Back to Porcupine Wilderness Area

Mark Walters • OUTDOOR COLUMNIST

This column began in the Poynette Press just over 26 years ago. When I syndicated 23 years ago, I knew that I was going to have to become a hard-core winter camper and I have certainly paid my dues in that area.

A 70-mile section of the North Country Trail that runs through Ashland and Bayfield counties became favorite stomping grounds of mine and I hiked it several times in both the winter and summer. Just about every time I hiked 140 miles so that I would not have to worry about getting a ride.

Just south of Drummond is the Porcupine Wilderness Area which covers about 4,500 acres and nothing with a motor or a wheel on it is allowed.

At least 60 nights of my life has been spent camping on or near Porcupine Lake and though it has been a few years since I have been to it I consider this total wilderness experience to be one of my top-five places in to escape to.

This week I portaged a canoe and camping gear into Porcupine and had an excellent adventure

Sunday June 7

High 76, Low 53

I had to make two trips from my truck to Porcupine Lake which is just over a half-mile walk. On trip one, I pulled an ice-fishing sled loaded with gear and had a fully loaded pack on my back

The last time I was here my daughter, Selina, was backpacking with me and my golden retriever Ice was also carrying a pack. A year later my great friend “Ice” passed away due to Anaplasmosis, which is a tick-born illness.

Today, Selina’s 4-year-old golden retriever ‘Fire” would be my partner on this trip. Fire carried a pack for the first time and she was literally flawless.

I carried my 16-foot canoe in on trip two and never set it down until I made it to the lake. Let me tell ya folks, that was a challenge.

So my mood is excellent and my plan is to set up my backpacker’s tent and then hit the lake and go catch some big bluegill.

I just started setting up my tent and a steady rain began to fall. I put on my rain gear, finished the job and began paddling in a solid rain. I had made two anchors out of rocks and about the time that I set the second one, the rain came to a halt and that would be it for the entire trip.

A little side note: other then granola bars, fish was going to be my only chow and I did not bring a camp stove or a pan.

As soon as my bobber and worm rig hit the water in a spot that I have caught many a bluegills in over the years, the bobber vanished and the action was nonstop. The only problem was that most of the gills were only 2-6 inches.

I did keep four in the 7-inch range but my fish basket developed a hole and they swam away. I had two loons that really liked hanging out with me and after I patched my basket I kept six more gills.

Tonight I slept on the ground, listened to nature and really enjoyed the experience.

I use to catch 7-9-inch gills here and was thinking that those days were over as I caught probably 40 very small bluegill today. I had no cares as I was in paradise and was totally living in memory lane.

My first trip here back in ‘93 I built an igloo and made the stupid mistake of using my hand auger to drill a hole for fishing from my igloo. It was a very dumb mistake and there were many more. My igloo sunk in the ice and flooded my house and I slept on the floor (ice) which became a lake, and it was very miserable.

My winter expeditions were totally insane. Generally I did not use a tent and just built snow walls for wind protection. When hiking the NTC in the dead of winter the snow was generally up to my hiney and I would lunge forward, break snow and pull my load.

Both of my dogs at the time, first Ben and Star, then Star and her pup Pearl pulled sleds and we were total survivors. I remember going down the gazillions of slopes and watching the dogs’ Otter sleds want to pass them up. We trained ourselves to run and stay a head of the sled.

I would generally be out 17 days, hand-write my column and mail it in Drummond. I would cook a pound of bacon at a time and drink the melted fat like it was a drug.

Today I was about to give up on the big gills when I decided to check out one more spot. When my bobber vanished I caught a dandy that was just about 9 inches.

Three hours later I had a beautiful limit which I filleted, and I cooked several of them while breaking camp.

It was just about dark when I started the truck, headed to Necedah and it was 1:00 in the morning before I pulled in my driveway.

I kind of miss that bacon fat cocktail I used to cook up!

Sunset


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