Thursday, August 31, 2006

Wisconsin 2006--North Woods

August 22, Cable, Wisconsin Arrived at my Uncle Pat's house at about 8:30 where a big dinner was waiting on the table. Pat and his wife Evelyn met us in the driveway and it was so great to see them. Tiana and Savi were a little overwhelmed, especially in the fatigued state they were in after the long (nearly 5-hour) drive from Minneapolis.

After dinner, or "supper" as they call it out here, Pat and Evelyn's daughter, Bridget, came over for drinks and dessert with her husband, Jeff. In their mid-40s, they have already raised two kids, both of whom are in their early 20s, and are living by themselves in a grand Northwoods style house just a hundred yards down the road. They offered to let us stay in their basement, as they had a little more room than Pat and Evelyn.

We lugged our stuff next door, settled comfortably into the spacious and beautifully appointed basement, where Tiana had her own bedroom and I shared the bunkroom with Savanna. We played a little pool and at about 11pm went outside to the hot tub, where we watched the stars for the next hour and looked out over the classic aspen and pine forest of this region.

Interestingly, as Bridget lived next door to Pat and Evelyn, one of Bridget's sisters had a beautiful weekend cabin next to her and then just five minutes away, another one of the sisters had a very nice cabin next to the golf course at Telemark. Needless to say, the family is very close and all six of the kids very successful. They have all carved out a very nice and civilized existence here in the northern reaches of Wisconsin.

Next morning, we had a big breakfast at and did some sightseeing, including a drive up to the shores of Lake Superior, where we had lunch. Later that day, Jeff graciously offered to take us to nearby Lake Owens for a kayak outing. We quickly gathered up 4 sea kayaks, threw them in the truck and in half an hour were on the water. The girls did great, as neither had done much, if any, kayaking before. We went on a 4-5 mile paddle, threw the boats back in the truck and were home in time for dinner. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera, so we don't have any pictures.

Cable is quite possibly the quintessential Northern Wisconsin town. The population couldn't have been more than a couple thousand, but everything seemed so sedate and comfortable, from the bucolic and compact downtown area, to the outermore neighborhoods on the large lots with the cultivated gardens and that sort of plain, but solid and ageless architecture that is more typical of the colder parts of the country. Outside of the city limits, were the classic Wisconsin weekend cabins, virtually all made largely of the local native pine, inside and out.

This is the kind of town where everybody really does know everybody, where the seasons are abrupt and distinct, where hunting, fishing, football and hockey dominate the lifestyles of every generation. Where staying warm in the winter and co-existing with the deerflies and mosquitoes of summer is an artform.

In the northwoods, a new lake is always on the horizon, with a spiderweb of swamps, canals, rivers and streams to connect them. The pine woods are never far off and they are deep and they are dark. These features define the landscape and the towns just try to fit in the best they can. And on the outside of each town are the ubiquitous roadhouses, home of the Friday night fish fry and center of northern Wisconsin social life.

We left Cable early Thursday morning, heading toward my grandparents' old cabin on Plummer Lake, a three hour drive. On the way, I was again struck with the tranquility of the small towns the highway passed through, with the mom and pop shops, the well-kept schools, kids riding their bikes everywhere, the classic churches and just sort of the sense of stability that seemed to permeate everything. Yes, I was definitely envious of what I perceived to be a superior small-town way of life. I'd love to be there during just one winter.

1 comment:

S said...

Merrill is hosting a 30 - 50 mile bike ride on Cindy's birthday - Colorama, to look at the trees. It's along the river, that sounds beautiful. You may have to go back some time.