Quite frequently, vacationers and even a few local residents seek different or unusual activities to enjoy that are often overlooked by the seekers or may be “best kept secrets.” This week I’d like to highlight three activities I have recently taken part in that may be of interest to others. If any or all of them sound like something you might enjoy – give them a shot!
To begin with, there are presently two or possibly three generations of individuals that have limited or no idea of what “American Plan” resorts are or were. From the very beginnings of northern Wisconsin’s tourism in the 1880s, until well into the latter portion of the 20th Century, American Plan resorts were without a doubt the most popular tourist destinations Up North!
These resorts provided deluxe accommodations by serving three meals a day, maid service, guided fishing trips, free pick-up and return taxi service to and from local railroad depots and much more. Most American Plan resorts also housed a bar/lounge, and a few also provided live entertainment during evening hours.
The number of these classy, plush resorts began to dwindle in the 1960s and was almost completely extinct by the beginning of the new millennium. A few, such as highly historic Sayner Lodge on Plum Lake, that began serving guests in 1892, survived into the very early 2000s.
For those who might wish to step back in time and flavor the ambiance of a classic old style American Plan resort, make a reservation for breakfast or dinner at Voss Birchwood Lodge in Manitowish Waters (715-543-8441). Its a genuine “WOW” experience!
There is little doubt that silent sports are continuing to rise in popularity. For those who wish to interact with all that Ma Nature provides for our enjoyment, doing so with quiet equipment in a natural environment is the “way to go!”
Biking and hiking trails designed specifically for those sports are seeing more and more use, as are local cross country ski trails during our season of winter white. Kayaking and canoeing are also popular summertime activities for the silent sports crowd and Ma Nature provides numerous natural waterways for folks to enjoy, at no additional cost (unless you need to rent a canoe or kayak).
If you are searching for a somewhat seldom-used canoeing or kayaking destination, consider spending a few hours exploring scenic and historic Lost Creek in the township of St. Germain. It is definitely one of the North’s best kept secrets!
This meandering stream zig-sags for about five miles from Lost Lake to Big St.Germain Lake, a trip that typically will take three to five hours, depending on how fast one wants to paddle or how often travelers stop to inhale the beauty and/or snap photos.
The most convenient and easy entry point is where State Highway 155 crosses the stream between the villages of St. Germain and Sayner. The easiest and most convenient exit point is the public boat landing on the north shore of Big St. Germain Lake, located on Big St. Germain Drive. The use of two vehicles is suggested – leave one at the public boat launch to provide transportation back to the entry point upon completion of your adventure to retrieve vehicle number one.
The journey will provide a wide variety of paddling situations ranging from narrow, moderate flow over shallow sand bottom to very wide, sluggish flow over shallow muddy bottom, to a rippling, rocky section that zips through a narrow valley decorated with ancient hemlock trees. As travelers emerge from the narrow valley, they can view the remains of an old wooden dam (on the right side) built in 1907 by lumberjacks to improve the efficiency of log drives between Lost Lake and Big St. Germain. Beyond that lies another wide, shallow, sluggish section filled with wild rice.
Once Big St. Germain Drive is reached travelers will pass under the road in one of two culverts. (Be prepared to possibly find spider webs and spiders during your few moments in the culvert.)
From Big St. Germain Drive to the lake of the same name, travelers will once again view modern various examples of civilization during the final ten minutes on the stream. As paddlers enter Big Saint, turn left and follow the shoreline to the public launch site, a distance of about a quarter mile.
While on the river expect to see eagles and an eagle nest – provided you have sharp eyes – great blue herons, muskrats, turtles, ducks, and numerous songbirds. And don’t be surprised if a deer or two suddenly burst from their daytime hiding spots and make your heart skip a beat! Numerous emergent water plants will be blooming, both yellow and white water lilies, water iris, purple pickerel weed and a wide assortment of bankside wild flowers.
There are a few areas that provide deep enough water to house panfish and an occasional bass or pike, so anglers may wish to pack a fishing rod while floating Lost Creek.
After leaving the entry point, and all the way to Big St. Germain Drive, paddlers will only pass seven dwellings, and several of those are so well hidden they won’t be seen.
It is a good idea to wear “wading shoes” as during very low water conditions might make it necessary to drag your craft a short distance over a few shallow sand bars. During my most recent trip down the creek on June 22, the water level was up and no wading was necessary. When you pass Peggy’s and my home, don’t be alarmed if Belle and Buffy bark at you or run to streamside to witness your passing!
A third unique Northwoods adventure is spending a few hours visiting Camp 5 in Laona. Here visitors will ride to the entertaining, educational and fun historic Camp 5 via train powered by a genuine old steam engine. The camp was begun by the Connor family in the 1890s as a logging camp, which is perhaps the most recognized name connected to the logging era in northern Wisconsin.
The farm was started in 1914 to produce meat and vegetables for area logging camps and mill workers at Leona. In 1969 the farm was converted to a tourist attraction, and quickly became a popular destination for a day of fun for folks of all ages.
Once at the well-maintained farm, a small army of friendly employees will assist in making your visit highly memorable. Visitors may spend their time visiting the Museum and Blacksmith Shop, the Nature Center, Cracker Barrel Store, Choo-Choo Hut, or take riding guided tours on the Forest Tour, or Wildlife Tour, or walk the Ecology Walk.
Folks may bring their own cooler of goodies or visit the concession stand for yummy sandwiches, beverages and desserts.
Laona is located on State Highway 8 about 25 miles east of Rhinelander, or from Eagle River, take highway 45 south to Hwy. 8 at Monico and turn left. It’s well worth the trip!
For reservations call 715-674-3414 or visit their website, Camp 5 Lumberjack and Steam Train.
Buckshot may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.