Will Maines - Vilas County News-Review
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  • IT WAS DIFFERENT. It felt strange and it was fun.
    Sunday morning, instead of lining up for an American Birkebeiner with a few hundred other skiers in my start wave and sharing the Birkie trail with more than 7,000 other skiers from Cable to Hayward, I
  • THERE IS COLD. There is more cold and then, there is get me the heck out of here and put me on a beach in Waikiki Beach cold.
    That is the cold of the past couple of weeks. In 71 years of living in the North Woods, I have seen many cold snaps come and go. This was a nasty one.
    There have been worse. In the
  • IT HAS BEEN said there is no fool like an old fool. I would say that saying is oftentimes true. I would say that the time I spent outdoors with a temperature reading well south of zero last weekend would prove I can be an old fool.
    I was still young the first time I showed total contempt for a below-zero temperature reading. That was the day when I
  • IN A FEW short weeks, it will be time for the 2021 American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race, which annually covers 50 kilometers for skate skiers and 55 kilometers for classic skiers from Cable to Hayward.
    The Birkie has been a part of my life since 
  • THERE WAS A time when I would spend half my winter sitting on ice 24 inches thick with a hole chopped in it, waiting for a fish somewhere down in the deep to come along and attack whatever it was I was dangling on the end of a line.
    In my early days of ice fishing, my tip-ups consisted of
  • IT SEEMS TO me the middle of January is a good time to do some dreaming. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and dreaming.
    Mostly I’ve been dreaming about two things: trout fishing and duck hunting. It probably comes as no surprise then, that I have been rereading my various volumes of Gordon MacQuarrie’s “Stories of the Old Duck Hunters.” It also should come as no surprise that I have been rereading
  • WHEN LIFE GIVES you lemons, make lemonade. I don’t think anyone would argue that 2020 gave us almost all lemons and that so far, 2021 hasn’t been any better. That said, I do know of some very good lemonade that will be brewing just a little more than a month from now.
    The American Birkebeiner ski race, a big part of my life since 1984, will
  • IT IS NOT a good thing when people try to live in the past. It is, however, a very good thing when people stop now and then to look back at their past.
    As I always do a few times a year, last week I revisited a small piece of the past that was a huge part of my life in the 1950s and ’60s. With Gordie the wonder dog scouting ahead, I
  • I HAVE NO reservations about reservations.
    Shoot, I make reservations all the time. Just last week, I made a reservation for dinner at Clearview Supper Club, one of our favorite dining places, and I had
  • CHRISTMAS TIME IS really here.
    I know that because yesterday, our entire kitchen and dining areas, including chairs, tables, counters, stovetop and even part of a couch in the living room, were covered with
  • SOMETIMES, YOU DON’T have to go very far at all to enjoy the outdoors. Sometimes, you don’t even have to go outdoors to enjoy the outdoors. Sitting next to my living room picture windows, I have been able to see a small piece of the outdoors from the comfort of my recliner.
    Since the day we built our house in 1980, we
  • FOR EVERYTHING THERE is a season. The Bible tells us this. Pete Seeger wrote a song in 1958 titled “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season).” The song used the Bible verse to express Seeger’s feelings about the state of the world.
    And, of course, the American rock group “The Byrds” recorded their version of the song in
  • WITH ALL THE bad 2020 has brought us, you wouldn’t think it, but this year has been very good to me in more ways than one. I realize this may sound very dumb to say, but the COVID-19 pandemic has been part of the reason why it’s been a very good year. Let me explain.
    The good stuff this year began with
  • EVERY OPENING DAY of deer season is different. And yet, every opening day of deer season is the same.
    In my 59 years of deer season openers, I have hunted on days when there was a foot or more of snow on the ground. I also have hunted when not a white flake was to be found. I’ve
  • THE OPENING DAY of deer season is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. Sounds like something Forrest Gump would say.
    Thing is, it’s true. Every deer season opening day is different from every other one a hunter has experienced, even if that hunter will be experiencing his
  • I THINK IT would be fair to say that 2020 has been an upside-down year. Most people would probably say there have been far more downs than ups, but looking at the bright side, I choose to relish my up times far more than I anguish over the downs.
    Throwing the pandemic aside, how could you
  • THIS IS A tale of three hunts. All three were successful, each in its own way.
    I was hankering a pa’tridge pie last weekend because I have not had one in quite a long time, and it
  • LAST WEEKEND, I did something I had never done before.
