Archive | December, 2010

The Top-10 Winter Things to Do in Wisconsin’s Northwoods


If you are struggling with cabin fever and are looking winter recreation to hasten the long months of winter,

head for the Northwoods. Here are some suggestions for outdoor recreation. To help you plan,

I’ve included a brief list of the gear that you will need for each activity.

Activity Description Gear
1. Snowmobiling Without a doubt the favorite winter activity of the Northwoods. Every northern county has a trail map. The local clubs do an excellent job of maintaining the trails and providing reports on conditions. Snowmobile – owned or rented. Trail maps, insulated bibs, insulated boots, a heavy insulated coat, balaclava, helmet, flashlight with new batteries.
2. Ice fishing Also very popular. The larger the group, the better for more fun on the ice while you are waiting for that first bite. Some lakes are better suited for ice fishing than others so call a local bait shop and find out what lakes are “hot”. Fishing license, jigging rod, live bait, jigging lures and tackle, a small lead weight on a string to measure the depth, a portable shanty with heater if temp is below 30. Otherwise, a couple of buckets to sit on. Dress as if you were going snowmobiling but forget the balaclava and helmet.
3. X-country skiing There are 700 miles of trails exclusively for this activity. Google “Wisconsin cross country trails”. The DNR website has all the trails listed so be sure to visit their site. Cross country skis (owned or rented) with boots, bindings and poles. Ski pants or complete ski suit with cap. Goggles. Water bottle to stay hydrated, high energy bars. If a state park trail, a sticker is needed.
4. ATV This is primarily a lake activity in the winter, although I occasionally see ATV’s on the snowmobile trails. ATV owned or rented. Dress as if you were snowmobiling and include the balaclava and helmet.
5. Down hill skiing There are four ski resorts situated along the Wisconsin/Upper Michigan border. Same as cross county skiing but with different skis, poles, boots, and bindings. You probably won’t need the water bottle. All ski resorts rent everything you need. You might want to use your own goggles.
6. Snowshoeing An excellent way to get a close-up look at Wisconsin’s woods. You are not required to be on a trail. Northern WI has a massive amount of land that is government owned and open to the public. Much of this land has logging trails that you can follow. Snowshoes are the only specialized gear. Dress warm in layers so if perspiration is a problem, you can peel something off.
7. Winter camping I recommend the islands on big flowages (Turtle Flambeau, Gile, Chippewa, Rainbow, Willow). The islands are owned by the State and camping is free at a designated site. No reservations required. Same as summer camping with some exceptions. Tent needs an appropriate heater. Fresh water should be kept in the tent. Clean snow can be melted over a fire for drinking. Super insulated sleeping bags. Sleep inside the bag or put a stocking cap on. Extra propane bottles. Coleman fuel for your portable stove or to get a pesky fire started. I recommend a fully charged cell phone and a GPS beaming device so you can be located in case of emergency.
8. Sledding Down hill. Not snowmobile sledding. Most ski resorts have a designated area for sledding. Sleds can be rented for a nominal fee at the resort. I recommend a first aid kit in case of collisions.
9. Snow Tubing Using an oversized inner tube on a sledding hill is popular for group sledding. Everyone grabs their neighbors tube so one massive group can go down the hill together. A large inner tube and a good sledding hill. Ski resorts permit tubing.
10. Sleighing Another great way to see the Northwoods as a group activity. These are large sleighs on steel skis which are pulled by horses. Check with local Chamber of Commerce’s to see who offers sleighing. Warm winter clothing. A camera is mandatory.


So get out there NOW and have some fun in the Northwoods!


Sales of Large Acreage Parcels in the Northwoods – What are Buyers Looking For?


I’ve had a broker’s license for over ten years and during that time, I’ve managed to focus my practice of real estate on large acreage parcels or large acreage parcels with a home, cottage, or cabin on it. All of the property that I list or sell can be found on the Whitetail Trophy Properties (WTP) website ( WTP caters to a national audience of discerning, high-end hunters who patronize hunting websites in search of land versus a local realtor or multiple listing service. My affiliation with WTP enables me to get my client’s property in front of this national audience. Whitetail’s educational programs also serve as a learning experience for me which permits me to better understand my buyers wants and my sellers property.

