Last week I visited with Art Wright at his home in Duluth. Art was born in Duluth in 1913, but lived in Grand Marais for a time when he was a young boy. He’ll be turning 100 in a couple of weeks. Art’s father was the purser on the steamship America. His mother was the teacher at the Maple Hill School just north of Grand Marais. She received her teaching certification when she was 16 years old. Art’s parents met on the America when his mother was traveling to her new job.
During the visit, my mom, Mary Alice Hansen, and my son, Carl Hansen, filmed an interview with Art about his boyhood memories in Grand Marais and his time growing up aboard the America. They did the filming on behalf of the Cook County Historical Society.
I knew that Art was an avid wilderness canoeist for his whole life, so I asked him when he took his first canoe trip in the BWCA Wilderness. He said his first trip was in 1928 when he and some friends went to Kekekabic Lake. His first trip starting at Sawbill Lake was in 1930 or ‘31.
Art recalled around that time that he and a friend were returning to Sawbill from a long canoe trip and encountered a large floatplane at the Sawbill boat landing. As the young men approached the landing in their canoe, the pilot taxied away from the landing, right past their canoe. Floatplanes make a huge wake when they taxi at slow speed and it caught Art and his friend off guard and they were dumped, with all their gear, just a few yards short of their take-out point. Art commented mildly that they were “not too happy with the pilot.”
If you’ve driven through Tofte lately, you can’t help but notice the beautiful new building that has gone up at Sawtooth Outfitters. The owners, Jeff and Sarah Lynch, had the building designed by an architect to mimic the look of the Sawtooth Mountains. The beautiful custom windows pick up the motif of the trees on the hills.
The old Sawtooth Outfitters building was quite small, especially considering that the owners also live in the building. The new building still includes the Lynches’ home, but they will have more room for themselves as well as expanded space for their retail store, along with their existing ski, bike and canoe and kayak rental business. For the first time, they will have a public bathroom for their customers.
The Lynches made a point of hiring local contractors for the big job. The primary builders are Tyler Norman and Jared Boen. As all buildings should be now days, the 3,200-square-foot building is highly energy efficient and utilizes off-peak electric heat, a wood stove backup and passive solar heat from the south-facing windows.
They are fully open for business now and will have a grand opening celebration in the spring.
The moose capture and radio-collaring project was active along the Sawbill Trail last week. The researchers, their mobile laboratory and helicopter were set up at the Moose Fence ski trail parking lot for a couple of days. DNR wildlife manager, Dave Ingebrigtsen, reported 31 moose had been captured and collared so far, including five cows and four bulls along the Sawbill Trail.
Their goal is to collar 100 moose. When a collared moose dies, the researchers will attempt to get to it as soon as possible to conduct an autopsy and ultimately try to answer the question of why the moose population is declining.
The team had cleared a helicopter landing spot here at Sawbill, but finally decided not to collar moose that might wander into the wilderness before they die, which would complicate the access for autopsy. I understand the thinking, but we were disappointed to miss out on the excitement. We are easily entertained at this time of year here in the backwoods.
Jerry Gervais, the famous Snowmobile Doctor from Tofte, had a man walk into his yard the other day. The man had quite a story to tell. He was staying at Temperance Landing in Schroeder with his wife, son, daughter-in-law and 1-year-old grandchild. The family decided to have dinner at the Trestle Inn, with the younger couple snowmobiling there and the older couple taking the baby and driving. They looked at a map and decided to drive to the Trestle by going up the Sawbill Trail and then cutting across the 600 Road, not knowing that in the winter the 600 Road is actually a snowmobile trail.
They managed to get their Honda Civic onto the 600 Road and drove for quite a ways before they realized their mistake. By that time, they were afraid they would get stuck if they tried to stop or turn around, so they decided to keep going.
After driving five miles on the 600 Road, they came to the intersection with the Tofte snowmobile access trail. Seeing the sign that said, “This way to Tofte,” they decided to head down the actual snowmobile trail to Tofte. They made it another five miles before they reached the snowmobile bridge across the Temperance River and became hopelessly stuck.
The grandfather left his wife and grandchild in the car and continued walking down the trail. He followed the signs for almost another five miles to the Snowmobile Doctor, figuring correctly that he would be a good person to help them. Jerry quickly rounded up some help, two snowmobiles and a sleigh and rescued the grandmother and grandchild. The next morning, Paul James, from Tofte, pulled the car out using the Tucker Sno-cat that he uses to groom the local snowmobile trails.
It’s actually fairly common for people to attempt driving their cars on groomed snowmobile trails and getting stuck, but they usually don’t get very far. The Sno-doc says that he’s no fan of Honda Civics, but he had to give some credit to the little car that became a fairly functional snowmobile for at least 10 miles.