    No, I did not shoot a Boone and Crockett buck. No, I did not catch a 40-pound muskie and no, I did not go five for five on fast flying mallards driven by a
  • IT’S A FUNNY thing. The older I get, the more miles I walk in the woods.
    I suppose it only seems that way. Fifty years ago, I would often take off on rambles of 4, 5, 6 or more miles through brush, briers and down abandoned logging roads without thinking twice about it. At the end of my trek, whether with ruffed grouse in the game bag or not, it
  • “The years run too short and the days too fast.” —1978, “Time Passages” by Al Stewart


    IT ALWAYS AMAZES me that time runs so slow when you are waiting for your favorite trip of the year, while days spent on the trip fly by like
  • IF I WERE sitting in a psychiatrist’s office today, and if he or she would ask me if I was in a good place, I wouldn’t waste a half-second in telling the good doctor that I am in the best of all places.
    I am, as you read this, happily
  • SOME DAYS ARE simply meant to be lived in north Wisconsin.
    One event that transpired this last weekend was one that is always about the most exciting and revered day of the year for me. That would be the opening day of
  • LAST WEEKEND, A funny thing happened to me on the way to the turkey woods.
    Looking to find a foolish gobbler walking along the same logging road that another walked last spring, his last walk, I ran into some ruffed grouse instead.
    I should mention that
  • THIS RETIREMENT THING isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. I, for one, am exhausted by it.
    When you think of retirement, you might well think of Ma and Pa Kettle finally selling the farm for 10 million bucks to a speculator who incorrectly thinks there is a vast deposit of gold under the back cornfield and then, using that money to
  • IT’S AMAZING WHAT you’ll see when you spend some time outdoors.
    In 71 years of roaming this planet, I have been fortunate enough to see plenty of amazing things while fishing, hunting, camping, skiing, snowshoeing or doing anything else that has put me in
  • A MILLION THINGS to do and not much time to do them.
    Any sportsman who has embarked on a mission involving fish, wild animals, beer or wild women knows that a lot of preparation must be taken care of before
  • “THE BEAT GOES on. Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain.” 

    —Sonny and Cher, 1967


    So sang
  • WHEN AUGUST ROLLS around, something happens to me every year, just like clockwork. It is ready to happen to me again as we speak.
    Though we haven’t seen much of cool days yet, the calendar says they will visit us soon. I spend much of my days counting down the time until they do because certain as
  • SOMETIMES, YOU FEEL like a road trip; sometimes, you don’t.
    My lovely wife and I have been taking a lot of road trips this summer, mostly Sunday afternoons, more often than not to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and
  • HOW DOES A fishing and blueberry picking expedition to the Boundary Waters of Minnesota turn into being a best man at a campground wedding, you ask? Easily, is the answer.
    Last week, I took a trip to
  • OVER THE PAST few weeks, it seems that I have become a guru of sorts; a Mr. Miyagi kind of guy.
    Three times in recent days, I have fished with six friends, new and old, none of them more than the age of 11. Two had never held a fishing rod in their hands before. Two had fished one or two times before. Two had more ice fishing experience than open water and, according to
  • ANOTHER SUNDAY, ANOTHER afternoon road trip.
    Maybe this stuff that’s been plaguing the world since late February is not all bad. It has at least put me and my lovely wife in an almost weekly mood to hit the road to see
  • LIONS, TIGERS AND bears, I’ve seen ’em all this summer. OK, so I haven’t seen lions or tigers, but I have come across two bears so far and scads of other wildlife characters.
    Spring and summer are great times to watch wildlife at its best. The parade of
  • YOU CAN’T BEAT a day fishing with young kids.
    That has long been my experience, except in a few instances when I had kids in my boat who were, in polite terms, a royal pain in the butt. The two kids I fished with last Friday were
  • DO YOU REMEMBER the story of Clark Griswold organizing the “hap-hap-happiest” Christmas ever for his dysfunctional family? Of course you do. Everyone knows the story of the Griswolds.
    Well, like Clark, I had a dream this spring of
  • SUNDAY WAS FATHER’S Day. Sunday  also was waterfalls day. And as much as anything, Sunday became Flower Power Day.
    My wife and I have lately been proving that the more things change, the more they stay the same. We are of a generation for whom Sunday afternoon was a time for taking leisurely drives in the country. For many, that
  • SANITY HAS PREVAILED, at least for a little while.
