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.
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).
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.
6/29/15 - We have been remiss in introducing our new crew members. This is just the first batch, with a few more to come.
Logan Sheets and Claire Mutch take quick break from putting together the weekly grocery order. Logan is from Wisconsin originally, but now makes his home in Missoula, Montana where he attends the University of Montana. Claire is from Apple Valley, Minnesota and attends the University of Minnesota.
Daniel Dahl is from Northfield, Minnesota and attends the University of Minnesota, Duluth.
Elena Torry-Schrag is from Forest Grove, Oregon and studies at Macalester College in St Paul, Minnesota.
Olivia Nofzinger, is from the Twin Cities, but spent much of last year in New Zealand. She's attending Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.
6/27/15 - Our good friends, Fred and Suzi Dow, operate the U.S. National Forest Campground Guide. I'm sure they are the only people who have visited every single National Forest Campground, including Alaska.
In the current issue of their newsletter they feature the Sawbill Lake Campground and even include a beautiful slide show of the day trip they took in the BWCA Wilderness when they visited here.
Fred and Suzi Dow
6/26/15 - Due to a combination of circumstances, we find ourselves in need of another Sawbill crew member for the summer. If you know someone who might like to live and work at Sawbill for the summer, let them know.
We look for people who are friendly, hard working and can work and live easily with others. We give strong preference to people who have wilderness canoeing experience in the Sawbill area. We also need someone who can start very soon and stay through at least the middle of August. We're also interested in people who may return for two or more seasons.
We require a completed application form, with three work references with current email addresses so we can check with them quickly. You can visit our employment page for more details, including compensation. There is an application form there that can be filled in and emailed.
If you'd like to ask questions directly, you can call me at 218-663-7150. Thanks! - Bill
6/24/15 - Most people come to the Boundary Waters to spend time "off the grid," and in hopes of spotting some local wildlife. Depending on when and where you paddle, seeing even one moose is considered lucky. Recently, one visitor stumbled upon something of a different variety of luck.
Ian, age 9, discovered a trove of four- and five-leaf clovers in the campsite in which his family was staying. Sawbill will not be releasing the number of the campsite in which these lucky clovers can be found - visitors will have to do their own scouting. After all, four-leaf clovers are only lucky if they are found, not given.
Ian carefully pressed his clovers, which will make an excellent souvenir
Five-leaf clovers are even more rare than four-leaf ones. While four-leaf clovers are almost universally thought of to bring luck, five-leaf clovers are supposed to attract money. What a treat for Ian!
Another visitor, Tim Petricek sent us some pictures he took of wildlife he spotted on Sawbill Lake. Sending us pictures from your trips is encouraged - we love to hear and see what you experienced.
A snapping turtle waits to lay her eggs by the shore
This mama loon has been carrying her chick all over Sawbill lake. Many of you moms and dads will be familiar with the endless chauffeuring that parenting entails! - Elena