Why the focus on hunting acreage? Because that’s where you’ll find the demand. I’ve never had a customer ask me to find 200 acres on which they can build a home. The demand for large acreage parcels in Wisconsin originates with hunters. I emphasize this because my clients frequently do not know or understand this. And they understand even less what they can do to make their acreage more marketable to hunters.

There are at least eight factors that potential hunter/buyers consider when they are evaluating hunting acreage. These are listed in order of importance.

Decision Point Explanation Cost to Seller
1. Live deer photos These are usually accomplished using a “trail cam” that is strapped to a tree for several days or weeks. This tells the buyer/hunter what he can expect from the land in the future. The deer are still alive and roaming the property. Nothing. If the seller has not placed a trail cam, the Realtor will.
2. Dead deer photos Again, via a trail cam. This tells the buyer/hunter what the land has been producing in the past. Ideally, 160” deer or better, using the Boone and Crockett grading system. Nothing. Photos after a kill are normal.
3. Management program Does the acreage have an existing management program for managing the land to improve whitetail habitat? Ideally, the State Dpt. Of Natural Resources participated in creating the plan. Nothing. The DNR will do this for free.
4. Existing food plots Has acreage been set aside and planted with desirable grains and browse for deer? Do whitetail eat on the property? Seller must break the ground with a disc. DNR will provide free seed.
5. Existing bedding areas Has acreage been set aside and planted with summer grasses and cedars for bedding areas? Do whitetail bed on the property? same
6. Water Is there water on the acreage? This can be a lake, river, creek, swamp, pond etc. If no water, deer can’t stay there. They have to vacate the acreage in order to find water. Not within seller’s control.
7. Approx. 30% lowland or swamp All high ground is not desirable. Whitetail seek out swamps for heavy cover when they feel threatened. This could also be a secondary source of water. Not within seller’s control.
8. Trail system In the Northwoods, these are usually old logging trails. Trails that remain because of constant motor traffic (ATV) are also acceptable. There has to be some way for a hunter to navigate the wooded acreage. Nothing. If no trails, a logger will clear trails if allowed to keep the cut trees.
9 Locked Steel Gate access Desirable but not a “deal killer”. The discerning hunter will want to be assured that systems have been put in place for keeping unauthorized persons off of the acreage. The acreage is an investment that need protection. The cost of the gate.

The OutLook for Christmas Sledding in the Northwoods 2010

It’s looking better every day for outdoor recreation and fun in the Northwoods this Christmas season. For those of you who are holding back and wondering, is there snow, is the ice good, are the trail groomers out, the answer is yes, yes, and yes.

I’m on the banks of the Turtle Flambeau; the Springstead side. And since my three adult children and grandchild are on their way “upnorth”, I have to find some outdoor recreation for them in order to keep them out of everyone’s hair. Normally, that is not hard to do in Northern Wisconsin. But these last few Christmas’s have been “iffy”.

That extra 9-10 inches of snow that we got last night was a blessing. Total snow depth is now about 26” in the woods. That’s plenty for riding on a groomed trail. However, we’re having the same problem with the groomers that we have every year at this time. Early measurable snow insulates the swamps and lowlands and prevents them from freezing. Even though our evening temps were -20 wind chill for four days and have been in the single digits otherwise, the swamps are questionable at this point. Groomers are out, but having problems.

The Flowage has been traversed by sleds from Springstead to the Hide-Away. There’s at least a half foot of ice out there with new ice being built every night. The first big storm that we had, which carried 30 mph winds, blew a lot of the snow into 3’-4’ drifts along the shoreline. However, the majority of the ice is still snow-covered with minor slushy spots where water has leaked up through a crevice.

Expect above average ice heaving this year. What does that mean for you? Potential slush piles and you may need to travel around any big crevices. Be careful. It’s been a wet year. Xcel Energy, in cooperation with the DNR, tried to draw the water level down 2.5 feet before the freeze. They managed only 1.5 feet. So the dam is now passing close to 700 cfs; twice the summer discharge rate at the dam. This drops the level of the pool. And since there is no where for the ice cap to go, it heaves.

