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Fatal accident near Two Harbors remains mystery

Sarah Jaeger, 58, spent much of her recent free time tending to the young pines growing on her property in rural Two Harbors. Jaeger died in a car accident near her home early Friday. Details of the accident remain unclear. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Jaeger's family)

At age 58, Sarah Jaeger had been living her dream.

"She always had this dream of trying to find some land in northern Minnesota and living in the woods," Jaeger's daughter, Stephanie Jaeger, said Monday.

After more than six years of living in the woods about seven miles north of Two Harbors, Sarah Jaeger and her black Labrador died early Friday morning in a vehicle crash that left her truck overturned in Lake Superior.

Jaeger's partner of

16 years, Bil Frank, said Monday he didn't know where she was going at the time or what happened to cause the accident.

"She was heading into town, I'm assuming," he said. "I had spoken to her earlier in the evening. Everything was fine."

Jaeger, who had retired in January from 50 Below, a Duluth website design firm, was excited to spend even more time outdoors this spring and summer, her daughter said.

"She was so happy and relaxed," she said. "Her heart was definitely in the land."

Last August, Jaeger completed a process that ensured permanent protection of her 88 acres that has part of the Encampment River running through it.

At the time, she told the Lake County News-Chronicle that she had checked out different land protection options and decided to go with a conservation easement through the Minnesota Land Trust. The easement will prevent any commercial development on the land.

"Sarah made it happen," Frank said of initiating the land protection. "When she wanted something ... nothing was going to stop her."

"Completing the easement gives me tremendous satisfaction and peace of mind," Jaeger told the News-Chronicle last year.

But Jaeger went even further in her efforts. She also was responsible for managing the healthy regeneration of white pine trees on the property.

"With a deer overpopulation eating the trees in winter, she wanted to make sure they were protected," Jaeger said.

To that end, Frank said he and Jaeger have walked the woods for years looking for young pines and have built deer-proof cages around about 400 of them.

"They took an enormous amount of time to mark and tag the white pines, and some had grown from seedlings to 12 feet tall under her care," Stephanie Jaeger said. "She just fell in love with the forest and it was a really strong force for her. It helps me knowing that she has this legacy."

Minnesota State Patrol officers are still investigating the crash and have reconstructed the accident scene near the intersection of County Road 3 and Highway 61 to help determine the cause, Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson said.

He has also sent e-mails to various state and local officials to initiate a discussion about ways to make that intersection safer.

"That's a bad intersection for us," he said. "We've had our fair share of accidents there and we need to look at it again."

Johnson mentioned guard rails, flashing signs and rumble strips and some of the options that could be possible for the area.

"I think there's a lot more we can do with it," he said.