The other day I had to make a road trip into Price county to look at a possible listing on Long Lake, near Phillips. It was a gloomy day, with fits of wind and sprinkles of icy rain here and there, a good day for a scenic drive. Its been 20 years+ since I’ve spent any substantial time in this area – my ex and a few of his buddies used to own a hunting cabin off Skinner Creek Rd, in the middle of the county forest, and I knew I was in the general area of it.
I was lost in thought as I drove down Hwy W towards Phillips – when suddenly I passed the sign. Did I really just drive by Skinner Creek Rd? I quickly turned around and pulled up to the sign. I am really here, at the road that leads to the cabin……
Oh how the memories came pouring out while I sat there; all the times we spent up here, with friends, family and even the kids when they were young. So many wonderful times, vivid memories that will stay with me forever. I just had to drive down that gravel road.
As I started over the wet, sloshy gravel, I thought about how this place was my first real ‘up north’ experience. The long, traffic-clustered drive from Madison to get here. The feeling of elation as we got closer. Pulling into the cabin and unloading, quickly setting up the generator and wondering what critters took over the cabin in our absence. And then ‘ahhhhh, we are here!’
They built the cabin themselves, which looked like a small, tan ranch house, similar to what you’d see in any small town. It was privately tucked back off the road by a long grassy driveway with a small open area surrounding the cabin. Inside, it was separated into two large crudely-finished rooms: a big area with about 16 bunk-beds, if my memory is correct, and a kitchen/gathering area, complete with a picnic table, fireplace and a mish-mash of old furniture. The kitchen had a propane range if one felt like cooking anything, and a kitchen sink with a bucket underneath to catch water from washing dishes. The walls were adorned with some hand-drawn artistry (some I think influenced by alcohol….), the usual ‘guy type’ posters and a variety of turkey feathers and deer sheds.
There was no electric service so we ran a gas generator for lights later in the evening, and if we were too lazy to refill the tank, we’d resort to using our propane lanterns. He had a point well out back, the kind you have to pump to get water out of, and it was always so cold and refreshing, but it didn’t work all the time. Of course, there was the single-stall outhouse too – I hated using it at night because the spiders invaded it, making those huge funnel-looking webs in the corners. You learned to go to the bathroom really fast. No shower made for an interesting time, especially if the trip was more than a few days, or several of the guys met us up there.
I remember sitting on the cabin deck at night, surrounded completely by trees and darkness-it was very peaceful but almost eerie at times. The first time I looked up at the clear sky – the stars seemed so bright, so striking- so much bigger than I had ever seen stars before! The stillness of the night was occasionally broken up by a hoot owl, or coyotes yipping in the distance.
Our days were usually spent exploring the area. We liked to stop at the local lake resorts in the area as my ex was of a very sociable nature and had to get caught up with what had been going on since the last visit. If we brought the kids with, we’d sometimes rent a cabin at Long John’s Resort on Soo Lake, just so we could have a shower and somewhat civilized comforts because the kids were so young. The kids loved it, playing horseshoes, catching frogs, taking the paddle boat out on the lake, sitting around the bonfire. People were so friendly, so happy.
As I drove down Skinner Creek Rd, I realized how much I really missed those days. It saddened me that, back then, I probably didn’t appreciate the up-north trips as much as I should of. Sometimes, the fast-paced pressures of work and family, create a chaos that just cannot be tamed.
The winding gravel road stretched on for several miles. I went through softwoods forests dotted with occasional pines and oaks, crossed a few smaller grassy fields, and drove past thicketed, swampy lowlands. Finally, I found the cabin driveway. Its been so many years so I’m not quite sure if I’m at the right place. I wondered if any of the guys were up here, maybe getting ready to hunt? Did the cabin look the same? Is that old outhouse still standing?
I sat at the roadside for a long time, wondering if I should drive in or not. I wanted to go in so badly, wanted to just get a glimpse of it. Of course, he is my ‘ex’ and with that comes the fact that I probably shouldn’t go snooping around there without asking him first so I decide to leave. Perhaps another day will find me there again.
That rustic cabin in the forest is where my love of the northwoods started, even though I didn’t quite realize it back then. It hard to put into words, but I will forever be grateful for being given those wonderful experiences.
Read about my experiences as I work and play in the scenic Hayward area of northwest Wisconsin!