Grill and Spotting Scope

Another Day on the Flowage – a short story

Grill and Spotting Scope

Dinner time on the shores of the Turtle Flambeau Flowage. Tonight it’s 32 warm degrees outside. So we decided to cook up some bratwurst on the outdoor grill on our deck.

After clearing a path to the grill through two feet of accumulated snow, the grill was lit and we decided to check out the happenings on the Flowage while the grill warmed up to cooking temperature. Our house is built into the side of a hill overlooking the Horseshoe/Townline portion of the 14,000 acre Flowage. So we have a vantage point. We have a tripod-mounted, high-power spotting scope sitting in front of the great room patio doors on the lake side at all times. We can see virtually anything on the lake within a mile of our house. The snowmobile trail from Springstead to Mercer runs right down the opposite shoreline on the ice. So we can see the steady procession of sleds quite easily.

Tonight, a lone ice fisherman was attempting to remove his ice fishing shack from the lake. He seemed to be having great difficulty no matter which direction he went. Since I knew the answer to getting off the lake, I found this to be pretty interesting. The easiest route out of Horseshoe/Townline Lakes is to drive to the nearby snowmobile trail that traverses the ice from one end of the lake to the other, and use the trail, since it leads to the Springstead boat landing, where you can drive out. The trail is packed snow. Our fisherman was attempting to drive through eighteen inches of powder. Worse yet, he was attempting to find a place to get off on the western shore, which is where you will find the deepest snow, due to winds. If he wasn’t a mile away, I would have gladly pointed this out.

My wife had little interest in this. Her focus was on the dinner that I was preparing. So we did a sanity check (which we often do). “Mary, where else can you grill brats on your deck in winter while having the advantage of watching virtually everything that moves on the lake (an expanse of about 1 mile west then four miles north to south)!? She wasn’t impressed. If I was watching a wolf pack on the ice, or even coyotes or an occasional bear, she would have taken more interest. But this was just a lone fisherman.

Now I apologize for this post because it doesn’t adhere to the first rule for blogging – provide useful information that will benefit the reader; something that they can use. And there are only a couple of things that you can use from this post. First, if you need to pull an ice shack off the lake with a 4×4 truck, don’t drive to the western shore. That’s where you’ll find the deepest snow, due to prevailing NW winds in winter. If there is a snowmobile trail nearby and on the ice, the snow will be packed and easy to drive on. Head for that; especially when it leads to a well maintained boat landing.

As for the spotting scope and a tripod, if you live on the shoreline of a lake, you should have one. The tripod cost me $29.95 at The spotting scope is a Barska and was on sale for less than $50. It’s a beauty. I found it via a Google search. As I recall, I bought it directly from Barska’s Internet site. What I really like about the tripod is that it came with an extra mounting plate so I can snap out the spotting scope and snap my digital camera into the tripod in about two seconds. The mounting plates are universal; so I leave one on the spotting scope and the other on the camera.

Back to the lone fisherman. When I took the brats off the grill, he had given up heading for the western shore of the lake and was pointed east. Darkness fell and all I could see were his headlights. His truck and the ice shack were not moving.

The truck and shack were still there in the morning. The fisherman slept in the shack and drove off in the morning, leaving the ice shack behind. I drove out there on my sled and left a note suggesting that he use the snowmobile trail and drive off the lake at the boat landing on his next attempt.

I did have the last word with my wife. She found American Idol more interesting than exploring the vast stretches of the Turtle Flambeau Flowage with a spotting scope while cooking brats on the grill. But my attentiveness to what’s going on around me afforded me the opportunity to help the lone fisherman. I find those opportunities more rewarding than watching television.

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