It was 1986 and the fall colors were at their peak or maybe a few days past peak in early October. The day was clear, dazzlingly brilliant and you could not ask for a more beautiful day in Northern Wisconsin. It was a Saturday morning and still fairly early when I asked my best friend Dan what he wanted to do.
"Let's go on an all day hike," he told me. "I'd like to see some country I haven't seen before."
It sounded like a plan to me. We ate half a pound of bacon and half a dozen eggs cooked in bacon grease (heart disease was not something we thought much about) and left my family's cabin. I knew exactly where we were going to explore and it was surely an all day hike. We each had a compass, a lighter, a pocket knife and a shotgun.
It was either late October or early November of 1978 when I came so close to losing a very good friend in terrifying incident, that I would have nightmares about it for the next ten years. In the end, it was a very close call that taught me, and him, a lesson about the outdoors. Mother Nature is an unforgiving mistress and if you want to enjoy what she has to offer, you had better play by her rules.
My family owns a cabin in northern Wisconsin on a nice lake. The fishing isn't bad and you can go water skiing or boating in the summer, snowmobiling, cross country or downhill skiing in the winter. You can also hunt ducks if you are so inclined, and that was what my friend and I had in mind. It was the last year of high school for us and we both knew that after graduation,
You would think that after the dog almost sank and we were nearly swept over what looked like a waterfall, that we would exercise just a little more caution. And I think we did for a few hours...
As mentioned previously, Otatakan lake is fed by four rivers and emptied by one. Eventually, all the water in that area ends up in Hudson bay. We chose a river that entered the lake along the south shore for a days exploration and it would turn out to be an excellent day trip. We had fished near the mouth of the river and caught a lot of walleyes there. Heck. We caught a lot of walleyes everywhere, but that spot stood out.
We spent our first afternoon at a rapids that was just big enough and steep enough to call a waterfall. It was large enough to be dangerous if you weren't careful and if you were in a canoe, I'd say you needed a lot of experience to attempt navigating it.
Above the rapids about one-half mile is a lake called Wesley Lake, and the river that connects Otatakan to Wesley is the Wesley River. The outfitter told us they kept a boat on the river just above the rapids which we could use to explore and fish on Wesley lake. The fishing on Wesley was different, according to the outfitter. There were not as many fish, but the fish were bigger.
By the third day, we were all looking for a shower, except there was no shower. Any water we used came from the lake, carried by hand from the dock, up the steps and into the cabin. Most of the time, we just drank from cups dipped into the water. I know! I know! You're all thinking "not a good idea" but that is exactly what we did and none of us got sick. We've done it a number of times since then too and still haven't been made sick.
Anyway... Drinking water aside, we wanted water and carrying enough for individual sponge baths didn't appeal
We spent the afternoon and evening of our arrival fishing near a small waterfall that could probably be considered more rapids than falls, but given the choice, I wouldn't take a canoe over it. Above the falls about one-half to three-quarters of a mile was a lake. The outfitter told us he kept a boat on the lake, but there was no motor on the boat.
We talked about making a trip to the small lake, but since we had plenty of exploring to do on Otatakan, we didn't make any plans. Yet.
The fishing under the waterfall had been fun and we caught plenty of fish there the day we arrived. It was only a taste of what was to come.