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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: May 2014
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « April 2014 | June 2014 »

5/28/14 - This past weekend Clare Hansen honored the Hansen name yet again by graduating from the School of Law at the University of Montana, Missoula. We are all very proud of her accomplishment and pleased to have someone to consult when legal issues arise (knock on wood). - Nils

Clare with enthusiastic mother, Cynthia Lou Hansen.

Clare and fiance, Dan Shirley. Dan is sporting a very swank bolo tie, the official state tie of his native New Mexico.

5/25/14 - An alert camper spotted a Baltimore Oriole nest in the Sawbill Lake campground. I've never seen a Baltimore Oriole at Sawbill before and now they are nesting here. - Bill


5/21/14 - A wide variety of songbird sitings around Sawbill have provided excitement lately for all of us bird nerds. In addition to the more common species, we've spotted some beautiful rarities including the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Evening Grosbeak, and Baltimore Oriole (the first of which Bill has ever seen at Sawbill!).

If the sitings weren't enough, the sounds of nighttime activity have been exceptionally entertaining as of late. We've enjoyed listening to Common Loon and Barred Owl calls, as well as the loud chorus of Spring Peeper frogs. - Nils

Male Oriole sporting a bright new jacket.

A Purple Finch couple joins the Orioles for a double date at the feeder.

5/20/14 - Now presenting... Carla, Emma and Peter! Our first three recruits have arrived and are quickly becoming acclimated to life here at Sawbill.

Carla comes to us from Ypsilanti, Michigan. She has a master's degree in social work and enjoys cooking extravagant meals. Carla arrived almost three weeks ago, catching the tail end of our prolonged winter here in northern Minnesota. You have probably seen her drilling holes in previous entries.

Emma's hiring means another generation of Sawbillians for the Nelson family. Her father, Scott, worked here during the '80s. She just completed her first year at Xavier University and is fluent in aquatic sign language. We wasted no time getting her acquainted with life at the outfitter, embarking on a night paddle just moments after her arrival.

Peter has just received a degree in Physics from the University of Minnesota. He grew up in Markville, MN (a free pop in the store to the first customer who has been there!), but spent his first four years living in Kenya. Peter is proficient in juggling and Mandarin Chinese. He will gladly provide a demonstration of either if asked kindly.

Carla demonstrating her canoe stacking skills.

Emma & Scott in the classic Sawbill pose.

Peter casually juggling canoe paddles.

5/19/14 - The warm weather has encouraged many bird species to become more active lately, especially the local Ruffed Grouse population. They live here year round but are most noticeable throughout mating season, which typically occurs from late April through May. - Nils

Here a male was spotted on display. His impressive showing lasted several hours.

A female perched on her branch of judgment.

5/17/14 - Long time Sawbill canoeist, April Knight, from North Carolina, paddled away from the Sawbill Lake canoe landing a few minutes ago bound for Hudson Bay. She's retracing the route taken by Andy Keith and Herb Wills in 1987. She expects the trip to take three months.

April Knight, prepared to paddle.

Here is what gear and a month's food looks like.

April consults the map with her mentor, former Sawbill crew member Andy Keith. Andy paddled out for the day to see April safely on the trail.

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

5/16/14 - Here is a story from the Duluth News Tribune about the latest adventure of Sawbill's own Dave Freeman. Dave was a Sawbill crew member for many years and now provides expert guiding service for us along with his wife, Amy.

Dave will be back from the River of Doubt in July and ready to start guiding for both day trips and overnight trips in the BWCA Wilderness. He should have a few stories to tell! - Bill

Dave Freeman and Paul Schurke are flying to Brazil today to paddle the River of Doubt which is one of the wildest rivers on earth.

5/15/14 - Its official, the ice is finally gone on Sawbill lake!

Last night the crew went for a celebratory ice out paddle and discovered Alton lake still has a substantial amount of ice covering it. We all took a vote and determined that ice conditions looked similar to Sawbill's three or four days ago. If the weather cooperates Alton should be ice free in a few days. Progress slowly but surely. - Jessica

View of Sawbill from the landing. A few stubborn chunks of ice remain along shore.

5/14/14 - Looking for a durable 4-person dome-style tent for your upcoming camping trips? The manufacturer changed the pole design, so to eliminate any confusion we are taking several out of service early. They have lots of life left in them and can provide you many nights under the stars. If interested visit our used equipment section of our online store.

Other used equipment for sale include; life jackets, sleeping bags, and packs.

5/14/14 - Sawbill Lake will be out today. This morning it was substantially out, but didn't quite meet the "official" standard of ice out. There is no doubt that it will be out by this afternoon. Two canoe parties headed out this morning to work their way around the remaining ice. - Bill

Leif, Jessica, Carla, and Laura surprised at the amount of ice still remaining.