    Sometime, on a sunny, warm day back on Feb. 22, a certain person decided that no sane person at the age of 70 would subject himself to the rigors of skiing 34 miles over rugged terrain in a single day ever again. Remember these words: never,
  • SOMETIMES YOU JUST have to get out of Dodge. Last weekend was one of those times for my lovely wife and me.
    We fled north- and westward to familiar country. In the winter, we see a piece of this country where many thousands of skiers gather to celebrate and challenge the world-class cross-country race known as
  • IN THESE DAYS of uncertainty, one thing has remained certain. Friends are always there for you. My wife and I have welcomed friends, some old, some new, over the past few weeks.
    Last week, we
  • OUR LONG WINTER of discontent may finally be nearing an end. At least as far as camping in Wisconsin state parks and forests, it might be.
    So far, I missed out on trout fishing and camping in Florence and Bayfield counties because of national forest campground closures, and my wife and I will have missed out on camping with
  • I HAVE BEEN blessed during the entirety of my life. Practically from the time I was born, I had parents who rapidly and repeatedly introduced me to the joys of an outdoor life.
    I had a mother who taught me how to
  • IN THE WORDS of Meat Loaf: “Two out of three ain’t bad.” In my words, one out of two ain’t bad. Don’t know what Meat Loaf would say about my words, but I’ll stand by ’em.
    After a highly successful turkey hunt here in April, with a beautiful gobbler to show for it, I
  • EVERY FISHING EXPEDITION has its own story.
    Some are better than others. Some take longer in the telling than others. Some rely on foibles and mishaps to enhance the telling. Some are stories of success; some have nothing but
  • THEY SAY THREE is the charm. I say not always, but thank goodness for No. 4.
    Snow still on the ground in places, cold, windy, overcast; it didn’t matter last week when opening day for my seven-day turkey season began. At 4:45 opening morning, I was in the woods wondering
  • THE MONTHS OF March and April are a time for planning. Beginning in May, it’s a time for doing.
    As usual, I have spent the past several weeks planning big things for May, June and beyond. As you might expect, much of the planning has revolved around fishing and camping. Now, with what we are going through, some of those plans have
  • IT WAS A beautiful afternoon for paddling a kayak around West Plum Lake. There was a brisk wind out of the west that had pushed every cloud out of the sky and a bright sun shone from above. It was 60 degrees, according to my truck’s thermometer reading.
    That was last Saturday and as of today, we are
  • “ALL I HAVE To Do Is Dream,” The Everly Brothers taught me that way back in 1960. It is a lesson I learned all those years ago and it has come in very handy in recent weeks.
    Last weekend, my wife and I had to
  • “THE BEAT GOES on.” Sonny and Cher had it right. America’s favorite couple, at least for a while, had a major hit in 1967 with that song. The beat does indeed go on.
    That could be said for
  • IN THESE DARK days and I don’t mean weather wise, it is difficult to maintain a sunny disposition. In a short time, true cabin fever begins to set in for people unable to do the things they like to do like going to a movie, eating at a restaurant or going shopping without worrying that they may come carrying a virus that may
  • SOMETIMES IT FEELS good just to touch bare ground. Those sometimes for me are usually when the first days of thawing in March open up some small patches of bare ground underneath pine trees and on south-facing hillsides.
    I know it isn’t much, but
  • AS BOB HOPE used to sing “Thanks for the memories.” No, I’m not thanking any humans this time around, though many have contributed to my memory bank over the years. And no, I’m not saying thanks for the memories because I’m going to quit writing a weekly column. I have no plans for that.
    This thank you for the memories is directed to
  • WISCONSIN’S RURAL SMALL towns are famous for the many festivals and events they put on each year — events that bring thousands of people to participate in bike, running, ski, snowmobile and other competitions along with street fairs and other such tourist attractions.
    The towns in our neck of the North Woods are
  • THE OLD BODY just ain’t what it used to be. After finishing my 20th 55-kilometer American Birkebeiner, I’m more than sure my 70-year-old body is not even close to what it used to be.
    Sun and blue skies shone down upon
  • THE WATER IS cold, icy cold, as the early-season trout fisherman, knee deep in the calm waters of a treasured spring pond, stands off the chill with insulated waders.
    Strands of misty fog rise lazily from the pond&rsq