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.
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
6/23/15 - Spirits are high here at Sawbill, with both crew members and customers enjoying the sunshine we've had in the last few days. Clear nights make for incredible star-gazing, and last night (Monday), the Northern Lights were visible starting around 10:30 p.m. Crew members made the trek down to the dock on Sawbill Lake to watch the sky shimmer and dance. The lights are most commonly seen during late fall and winter, so we hope you all caught a glimpse of them!
There have been a good number of moose sightings lately, both far away and close to home. Recent crew sightings include Octopus Lake, Jack Lake, and Sitka Lake. In general, smaller and more remote locations are better for wildlife sightings. There are also lots of Mergansers out on the water with little ones in tow.
A mama and baby moose make an exit from Sitka lake
The Merganser has a serrated edge along their beak, giving them the nickname "sawbill"
In addition to looking for wildlife and northern lights, although both are most often spotted when you are not looking for them, we encourage you to soak in as many Boundary Water sunsets as your trip allows. At night when the lake gets glassy and still, you can see the shoreline and sky reflected in an almost perfect mirror image. A perfect end to a summer day.
Even spiders enjoy the sunsets here! - Elena