Wednesday, September 5, 2012

There's something magical about this place ...

BOULDER JUNCTION, Wisc. – There really is something magical about this place. Something about the quiet mornings, peaceful evenings and everything in between that entraps not just me, but so many others. Making the move from Minocqua to Boulder Junction might not just have meant an extra $40 a month in gas, but an added pep in my step. So many times we search all over for motivation, only to find out it's been sitting a 20 minute drive away, just waiting to be found. The town is small, you bump into the same five people every day, at the same time, doing the same thing. People are in a routine, but it's not the typical routine so many people come to hate. It's a routine we love. A routine that cures ailments like a daily dose of Aspirin. The routine that makes us happy to be alive and be able to enjoy the simple things about Up North Living. Boulder Junction, Wisc. It's known as the Muskie Capital of the World, it's famous for it's Albino deer. It has eveything anyone could ever want, but more importantly, what every single person in this world needs. It's a reality check that keeps perspective on living where it should be and nothing more. A smile from the gal on the other side of the counter, a wave from the elderly gentleman sipping his coffee outside on Main Street. The fact of having not a single stop-and-go light anywhere near, and the only thing you need to be aware of crossing the street at kids playing or the occasional Whitetail Deer that's on it's way through to the next feeding spot! People up here care about one another, look out for one another and open their arms to anyone who wants to buy-in to what this place is all about. It's not about your last name, it's not about how many zeros are in your bank account. It's not about the way you dress, it's not about the way you talk. It's about the person you are and the person you're searching to find again. It's that path I've choosen that's made me a better person this morning – if only for the simple reason that it's easy for me to smile knowing I'm in a good place, right here, right now!

Friday, March 30, 2012

The first week away ...

The last time I spent a week, not involved with a newspaper publication, I was living in Oshkosh, Wisc., working at Menards and studying inside the UW system. Today, I woke up an employee of a dock installation and sales company in Minocqua, Wisc. Life takes a few turns, ey? I am blessed. Blessed to have had the opportunities afforded to me that have allowed me to not just broaden my horizons, but see that there is something in this world everyone is meant for. I know I am not made to run Floe dock systems in and out of the lakes every spring and fall. I know I am not meant to stock Nibco fittings inside the plumbing department at Menards. I know I am not meant to chase cows around a barn yard and run heavy equipment up and down a dirt road from sun-up to sun-down. I was put on this Earth to write. And along the way lend a helping hand to those who need it while keeping my checking account in the black. It's been a crazy, sort of whirlwind week for me here in the Northwoods. Everything I've been for the last seven years has been put on hold, it seems, for a stint of manual labor that's seemingly connected me back to my teenage roots, growing up on the farm. My hands hurt. Muscles I haven't used in a long time are aching. The grime under my fingernails will need an Oral B scrubbing before my falanges return to what they once were and it feels strange to be walking around in my thong sandles as opposed to my chest waders. A Friday morning with my coffe cup, My Morning Jacket radio entering my ears via Pandora Radio and nothing on the agenda for the forseeable future (by that I mean 24 hours). Life is good.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hard to pass on Green Bay

By Douglas Etten
of The Lakeland Times
STURGEON BAY – It’s spring time for most in Wisconsin.
The biggest snow fall of the season is in our rearview, the reosrts, bars and restaurants had one last harrah for the season and we’ve managed to make it through February, into March which means the focus becomes warm weather.
It was Sunday night when I was sitting alongside my phone. It lit up with a text message from my cousin, and outfitter, Kurt Walbeck.
“Need a camera man in Green Bay for walleye and whitefish, Monday afternoon and Tuesday,”it said. “Leaving tomorrow, pick you up in Medford at 10:30.”
As much as I had anticipated the coming of spring and the busy season, after a rather lack-luster year on the hard water it didn’t take much convincing to get my butt into work, get my stuff done early for the week and be able to hit Green Bay for some huge walleye and nice whitey’s.
Getting back together with Kurt is always a pleasure.
After he afforded me the opportunity a year ago to accompany him and his staff on an adventure through the Canadian Rockies, I had to not let this other golden goose pass by.
Up and at them and on the road Monday, we reached our destination in time to settle into our hotel room at Sand Bay Beach Resort, just before the night walleye run.
Rolling as much b-roll film as possible before heading out, it was fun getting back behind the camera and experiencing the artistic side the goes into telling a story in a half-hour made for TV skit.
Sitting in the hotel right now, looking out at the 25-foot high ice heaves with the barges passing in the background, no doubt the anticipation is building.
The resort itself is set on the eastern shore of Green Bay. As we poke our head out our window lakeside, we stare across Lake Michigan at the Upper Penninsula – specifically Menomonie.
The temperatures this week are going to be warming into the 40’s, and word is that the female walleyes are moving into the shallow bays on the big water, looking for spawning areas and feeding like crazy.
The guide we are with Monday and Tuesday is one of the areas best and most reknown, so when Kurt’s phone rang and he said “you gotta come now,” there was little doubt in anyone’s mind that the warm temps and hog walleyes would equal one heck of a trip.
Looking forward to the second half of the trip, with plenty of good walleye photos to come.
Douglas Etten may be reached by email at

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The feeling of unknowing ...

