Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For July 30th, 2010 Edition.
We were greeted by shimmering blue waters, lily pads in full bloom waved at us in the wind and a bright royal blue sky punctuated with puffy white cumulus clouds looked down on us. The drenching downpour the north had experienced the previous day was almost a distant memory.
The date was July 15 of this year. The place was Wittig's Point Resort on Fishtrap Lake just north of Boulder Junction. The assembled onlookers numbered twelve representing Nicolet College's Annual Canoeing/Kayaking/Shore Lunch Adventure. Our watery route would lead us downstream to our intended destination at Headwater's Restaurant & Tavern where the Manitowish River flows under County highway M just a stone's toss north of Boulder Junction. Roughly six hours of outdoor pleasure - plus a gut filling traditional shore lunch - awaited the expectant paddlers!
This annual event is but one of numerous "outdoor adventures" sponsored by Nicolet College in Rhinelander. The expedition leaders for this outing were professional watermen Bob Knopps and Scott Bradley, long time veterans in the world of canoeing that has taken them to numerous rivers throughout Wisconsin, Michigan, Canada and numerous other locations on the map.
After unloading the canoes and kayaks, plus all necessary gear, an impromptu group photo was taken amidst a joking jab by yours truly, "while we're all still dry." Then the nine craft flotilla shoved off, pointed our bows westward, and paddled into the beginning of a memorable day among Ma Nature's finest offerings.
We had difficulty finding anything negative about the environment we encountered, the worst being a fairly stiff and persistent west wind. But even that was a blessing in disguise, as the low humidity being carried by the welcome breeze kept flying and biting insects at bay during the entire trip.
The first half of the trip downstream from Fishtrap Lake on the historic Manitowish River wends its way through a flooded wetlands which was created by Fishtrap Dam, which was originally constructed during the heyday of the lumbering era a century ago in order to more efficiently move the big pine logs downstream to the sawmills. Countless stubs of stumps that were once towering tamarack and black spruce trees jut skyward amongst a carpet of lily pads, rushes, water iris, wild rice and an assortment of other wild water plants, to serve as reminders that this stretch of the Manitowish was at one time much narrower.
Wildlife viewing along this remote stretch of river is nearly always a given. Painted turtles sun bathed on partially submerged logs, muskrats and beaver glided along the surface, great blue herons waded in the shallower waters in search of minnows and frogs, eagles and osprey soared on outstretched wings aided by the brisk westerly, a doe and her fawn munched lush green fodder, mallards feasted on newly developing wild rice and a multitude of songbirds shuttled back and forth from shore to shore - all for our eyes to enjoy.
Along several short stretches, where the river narrows and flows through heavily forested lined valleys, there are signs of civilization. A few homes have sprung up along these areas during the past four decades since this writer had traveled and fished this portion of the Manitowish. But the intrusion of man for the most part has not detracted from the overall ambiance and pristine setting the river trip provides for nature lovers, campers and anglers.
As our watery convoy proceeded downstream at a leisurely pace we passed the confluence of Johnson Creek and Nixon Creek, which add a considerable amount of water into the ever-expanding Manitowish. It was where Nixon Creek enters the main stream where we found what most of the group had been waiting for - a campsite where the chef could prepare the noontime feast!
Willing volunteers hustled coolers laden with mouth-watering delights up a minor incline to the kitchen/dining room that straddled a flat-topped, tree covered knoll overlooking the watery wonderland below. A rustic picnic table and a sturdy permanent grill provided the basic necessities needed to compliment what soon would be lunch.
Bob, being handy with an axe as well as a paddle, reduced a number of dry pine and aspen limbs to firewood and the outdoor kitchen stove was ignited.
The first order of business was to prepare a huge pot of "guide's coffee." A heaping handful of raw coffee grounds dumped into a time-blackened stainless steel coffee pot filled with cold water begins the process. Ten minutes of intense heat brings the mixture to boiling, after which the pot is immediately removed from the fire to prevent the coffee from turning bitter. One cup of ice-cold water is then poured into the mixture causing all the coffee grounds to settle to the bottom of the pot. Now all one needs to do is pour the hot, tasty liquid into insulated cups and enjoy the best "Java-Joe" known to man! (Starbucks, eat your heart out!)
Next, eight pounds of hickory-smoked bacon was crisped to perfection and served as an appetizer. Amid whispered questions of "who's going to eat ALL that bacon" the inquiry was answered a few minutes later when only a small handful of crispy crumbs remained on the paper towel.
The third course was comprised of nearly five pounds of French fries and onion rings. That also vanished within minutes! Last, but not least came the featured main entrée - many pounds of fish fillets deep fried in a mixture of bacon grease and vegetable oil after being coated with Buckshot's Not-So Secret breading. Which is: one cup of pancake flour, ¼ cup of granulated graham cracker crumbs, a heaping table spoon of black pepper and likewise a heaping table spoon of granulated garlic powder.
The once noisey congregation suddenly became quiet, mute testimony to the fact plate after plate of golden brown fish disappeared along with an occasional, "Ohhhhh, it's sooooooo goood!
The feasting and conversation continued until about 1:30 - then the nine watercraft and their overloaded occupants, set sail for the afternoon paddle to our destination, which was accomplished shortly after 3:00 p.m.
The only interruption encountered during the last half of the trip is a short portage around the Fishtrap Dam.
Once our destination was reach everyone pitched in and helped load the canoes and kayaks on trailers and car tops prior to quenching our thirst with an ice cold glass of what made Milwaukee famous on Headwater's deck overlooking the majestic river we had conquered earlier. Sincere farewells were shared along with firm handshakes and the adventuresome dozen departed for their respective homes with - fond memories of a day well spent - and full stomachs!
(For additional information about Nicolet College's Outdoor Adventure Series, contact Jodi Fox at email@example.com or phone 715-356-6753 or 800-585-9304.)
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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