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Tofte, MN 55615

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Sawbill Newsletter Archives: August 2005
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « July 2005 | September 2005 »

8/31/05 -

Northern Lights shimmering over Sawbill Lake last night.

Campers heading up to the BWCAW this weekend will be happy to know that the fire ban will be lifted at 12:01 am on Friday September 2nd. Starting Friday morning campers will once again be able to build campfires inside of designated fire grates through out the BWCAW.

Last night's calm, clear, star filled sky provided the perfect backdrop as our canoe surged across Sawbill's inky black surface. We sat floating in a bed of stars, inhaling the cool air, listening to the haunting cries of a far off loon. Time passed unnoticed and a faint glow appeared on the northern horizon highlighting a stand of storm weathered white pines on a ridge above the lake. Reluctantly we turned South knowing that dawn and a long day's work lay just around the corner. We returned to Sawbill and headed for bed, but the crisp air, was too hard to resist. I grabbed my pack and headed for the landing. Nestled in my sleeping bag I fell asleep as the northern lights lept over head and danced across the lake's glassy surface.

8/30/05 -


John and Kat Oberholtzer had their second baby on Wednesday, August 24th at 9:50 AM. Cy Oberholtzer weighs 6 pounds 13 ounces, and he and his mother are both doing great, and big sister Hazel is excited about having a new baby brother. Congratulations OB, Kat, and Hazel.

8/27/05 - After 49 years, Sawbill finally receives the fame it deserves, and with any luck, fortune will soon follow. It recently came to our attention that Sawbill Canoe Outfitters is currently highlighted on the homepage of an internationally recognized website. Yahoo, MSN, the New York Times are all good guesses, but no. Sawbill's spotless bathrooms are highlighted on the homepage of A customer, with an eye for detail and an interest in public bathrooms, wrote a review of Sawbill's sparkling thrones.

The weekend has been busy and our dwindling crew has been kept on their toes all week. I would like to think we have to thank for the influx in canoeists, but others have given credit to the warm and sunny weather, good fishing, and the fact that school is about to start.

For those few newsletter readers who remain unimpressed by our dominance of the World Wide Web perhaps the feature article in Celebrating Greyhounds Magazine titled "Phoenix Goes Canoeing" will catch your attention. The photo filled article, written by crew member Pat Nash's sister, is sure to send a pile of greyhound owners to Sawbill next summer. Sunny and Homer are basking in the starlight, "Most important the campground is dog friendly. In fact, they have two resident, one-eyed Golden Retrievers, Sunny and Homer."

So I hope this is fair warning to all of our loyal readers. Remember to make your reservation well in advance because you never know how many bathroom loving Grey Hound owners will flock to Sawbill this Fall.

Canoeing greyhound
Celebrating Greyhounds Magazine (featuring a Sawbill Canoe on Sawbill Lake).

8/23/05 - Problem bears are nothing new to seasoned BWCA campers. According to conventional wisdom, yelling, banging on pots and pans, and throwing rocks are the best ways to defend one's campsite from an invading black bear.

Convinced that more elegant (and entertaining) modes of bear deterrence were possible, Sawbill crew members Pat Nash, Carl Hansen, Jeff Green and Adam Hansen set out to find a better method.

After several fruitless hours of brainstorming, Nash conceived the "Bear Joust": standing on a bear-proof barrel filled with food, holding a double-bladed paddle tipped with Shaolin sleeping bags of fury, delivering crushing body blows to all who wander too near.

The team immediately began honing their jousting skills in a Gladiator-styled death-match round robin tournament.

Although several minor injuries were sustained, the group made the important discovery that bear jousting is a completely useless, if not totally hilarious, technique for fighting off bears.

Fight! Nash and Carl get ready to rumble.

Four seconds into the match, Nash delivers a blow to Adam's Adam's apple.

Editors note: Remember, the best way to deal bears in real life is to be prepared, hang your food at least 12 feet high and 6 feet from the nearest tree or limb, and patiently stand your ground (i.e., don't panic) if a bear does visit your campsite.

8/22/05 - After a summer of very light rainfall, water levels in Boundary Waters are dipping to lower-than-normal levels. Although most routes remain open, traveling with three or four people in one canoe is becoming increasingly tough, according to customer reports.

Here is the latest information regarding water levels on the popular routes in the Sawbill area:

Cherokee Loop - Cherokee Creek and Ada Creek remain open and fairly easily navigable. Jack, Weird and parts of Kelly Lakes are open but thick weeds and lily pads will slightly slow travel.

Lady Chain Loop - The river between Kawishiwi and Square Lake is low but passable--allow one extra hour for travel. Parts of the Phoebe River require a few pullovers.

Louse River Loop - Most of the already difficult Louse River is immune to low water levels. A few spots between Malberg and Boze Lakes require pullovers, but nothing longer than a few rods. The Bug to Louse Lake River is still closed due to a blown beaver dam. Stick to the northern Dent to Mesaba route when finishing the Louse River Loop.

Frost River Loop - The Frost River, described a few days ago by a customer as "misery," should be considered closed to all but backcountry thrill seekers.

The Little Saganaga East and West Routes are mostly unaffected by the low water levels, except for the few parts overlapping with the routes described above.

The river between Koma and Malberg Lakes, normally a raging torrent, has slowed to a trickle.