5/13/14 - Sawbill Lake is very close to losing its ice cover. Many of the smaller, nearby lakes have gone out in the last few days. Baker Lake, Lichen Lake, Touhey Lake are out. We don't have confirmation of Kawishiwi Lake being out, but suspect that it is.

As we get confirmation for each lake, we will post it here asap.

Here is Leif attempting to coax the ice out with stern looks.

Good old Site #5 at the Sawbill Lake Campground is looking good.

5/12/14 - The ice is so soft now that it doesn't make sense to drill a hole. We'll just be posting pictures from here on out. After two days of very warm and pleasant weather, it has turned cooler, but very windy and rainy.

The water is even higher than normal for this time of year. Usually, the high water peak is a day or two after the ice goes out.

Jessica inspects a chunk of honeycombed ice. Although we often think she can walk on water, she is actually standing on the canoe landing.

Here is an interesting bit of history from the Duluth News Tribune with two Sawbill connections.

The SAGE building was built in 1956. Frank and Mary Alice Hansen, Sawbill Canoe Outfitters founders, bought some of the used cement form lumber from the SAGE project and used it to build their first three buildings, including the core of the current store building.

Ray Klosowski, who is featured in the article, is a frequent Sawbill canoeist. - Bill

5/11/14 - Today's Sawbill Lake ice measurement is 13". Yesterday was 16".

Opening day of fishing 2014. Leif and Nils are getting their lines wet, but no fish were harmed in the taking of this picture.

The thickness of the ice is less important now than its overall condition. It will turn black for a day or so just before it goes out.

Sun and wind are taking a toll on 2014's stubborn ice sheet. Although this looks like a beach, it's actually the Sawbill canoe landing flooded by the very high water level.

5/9/14 - Progress was made overnight in the ice melting department! A steady rain seeped into the ice causing our 17" of remaining ice to consist of mostly slush with a pesky solid layer hanging on for dear life. - Jessica

The snow is melting fast along the road leading to the landing.

The ice is starting to look a little darker and very slushy on top.

View over Sawbill Creek a few days ago. All photos taken by Nils John Anderson.

5/7/14 - Sunny conditions and a warm breeze are really fueling our spirits and the ice melt today. The test hole was drilled in record time through only 17 inches of ice, most of it very slushy. - Jessica

After contemplating walking the plank across the ever widening gap of open water we decided to play it safe and bring in the ever trusty Grumman.

We saw our first butterfly of the season soaking in the rays.

5/5/14 - The ice on Sawbill Lake remained at 22" this morning. Yesterday didn't turn as warm as predicted. When the sun came up this morning, it revealed the woods covered with a fresh layer of snow. It was just enough to cover the ground and trees, but discouraging, none the less. - Bill

Fresh snow covers ice that is still quite safe for walking.

It still takes significant effort to drill a hole.

Careful measurement is made by our resident scientists, Jessica and Carla.

(PHotos by Nils John Anderson)

Here is a screenshot of ice-out dates this year from the Minnesota DNR. It's interesting how the ice departs in a northwesterly direction.

5/4/14 - Today's ice measurement on Sawbill Lake is 22". That is big progress and the forecast is for warmer temperatures. - Bill

You can see how the ice sheet is now floating and detached from shore. (Photo by Nils John Anderson)

(Photo by Nils John Anderson)

The water will be high when the ice finally goes out. (Photo by Nils John Anderson)

5/3/14 - Good news! Today's ice measurement on Sawbill Lake went down to 24". The ice sheet floated up yesterday. That means that the ice has detached from shore and the ice is becoming less dense. Both are good signs that summer is approaching. In my experience, the ice usually goes out about a week after floating up.

The ice measuring crew now has to use a plank to get out on the ice sheet. Soon, they will need a canoe to access the ice. (Photo by Nils John Anderson)

Phoebe, Chief of Outfitter Security, walks the plank. (Photo by Nils John Anderson)

Ace photographer Nils John Anderson documents an island in the fog.

Here is this week's edition of the Cook County West End News from WTIP-FM, North Shore Community Radio.

5/2/14 - Today's ice measurement is 27". The sun has been peeking out today and the roofs are dripping hard. Next week is supposed to be substantially warmer. - Bill

Nils spotted this otter yesterday. It was taking advantage of open leads of water around the island in front of the Sawbill Lake canoe landing.

Another view, showing the context.

One of the many test holes drilled in Sawbill Lake this spring.

Current Sawbill Newsletter | « April 2014 | June 2014 »

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