Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For July 10th, 2009 Edition.
Rain, which has been scarcer than hen's teeth in the northwoods for over a decade, began as a gentle pitter-patter just as we were about to launch a small flotilla of pleasure craft on the Wisconsin River. Seventeen expectant canoeists and kayakers in ten watercraft donned raingear and pushed off from the Vilas County Park at Rummels Road north of Conover for what was expected to be a leisurely six hour outing in one of Ma Nature's grandest outdoor theaters
This particular event, scheduled for June 27, is but one small segment of the Nicolet College's highly popular "Outdoor Adventure Series." Billed in the college brochure as "The Wisconsin River & Shorelunch" adventure, it is annually sold out shortly after summer course announcement information goes public. My part in the scheme of things is to cook the shorelunch. This year's annual event was hosted and guided by two highly professional paddlers from the local college, Bob Knops and Scott Bradley.
The hype concerning the trip, which appears in the Nicolet bulletin, aptly and accurately describes the environment through which recreational paddlers will travel while enjoying the peaceful flow of the not so mighty Wisconsin between Land O' Lakes and Conover.
"The Wisconsin River near Conover offers a variety of paddling experiences and expansive views as it passes through scenic countryside, heavily wooded shores and lowlands. The stretch we'll travel is quite intimate and shallow as it meanders through one of Wisconsin's northernmost landscapes." There is also mention of a delicious shorelunch prepared by an old guy who still guides and still cooks a traditional noontime shorelunch.
Because of possible severe weather that was predicted for the afternoon a last minute decision was made to shorten the length of the trip by eliminating about a mile and a half of the original planned paddle. Also, the cook's truck with all the goodies for the noon cookout was to be left at the location where the feast was to take place, just in case the predicted weather might cause a cancellation of the afternoon paddle, or soak the foodstuff if we carried it in our watercraft, a decision that turned out to be a wise one!
For those who might wish to travel this scenic route, there are a number of excellent put-in and/or take-out points along this stretch of the river. Those wishing longer trips, which might include one or more overnight tent camping experiences, they may wish to begin their journey where the Wisconsin River begins - at Lac Vieux Desert on the Wisconsin-Michigan border east of Land 'O Lakes. From that point you could spend an entire summer exploring the Wisconsin River all the way to Prairie du Chein where it enters the mighty Mississippi!
A more realistic beginning point is at the wayside on highway 45 just south of Land 'O Lakes. The next public entry or exit point is at the county park at Rummels Road. Several miles downstream is another easy in or out location on the west side of the river on Heart Lake Road. This is where our planned noon lunch was scheduled to take place.
The next entry or exit point is where highway K crosses the river at Conover, which was our planned ending location. Downstream another six miles is a park and canoe landing at the end of River Road, which is located between Conover and Eagle River off highway 45. From there it's about seven miles of river to the public launch where highway G crosses the river just north of Eagle River. If you plan on going further, best get a good map.
I occupied the bow seat in the lead canoe, which was under the command of Captain Bob, who is a highly skilled canoeist with nearly six decades of experience and 7000 miles of paddling canoes in the past 31 years on his résumé. He has raced competitively for 24 years and is certified as an instructor by the American Canoe Association in both flat and moving water. Needless to say - I was in good hands!
The drizzle intermittently ranged between misty rain and downpour but our convoy of six canoes and four 'yaks continued undaunted through the much needed rain. Besides the beauty that greeted us at each bend of the river - and let it be known, the Wisconsin at this location resembles a slizzering snake - various species of wildlife made their presence known.
Our lunch ground came into view about 11:30, much to the delight of the members of the expedition - who unanimously agreed they were starving!
By the time we had all our water vehicles high and dry at rivers edge the weatherman suddenly turned off the showers! Within minutes a crackling fire was working to turn cold water and French roast coffee grounds into hot java while eight pounds of thick sliced bacon began crisping to perfection.
Our luck held as hot coffee and bacon appetizers rapidly disappeared during which five pounds of potatoes and four large sweet onions began being converted to French fries and onion rings. Just as the grease reached perfect cooking temperature the heavens opened wide amidst rumbles of thunder!
Scott quickly erected an emergency tent shelter for the onlookers while Bob and Mike Frank helped the chef erect a tarp over the cooking fire.
Here is a helpful hint for others who might do the same while cooking outdoors in a downpour. You will very quickly find out if your tarp is rainproof - which mine wasn't! Cold rainwater dripping into my huge fry pan lowered the temperature of the oil and bacon grease to a simmer!
Twenty minutes of drenching rain nearly ruined the spuds and onions, but then the rain once again subsided. When I finally decreed the fries and rings were edible less than 10 minutes later the heaping pile of the second course was history!
Next came the main entrée - several pans of walleye, northern pike and catfish, deep-fried in Buckshot's Secret Breading number one. That too vanished more rapidly than I could keep the platter full!
After everyone helped clean up the campsite we were all back on the river again by 2:00. The enchantment of the stream and the valley through which it flows continued to entertain us all the way to Conover. By 3:30 all the canoes and kayaks were secured on car tops or trailers. Group photos were taken to record the memories and friendly handshakes were shared by all, along with sincere good-byes and "maybe we'll see ya next summer!"
Yes sir and madam - A Good Time Was Had By All!"
Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin. Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean, both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide. Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.
Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here
Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger
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