Lastly, the trails across the TFF have not been marked. They were scheduled to be marked last Saturday but the plan for manpower didn’t come together. My take on this is – if the crew wants to mark the trails, they consider ice conditions to be safe. If they consider it too early to mark the trails, best to stay off the Flowage with sleds and ATVs. Historically the TFF trails are marked the day after Christmas. So conditions are a bit early this year.

You’re good to ride! Just be real careful in the swamps and realize that the groomers are in catch-up mode. With consistent snow and ice conditions continuing as they are, this should be an excellent snowmobile season in Wisconsin’s Northwoods! Get out there and enjoy it.


Berkley Fireline – the Fishing Line of Choice

Photo of Berkeley FirelineFisherman, how many times has this happened to you when you are using monofilament fishing line? You set the hook on what you believe to be a trophy fish. But your monofilament line has so much stretch in it that you get a poor hook-set and loose the fish. Or worse yet, you hook another beauty and during the retrieval process, the fish bites off the line.

Berkley Fireline is the solution to your problem. It has virtually no stretch. So when you set the hook, you can be assured that you have a good hook-set. Fireline is braided and fused so it’s strong. I’ve never had a line break or a bite-off by a fish when using  Fireline.

But what I like most about Fireline, because it doesn’t stretch, is that you can feel everything on the bottom of the lake. It telegraphs everything up the line to your favorite rod. A rock feels like a rock. No need to set the hook. A stump feels like a stump. If you are pulling a lure through weeds, you know they are weeds and not fish. And that’s what you want. Because your expensive rod is your most important piece of equipment when on the water. Your rod is designed to be your most powerful weapon when searching the bottom of the lake for fish or when retrieving fish. When you spool sub-standard line on your rod and reel, you cripple your most important tool – your rod.

But Fireline’s advantages do not end with strength, lack of stretch, and its ability to let you know what is on the bottom. The diameter of the line is thin. For example, I use Fireline10 pound test for game fish. The diameter of the line is only 8 pound test equivalent. I use 6 pound test line for pan fish. But the diameter of the line is only 4 pound test equivalent. This is a bonus because the thinner your fishing line, the less chance there is of fish being able to see your line in the water.

Let me remove a myth about braided lines. The old braided lines of the 40’s and 50’s had huge diameters. They were difficult to handle on fishing equipment because the line had characteristics like rope – bulky and not easy to spool on some reels.

One of the first improved braided lines is Spider Wire. Spider Wire is also thin and strong. On the down side, a knot tied with Spider Wire must be glued before use. The line is slippery and capable of coming untied if not glued. That doesn’t fit MY fishing style. Imagine waiting for the glue on your knot to dry when the fishing is hot and you want to get your lure back in the water quickly. Or if the weather is frigid, do you really want to try and squeeze a tiny drop of glue onto your knot in a 25 mph gale when you are freezing to death in a boat on a lake? I don’t. That’s another reason why, when it comes to braided fishing line, Fireline should be your first choice.

Berkley Fireline can be purchased at most tackle shops. If you are seriously thinking about switching from monofilament or other lines to Fireline, www.berkley-fishing.comhas a wealth of information on Fireline and compares Firelines characteristics to other types of lines. Fireline will cost a little more than other lines. But it negates the fishing line frustrations that I’ve described above. We fish because it’s fun and challenging. Battling with your fishing line detracts from that experience.

I usually buy a 1,500 foot spool of Fireline in each size that I use. This brings the cost down considerably. I know that I’m going to use the line eventually anyway. One last characteristic that I should mention about Fireline – it doesn’t deteriorate over time like monofilament line. So don’t worry about how long you have had that spool of Fireline sitting around.

Pick up a smaller spool to test and give it a try. My family of six has been using Fireline for a decade. And we are so spoiled about good fishing line that when the Fireline spool is empty, we don’t go fishing. Try it, you’ll love it!


