Editor's Views: Sharing joy of north woods rekindles memories of youth

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Scott Angus
Saturday, August 23, 2014

Northern Wisconsin cleanses the soul.

I experienced the magic of the north woods for a handful of summers as a kid, and I always wanted to share it with my sons.

Until two weeks ago, I never did.

Ball games, summer jobs and other complications got in the way. Cost was an issue, as well. Our budget was tight when the boys were young, and we never found the money for the escape I had in mind.

I decided the time was right this year.

As a boy, I spent several weeks in summer on a small lake a few miles north of Tomahawk. My best friend's grandfather owned a big old cabin on Clear Lake. It was a grand place with a half-dozen bedrooms, antiques everywhere and a wonderful screen porch overlooking the water.

We spent mornings fishing, afternoons puttering around the lake and evenings eating fish or steaks at the supper clubs that seem to sit on every rural corner north of Merrill. My friend's grandfather was a crusty old guy on the outside but a sweet man who loved to spoil us in every way.

I knew my boyhood experience would be hard to duplicate, but I wanted to find a cabin on a nice body of water with the smell of pine in the air and where the sound of loons awakened us in the morning.

During a timely conversation on the golf course last summer, a friend recommended a place near Hayward. I'd never been to that part of the state, but I knew it qualified as “up north” as much as the land I knew in Oneida and Vilas counties.

I did my research, and the resort appeared to fit the bill. We could get a cabin that would sleep all eight adults and my 1-year-old granddaughter. It was steps from pristine Round Lake, which covers 3,000 acres, and it came with a pontoon boat. I couldn't imagine being on the edge of a gorgeous lake and not having ready access to it.

To top it off, it had a big screen porch with a close-up view of the lake obstructed only by the trunks of a few trees.

I booked it in January, and we all scheduled vacations the second week of August.

I've never forgotten how excited I got as the days ticked down to my trips to Tomahawk. The four-hour ride tested the patience of two squirmy boys, not to mention my friend's grandfather behind the wheel. Once we got near Wausau, we could smell the paper companies, and that smell gave way to the pines, and we knew we were close.

Some of the same excitement swept over me all of these years later as we drove the five hours to Hayward. The cabin was everything we could have wanted. The best part, though, was being surrounded by my family and seeing them introduced to the grandeur and beauty and learn to appreciate the upper part of their state as I had nearly five decades earlier.

We fished; we boated; we watched bald eagles; we ate well. Much of the time, though, we sat on that porch, looking out over the lake and enjoying each other's company in one of the greatest settings on Earth. There's something about water, and there's especially something about the serenity of a northern Wisconsin lake.

I waited too long to make this happen, but a family tradition could be in the making. Nothing would make me happier than having my kids and grandkids fondly remember their vacations up north in much the way I remember the trips of my youth.

If it happens, I'll be proud of my role. I'll always know, though, that the magic of Wisconsin's north woods deserves most of the credit.

Scott W. Angus is editor of The Gazette and vice president of news for Bliss Communications. His email is sangus@gazettextra.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @sangus_.

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