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Sawbill Newsletter Archives: October 2008
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « September 2008 | November 2008 »

10/30/08 - Two end-of-season traditions here at Sawbill are the last paddle and the "closing of the beach club." The beach club is the Forest Service airplane dock that we use for swimming during the summer. The dock has already been put away for the summer, so we celebrate by swimming one last time in Sawbill Lake. Actually, it's less like swimming and more like jumping in and clawing your way out as fast as possible. - Bill

Tiny snaps a fine MySpace style photo of the last paddle. Four people and two dogs made for a full canoe.

The air temperature was hovering around 29 degrees when we decided to go swimming.

Bill, Cindy, Molly and Tiny prepare physically and mentally for the frigid leap.

Modesty prevents photos of the actual swim (think famous Seinfeld episode) but Cindy and Tiny's feet give the proper feeling (or lack there-of).

10/29/08 - Crew members are flying south for the winter so quickly we can hardly keep track of who's here for dinner. Lee Noble's parents Myron and Zola were up for the weekend from Anderson, IN, and they took Lee along when they headed home on Sunday. Before he left, Lee demonstrated his circus-worthy skills in the empty canoe yard.


Liz Foot took off on Monday with her 26-foot rowing scull tied securely atop her little car.


Caitlin Coomes headed southward the day after that. Sawbill makes the time fly! This photo of Caitlin with her parents was taken when she arrived at Sawbill just a few short months ago.


It looks like Homer, Roy, and Phoebe will be sticking around for the winter crew. They'll be taking care of important jobs like rabbit control and the intruder alert system.


10/28/08 - Former crew members Sandy Zinn and Will Decker brought their new son Anders to visit Sawbill for the first time this weekend. In celebration, we broke out the pumpkins and the carving tools and put our artistic skills to work yet again.

Not only did Anders help carve pumpkins, but he put in his application for the crew of 2027!

The crew's "squash art" (from left): evil elfin face, Sawbill logo, wild'n'crazy Halloween face, katana, warty witch, classic Jack'o'Lantern, shotgun shell, Lida Storch, Barack Obama, and Jeff Greensmith.

Adam Hansen, up for a weekend of grouse hunting, contributed to the pumpkin-carving festivities with a likeness of former crew member Jeff Greensmith. Here, he was deep in thought about the best way to express Jeff's portrait in the pumpkin medium.

Completed portraits of former crew members Jeff Greensmith (left) and Lida Storch (right), carved by artists Adam and Bill Hansen, respectively.

10/27/08 - We awoke this morning to a light dusting of grainy snow on the ground. We hear that the rest of Minnesota was treated to far more snow, but this groundcover still got the dogs excited. Winter is on its way!

Roy and Phoebe play under snow-covered canoes for sale in front of the store.

In anticipation of this very snowfall, we spent last Friday afternoon moving the Kevlar canoes into the dome for the winter, and we dismantled the Royalex and aluminum canoe piles to store them as well. It is a whole-crew project to move approximately two hundred canoes to their winter resting places, but Bill and Cindy have the nerve-wracking job of standing the Kevlars upright in the dome.

Bill maneuvers a canoe into place in the dome.

Caitlin works on emptying the last pile of canoes: the three-person Kevlars go in last because they are the longest (or "tallest") canoes we have. Roy helps out by watching for intruding squirrels.

At this point we are officially closed for the season; however, we're still here to the phone and the door if you need anything. The Forest Service has turned the campground water off for the winter, so from now until May, there is no charge for camping. - Molly

10/22/08 - As the paddling season winds down, there are fewer and fewer canoes to be rented and more clean-and-count jobs to be done around here. Sometimes it is possible for us to while away hours, absorbed in our work, without seeing another human. There are some perks to sticking it out for the long haul on the Sawbill crew, though: our fall hours allow us to sleep in an extra hour and get in some extra board games before bedtime, and when we can get out into the woods, the changing of the seasons is beautiful to behold. However, any fall Sawbill crew member will tell you that the highlight of the month of October is the legendary Spa Day. Each crew member is treated to one day of sumptuous relaxation and pampering at Sweetgrass Cove, located on the shore of Lake Superior just north of Hovland. This year's crew all visited proprietor Rick Anderson last week, but after the sauna, hot tub, massage, and hours of lounging about swathed in terrycloth...well, we were just too relaxed to report back until now.