Hardwood Floors and Area Rugs

Photo of hardwood floors at Moose Creek LodgeHardwood floors are pretty much a “must” if you want the nostalgic feeling of living in a turn-of-the-century log home. The longevity and beauty of your floors is directly dependant on how well you cover them, especially the high traffic areas, with area rugs. The area rugs that you use should also have that turn-of-the-century look in order to go well with the overall theme of your log home. That means you need to avoid anything that looks contemporary and focus on the Persian or oriental rugs; preferably made of 100% wool. Wool is tough as iron and will offer the best wear over years of use.

I admit that, due to expense, I dreaded the task of covering my hardwood floors. Covering 2,000 sq. ft. with 100% wool Persian rugs is a formidable expense. But I stumbled across a truly excellent website today that sells just area rugs; thousands of them in every shape, size, color and material. is a lifesaver. The selection is endless. And their promotions are enticing. Many fine rugs are 20%-75% off retail. Some rugs can be bought two for the price of one. And their clearance section features many fine Persian rugs. This is where WE will be shopping for rugs! My wife was so excited that she wanted to shop today. We are not quite ready to put down rugs. Anxious, but not yet. Nice website. Have a look.


Presque Isle, Wisconsin

Presque Isle, Wisconsin has a couple of notable distinctions. The town claims to be the “last wilderness” in the Midwest. Additionally, Log Home Living Magazine rated Presque Isle in the top ten places to build a log home in the USA.

Presque Isle is located in Vilas County, Wisconsin near the Upper Michigan border. The population of the area is scarce and the woods are thick. This is one of my favorite areas in the Northwoods so I venture through Presque Isle every chance I get.

Vilas County has more lakes than any other county in Wisconsin. There is water in every direction. Presque Isle Lake is huge and is surrounded by other notable lakes such as Katinka, Carlin, Averill and Van Vliet Lakes. All offer great fishing. These are Muskellunge waters, the biggest and fiercest fresh water game fish in the continental US.

Presque Isle has much to offer for outdoor recreation and solitude. It is indeed a wilderness area. The lakes are lightly populated with most being gin clear. Fishing pressure is light. The wilderness setting coupled with minimum boat traffic, and the chance to catch a real trophy game fish make the Presque Isle area an excellent destination for vacationing and an even better area for planning a cottage or second home. I love our home on the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage in Iron County. But if the wife would let me relocate, Presque Isle would be where I build our next abode.


Retire to the Northwoods of Northern Wisconsin? Are You Kidding!?

You wouldn’t think that many folks retire to the tip of Wisconsin. Most folks who are facing retirement look for some place warmer. But I’m retired and I live at the tip of Wisconsin in Iron County. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

You can’t beat the summers in the Northwoods of Northern Wisconsin. It’s common to have less than a dozen days in the 90’s. But you can always count on cool evenings with some being a bit chilly. Who needs AC? With the windows open at night, and the cool night air and the sound of loons calling across the water, what can be better than that? Would I trade that for a hot, sticky night in one of the warmer southern states with the house closed up and AC on all night? Nope.

The winters can be long. But the winter temperatures are not much different than those in Chicago. What makes the Northwoods preferable are the opportunities to fly across the frozen lakes on a snowmobile cutting fresh powder. Or spend a calm, sunny, winter day on the ice catching walleye on a jig pole while listening to he football game on a radio. And to keep fit, the cross country ski trails and four downhill ski resorts are close at hand.

What do you suppose retired folks do in winter in the southern states? How can you do anything in winter without plenty of snow? Outdoor recreation, regardless of season (did I mention that we have all four seasons here instead of the two that they have in warmer climates?) is plentiful in the Northwoods. So if you love the outdoors, like me, you need to include the Northwoods in your retirement plan.


The Rest of the Story………………..

We used to vacation on the Chippewa Flowage near Hayward. We raised our three children in a fishing boat. Our youngest was still in diapers and was learning how to cast his Snoopie pole for crappies. It was the 1980’s. And every chance we had, we would load up the truck with gear, hitch up the fishing boat, and head for the Northwoods of Wisconsin from our home in Waupaca, Wisconsin. We loved to be in the Northwoods versus hanging around the Waupaca house.

