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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

First Weber-Make a Smooth move

home : outdoors : outdoor news May 25, 2016

A bold chipmunk begs for and receives scraps at a Buffalo Lake campsite. (Craig Turk photo)
A bold chipmunk begs for and receives scraps at a Buffalo Lake campsite. (Craig Turk photo)
8/15/2014 7:30:00 AM
The simple joys of summer

Craig Turk
Outdoors Reporter


I've mentioned before that I'm fine with a lazy summer. There are so many leisurely activities to partake in this time of year.

Build a fire

I like the simple joys of a cold beer, a boat drifting slowly on an almost calm lake, or family and friends around a campfire - especially if I was smart enough to gather the wood during cooler months.

It's quite a skill getting a fire started. At least I've begun to think so after observing some would-be fire builders.

You're not likely to see me rubbing sticks together or working a bow drill any time soon, but I know that a piece of notebook paper won't be sufficient tinder to set a 10-inch oak log ablaze.

Be prepared. Have a lighter along. You don't want to be Tom Hanks in "Castaway," using friction to create a spark. That looked rough.

In fact, if you are planning a plane trip over an ocean, or chartering a boat with a first mate named Gilligan, you might want to pack a few simple essentials along.

You'll want several lighters, of course. Cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly make good fire starters. You might want to pack a fishing pole with plenty of tackle, and a rifle with plenty of ammunition. Also, several knives, saws and a hatchet. Yes, I understand that it might be difficult to board with all of these items on your person.

Back to the fire.

Of course, one needs at least a rudimentary understanding of the role that oxygen plays in the wood-burning process.

I've witnessed some primates throwing logs big enough to fashion into dugout canoes onto the tiniest of fledgling fires.

Let it breathe and your fire will provide you with roasted marshmallows, burned weiners, red eyes and stinky clothes.

Feed some little critters

Well, our once-tame gray squirrel, Mr. Nutty, doesn't climb on us in search of food anymore, but it's still fun to dole out the occasional treat to the little wildlife.

We don't generally keep a bird feeder up during the summer, because it also encourages visits from larger animals such as deer, bears and raccoons - which then find ways to make life more difficult for us.

Bears will quickly empty a feeder, then move on to the trash cans. Raccoons will also empty a feeder full of sunflower seeds with considerable speed. Then they turn their attention to the sunflowers in the garden.

Guess what? A sunflower stalk will not support a full-grown raccoon.

I have successfully kept deer from our garden for several years now. But if they're hanging around here all the time stealing seeds and studying it, they'll eventually figure out how to crack that nut.

We hand out occasional treats such as bread crust or leftover popcorn instead and watch the greedy little animals compete for it.

Speaking of little critters and scraps, I think some of them around our campgrounds have grown accustomed to handouts.

I don't get to campgrounds a lot, but I do recall eating breakfast outside at Buffalo Lake on the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest with my dad and my brother.

A chipmunk crept closer and closer. An accidentally dropped piece of buttered bread emboldened it further. It grabbed the bread.

So it was that our breakfast entertainment was feeding a surprisingly voracious chipmunk.

On a sad note, a crow stole almost a whole bag of spicy cheddar beef sticks off the picnic table on the same trip.

Fish from shore

A few beers, a container of nightcrawlers, and a smattering of fishing tackle can be simple pleasure at its finest.

In fact, for me, such an outing is considered good enough to be a "date night," provided I remember to take my wife, Cheryl, with me.

Sometimes it's just to visit a few spots with the fish catch a relatively unimportant factor. Other times we might target some bluegills for the frying pan.

In recent years, fishing from shore has been made easier in many cases by low lake levels.

It's weird to step over the wood cover you used to pull fish from. But we have found a couple of old anchors and a horseshoe among other things.

While I'd generally rather float around in a boat, the simplicity of shore fishing has its appeal. Cheryl actually prefers it.



Picking berries

Admittedly, it's not my favorite activity, but Cheryl would probably rather pick berries than catch fish.

Sometimes we combine it with fishing - me gathering fish and her gathering whatever berries are in season.

If I'm not fishing, I'll pick a few berries and eat them right there. Cheryl will gather large amounts and share.

Typically, I'll stop at a likely spot, then I'll walk the road looking for animal tracks and stuff while Cheryl toils in the brush. Sometimes I'll just sit somewhere and enjoy a beer.



Sit somewhere and enjoy a beer

Enjoying a beer can happen with almost any summer activity, except maybe your work.

Anywhere one can plant gluteus maximus and enjoy the warm breeze and cool shade is a place to wrap a hand around an ice cold one.

Sometimes, when you're at a party, someone will use your cooler as a seat and a little table for all their stuff. Don't worry, just ask the person to move when it's time for a fresh one. Society finds that far more acceptable than simply shoving the squatting party off the cooler, I've found.

Anyway, wherever you are, I hope you can enjoy a cold one or at least the sultry breeze of a dewy-sweet summer evening.

They're counting down pretty quickly.

Craig Turk may be reached at cturk@lakelandtimes.com





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