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Phone: (218)663-7150
Fax: (218)663-7980
Mail: 4620 Sawbill Trail
Box 2129
Tofte, MN 55615

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Sawbill Newsletter Archives: November 2006
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « October 2006 | December 2006 »

11/29/06 - The weather has been interesting here at Sawbill. Two days ago, it rained all day. Last night the temperature, as recorded at my house, went to zero degrees. When the temperature drops suddenly and lake ice starts forming quickly, the lakes emit huge groaning, booming, and cracking noises. These other-worldly sounds roll for miles across the landscape, intermingling until they sound like a dance of ancient giants. - Bill

11/27/06 - I am very sad to have to tell you that our little one year old terrier mutt, Izzy, was killed this morning by a fox trap set right along the Sawbill Trail less than a mile from our house. Cindy was out with the dogs for her morning walk, keeping the dogs close because she knew there were traps set all over the place. All the traps we've seen have been pine marten traps in trees. This was a ground set, so close to the road that the trapper could check it without getting out of his truck. There is no legal recourse against this extremely irresponsible behavior.

Everyone's dog is special, but Izzy had certainly stolen all of our hearts. She was truly everything you want in a pet: loving, fearless, well behaved, self sufficient, and possessor of a hundred endearing quirks. She was just a year old. - Bill

Isabella Hansen 10/20/05 - 11/27/06. A great dog.

11/25/06 - Clare Hansen was back for a holiday visit from her busy life as a sophmore at the University of Montana in Missoula.

As usual, Clare charmed the Minnesota wildlife.

Lake skating, also known as "wild ice" was good again this morning after a cold, clear night last night. Sawbill Lake is completely frozen over except for a few open spots in the narrows and near shore. Alton Lake still has substantial areas of open water.

The freedom of the open ice, on a calm day, under a clear blue sky is indescribable.

Nordic Blades are detachable ice skate blades that fit any cross country ski boots or hiking boots. They are the cat's meow for "wild ice" skating. You can put your boots on at home and just clip the blades on when you get to the ice. They are also great for portages. - Bill

11/22/06 - Hi, my name is Dave Freeman. I have worked at Sawbill off and on since 1994, and have met many of you during that time. I also run the non-profit organization Wilderness Classroom, which uses the Internet to teach students about some of the world's wildest places.

This fall, Amy Voytilla and I spent seven weeks kayaking around Lake Superior with the goal of teaching students about the Great Lakes and the importance of freshwater conservation. We are hosting a party at the Grand Ole Creamery in St. Paul on November 29th at 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend. We will be sharing a few of the thousands of images and stories we gathered during our circumnavigation of the largest lake in the world, and hope to raise funds and support for our next project: a 3000 mile journey across South America.

The link below will take you to an Evite with more details about the party.

For those of you who live near the Twin Cities, I hope you can join us--Sawbill folks always make for a good party. If you do not live in the area, I hope you will visit our website,, to learn more about our programming!
- Dave

Crew member Dave Freeman and Amy Voytilla paddling the last few feet of their 1100 mile circumnavigation of Lake Superior.

11/20/06 - Sunny days this November have thus far proved elusive. However for the past two days, we've been treated to clear, sunny skies and temperatures hovering around freezing. I've been routinely taking the dogs down to the landing to check the condition of the lake, anticipating late-season skating or early skiing. Today was the first day that Sawbill's ice looked solid enough to test. Using an axe, I chopped a few holes to test for thickness in different areas. 4" near the shore and 3" further out was more than enough to hold my body weight. Skis are propped up outside of all the Sawbill dwellings in preparation for winter to get underway.

Jessa surveys the ice being made.

The bird-feeders have also been a flurry of pre-winter activity. Pine and evening grosbeaks, blue and grey jays, and the common black-capped and boreal chickadees are out in force. We've been filling the bird-feeders just about everyday. For the chickadees, supplemental sunflower seeds found at feeders can raise their insulating fat deposits by 4%.


Chickadees regularly cache food sources in spruce trees and visit each feeder with marked regularity. To maintain their body temperature at its normal level of 108 degrees Fahrenheit, the chickadees must consume amazing quantities of food. Their wings beat at 30 strokes per second and their nestlings require feedings anywhere from 6 to 14 times per hour. Thus searching for food burns almost as many calories: a catch-22 for the little guys. - Frosty

11/13/06 - Winter has returned after a brief hiatus. We awoke to four inches of fresh snow this morning. - Bill

Homer and Izzy love a fresh snowfall.

Snow on top of thin lake ice creates slush on top of the ice. Here the slush describes a graceful curve along the shore of Sawbill Lake.

11/6/06 - Skating! We enjoyed a good morning of lake skating yesterday on nearby White Pine Lake off the Honeymoon Trail. Most of the lakes in the area are either open or have very thin ice, but White Pine is a shallow lake and was sporting a solid three inches of ice. It was a one day experience though. The ice was melting quickly even as we skated. The forecasted warm spell should melt the ice completely. Sawbill Lake has frozen over and melted twice already this season. - Bill

Kathy O'Neill, Cindy Hansen, Greg Tofte, and John (OB) Oberholtzer prepare to skate.

OB, Patience (Kathy's dog), Kathy, Cindy, and Izzy cruise the shoreline on White Pine Lake.

OB's reflection is almost perfect in the wet ice.

11/03/06- Even though the calendar still says it's fall, signs of winter are cropping up everywhere on an afternoon walk along the lake trail. While the dogs chased squirrels and experimented with just how much weight the shore ice could bear, Frosty and I snapped a few photos. Although most of Sawbill Lake is still open water, ice is creating intruiging formations along the shores, as well as in the back bays. Bright sunny skies and calm winds today were a pleasant change from the cloudy, gusty days of the past week. The high winds of late have been breaking up any large ice formations, but today's weather is giving the ice a chance to reach across the bay near the landing. - Jessa

Ice beginning to form along a downed tree

ice puddles110306.jpg
Though the ice will inevitably win this battle, small holes emerge here and there along the shore.

We took this photo looking up the Sawbill Creek as it empties into the lake; note the frozen bay in the distance.

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