Northern Lakes

  • Summer nights in Solon Springs

    In northwest Wisconsin, big-name musicians find their way to a small-town park.

    Just two miles from the start of the Bois Brule, another famous river flows in the opposite direction. It's the St. Croix, flowing out of Upper St. Croix Lake and toward the Mississippi River. The two rivers are separated by a continental divide but became an important water highway for Indians, explorers and fur traders. Today, their two-mile portage trail is part of the North Country National Scenic Trail and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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  • Unwinding in Hayward

    For guests, the comforts of this northwoods town belie its reputation.

    From the beginning, Hayward has been a rough town. It sprang up in Wisconsin's north woods along with the logging camps, and its saloons and brothels gave it a reputation that was reflected in a rail conductor's call: "All aboard for Hayward, Hurley and Hell!"

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  • Hayward's lumberjacks

    A northwest Wisconsin resort town keeps a frontier art alive.

    One hundred years ago, the white-pine forests around Hayward were the domain of a special breed of man. They were swampers, sawyers and skidders. They were deckers, chainers, undercutters and riverhogs. They were dwarfed by the colossal trees they had to wrestle out of the forest, and their lives hung on their own brawn, nerve and dumb luck. Six days a week they worked, dawn to dusk, all winter long. In spring, they'd roar into Hayward for whiskey and wild women; their brawling earned the town a reputation reflected in a train conductor's call: "All aboard for Hayward, Hurley and Hell!''

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  • Waterfalls of northern Wisconsin

    Roaring cascades are remnants of the last Ice Age.

    Deep in the forests of Wisconsin, and Potato River Falls was nowhere to be found. Finally, I left the path to climb down a steep hillside, slippery with clay and choked with the roots of spruce trees that flecked my hands with sap.

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  • Mountain biking in Hayward and Cable

    In a famous forest, mountain bikers navigate a singular system of singletrack.

    In the forest around Hayward and Cable, it's easy to catch speed fever. This is where the world's best Nordic skiers compete on the Birkie Trail, famous for its relentless ups and downs, and mountain bikers race on the CAMBA trails, known for 270-degree switchbacks and such obstacles as a boulder called the Volkswagen. In this pocket of northwest Wisconsin, endurance athletes streak through Chequamegon National Forest year-round, training for the next big race on more than 300 miles of marked trails.

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  • Playtime in Washburn

    In winter, ski across Chequamegon Bay by candlelight and see the ice caves, too.

    In summer, the Bayfield Peninsula, on the northern tip of Wisconsin, is a playground of sand, water and woods, beloved by tourists. In winter, the playground expands. Lake Superior freezes and people come to play, walking to the mainland ice caves near Cornucopia and skiing across Chequamegon Bay by candlelight.

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  • Swinging through northern Wisconsin: Hayward

    From Spooner to Hayward and Cable, golfers bag bargains and as much challenge as they can handle.

    For more than a century, the woods and waters of northern Wisconsin meant nothing but hard work for European settlers, who eked out a living there by trapping and logging. It was only after the turn of the 20th century that folks in the south decided they could have a lot of fun up in the woods. So they left their offices and factories and headed north by the thousands. Thus began the transformation from harvest to tourism.

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  • Tracing the Ice Age Trail

    In north-central Wisconsin, a slow-moving monolith left a playground for weekend wanderers.

    When the last glacier melted out of Wisconsin, it left a gift to future generations. But over time, the ice seeped away and created kettle lakes for fishermen. The raging meltwater stripped away softer rock, leaving walls of volcanic rock for climbers and scenic river gorges for canoeists.

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  • Trek to Timm's Hill

    The highest point in Wisconsin is the gateway to a forest full of trails.

    Even if it weren't official, Timm's Hill would be the high point of any Wisconsin hiking trip. Timm's Hill, a big pile of rock and gravel deposited by the last glacier, is Wisconsin's highest point at 1,952 feet above sea level. I went hiking there expecting, well, a big pile with a nice view. Which it was. It also turned out to be in the middle of an intriguing pocket of forest, settled by Swedes, Finns and Germans stubborn enough to handle the rocks sprinkled over the hills like salt on a pretzel.

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  • City on Chequamegon Bay

    On a calm corner of Lake Superior, murals draw tourists to Ashland's thriving downtown.

    In Ashland, Wis., the ghosts of the past appear in living color. Once, these lighthouse keepers, lumberjacks and lieutenants lived only in the history books. Now, they're painted onto Ashland's walls, where they serve as backdrop to shoppers, college students and tourists going about their business downtown. The first mural, painted for Wisconsin's sesquicentennial in 1998 by local artists Kelly Meredith and Susan Prentice Martinsen, featured the snowshoe-clad figure of pioneer Asaph Whittlesey as well as editor Sam Fifield, Ojibwe Chief Buffalo and other characters from the town's early days.

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  • Paddling the Bois Brule

    The lively Brule is cherished by presidents, paddlers, fishermen and wildlife-watchers.

    More than any other river in Wisconsin, the Bois Brule has a pedigree. They call it River of Presidents, but it also attracts senators and millionaires. Named for pines charred by lightning strikes - "burnt wood'' in Ojibwe, then French — it rises from conifer bogs near Solon Springs and flows toward Lake Superior.

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  • Ice playgrounds

    Along rivers and lakes, it's fun to play with Jack Frost.

    In winter, ice comes with the territory. You can curse it — or you can play with it. Kids know how. Climbers and skaters know how. And photographers adore it. Having fun with ice also is a good way to cope with a winter that drags on, endlessly, into April.

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  • Telemark's next act

    For years, a legendary ski resort in northwest Wisconsin tried to claw its way back.

    What becomes a legend most? In the case of Telemark Resort in northwest Wisconsin, a new life without the old lodge. The once-busy ski lodge closed in 1998, reopened in 1999, closed again in 2010 and reopened in January 2011. It closed once more in 2013 and was sold at auction. The new owners never had the money to revitalize the property and, in 2017, planned to sell it to a hotel-management company that would modernize and reopen the resort as a year-round vacation destination. That deal soon fell apart.

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  • High color in Cable

    Fall frames the abundant beauty around a northwest Wisconsin town.

    In the forests and lakes around the northwestern Wisconsin town of Cable, the reds, oranges and yellows of fall are mere gilding on the lily.

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  • Waking the dragon

    A sport inspired by ancient Chinese legend takes off on local waters.

    For a long time, the people of Superior, Wis., observed mostly Scandinavian traditions. In China, the works of poet Qu Yuan inspired dragon-boat races, which are held worldwide and have been popular in Canada for many years.

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