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4/30/10 - We finally got some rain last night and today. It had been 13 days since the last drop of rain and almost a month since we got more than a trace. There was only .06" in the rain gauge this morning, but we've had some good showers since then and more on the way. It's a relief to see it and it will help with the green-up, but we need several inches to really catch up.
The Superior National Forest, which contains and administers the BWCA Wilderness is now tweeting: http://twitter.com/SuperiorNF. - Bill
4/22/10 - It is as dry as I've ever seen it up here. A nearly a snowless March, followed by the earliest spring in anyone's memory, combined with a lack of green foliage, has produced very high fire danger. Starting tomorrow, all open fires are banned anywhere in northeastern Minnesota. Propane and gas stoves are still allowed.
Fortunately for us, a contractor is here at the moment installing a large outdoor sprinkler system to protect our buildings from a catastrophic wildfire. We've had a smaller system of sprinklers that covered all our buildings and critical equipment, but the new system will ring the property with athletic field sprinklers that will just soak everything down if we are threatened by a fire.
On the positive side, it is very pleasant here right now - chilly at night, but warm and sunny every day. There have been eight or ten parties out on canoe trips already and they've all had a great time. - Bill
4/20/10 - Rick Kollath and Jane Reed, from Duluth, were the last paddlers at Sawbill last fall, taking a very late season trip up to Cherokee just before the lakes froze over. They were the second group to go overnight this spring, taking the Little Sag West loop in just four days. Other than some high winds on their first day, they had nearly perfect weather. They were kind enough to send along some pictures. - Bill
They couldn't remember where this was, but it looks like the Mora side of the Mora to Little Saganaga portage.
Rick and Jane found this eagle nest right next to the biffy on one of their campsites.
At first I couldn't see why this picture was special...
4/20/10 - Our first 2010 crew member has arrived. Luke Opel hails from Apple Valley, Minnesota. He's a very experienced canoeist who spends his winters working in the downhill ski business and coaching the high school ski teams at Apple Valley and Rosemount, among other things.
Luke Opel, new crew member, getting very familiar with t-shirt pricing.
4/12/10 - On the way home from town tonight I was held up by a sleek, healthy looking cow moose that wouldn't get out of the road. As I waited for her to get out of the way, it became obvious that she was deeply concerned about something on the north side of the road as I waited on the south. She would occasionally glance at me, but she was staring intently the other way with her hackles up. Every so often she would startle and take a few running steps in my direction until she was just a few feet from my front bumper.
I couldn't see anything in the darkness beyond my headlights, but I imagined that it must be a pack of wolves, or a cougar, or a sasquatch that could cause terror in the heart of a 1400 pound moose. When she finally got spooked off the road I pulled cautiously ahead, hoping catch a glimpse of the fierce predator - and there it was - a snowshoe hare. - Bill
4/4/10 - The ice went out on Sawbill Lake today. In the 54 years that we have been observing, this sets the earliest ice-out record by exactly a week. The historical average ice-out date for Sawbill Lake is May 1st. We took advantage by going for a gorgeous sunset paddle with good friends and former crew members Eric Frost and Jessa Wallendal, before sharing Easter dinner. - Bill
Some ice was still floating around the landing, but the lake as a whole was more than 90% ice free, which is the official criteria.
We planned to break through the ice around the landing, but it proved to be much too solid, so we went to Plan B - paddling around the edge.
Plan B didn't work, so Plan C - portaging down the lake shore to open water - was implemented.
Homer The Retriever wonders why we are portaging after only paddling about fifty feet.
Even in silhouette you can sense the joy that Frosty and Jessa feel with open water under their bow.
But, they have to wait in the sunshine while their companions get three dogs loaded up.
The always alert Sawbill Outfitters security team on the first marine patrol of the season.
We found this large piece of ice floating in the mouth of Kelso Bay.
Lake ice is always interesting, especially at break-up. Cindy thought this looked like the satellite photos of the Lake Superior ice pack. Nature tends to repeat her forms.
Frosty and Jessa enjoy the evening.
Cindy and Bill reluctantly head home.
4/2/10 - Cindy and I just returned from a quick vacation to visit our younger children, Carl and Clare, in Montana. Carl is a student at the University of Montana and Clare is working in Missoula. We enjoyed some excellent big mountain snowboarding near Missoula and then traveled up to Fernie, British Columbia. Our brother and sister-in-law, Karl Hansen and Lee Stewart, took care of the business while we were gone - many thanks to them.
The gorgeous Fernie Alpine Resort.
We returned to Sawbill last night and found Sawbill Lake partially clear of ice. Usually, we drill holes and report on spring ice depths for a few weeks before the ice goes out around the 1st of May. This year, it is already too thin to stand on and will likely go out in the next day or two. That will set the record for early ice out by about a week.
Very thin ice as seen from the Sawbill Lake canoe landing.
Open water along the west shore of Sawbill Lake.
Homer and Roy take advantage of the open water for the first dip of the season.
While we were away, the first load of canoes for the upcoming season arrived.
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