Fishing & Boating in the Northwoods

Sounds of Silence

boat at breakfast point

And no, I am not referring to the Sounds of Silence Simon & Garfunkel album from 1966. This is something completely – or at least mostly – unrelated.

Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is something of which I am familiar. Personally, I have never had the pleasure (notice my tongue embedded firmly in my cheek) of experiencing it, at least until a minor surgery last November. For some strange reason, all words, thoughts, and ideas, from that point forward, were slurped from my brain like dust bunnies removed from the corners of the cabin by a powerful vacuum cleaner. A giant void persisted, at least until just the other day. At that point in time, back at home, I decided to have a seat in one of our favorite “lake chairs” and enjoy the afternoon sun and – hopefully, quietude. My desire was to contemplate the results of our recent trip back to my favorite lake: Kabetogama.

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When it Comes to Memories

I have already penned another article (The Finest of Times) regarding my ties with the lake; for myriad reasons, it remains at the top of my list when it comes to memories. And after all, it had been five years since our last trip there. The reasons for that gap are essentially irrelevant. Suffice it to say that I needed to return in order to ascertain whether or not absence had truly made my heart grow fonder of that retreat. Short answer: it did. Thus, the need for some reflection.

red tree

Something that almost anyone can concede, at least in regard to a vacation in the Northwoods (be it Wisconsin, Minnesota or anywhere else), is that, at least at times, the silence can actually be deafening. And that is one of the most powerful excuses for me to head there for a vacation.

Sure, there are the nightly quivering call of the loon’s woeful song There is also the occasional daytime interruption of an outboard motor as a fisherman heads out for the day. And there is the whistling and whipping of the wind through the pines during an occasional storm. But there are also the calming sounds of the lake water lapping against the rocky shoreline.


Prevailing Silence

There is the distinct cry of an osprey circling high overhead, and the crackle of a wood fire on the shoreline that illuminates a moonless night. But, other than that, the prevailing silence that generally persists is unmistakable and ever-present. And this is especially obvious out on a distant island or rock point, which is where I have spent endless and memorable hours over a time period of some forty-odd years. Some of those hours have been with my parents, some by myself and most have been with my wife. All are priceless and irreplaceable.

So as I sat serene – back at home in the afternoon sun – my mind drifted to one particular morning on our most recent trip. We sat on an ancient outcrop of granite on which we had enjoyed numerous, previous breakfasts over past years. The most recent of which was on our return trip to the lake during the first week of this September. If I could have special-ordered a day as spectacular, it could not have been more perfect.

Sounds of Silence

The early September sun was brilliantly bright in a clear and azure-blue Autumn sky. The wind was negligible and the lake was as calm as I could ever have imagined it. Not a boat was in sight as we pulled up to the landing spot on the rocks as we had done countless times before.

I could see it as if I were back there – without even closing my eyes – and I was waiting to hear the “scree – scree” of the eagle that had been circling that day. I smelled the moss, the fallen and drying pine needles, and the small, portable grill as it heated. The trees were gently tipped with the early colors that warned of the coming winter.

breakfast on the rocks

Suddenly Interrupted

Unfortunately, the squealing of car tires from a recently dismissed high school student suddenly and rudely interrupted my daydream. Returning from the rudeness to the sounds of gently lapping water on the shore, I was once again interrupted, this time by wailing sirens from a fire engine and paramedic ambulance, racing to an auto accident.

I drifted away again and remembered the smell of pork sausages and the sizzling crackle of onions and peppers on the grill… A pair of lawn mowers roared to life just down the street. Screams from at-home preschoolers interrupted my visions of a bobber floating gently alongside my waiting boat. The flight of the season’s last squadron of pelicans was diminished by the thwack-thwack-thwack of a nearby roofer’s nail gun.

fog on lake at st germain


There were motorcycles claiming dominance of the local street, jet planes in a landing pattern, car doors slamming, and rpm-excited car engines revving to the extreme. Add leaf blowers demanding the attention of newly mowed grass, cell-phone conversations of those hapless pedestrians who needed to be heard, and poorly-shifted-cars clamoring for maintenance. Include jackhammers rat-a-tat-tatting on unforgiving pavement. On and on, ad-nauseum the atrocities came… and continued. I am sure you can understand.

Those were the sounds of silence which I had come to cherish and treasure. They were shoved, rudely and with little reverence, into the depths of my mind. There they would have to reside until next year, or at least until a quieter moment was at hand.

While I suppose that particular and memorable silence is the real reason that many of us take a vacation in the first place, the other and more forgettable noise upon our return is truly the impetus for planning next year’s retreat. It is also the reason that I hope to see you On the Lake! Until next time…

R. Karl


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R. Karl

Angler, Author & Epicure

Fishing since the age of eight.  Seriously writing since the age of 16. Chef and foodie from the age of 22 years… and counting. So much to learn and so little time. I have enjoyed every minute of it all.  Whether on the water (where I like it best), in the kitchen, or at the keyboard, churning out content, I feel like I have found my place.  I am sharing it with you in the hope that some of what I love to do will rub off on you. I hope to see you On the Lake!

R. Karl