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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: July 2015
Current Sawbill Newsletter | « June 2015 | August 2015 »

7/30/15 - Working at Sawbill provides myriad opportunities for adventures. Crew members definitely take advantage of living in such a beautiful place by exploring their summer home in different ways.

One popular way to use time off is to go on trips - it seems that despite being around together almost every minute of every day, we still like each other enough to want to spend time together in the wilderness.

Three crew members, who have christened themselves the Basement Babes due to their living arrangement, recently went on a three day trip and came back with many pictures to show and stories to tell.

The Basement Babes (L to R: Claire, Olive, Elena) before the start of their adventure.

The three women put in at Kawishiwi Lake and headed up through the burn area to Malberg where they camped for their first night. The next day they traveled along the Louse River, honing their map-reading skills, and made camp on Dent Lake. The next day, they enjoyed a floating lunch on Mesaba lake and then made their way back home through Kelso and Alton.

Sawbill crew members know how to pack light!

Some of the wildlife spotted during the trip

Another fun crew excursion is making the drive to Tofte to watch the sun rise over Lake Superior. Because the sun comes up so early these days, crew members have to get an even earlier start - leaving before 5 am!

Olive by the water

On Wednesday morning, four crew members woke up at 4:30, packed a picnic breakfast (coffee being the main course) and headed down the Sawbill trail.

Sunrise just beginning to peek over the hills.

The waves were crashing hard even before 6 am, forecasting a windy day ahead.

The spectacular view made the early wake-up worth it!

A selfie to celebrate a successful Superior sunrise! (Crew members L to R: Ana, Emma, Elena, and Olive)

What fun we have together! - Elena

7/27/15 - Christmas comes but once a year... except at Sawbill!

Each summer, in either June or July, Sawbill crew members don Santa hats, crank up holiday tunes an spend hours baking and decorating cookies for our second Christmas. On the 24th, a festive dinner is held after everyone is off work, and we exchange presents and listen to a mixed CD put together by the crew members.

This amazing Christmas tree cookie was made by Kevin, and was later devoured by some Boy Scouts.

Crew members pose with their gifts

Olive received a jar of olives, and a kiwi likeness of herself, a nod to her semester spent in New Zealand.

Cindy Lou reacts to opening her present

Even Uno got dressed up for the occasion - Logan asked him to bring good fishing.

Festivities lasted long into the night, and leftovers are still being enjoyed. Happy Holidays, however you celebrate them! - Elena

7/19/15 - Just this month Sawbill took on its youngest "intern" - Alex Lundgren, age 9.

Alex has been coming to Sawbill since he was a baby, and has wanted to work for here for just about as long. He was promised a job just as soon a he turned nine, which he did earlier this year. Alex came up for a week, and was nice enough to let his parents tag along while he "worked."

This summer, Alex received training in working the store desk and washing life jackets. When he and his parents come later this summer, he may graduate to washing tents!

Alex learns to play cribbage during a quiet night in the store - all Sawbill crew members are required to know how to play cribbage, and Alex is determined to have a strong application when he is able to apply for a real job - only nine more years!

We loved having Alex with us (as did the customers) and are eagerly anticipating his return. - Elena

7/16/15 - Sawbill crewmembers have a pretty sweet deal when it comes to vacation days. Instead of taking regularly scheduled days off each week, we can allow those days to accumulate and take longer periods of time off. Some use those days off to go home and visit family and friends, but the majority of Sawbillians prefer to use their vacation days for another purpose - crew trips!

So far this year, we have had two all-crew trip as well as a few crew-plus-friends/family trips. These trips not only give crewmembers time to relax and have fun, but also helps crewmembers to turn first-hand experience into good advice when customers ask for recommendations.

The first crew trip was made up of crewmembers Claire, Logan, Kevin, and Olivia

Both groups this year put in at Brule Lake, and visited several lakes including Winchill, Long Island, Frost, Ogema, Hub, and Cherokee.

Full moon over Frost Lake. Photo by Emma Nelson.

The second group, who dubbed themselves ELLA due to their collective first initials (Emma, Lindsey, Laura, and Ana) pose with dinner from their first night

Beautiful sunsets were enjoyed by all - Elena

7/14/15 - Fantastic news: Bode, the dog who was lost on Burnt Lake on June 29th has been found! A family camping near Nine Mile Lake came across Bode and he very willingly went with them - he had a long adventure in the woods and was ready to go home. The family took him back to their home in Grand Rapids, where his owners will be going to pick him up.

Thank you to everyone who helped in the search for Bode, and especially to the wonderful family who took him in. Bode's owners are incredibly grateful for all the effort people put into finding their dog and the moral support their received as well. They got their happy ending after all. - Elena

7/12/15 - Outdoor writer, Tom Cherveny, wrote this nice piece about the BWCA Wilderness this week. Although he doesn't mention Sawbill, the pictures feature Sawbill canoes. - Bill

Here are links to the last two months of the Cook County West End News from WTIP, North Shore Community Radio:

West End News, July 9th
West End News, July 2nd
West End News, June 25th
West End News, June 18th
West End News, June 11th
West End News, June 4th
West End News, May 28th
West End News, May 21st

7/9/15 - The Fourth of July is traditionally celebrated with fireworks and cookouts, but here at Sawbill, we do things a little differently. Each year, we hold the Fourth of July Dragon Boat Races. These take place on Sawbill lake, where teams of four pile into Minnesota IIs and race the half-mile from the Sawbill dock to the Forest Service dock.

Dragon boat racing is a non-contact sport, but accidents happen.

This year's winner was team "Uncle Kevin's Cousins." Team members included Ana, Logan, Lindsey, and, of course, Uncle Kevin himself.