Perched out on the rocks overlooking the cove, this chair invites me to recline and contemplate the beauty of the lake.

Rick let us sample his newest recipe - a salad of apple, fennel, and radicchio.

I waded out into the lake in an effort to capture the ocean-like blues and greens that were visible as the waves crested in the sunlight. - Molly.

10/21/08 - Since grouse season opened several weeks ago, crew members Tiny and Lee have dedicated all their spare moments to walks in the woods. Clad in blaze orange and carrying .22s, they have explored innumerable logging roads and game trails all up and down the Sawbill Trail and the Grade. A couple of nights ago, we were finally treated to the fruits of their labors - six partridge and a recipe from Lee's mother were combined for a "grouse 'n' dumplings" meal fit for the king of the Superior National Forest.

The hunters pose with one day's partridge catch.

Tiny spreads the tail feathers to identify the gender and species of this grouse: the pattern shows that it is a ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus), and the unbroken band on the tail identifies it as a male. - Molly.

10/20/08 - Friends joined us this past weekend for fall-themed festivities: we unleashed our creativity on cut-out cookies (the Halloween theme around here includes moose, bats, and trees of all colors), covered apples with homemade caramel, went for a sauna and a swim, and generally had a rollicking good time. Wish you were here!

Caitlin dresses a "forest" cookie in autumn hues - I think that's a tamarack she's working on.

The Oktoberfest crew shows off our handiwork: more than a dozen beautifully decorated apples, and cookies too many to count (especially since they're nearly gone already!). Summer crew members Marc LeVoir and Jessa Wallendal and friend Jeanne Rysdahl contributed to this smorgasbord.

Documentation complete, Liz prepares to dig into a caramel apple that was dipped in white chocolate and sprinkled with pumpkins and bats. - Molly.

10/17/08 - MEA weekend has brought out not only the last few moose and grouse hunters of the season, but also a few special visitors. Former crewmember Beth Rehfus and her husband Bill brought their new son William Rehfus VI up for his first tour of Sawbill. Will was born on June 5th making him eligible for the Sawbill Crew of 2026. Not surprisingly, the littlest Rehfus is a charmer with nothing but big smiles for everyone.

Baby Will.jpg
What is not to smile about with a fuzzy monkey hat like that?!

10/17/08 - We just received the following exciting email:

From: Louie Cronin (The Barbarian) from National Public Radio's "Car Talk"
Subject: You're Going to Be Caller #9 on This Week's Car Talk!

Cindy -

Your call is included in the show that airs this weekend. So don't touch that dial! You can also listen at your computer with Real Audio, or download the show as a podcast, starting Saturday, at 2 pm, Eastern Time. Just go to our website

Congratulations! Hope you enjoy it and don't get too much abuse from your friends and family for being on Car Talk.



That's right, our own Cindy Hansen is going to be on Car Talk!! She actually recorded the segment several months ago. We were all disappointed when her segment didn't run at that time. Our only hope was that they liked Cindy's question so much that they were saving it for their especially good show that runs during pledge week. That appears to be the case.

Her question involves a marital dispute, so tune in for the fun! - Bill


Her question for the automotive experts stems from a spousal disagreement concerning the proper operation of this snow plow. She isn't telling anyone exactly what the question was, or what wisdom the Tappet Brothers dispensed, saying: "You'll just have to listen to the show."

10/12/08 - No, those trees aren't dying - they're tamaracks, the only deciduous conifer in the boreal forest. While they blend in with the rest of the evergreen conifer stands for most of the summer season, fall is the time when tamaracks shine. This past week, the stand down near the Grade road suddenly turned an arrestingly deep gold color, which will keep for a few short weeks before the needles fall off and leave the trees as bare skeletons for the winter months.

A tamarack shows off its needle tufts, beginning to change from pale green to autumn gold. Its cousins in the background now have no problem distinguishing themselves from all those other conifers.

