by Ann Hattes with photos by Neil Hattes
Year round outdoor adventures await in Eagle River , Wisconsin , situated on 28 interconnected lakes, the world’s largest chain of freshwater lakes. Fish year round or enjoy silent sports like kayaking and canoeing, hiking, biking, snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing. For winter family fun, Klondike Days features dog and horse pulls, a voyageur encampment, sleigh and dog sled rides plus a lumberjack competition. The world’s snowmobiling race championship and the USA pond hockey championship are held here where there are over 500 miles of groomed snowmobile trails connecting area communities. Summer brings the Festival of Flavors showcasing Wisconsin products and culinary artisans, and Fall the Cranberry Festival with marsh and winery tours, a cranberry cook-off and cranberry food of every kind.
Nature enthusiasts, anglers and adventurers find first class beautiful accommodations at Wild Eagle Lodge. With panoramic water views and a private sand beach the one, two and three bedroom condos nestle on the forested edge of Duck and Lynx Lakes on the chain of lakes. Guests are immediately immersed in the northwoods atmosphere. An animated deer, bear, fawn and coyote overlook the check-in desk and trophy mounts of walleye, northern pike and bass adorn lodge walls. There is history here too as Boondocker’s Lounge is housed in what was over 100 years ago, a mess hall for a logging camp. And the RFRG (Regular Fishing Regular Guys) Outdoors Live internet radio show broadcasts from Boondocker’s every Sunday, 7 – 9 PM year round. Expert guide “Muskie” Matt provides instruction for 3-day walleye and muskie fishing classes and a kid’s fishing jamboree.
Condos come with fully supplied kitchens reducing the packing hassle. They also include two full bathrooms, two TVs with DVD, wireless internet, charcoal grill, and a gas fireplace to curl up by at the end of an active day in the great outdoors. Canoes and kayaks are included in the amenities as is the summer activities program, Camp Run-A-Muk for resort guests ages 5 – 12. Guests in wheelchairs or scooters can go anywhere on the property via paved trails and all units as far as doorway widths are handicap accessible. Right out the door adventure beckons, snowmobile trails in winter, lakes and streams to be discovered in other seasons.
Guests return year after year for the personalized, relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere they’ve experienced. Derek Burzinski, General Manager, lives right on property and camped here as a child long before Wild Eagle Lodge existed. He relishes interacting with guests and especially enjoys chatting with them in the summer season when he pilots a pontoon boat ferrying guests to dinner at restaurants along the water’s edge.
Riverstone Restaurant is one of those. Like 1910 vacationers from the big city, imagine yourself in a turn of the century riverside tavern and eatery. Look out from the dining room to where the first white child was born in Vilas County when it was all Native Americans, or sit on the deck and toast the sun setting over the Eagle River . Riverstone, a Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast award winner for many years, offers over 100 wines by the glass and over 300 different wines by the bottle, many moderately priced.
Owners Ron and Cindy Meinholz have traveled around the state visiting artisan cheesemakers, winemakers, and local meat producers. Many Wisconsin products are found on the menu with the goal, ultimately, to have 80 to 90 percent sourced from the state. On the menu there are items like a Wisconsin artisan cheese board, signature salad with world champion Pleasant Ridge Reserve Wisconsin cheese, butternut squash ravioli with Hook’s blue cheese sauce, and a selection of Wisconsin ethnic sausages.
Cindy, chair of the local Cranberry Festival for several years, now directs her attention to the Festival of Flavors celebrating the taste of Wisconsin in chef’s demos and food samplings. Area restaurants, using at least 50% Wisconsin products, create items such as cranberry-sauerkraut meatballs, root vegetable mash, and wonton sausage stars, while well-known area guide Yukon Jack offers shore lunch samples of local fried fish with his secret breading recipe. Funds earned from the two day event aid local food pantries and help to revitalize a historic local park bordering the river. The third Eagle River Area Festival of Flavors, held the weekend before Labor Day weekend, is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, August 27 and 28, 2011.
At Riverstone, Cindy and her son Jason, both of whom took courses at the Culinary Institute of America, work together on developing and creating the menus and recipes. Cindy’s original Eagle River walleye cakes, a northern version of crab cakes, are highly recommended by Greg. At this north woods gourmet restaurant, surprisingly pizza and burgers are also on the menu. Ron explains that this is to welcome vacationing families with options for children while parents enjoy wine and creative entrees. The atmosphere is not elitist but welcoming with no white linen tablecloths and baseball caps substituting for chefs toques. Folks come for the freshest ingredients presented with the highest standards. Eagle River in Wisconsin ’s northwoods is full of surprises.