The race starts at 9:15, after closing the store, so teams race the sunset as well as each other.

All teams, except Team AARP, completed the race in under four minutes!

We have received some emails lately inquiring about our continued attempts to catch Bode, the dog who was lost on Smoke Lake earlier this summer. After our first sighting of Bode on the Sawbill Trail, his owners were able to make the long drive up from the cities to try and find him. Unfortunately, Bode is still very scared of people, and was not found during their time up here. Just yesterday, Bode was sighted again on the trail, but took off into the woods when approached. We, and Bode's owners, appreciate all your good thoughts and messages during this understandably trying experience. We are still hopeful that Bode will be brought in and this story will have a happy ending. - Elena

7/8/15 - Steve and Dee Hedman were Sawbill crew members in the late '50s and early '60s. They developed a Sawbill romance that has lasted for more than 50 years.

49 years ago, they were married, and of course took a BWCA Wilderness canoe trip for their honeymoon. We decorated a canoe with "Just Married" signs and some tin cans tied to the stern.

Last week, Steve and Dee returned to Sawbill on their 49th wedding anniversary. - Bill

Dee and Steve Hedman on their honeymoon in 1966.

Standing in the exact same spot, 49 years later.

Another canoe decoration project, 49 years later.

7/5/15 - We are proud to announce that our very own Bill Hansen was named Citizen of the Year for the Town of Tofte, in "recognition and grateful appreciation" for his years of service and dedication. Congratulations, Bill!

Bill accepting his award with trusty canine companion Roy by his side

One of the privileges awarded to the Citizen of the Year is participating in the Fourth of July parade.

Roy would like to suggest that he deserves the "Canine of the Year" award for all his service in chasing squirrels and barking at nothing.

The next time you're up at Sawbill, take a minute to find Bill's fancy new plaque - it's up on the mantle above the fireplace, with all his other awards! - Elena

7/4/15 - We are thrilled to report that Sawbill crew members have made contact with Bode, the dog that went missing a week ago. Bode stayed on Smoke Lake for a few days, keeping close to a campsite where a party of four were staying. Those campers were able to feed Bode and get him some water, although he was too skittish to be pet or caught. Crew members first saw Bode on Thursday, when they brought him food.

Bode was sighted again today, this time running down the Sawbill trail. Crew members were unable to catch him. Animal Control authorities in Grand Marais have been contacted and we are working to alert people in Tofte as well so everyone can keep an eye out for him and bring him in safely.

Bode's owners have been contacted and updated, and are grateful for all the efforts people have made to bring their dog home. - Elena

7/2/15 - There are few things we at Sawbill love more than having former crew members visit. In late June, John Schrag, a veteran Sawbillian, flew from his Oregon home to Minnesota to go on a trip with his daughter Elena, who is a member of the current Sawbill crew. After the visit, John, who is the publisher of two weekly papers in Oregon, wrote the following email. Included are some pictures from his trip.

Bill, Cindy and the fabulous Sawbill Crew of 2015;

My first year working here, back in 1908, Kathy Heltzer, one my fellow crew members, wrote a song, sung to basic blues riff, that had the following chorus:

Here we are at Sawbill
It's our home away from home.
And when you're at Sawbill
You're never alone.

Thanks for making me feel so at home at my former home away from home. It's great to see that a business model based on hard-work, trust and respect for your colleagues (and plenty of laughter) has not just endured but prospered.


I've come to believe that the key to navigating this world can be distilled into one skill: learning how to get along with others. It's not as easy as it seems.

In my five summers at Sawbill, I became proficient in many things: cleaning out out a non-composting toilet, removing slimy hair from shower drains and finding more than one way to kill a mouse. But the most important lesson was to take individual responsibility to work collectively to solve problems.

gordon lake7_2_15.jpg

Precious few businesses and organizations have figured that out. As crew members, you're lucky to get to experience it so early in your adult lives and in such a beautiful, fun-filled environment.

Before coming on our family canoe trip last summer, It had been more than 25 years since I had been in the Boundary Waters. That trip, and the one Elena and I just completed, made me appreciate the incredible value of wilderness areas.


Our planet, including far too many places in this country, is filled with once-pristine places that now are now major tourist destinations featuring acres of parking lots, luxury hotels, cruise-ship stops, helicopter tours and wi-fi hot-spots.

What an amazing experience, then, to come off the Sitka portage Friday afternoon and find a spectacular collection of islands and water more "natural" than it was when I first paddled up Cherokee Creek 40 years ago this summer.


The picnic tables, canoe portage rests and even the portage signs are gone -- as they should be. I can't think of another place where we, as a society, have managed to allow thousands of visitors to continue enjoy an natural area while helping it become "wilder."

It seems that we got it right for once.

Even from Oregon, however, I am aware that there are new threats to this special place. It's my hope that through the efforts of Dave and Amy Freeman (and their friends at Sawbill) the people in power will understand how important it is to preserve this amazing place.


The forces seeking to exploit the wilderness are powerful, but there are many examples of such efforts being turned back. It gets back to taking responsibility to work together. And since I witnessed a new generation of leaders honing that skill this week, I am returning to Oregon with hope.

Thanks again for your hospitality (and the extra bear ropes).

John ('78-'82)

7/1/15 - Our good friend, Steve Gendron, lost his dog, Bode, on the portage between Smoke and Burnt Lakes on Monday, June 29th. Bode is recently rescued by the Gendron family, so he is shy and skittish. If you are headed out that way, please keep your eyes peeled. - Bill

Bode, the dog currently lost between Smoke and Burnt Lakes.

Current Sawbill Newsletter | « June 2015 | August 2015 »

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