8/19/05 - After hundreds of hours working to contain the forest fire near Seagull Lake, the fire crew expects to achieve 100 percent containment by 6 p.m. this evening. Fire fighters have traveled from across the nation to battle the flames, many expressing surprise that, for the first time in their careers, they had to paddle into the fire zone. Comments like these make many of us at Sawbill realize how easy it is to take the unique, serene environment afforded by the BWCAW for granted.

With over $2 million of damage done in the Seagull/Alpine Lake fire, it is astonishing to see that some people can be so careless with their own wilderness practices. The photos below show a small fire put out by some curious and well-meaning paddlers on Handle Lake just west of Sawbill. Apparently the previous occupants had decided that the campsite-less lake should have a place to stay, and they went about the creation of their own new site. The trees they cut down caught on fire when they abandoned their camp and didn't put their campfire "dead out."

Here is documentation of the crashed site.

8/13/05 - Bonnie Clay and her son, Jeremy, have been avid BWCA Wilderness canoeists for many years. This year, they brought Jeremy's wife, Sarah, for her first trip. They traveled from Kawishiwi Lake to the beach site on Malberg Lake during a week of beautiful weather and good fishing back in July. Bonnie sent along some pictures for our enjoyment.

Sarah, Jeremy, and Bonnie Clay in the after trip (and after shower) glow.

Jeremy and Sarah give new meaning to the term "double portaging."

Sarah in the well organized Clay family campsite on Malberg Lake.

8/12/05 - Families have enjoyed coming up to Sawbill for years. But it's not often that we have a couple celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary and their 35th summer at Sawbill simultaneously. Tom and Nancy Gager celebrated this momentous occasion this past week in our campground. With a grandson on the way we can only hope for 35 more years. Congratulations guys!

Tom and Nancy pose in their celebratory T-shirts.

8/11/05 - After a quiet June and July the bears are back at Sawbill. Seeing wildlife is always fun and exciting but this time of year it's especially important to remember to hang your food pack at least 12 feet from the ground and 6 feet from the nearest branch or tree.

Crew member Jasmine Hanson models a food pack recently destroyed by a bear.

8/10/05 - Though the fire continues to burn there is still no threat to Sawbill or its surrounding lakes. All paddling entry points in the BWCA remain open.

Here is the map of the fire we received from the Forest Service.

8/10/05 - We received an update from the Forest Service regarding the forest fire on Alpine/Seagull/Red Rock lakes. The fire has grown in size to 960 acres and is 5 percent contained. The fire is continuing to move to the northeast and it does not pose any danger to the Sawbill area.

8/9/05 - Here is a map detailing the upcoming fire ban in the BWCAW:

Campfires will be prohibited in the pink shaded region. Fires will still be permitted in the green shaded zone as well as in most areas outside the BWCA Wilderness.

8/9/05 - NEWS FLASH - The Forest Service has announced a total fire ban in the blowdown area within the BWCAW beginning on Friday, Aug. 12, 2005.

Camp stoves and grills will still be permitted. The "blowdown area" includes Sawbill Lake and all routes to the north and east of Sawbill. We will post a map of the restricted area as soon as we have one.

This burning ban does not affect Sawbill Lake Campground or most other areas outside the Boundary Waters.

8/8/05- According to Forest Service reports, there is a 650-acre forest fire burning in the Seagull/Alpine/Red Rock lakes area. This area is located northeast of Sawbill and the fire is currently traveling northeast. Sawbill is approximately 25 miles away from the southwest corner of the fire. The Forest Service has not closed any entry points or routes in the Sawbill area. No burning restrictions are in effect.

We do not believe that this fire poses any threat to Sawbill Lake or any of the surrounding lakes or routes.

The fire is burning northeast between Seagull, Alpine and Red Rock Lakes.

8/7/05 - Every once and a while the crew feels the need to leave the woods for a short time and head into the "city". So one tradition is for the ladies of Sawbill to get gussied up and strut their stuff in the town of Grand Marais, MN. So on a balmy night in late July the ladies of Sawbill hit the town; eating and laughing at the local restaurant, the Angry Trout.

The lovely ladies of Sawbill, Lounging on the rooftop of the Gunflint Tavern.

8/6/05 - We had two customers who traveled a long way to visit us at Sawbill this weekend. Delor and Angela Da Silva rode all the way from Brazil to Sawbill. This is actually their second bike trip in North America. In 2003, they circumnavigated South America and North America, including a visit to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Delor commented that the 1400 miles of gravel on the Alaskan Highway was a challenge - not "good gravel" like the Sawbill Trail. The Da Silvas are headed back to Brazil where, in January, they are having the motorcycle shipped to Europe for a projected five year ride around Europe and Asia.
Delor and Angela Da Silva vow to return to Sawbill for a canoe trip once they complete their motorcycle world tour.

8/2/05 - Camping with dogs is a pretty routine phenomenon here in canoe country. Every season, hundreds of dogs of all shapes, sizes, and temperaments pass through Sawbill Lake, headed for adventure and wide open spaces with their human pals in tow.

The only problem for Sawbill customer Julie Grieves is that she is a cat person--an avid cat person. To her delight, Julie discovered that her 11-month-old cat Cara Mell loves canoeing.

If the next time you visit the BWCAW you happen upon a canoe with a feline riding bow, prancing up and down the gunwales, or swimming alongside (yes, you read that right), don't tweak out, man.

This is cat country.

Cara Mell the cat surveys a calm Sawbill Lake at sunset.

Julie Grieves and Cara head out on Sawbill Lake for a little evening walleye fishing.

Current Sawbill Newsletter | « July 2005 | September 2005 »

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