off your skin and sitting around in your bones in an effort to cool off. That poem could have been written at Sawbill this week. With afternoon temperatures topping 90 degrees Farenheit in the sun, the crew is doing everything possible to stay cool. Four swims a day has become standard, lights are always off when not in use, and every meal is a salad. After the Grand Marais Summer Senior League baseball team, featuring Carl Hansen on first, defeated Duluth Central in a pair of resounding victories today, much of the team joined coaches (and Sawbill crew members) Jeff Green (right) and Adam Hansen (below) in a swim in Lake Superior. For once, the lake's icy chill felt refreshing.



7/8/05 - Sawbill customer Steve Gendron recently completed his annual survey of Sawbill area loons. He and his son Charlie Gendron, friend Sam Saice, and dog Bonker counted three loons on Sawbill Lake, two on Smoke, one on Flame, and seven on Burnt--including two juveniles.

7/7/05 - Mark your calendars: the Dome Dance has been set for Monday, July 18! This dance is a long-time Sawbill tradition. One night a year the crew, campers, and guests dance the night away in the geodesic dome out back. Contra and Appalachian Big Circle dances are called by Terrence Smith of Duluth (also famous as our Laura's father). For those of you who don't know, this style of dance is in the American folk-dancing tradition: it's similar to square dancing, but it's more relaxed, you don't need a partner, and there's live fiddle music! Music is provided by a live band of friends and family. Come and bring your water bottles and your dancing shoes. Festivities will begin around 8 pm. - Molly.

Clare Hansen and Pat Nash share a dance at last year's Dome Dance.

7/5/05 - News flash for those planning routes for later this summer: the river east of Bug Lake on the Louse River route is no longer passable. Two beaver dams blew out and what was a river is now a long, winding muck hole.

The Forest Service has no plans to lengthen the Louse Lake to Bug Lake portage, so this section of the Louse River is essentially closed to all but the most adventurous campers until the beavers rebuild the dams. The Louse River is still passable via the northern lakes of Mesaba and Dent.

7/3/05 - Sawbill crew members Jeff Green, Pat Nash, Dave Freeman and I had an interesting day trip yesterday. We were all intrigued by a Fifties-era Sawbill map and route guide we were given last year by an old Sawbill customer. The map shows a navigable route cutting west from Kelso Lake to Kelso Mountain, descending into Barto Lake, then finally winding through the Barto Creek until the creek meets the Louse River (see map below).


Our first stop was at the peak of Kelso Mountain (more of a knoll, really). The Forest Service built a fire watchtower here during the 1920s. We knew the tower was removed during the early 1970s, but we were surprised when we couldn't even find a space in the trees or a cement foundation. The wilderness has definitely gone a long way toward reclaiming this site.

Even though we couldn't find much evidence of the tower, the wooden outhouse and wood storage shack were still standing--some of the few remaining human-built structures in the BWCAW.

A wooden outhouse is nearly all that remains of the Kelso Mountain fire lookout tower.

From Kelso Mountain, we hiked about a mile through a sparse pine and birch forest to Barto Lake. Barto has a reputation--probably undeserved--as a great Northern Pike lake. We fished for about an hour before declaring a draw.

We had heard that the Forest Service had built two campsites on Barto Lake in 1981 in anticipation of opening up the Barto Creek as a maintained BWCAW route. From what we could tell, the Forest Service built the sites but never went ahead with opening up the route. After a bit of searching, we located one of the two sites near a flat rock landing. Further searching turned up a steel fire grate with a tree growing through it and an old wooden box latrine.

Against all odds, a solitary tamarack tree grows through the fire grate on one of the abandoned campsites on Barto Lake. Dave Freeman observes the phenomenon.

Found it! Jeff Green locates the box latrine, also probably one of the last of its kind remaining in the BWCAW.

On to the Barto Creek, not so much a route anymore as a bushwhack. I'd like to officially report that whatever semblance of a route may have existed in 1958 when the old route guide was published is now completely gone.

The Barto Creek portages are looking a little brushy.

Most of the creek is still navigable, however; we managed to re-enter the Louse River before dusk and were camped on Wine Lake by 10 p.m.

Whopper Lake, just north of Barto Creek, is home to a family of four loons. One of the baby loons fearlessly swam toward our canoe even as we tried to keep our distance.

Pat marvels at a bleached moose jaw he discovered along the creek bed.

Current Sawbill Newsletter | « June 2005 | August 2005 »

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