Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Call of the wild — part two

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ― John Muir, Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States

AFTER PAUL and I had been together for about two and a half years, married not quite a year, we drove home from work like any other day, except on this day I got out of the car, walked about four paces, stopped in my tracks and near tears blurted out, "If you don't take me to the Northwoods, I'll die."

If you read Call of the Wild from a couple of days ago, you might conclude these outbursts occur frequently. They don't.

But when they do, I suppose they are what you'd call dramatic.

What I said was how I felt — that if I had to make that rat-running-a-maze trip to and from work one more day without replenishment, my soul would turn to dust. And the only remedy was sky, trees, breeze, clouds, animals, natural flowing water.

Fortunately, Paul took me seriously.

There are a million wonderful places in the Northwoods, let's face it, but it was necessary to choose. As luck would have it, a customer of ours had just recently told me about a particular lake in northern Wisconsin that his family had been going to for years and years, and that was the place we picked: Dillman's Resort on White Sand Lake in Vilas County.

Going to a "resort" might not sound very back-to-naturish, but no worries. Vilas County abuts the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and is surrounded by the Lake Superior Chippewa Indians Lac du Flambeau Tribe's reservation which is in turn surrounded by the 664,822-acre Nicolet National Forest.

White Sand Lake is located in the Lac du Flambeau reservation.

If we harbored doubts about how woodsy our getaway would be, they were removed by the time we arrived. We went from a state highway, to a county highway, to a winding road, to a two-rut lane cutting deep into the woods. 

We were also making our trip the last two days of August carrying into the first few of September. Not exactly peak season. When we arrived, there was only one other guest, and he left. We had the entire place to ourselves; it was balm to my soul. 

Our cabin was on the water's edge surrounded by majestic pines. Every morning we'd walk out our door and find three or four bald eagles in the branches above us. Each day we paddled out into the lake in the canoe Dillman's had available for use. One afternoon we anchored under a tree and watched a mated pair of eagles flying back and forth to their nest feeding their two chicks. On the same paddle, a beaver took offense that we were on his lake and smacked his tail on the water as a warning, and we saw a black bear crossing the road on a driving explore we took. 

One night Paul went for a walk and came back to get me, exclaiming breathlessly, "You've gotta come with me!" The lake had misted over in fog rising from the water, and he'd found a dock that jutted out into the mist on the lake. We sat on the dock listening to the loons in the mist in the moonlight. 

We went back to White Sand Lake the next year and the next. Once year our Northwoods excursion coincided with the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians' annual Bear River Pow Wow. I'd been to three pow wows before — in Idaho, Nebraska and Iowa; this one in Wisconsin was the most secluded I'd ever attended. We followed paper signs back, back, back into the woods, and entered another land and time. Paul had never before experienced a pow wow; he was spellbound. We felt privileged just to be present.


  1. :D Gary understands that too. I'll usually be able to give him more notice but man, it's important to get out of the city and into the quiet of nature sometimes. Good for Paul - he is a hero! :D

  2. Oh wow, I finally figured out that YOU must have figured out how to see if I reply to your comments!! I'd given up replying to your replies, but I saw that on a recent post, it actually worked.
    Paul I had a canoe and hiking trip planned that we'd be leaving on this coming Tuesday morning. We were going to canoe the Buffalo National River and camp, but the forecast is for nothing but rain in Arkansas. We're bummed and trying to figure out if we can go somewhere for three or four days somewhere more northernly where the forecast is for dry weather.