From hunting and fishing to other outdoor recreational opportunities, there are few places better than Wisconsin’s North Woods. —STAFF PHOTOS
From hunting and fishing to other outdoor recreational opportunities, there are few places better than Wisconsin’s North Woods. —STAFF PHOTOS
I ASKED a store clerk the other day how things were going, sort of a polite daily inquiry for making conversation, and the reply was a sarcastic “just living the dream.”

That’s not the first time someone registered a general complaint about life with that whiny tone, and it got me to thinking about why the misuse of that phrase is a little disconcerting.

As we close the books on yet another year, it dawned on me that I’ve been blessed with life in the North Woods for 40 years now. And it’s not something to be taken for granted.

As an outdoor nut since my childhood days in central Wisconsin, there’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t count my blessings for having landed in what many call God’s Country.

I grew up in the newspaper industry, as my parents purchased a weekly newspaper in Marion about the time I turned 9. I went to college for business but soon stopped fighting the industry that was in my blood, and switched to journalism.

Our family lived to fish and waterski in Boulder Junction and Three Lakes on the weekends, so when it came time to search for potential career opportunities in the newspaper field, the North Woods became familiar territory.

The challenge for people who want to live year around in this recreation paradise has always been finding a decent job. How fortunate I was to start working for the Satran brothers almost four decades ago.

The scribbler has been writing in this space about the great outdoors the past 34 years. Keeping the column going when I became publisher eight years ago was a no-brainer, because the outdoor life is my passion.

From that perspective, there’s no better place to “live the dream” than Vilas and Oneida counties. 

This is some of the most unique lake country in the world. Add to that hundreds of miles of streams and a million acres of public and industrial forestland, and you’ve got a recreation mecca beyond compare.

The natural resources here support just about any outdoor recreation you might be into, from fishing, hunting and trapping to hiking, biking, waterskiing, swimming, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, wildlife observation, photography and a host of other motorized recreation.

This is the land of opportunity for adventure and exploration — gateway to the 1.5 million acre Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. We’ve got wilderness areas, old-growth forest and some of the most scenic rivers and trout streams on the globe.

Imagine a lifestyle where you see a bald eagle or an osprey virtually every day, whether it’s on the commute to work, a lunch-hour drive or after hours. There is no other area of Wisconsin with a higher concentration of wildlife species that were once endangered, but not any more thanks to this state’s historic conservation ethic.

From my office, I can be standing next to the Deerskin River in the national forest in about 12 minutes. Like most of our trout streams here, it is gin-clear and winds through forested ridges that include the Blackjack Springs Wilderness Area on a large stretch of its southern bank.

Virtually unlimited outdoor recreation is not the only great thing about living here. The people in these communities are some of the most generous, most caring individuals I’ve ever encountered. Most of them are transient residents as opposed to natives, like myself, but they quickly made the North Woods a place to call home.

Just look at this newspaper’s Warm The Children program, which this year raised $80,000 in about a two-month period to provide warm winter clothing to some 600 needy children.

This tourism area plans and executes some of the most impressive annual events in Wisconsin, and it couldn’t be done without the help of hundreds of community-minded volunteers.

It is hard to imagine a better place to raise a family, and all three of our children benefited from a solid education, great friendships and an appreciation for the great outdoors.

Alice, my wife of 40 years, has been quite the trooper in supporting a crazy newspaper schedule and my outdoor addictions. She should be nominated for sainthood.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Editor Gary Ridderbusch for 34 years, and many others at the newspaper have a similar longevity with the paper. The talent and work ethic of this staff is quite remarkable.

We always planned on producing the finest paper and other publications possible, but nobody thought we’d become one of the best weekly newspapers in Wisconsin. That’s just something that happened as the staff evolved and improved over time, and suddenly we won “Best Weekly” honors from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association in four of the past seven years.

Add to that a second-place General Excellence award from the National Newspaper Association in 2018, in competition with papers from all 50 states, and you could say we are living a dream. That’s the most coveted honor a newspaper can win.

Of course there are always bumps in the road, setbacks and challenges that need to be faced on an almost daily basis, but people with an attitude for success and happiness can rise above that. They call them optimists.

The seasonal economy here alone is a big obstacle for most to overcome, but that’s the nature of an economy that depends on tourists, seasonal property owners and snowbirds.

The scribbler has been living the dream for 40 years. What better place to work and play than a recreation paradise that everyone else is trying to get to, for a weekend or a lifetime?

As a new year begins, you might want to think about your own blessings in life.