3/24/15 - A couple of weeks of warm weather have transformed Sawbill from deep winter to an extended spring season. Around here, I've always heard this season referred to as the "crusted snow moon." That is certainly the case at the moment.
Skiing down the Temperance River on crusted snow a few days ago. Right after this picture was taken I saw moose tracks on the river and even the moose was being held up by the crust! Photo by Nickie Dietz.
Here I am with the great group of friends that skied down the Temperance River. Photo by Nickie Dietz.
These warm, early spring days bring out an insect know locally as "snow fleas." They are actually a species of spring tails that jump long distances when they feel threatened. They move so fast, they give the illusion of just disappearing.
Sawbill Lake is like a big open field for Phoebe and Roy this time of year. They love to run joyfully and bark at ravens flying overhead. What looks like slush is actually frozen solid.
3/5/15 - As promised, here are some YouTube clips of my recent television appearance on WDSE's "The PlayList" with my musical partner, Eric Frost.
If you are really interested, here is a link to the whole episode. Eric and I start at about 13:00. Many thanks to Karen Sunderman, Steve Ash and the whole "PlayList" crew for including us in their efforts to highlight the booming music scene up here in little ol' Cook County!
Two other bands from the area will be featured on upcoming episodes. I've played with both of them in the past, so I'll post the links when they become available. - Bill
3/4/15 - You may have seen some recent news reports about a proposed "Sawbill" radio tower. The tower in question is actually located 3.5 miles southeast of Sawbill, near Marsh Lake. It's part of a statewide public safety radio network known as the ARMER network.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation is in charge of building the system and they requested a lease of county land to erect a 330' tower on the site. The Cook County Board of Commissioners voted last week to restrict the tower to be less than 200'. Not only will the lower height make the tower much less visible, but it will not be lighted.
The 330' option would have been visible, both day and night, from many lakes, campsites and portages within the BWCA Wilderness including Alton, Sawbill, Smoke, Burnt and Kelly lakes.
It was gratifying to watch the county commissioners carefully study the issue, listen to their constituents and settle on a solution that everyone can live with. - Bill
2/25/15 - It's real winter here now, with roughly three feet of pure white snow on the ground and consistently cold temperatures. The Sawbill Trail is beautiful, but mostly snow covered. Here is a picture of what happens when a long, snowy road is combined with -20 degree temperature.
The most common question we get during the summer months is "What do you do in the winter?" For me, playing music with my friends is one of my favorite winter (or any season) activities. Recently, Eric Frost and I were taped for appearance on the "PlayList" on WDSE - Channel 8, the public TV station in Duluth. Our set will be broadcast tomorrow, at 9 pm and repeated at 3:30 pm on Sunday. I'll post the YouTube version here on the newsletter as soon as it's available. - Bill
2/3/15 - Jeanne and Wayne Dezell have been camping at the Sawbill Lake Campground since they were kids back in the '50s. Jeanne sent along this photo that she found among her parent's things. She recalls taking the picture with her new Kodak Instamatic when she was a little girl.
This is "Uno," the industrious Finn who kept Sawbill Creek flowing by turning his water wheel 24/7. He was a reflection of Sawbill Lodge owner Dick Raiken's (his birth name was Toivo Raikenen) sense of humor. "Uno" was located between the walking bridge and the driving bridge which is visible behind him in the picture. I think he was on duty from the mid-1940s until the mid-1960s. He always had a red bandana and a pint whiskey bottle in his back pockets. We still have Uno's head, torso and arms in storage here at Sawbill Canoe Outfitters.
1/22/15 - We received this note from or friend Becky Rom. Becky is the daughter of Bill and Barb Rom, who were canoe outfitting pioneers in Ely.
Hi - As you know, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness/Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is hosting a series of talks this weekend in the Twin Cities about the threat of sulfide-ore copper mining to the Boundary Waters and surrounding area. Would you please send out the invitation to these talks to your friends and family, and perhaps your customer list? Would you post this on your website? Three of the talks are described on the attached postcard. In addition, the Izaak Walton League is hosting a talk at REI on Saturday.
We are also asking that people contact Congresswoman Betty McCollum's office in St. Paul with a request that she permanently protect the Boundary Waters. Betty is the ranking member of a key committee in the House, and can influence Boundary Waters policy. Phone calls and emails to her office are best. We will be putting up more detail on our website SavetheBoundaryWaters.org in the next day or two, but calls and emails can have a very simple message (why you care and please protect) and should start right now.
Thursday, January 22
Ridgedale-Hennepin County Library, RHR Room
6:30 pm Open House
7:00 - 8:30 pm Presentation
12601 Ridgedale Drive, Minnetonka
Saturday, January 24
Bachmanâ€™s Floral Gift & Garden, Heritage Room
1:30 Open House
2:00 - 3:30 pm Presentation
6010 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
Saturday, January 24 - Sponsored by the Izaak Walton League
6:00 Open House
7:00 - 8:30 pm Presentation
750 W. American Blvd., Bloomington
Sunday, January 25
2:30 pm Open House
3:00 - 4:30 pm Presentation
Turtle Lake Room 110
4580 Victoria St. N., Shoreview
1/21/15 - This is the time of year when we recruit new Sawbill crew members for the coming season.
We look for people who have experience in canoe country, passion for wilderness, personal optimism, enthusiasm, good personal adjustment, and demonstrated willingness to work. We usually only consider applicants who are 18 and have finished a year of college, or equivalent.
You are not hired for a particular job. We reschedule all the jobs on a weekly basis and you are generally able to choose the actual work you do. Inherent to our unique "work credit" system is a strong commitment to trust and cooperation. As a result, very little of the traditional employer/employee relationship is necessary.
We work around crew members school schedules, but we need at least some employees from April through October, so your dates of availability are important.
1/10/15 - Longtime Sawbill paddler, Mary Bart, sent along this little note a few days ago. - Bill
I don't know if you had a part in this or not, but son Chris & his brothers got me this framed 3-D topographical map of Sawbill Lake for Christmas, and blew my mind away with it. Boy, is it COOL! It's got water depths, and campsites marked on it - we can see where we've been, and it's just so neat! Chris got one too (or his wife got it for him, I don't know which) of Cherokee Lake, and we've been comparing depths, sizes of the lakes, campsites we've been to etc - the very first trip we took our kids on when Chris was 9 or 10 years old was to Cherokee, so it's a special lake to him. Come to think of it, MY very first trip up there was also to Cherokee! I thought I was gonna die on the 180 portage, but one of the other adults kept assuring me that there was really a BAR at the end of the last portage and I could get a beer there. I believed him. Anyway, we are both enjoying our cool maps of lakes we love!
And I am in the preliminary planning stages of putting together another ladies trip up there this coming summer - I think we can pull it off! We'll see.
Hope you're keeping warm and dry.
1/5/15 - Honoring a long standing tradition, numerous current and former Sawbill crew members returned to celebrate the coming of the new year. - Bill
The traditional midnight toast on the frozen surface of Sawbill Lake.
Tess transports champagne to the lake with a technique she learned in Botswana.
12/16/14 - After a few days of melting, winter has returned in the most pleasant way here at Sawbill. We now have an honest foot of snow on the ground, the trees are snow covered and the lake is frozen solid. It is enough to put you in the holiday spirit!