Nelson Lake has a large island in the middle. The dam is on the left side of the picture near where the highway jogs.
We went exploring today. It’s becoming necessary to spend as much time as possible away from the house due to what seems to be an electrical sensitivity that Dennis has developed. He wanted to go north. We went to Nelson Lake.
Nelson Lake was formed when the Totogatic River was dammed, way back when my father was a child. He told stories of how he and his dad cut trees and hauled them out of the river valley before it was flooded. When I look at the land around Nelson Lake I realize what the water covered up as it rose – forest, rock, probably a few farmsteads. The hilly terrain formed a lot of inlets and coves, a very irregular coastline, and a lot of places for fish to hide and breed. It is well known for good fishing.
We drove up S.H. 27 to Dam Road (I love that road sign) and turned in to a rather busy boat landing. Trucks and trailers were pulling boats in and out of the water – pontoon boats, jet skis and fishing boats. We spent some time on the dock talking with people then headed back to our truck where Dennis took a nap. Windows were open, soft breeze, and the real surprise, no mosquitoes.
Right in front of the parking area was the dam. A couple families with kids and fishing poles came and went, along with their strings of panfish. The dam itself is old enough to have been at risk a couple of years ago when the lake was extra high and flooding. It was reinforced and held. A lot of people were worried about it then.
Leaving the boat landing we tried to drive around the lake on the north side. Because of the crazy shoreline, there really isn’t a road that follows along the lake. There are quite a few small lodges, resorts and camping places tucked in here and there but every road we tried turned out to be a dead end eventually.
We traced our route back to the other side of the dam where we took County T along the south side of Nelson Lake and the north side of nearby Smith Lake. We stopped at Etcheyson Park, another small picnic area and boat ramp on Smith Lake. A couple teens were actually floating around in the water on tubes. It’s the middle of June here but that doesn’t mean the water is warm in any of these lakes. Last week we had a morning of 36 degrees, and a couple weeks ago there was snow falling. A cold summer so far, but very refreshing, if you’re used to June in Florida, like we are.
I’m impulsive and suddenly pizza sounded like a good supper choice. I thought of it mostly because of the many times I had passed the Outback Bar and Pizza sign on S.H. 77, only a few miles away. I had read in the local newspaper about the new owners keeping a super good and sort of secret recipe for pizza sauce. It was good! The place is small but the bar was lined with four or five couples who were really into some sports event on the tv’s. We opted for a table outside in the quiet where we could watch the trees and birds. The owner and her dog waited on our table. The dog didn’t actually do anything but she was well behaved.
The day had turned cool and cloudy and I thought to myself that it was a typical day “up north” in many ways. It’s hard to say exactly what is different up here, but I think it has to do with the preponderance of cold weather days. It creates a different landscape, with forests of a certain kind, marshes, wild looking rivers, many lakes, and much more untouched nature than in other parts of our country.
Although it seemed to me like I could have been 4 or 5 o’clock, it was actually 7 p.m. when we left. It is now almost 9 and the sun is still not down, another feature of “up north” life. And the sun will be up again tomorrow around 5 a.m. so I’m going to quit now and get some sleep.
I’ve often wondered why people who name lakes can’t come up with something a little more creative than Round Lake or Smith Lake. They probably weren’t thinking long range. Since Smith is my maiden name I’ve asked if Smith Lake had any connection with our family but there doesn’t seem to be, in spite of it being so close to my grandfather’s farm, just outside Hayward. It’s a small, but beautiful lake that seems to be lined up with other small marshes, creeks and ponds.
Mom and I were due for a trip to the library and Smith Lake was in the same direction. We made it our outing for the day’s challenge. We drove to the small park with a boat landing and I took off the shoes, once again unprepared to actually swim. I quickly waded in while my photographer snapped a few pics. Walking out, I noticed a not so great smell which led me to examine the drifts of weed that had washed up on shore. Large, black snails in great numbers were decomposing among the detritus, looking a little like a plague of some sort. We didn’t stay long. (I’m thinking this was a temporary, seasonal thing and it wasn’t keeping others from enjoying the lake in their kayaks.)
On our way home we drove by one of the marshy areas that has been a cranberry farm for years. This area has several cranberry marshes and a neighboring town is even known for its Cranberry Festival in the fall. Not many things grow well enough in this part of Wisconsin to provide a financially reasonable crop but cranberries come close.