It's hard to question life. Life; meaning what we do, why we are where we are and where we're all going. But, but we all do it. We all look for explanations, make attempts to justify and realistically make excuses for decisions we make.
Sometimes it's the thrill of not knowing, the always hanging question marks – that makes life most worthwhile. Or knowing that regardless of what it is you are doing, it's for the right reason.
We all go through stretches where we probably wish we could be somewhere else, have the answers to all the questions and just be able to shake clear our head. I'm there. I look at the next few months of my life and really can't say where the rest of it after that will be headed. I know I have the support of a loving family, some great friends, a few motivators in there as well and a good head on my shoulders to make sure I don't put myself in a position of having to not know where my next meal is going to come from or whether I'll have a roof over my head when I go to bed at night.
I sometimes wonder if the life we live everyday takes away from the focus of what we're really trying to do. It's never hard to smile, but for some reason we attract ourselves toward those problems, those hard times in the world that get us feel down. I for one think if it weren't for the perspective those events in life give us, it would be hard to live, laugh and love the way that makes us happy. And when I realize how lucky I am, it's pretty simple to find the small things appealing again.
I spend a lot of time lying in bed, just listening to music and the stories it tells. I struggle sitting down, reading a book and letting my mind wander, but I put a keyboard in front of me and some good music around my ears and for some reason it all seems right.
I know I am meant to spend my life making someone else's life, better. I enjoy seeing people, enjoy. Whether it be a perfectly blended cocktail at the bar, a photo, an article or the joy on a kids face when what you've told him to change with his swing, results in a solid liner back up the box.
Life is what we are doing, and why would we rather be doing anything else? I for one, wouldn't!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mercury falling fast

It's funny ... There isn't a time I wander onto the ice where I am not thinking to myself "Gosh, today is the day the big one comes up from the bottom."
As is the case with a number of fishermen, I am usually let down by this daily theory, but each and every time I go out, I start the night with the same focus.
The other night, the temps were in the upper 20's, moonrise was set for about 7:40 p.m. and the conditions seemed conducive for a big fish bite. I was set up on a series of 18-22 foot humps that were located off a weed edge that extended out into a sand flat at about 25 feet of water. Over the top of the other side of the humps was deep water, reaching downwards to about 50 feet. My tip ups were scattered in amongst the raised bottom, waiting to see if something might appear over the top on into the weeds for an evening feed. One end of the humps fed into a trough that led up to about 6 feet of water near a shoreline shelf, and it was there we had the most action.
The perch bite quit about the time I had figured the walleye would start moving into shallower water to feed, briefly. As I watched my Vexilar inside my shack, the small lines that were perch quickly disappeared and I knew the time was getting close.
Fishing at night is equivalent to reading a suspense novel. Your mind plays tricks with you on each and every turn, thinking that just about everything you do is setting the plot for a big fish diary.
It wasn't to be this night, but with the setting sun over the west horizon, followed by the full moon rise in the east shortly after, it made for another gorgeous night on the lake hunting the Big Walter.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Busting past the cliché, passing the tradition

We've all seen it, heard it, read it and some, supposedly lived it.
My 120 minutes spent on top of the ice last Wednesday afternoon with my friend Dustin and his son Evan, was anything but, cliché.
For the ripe age of 5, Evan's well past his stature when it comes to intellect. That being said, it offered up another challenge for the day. After all, he'd clearly understand when either I, or his father, were trying to pull the wool over his eyes.
"Doug, why aren't the fish biting?," he'd ask.
"Because they're sleeping, Evan," I responded back.
"But Doug, why do fish sleep when the sun is out?," he said.
As the games ensued.
Fishing on an unfamiliar plot of water located west of Minocqua, the challenge of finding fish wasn't top on my list. Dustin's either. Making sure Even had a snack, or two, a juice box and something to take his attention was a must.
What started as a day of trying to catch a young man his first fish turned into a outdoors lesson that many people learn at a much older age. Not every time you go fishing, are you going to catch a fish. Not every time you try to achieve something, are you going to be successful.
Evan caught onto this quickly. Never once did he complain, not once did he whine about how bad the fishing was. Instead, in a light-hearted manner as most adults would, Evan took it with a grain of salt and instead enjoyed wrestling around with his dad on the soft snow cover, playing with his retriever, Oliver, and learning some of the basic ins-and-outs of ice fishing.
Looking back on the experience I worry. I worry that maybe I got more out of taking Evan fishing than he did.
It made me realize how caught up in the superficial we are sometimes. How we as outdoorsmen can forget where the priority lies, and how lucky we are to have such an intriguing environment in our back yard.
Evan was happy at the end of the day. After all, he was the only one who caught a fish – even if it was a large pike sucker courtesy of Kurt's Island Sport Shop.
As most parents do, Dustin encouraged Evan to come up and thank me for the two-hour fishing excursion. I said you're welcome, but looking back, Thank You Evan.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Eat yo' chowda son

We've heard the term, but what the hell is the difference between soup and Chowder? It's got to have something to do with the texture, obviously, but what if it's everything to do with what goes into the enjoyment? I enjoy soup when it's cold. I also enjoy Chowder when it's cold – it's tied, one one! I have to say, when I eat soup, no chunks of stuff that you can't explain. Chowder; hell, pile some of the most organic pieces of substance you can find and make this thing tickle my taste buds from start to finish. Chowder, according to Wiki, is a generic name for a wide variety of seafood or vegetable stews and thickened soups, often with milk or cream. Cream of chicken, call it soup. Cream of celery, call it soup. We all know what's inside a Campbell's can that has cream of _____ struck across it. But when we encounter that loaded word, we always wonder what it is that makes this bowl of warm goodness taste so good. Chowder is one of those words that when put behind a certain subject, gives it that distinguished note all it's own. It's stepped out of the minors, into the majors. And usually your tongue doesn't tell you any different. So 'eat yo' chowda son'