Back to the Flambeau

Mark Walters • OUTDOOR COLUMNIST

It was back in 1970 when my father, the late Robert Walters, took my brothers, Tom and Mike, and I on our first camping and fishing experience to an island on the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage in Iron County.

The vast majority of the “Flambeau” is owned by the state of Wisconsin and much of it is undeveloped and a vacation getaway for literally thousands of fishermen, canoeists, kayakers and most importantly folks that want to stay in Wisconsin but feel like they are in a wilderness setting.

Monday, July 27

High 82, Low 54

I have kept my father’s tradition alive on both “loner” trips and with an annual outing each year where I take my 14-year-old daughter, Selina, and three of her friends, Tess Bigalke, Erin Smelcer and Jenna Bistodeau, camping on an island on the Flambeau.

This adventure is 100-percent dedicated to what young teenage girls want to do and not the oldtimer that is the chief cook and bottle washer.

In other words, though I brought fishing gear along for everyone, it was not used. The girls swim, explore, sleep a lot and love to be pulled behind the boat on a tube.

All of these girls and several more have been a regular part of our lives since they were little, so I am able to have a blast with them and they can take my verbal abuse and dish it out.

Today on the way up, Selina announced to her friends that instead of bringing toilet paper I had bought one of those big packages of napkins. I like napkins instead of paper towels in a camp because you can use them for host of duties.

The verbal abuse from the “young ladies” was steady and when we stopped to visit my good friend Mary Ann Brown, who owns Lodge of Lakeview Resort and has for almost four decades, she joined the girls against me and gave them two rolls of toilet paper which I was told was not for my use.

So now it is 6 p.m. and we arrive at Fishermen’s Landing. My crew, which is well-trained, helps unload two canoes and a truckload of gear.

Our cat, Popcorn, prowls the shoreline, as does our golden retriever, Fire. Next, while pulling two canoes behind my new/ used boat which is an 18-foot War Eagle with 90-horsepower (Evinrude Etec), we look for an island with an available campsite. The one that I camped on as a kid is taken but we find a dandy that has a large campsite that is quite spread out.

I am given the order that my tent will be as far away from the girls as possible.

That night, while sitting around the campfire, Fire could not relax which is very rare for her. She kept looking into the woods and growling.

I thought it was funny to tell the girls stories about how black bears can do lots of damage to people in tents and then it seemed like perhaps my tent could have been a bit closer.

I am sure it was a bear. From 3-5 a.m. there was something in the woods outside of my tent and Fire did an excellent job of keeping it out of our camp.

Tuesday, July 28

High 77, Low 55

At sunrise this morning, an incredibly strong wind began that would never let up for the rest of this trip. A brand new lawn chair that I bought for this trip blew into the campfire and burnt up (last year a storm eliminated a screen tent and cook stove on this same adventure – it was the tent’s first trip).

As`I said earlier, the girls love to tube and because the girls are not 60 pounds anymore my 40-horsepower Mercury was having a hard time mustering up enough power for me to adequately toss them from the tube.

Today in high seas that beat the heck out of the War Eagle (which took it well) I took the girls tubing and I actually had to be careful so that I did not injure them. If I hit the waves just right with two of them on the tube I could put them 6 feet in the air.

All I had to do was some hard left turns, throw in a couple of zigs and zags, and they were like leaves in the wind. About all I can say is it is a good thing for life vests and spotters in the boat.

Back at camp they went diving for clams and in just over an hour caught 200 which they put on the tube for a picture and then released.

“The Flambeau,” as the girls call this trip throughout the year, is a reliable somewhat wilderness escape that should create memories for Tess, Jenna, Selina and Erin for the rest of their lives!

Be a dad while you can!

Sunset


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