We’re island campers. On the big Flowages up north (the Chippewa, the Turtle-Flambeau, the Rainbow, the Willow etc.) the State of Wisconsin sets up and maintains camping sites on the 100’s of islands on the flowages. Folks can camp for free, first-come, first-served. I’ll tell you what you need and how to do this if my site ever gets finished. There’s nothing else like it. It’s a true wilderness experience. You need to try island camping at least once. You’ll want to go back.

Our goal was to fish for crappie and walleye. And we were always successful. I’ll tell you how to do this when I feel prompted to create a post about about Northwoods fishing.

But here’s the important point that I want to make in this post. We island camped for several years. The children got older and became more efficient at both camping and fishing, despite their young age. Each enjoyable day on the “Chip” always seemed to end the same way. When fishing was done for the day and the sun began to set, we would cruise slowly back to camp and look at the houses and cottages along the shoreline. Would we ever be able to afford a lake-front cottage to replace our temporary island camp site? We talked about it and dreamed about it. But the dream was just that – a dream. That’s the point of this post. Like a lot of other people, we had this dream that haunted us year after year.

The self-help books will tell you that 99% of the folks with a Dream never act on it. We did. It was an accident. It felt like falling off a cliff. No plan. No budget. It just kinda happened.

Let’s finish this story…………..

We were an average middle-class couple raising three children in central Wisconsin. We had careers. I worked for a Fortune 100 company and my wife taught first grade at the local elementary school. Our careers grounded us in Waupaca, Wisconsin. But we wanted to be in the Northwoods. We had meager savings. We were not “trust babys. Our parents were still living so no inheritances to be had. There was nothing special about our family. Except that we had this nagging dream of living in the Northwoods.

Our children grew up. Our daughter got married. Our oldest some joined the Marines. Our youngest son went to college. We became “empty nesters”. My wife and I would take road trips to our favorite destination – the Northwoods. We had managed to set some money aside and decided to look for a lake lot on our favorite flowage – The Turtle-Flambeau Flowage in Iron County. Like everything else, it just kinda happened. We thought that we should be doing something about this nagging dream. Finding a lot would be a first step; a baby-step. No big deal.

It was 1994 and there were precious few lots available on the Flowage. We looked for several weekends without finding anything. We had heard of a nice lot on the east end of the Flowage. Those who knew of this lot said it was nice but very expensive. We had never been on the east side of the Flowage so we went looking for this phantom lot.

We found it on a peninsula that encompassed a private, gated community. It was expensive alright. Eighty thousand big ones. We had thirty-five in mind. But it was exactly what we were looking for. And there wasn’t anything else. We decided to do the offer/counter-offer thing and see what happened. We never had a plan before. What did we need one now for? To make a long story short-er, we got the lot for sixty thousand. Now what?

That is all that we were prepared to do that year. We owned a piece of the Northwoods. That in itself was pretty incredible for a couple of “boomers” without a plan. So what’s the lesson to be learned by all this? If the Northwoods or something else is calling you, get a dream, forget the plan, and then go step off a cliff. That approach worked pretty well for us. The nagging dream will be the fuel that propels you forward. Buy yourself a piece of turf and then forget about it for the next five years. That worked too. Then as retirement approaches, build something on that piece of turf. But I’ll warn you.You have to step off that cliff again. And, as always, you won’t need a plan.

When we stepped off that cliff for the second time, it took us eleven years to build a 4,000 sq. ft. log home on our lake lot. That’s what happens when you don’t have a plan. Hey, but we built it for a pittance. And we’ve lived here permanently since 2007. Mission accomplished and nagging dream fulfilled.

I want to leave you with this. If I can do it, YOU can do it. The whole experience was one of those “fly by the seat of your pants” experiences. Yes, I advise that you have at least a five year plan. Stepping off that cliff is not fun. There were times when we thought that the bank might knock on the door of our new log home and kick us out.

If you love the Northwoods and want to live here, YOU can and YOU will. If I ever get my Northwoods site done, I’ll show you how. And we’ll see if we can avoid the “fly by the seat of your pants” part.