4/29/15 - By 5 pm last night, all trace of ice had disappeared from Sawbill Lake. Minutes later, the first car with a canoe on top rolled in. The wilderness canoeing season is under way! - Bill
Sawbill Lake is ready for canoes.
4/28/15 - As of noon today, Sawbill Lake is more than 90% ice-free, which is the official criteria for ice-out. By sunset, it should be completely clear except for a few small remnants.
April 28th is very close to the average ice-out date for Sawbill Lake. In the past, the average ice-out date was May 1st, but in the last 25 years it's been getting a little earlier. - Bill
The picture is a little deceiving, but in-person, it's clear that the ice is more than 90% gone.
4/27/15 - The ice is looking pretty flimsy on Sawbill Lake today. I think it will go out today, or tomorrow at the latest. - Bill
Our beloved former crew member, Molly Breslin, married Sam Barbour in Ottawa, Illinois on Saturday. Many Sawbill crew represented at the celebration.
The first thing we did when we arrived back at Sawbill was check the ice. It made a lot of progress over the weekend, but was still hanging in there at sunset on Sunday.
4/26/15 - Another beautiful day here at sunny Sawbill. The ice is now down to 8 7/16", to be exact. - Jessica
We were able to paddle around the ice to Mouse Island to snap this picture facing the canoe landing.
Honorary ice technician for today, Carla Hill, drills the test hole.
4/25/15 - Today Brian and I took a running start with our trusty Grumman and measured 11" of highly degraded ice. Each day the ice has receded further and further from shore. Before you know it the ice measuring crew will be able to make a sightseeing paddle along the open shore after taking the measurements. We did have to break through a thin layer of skim ice, but the forecast is looking promising with nothing but blue skies today, and temperatures predicted in the mid to high 50s the rest of the week. - Jessica
Brian holding the canoe steady as I drill the hole.
There is a real technique to to drilling the test holes. I would say it's an art-form really.
4/23/15 - No change in the lake ice for the last few days. The temperatures are still colder than usual and the sun is struggling just to melt the new snow.
Meanwhile, signs of spring are popping up here and there. - Bill
A fresh load of Wenonah canoes is a sure sign of spring, in spite of arriving in the middle of a mini-blizzard.
Frozen tie-down straps, sub-freezing temperatures and high winds made unloading the topmost canoes a challenge.
4/21/15 - For the second day in a row, we didn't drill a hole in the ice on Sawbill Lake and here is why:
This was the scene when the sun came up this morning. We got another couple of inches during the day. The temperature stayed below freezing and the predicted low tonight is 19 degrees. - Bill
4/20/15 - It is cold and snowing here today, so we didn't bother to check the ice depth. The melting has hit the pause button for the time being. - Bill
4/19/15 - We didn't hang around on the lake very long for today's ice report. Just long enough to drill a hole and measure 13.5" of ice. The last week of summer-like weather has changed to an all day rain with temperatures in the high 30s. - Bill
Brian drills the hole from the safety of the canoe. It was probably safe to stand on the ice, but we didn't want to find out the hard way that it wasn't.
4/18/15 - Today's ice thickness is 15". It's hard to believe that we were confidently skiing around the Kelso Loop just a week ago. Progress has been rapid, but the forecast taking a drastic turn for the colder tomorrow and for the foreseeable future. Sigh. - Bill
We have another celebrity ice testing technician today. Tyler Campbell, Duluth native who now lives in Colorado and long-time Sawbill crew member, does the honors.
4/17/15 - The ice measured 17" thick on Sawbill Lake today. The first foot is just loose slush with 7" of clear, hard ice under that.
When we arrive at the lake each day for the ice measurement, Phoebe, Chief of Outfitter Security, and Roy, Deputy Chief of Outfitter Security, execute a perimeter reconnaissance to identify and neutralize downrange threats.
Too thick to paddle, too thin to walk. Looking north from the Sawbill Lake canoe landing.
Brian gets the honor of carrying the first canoe of the season to the lake.
4/16/15 - Today's ice thickness on Sawbill Lake was 18.5". The warm spell continues. - Bill
4/15/15 - We have visiting celebrity ice auger operators for today's Sawbill Lake ice thickness report. The ice was 20" thick, very soft for the first foot and pretty solid for the last 8". - Bill
Former Sawbill crew members, Leif "Leifboat" Gilsvik and Jess "Hammer" Hemmer, acting as honorary ice depth testers. Don't worry, they both took a turn on the auger.
In honor of the visitors, we had the first outdoor lunch of the season. Photo by Brian "Mongo" Henry.
Brian found this beautiful and intrepid crocus in the yard between snowbanks.
4/14/15 - Sawbill crew member Brian Henry is back on the job and one of his first duties was to drill a hole and test the ice thickness. The warm spell is taking its toll with a loss of more than 4" since yesterday.
Brian couldn't do it without the help of Roy and Phoebe.
Today's measurement is 21", down from 25.5" yesterday. Bright sun, wind and warm nights make for quick melting.
Meanwhile, Sawbill's own Cindy Hansen is in Germany, enjoying spring on the shores of Lake Constance in Bavaria. Her trip is part vacation and part acting as an unpaid assistant to her sister Sherrie who travels to Germany for her job.
Cindy imitates a statue in the background.
4/13/15 - On my way home yesterday, I was treated to a couple of fun weather phenomena. - Bill
The Temperance River was breaking up under the 600 Road bridge along the Sawbill Trail. This classic old iron bridge is slated for replacement soon.
The first Spring storm of 2015 as seen halfway up the Sawbill Trail. It eventually yielded .35" of rain, along with strong winds, thunder and lightning.
4/11/15 - Spring arrived abruptly today with the temperatures shooting up into the high 50s. My old friend and former Sawbill crew member, Joyce Klees, came up for t-shirt weather ski trip around the Kelso Loop.
Roy and Phoebe accompanied us. Phoebe fell into the water once and Roy twice. They didn't really break through the ice, but more just jumped into the open water. They climbed out themselves and continued on the journey.
Today may be the last day of skiing for the season. - Bill
Does this qualify as water-skiing?
Open water at the mouth of Kelso Creek on Sawbill Lake.
Roy and Phoebe soaking up the sun after their chilly dip.
4/5/15 - Swans!
Yesterday, as we were driving home from Grand Marais, we slowed down to look at some open water on the Temperance River near Baker Lake. To our surprise, there were two swans swimming in the river. In my 59 years at Sawbill, I've only seen one other swan and that was just flying over head. - Bill
Distance and lack of experience keep me from judging if these are Tundra or Trumpeter Swans.