Some tamarack (Larix laricina) facts from Mark Stensaas's book Canoe Country Flora: Tamaracks are in the larch family. They thrive in boggy areas, and they grow farther north than any other tree in North America - up to 67 degrees north latitude. Their rot-resistant wood was once prized by ship builders and used as telegraph poles and railroad ties. The inner bark and sap are also said to have healing properties when used as compresses for burns and to heal wounds. During the summer, you can identify tamaracks from afar by their slightly brighter, paler color (since they grow all new needles every year) and the "fuzzy" quality lent by the tufted needles that grow with twenty to forty one-inch needles per fascicle. - Molly.

This stream crosses the Sawbill Trail about seven miles south of the lake. I came upon it in a drizzle that highlighted the variety of fall colors along the banks.

10/11/08 - I met Harold Paulson and his first wife Norma while pausing for a golden tamarack photo shoot yesterday morning at the crossroads of the Sawbill Trail and The Grade (Forest Road 170). They had stopped to reminisce at the site of the old Sawbill CCC camp, which was just west of that intersection (maybe you've seen the commemorative sign there).

Harold and Norma Paulson of Northfield, MN.

Harold lived at the CCC camp while working for the Forest Service during the summers of 1946 and 1947, when he was a student at the University of Minnesota. He described that sleepy forest road as a community, complete with barracks buildings. His crew's main job was to combat white pine blister rust and to clear space for logging roads, but his most vivid memory of his time working on the Sawbill Trail was the Plouff fire in '47. He was the first person to report that fire, and it burned hot and fast: at one time during the week that it burned, there were three hundred people fighting it.

Harold remembered that his crew made good use of their occasional time off. He recalled driving down the railroad grade (now The Grade road) to Crescent Lake to fish with his buddies. No one else fished there, because there was no road access to it. He remembered one particular day when the group had five people and two canoes, and they drew straws to see who had to be the odd man out and stay on shore to fish. Out on the water, they heard a shout from the guy they'd left on shore - he had caught six four-pound walleyes on six consecutive casts!

After Norma and Harold drove on, I paused to notice the delicate frost edging on the leaves of this brush. It took a while before I noticed that they are the fall incarnation of blueberries, with some berries still attached. - Molly.

10/7/08 - Sawbill crew member Eric Frost ("Frosty") and guides Dave Freeman and Amy Voytilla have begun the third leg of their journey across the continent of South America. The Trans-Amazon Expedition started in March 2007 on the Pacific Coast of Peru with a bike ride over the Andes. The adventurers continued by paddling down Amazon tributaries during a second trip in the spring of 2008, finally making it to the Amazon River itself.

This trip, they are picking up where they left off - in Manaus, Brazil. They will paddle their Wenonah canoes over 1,000 miles to the mouth of the river, seeking out wildlife and talking with local people along the way. You can follow their adventures on their website or on their travel blog.

Their first glimpse of the Amazon as the group flew into Manaus on Sunday.

The non-profit organization started by Dave and Frosty, the Wilderness Classroom, allows them to take thousands of elementary school students along on their journey via their interactive website,, which includes podcasts, videos, polls and surveys, and free downloadable curricula for teachers who want to incorporate the Learning Adventure into their classrooms.

The Trans-Amazon Expedition Part 3 Learning Adventure Guides gather upon arrival in Manaus, Brazil: Brazilian biologist Tony Osse, entomologist and ecologist Jay Bancroft, BWCA Wilderness Ranger volunteer Anne DeCock, Dave, Amy, and Frosty.

The tambaqui that Frosty and Amy found in the market in Manaus are a far cry from their last Sawbill walleye! - Molly.

10/4/08 - This morning we awoke to a sparkling sheen that coated every upturned surface. Clear, starry skies last night finally allowed the low temperature to dip down below thirty degrees, and the first frost of the season was upon us. - Molly.

A thin layer of ice crystals on the Bell Seligas glistens in the morning sun.

Strawberry plants near the store show off their new finery.

10/3/08 - Long-time Sawbill customer Lloyd Geving sent us this vivid landscape, captured at the Tofte overlook during his trip up to visit us last weekend.
Mingled birches and maples make for a beautiful autumn sea of color. Thanks for sharing it, Lloyd! - Molly

Current Sawbill Newsletter | « September 2008 | November 2008 »

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