Trilliums – The Gentle Beauty of Northwoods Wildflowers

Seasons in the Northwoods of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan can be defined by colors, with the varying shades delighting the eyes of nature lovers and the lenses of photographers throughout the year. The season of white snow is coming to an end, spring is in the air, and the forests are drinking in the sun and warmth. And just as the forests turn back to a canopy of green and the lakes begin to sparkle blue, a white hue will begin to dot the landscape again, this time in the shade of the majestic trillium.

Spring in the Northwoods is always a breath of fresh air after a long and cold winter. One of the first signs of spring is always the appearance of trilliums, also called the “white wake-robin” because it is one of the earliest blooming flowers in the area. These perennial beauties spring up throughout the forests and along the roadsides, typically blooming in April and May.

Trilliums – Endurance & Delicacy Combined

Close up trillium wildflowerThe white trillium is part of the lily family, and a favorites of locals and visitors alike. They prefer shady areas with only partial sunlight, and are a rather delicate species. Although the plant can live for over 70 years, it takes about 17 years to mature and picking the flower with its leaves can prevent it from re-growing. For this reason, many counties and states consider it an endangered plant and make it illegal to pick in the wild.

In fact, there are 8 different species of trilliums in Michigan, and 4 of these are endangered. Despite this, trilliums seem to thrive in the local area, and coming across a blanket of the beauties while enjoying a forest stroll is not unusual. However, they do only bloom for about 2 to 3 weeks in the early spring, and this is not a sight you want to miss!

The Coming of Spring in the Northwoods

Whitetail deer are particularly fond of this 3-petaled wildflower, and it has a long history in the Native American culture. The root of the trillium is said to be an effective antiseptic and antispasmodic alternative medication, and many claim that it can work wonders for reducing swelling of the eyes and in easing rheumatic joints.

Although picking trilliums is taboo if not illegal, and we can’t speak personally to its medicinal purposes, wildflower lovers can still enjoy the poetry of this magnificent beauty. As it wakes the robins from their winter slumber, it also awakens a new appreciation of nature in those that catch a glimpse of trilliums sprouting up from the forest floor. The spring season in itself tends to fill us with a sense of hope and rebirth and the white petals of the trillium seem to embody this completely.

Enjoy a Spring Getaway to the Northwoods!

New born fawn at The Wilderness ReserveWhen you are ready to shake off that cabin fever from the long winter and enjoy the fresh air of spring, the Northwoods is the ideal destination. From a romantic weekend for two to a family nature vacation, The Wilderness Reserve cabins are a great choice. Each cabin boasts its own private lake with a spectacular view, and you can’t get any more private than this. And with 5,500 acres of forested land just brimming with wildflowers and wildlife, The Wilderness Reserve is a nature lover’s dream come true!

Call 715-545-2700 To Book your Spring Getaway Today!

A Colossal Hunting Experience on a Vast Property

When it comes to big game hunts at The Wilderness Reserve, it’s about much more than a successful harvest. Beyond the sheer vastness of the property, the many outdoor opportunities, and quality game, it is the big game guides that really make the hunting experience a memorable one. In fact, an unforgettable experience for every guest is the personal mission of Wilderness Reserve’s big game guide, Brian Blettner.

A Passionate Hunting Guide & Outdoorsman

Brian Experienced Big Game Guides for HuntingBrian attacks the challenge of an unforgettable experience for each hunter. This should come as no surprise because he brings that same level of excitement to every task he does. One conversation with this big game guide and you instantly feel the bigger-than-life passion that Brian has for everything outdoors. This is quite contagious, infecting all those around him with the same deep appreciation for hunting and The Wilderness Reserve.

Brian’s interests go further than just hunting, though. From a young age, Brian has enjoyed every moment outside. From building his own aquariums, or stealing time to go fishing. When his father taught him to bow hunt as a teenager, Brian quickly committed himself to the sport. To this day, Brian will only hunt whitetails with a bow.

A Team Built of Multi-talented Individuals

Just like our other big game guides, Brian is a man of many talents. He has been a squad boss and sawyer captain forest firefighter for 20 years. Brian also spent several years as a high school English and Science teacher. He works with local bait and tackle store, Northern Waters Angling & Archery of Conover as well as running his own fishing guide business, Backwoods With Brian. And we can’t forget his musical inclinations – Brian plays drums with the Chill Billies in his spare time. The Chill Billies perform at Eagle Waters Resort during Pond Hockey weekend.
Multi-Talented TeamYou may wonder how Brian can fit all this in, but such an energetic person who craves that fresh air and the excitement of the wilderness will always find a way. Brian also participates with the Land O’Lakes Recreation Group, local Musky leagues, and an archery league with Northern Waters. And of course, spends a good deal of time out on the waters for that big catch or hunting grouse, ducks, geese, and whitetails.

A Unique Hunting Reserve Experience

With over 7 years of guiding on a high-fence reserve, Brian describes The Wilderness Reserve as a one-of-a-kind property. “It’s the sheer vastness of it – people are always surprised their first time because it feels more real than public land”, he explains. With 5,500 acres, The Wilderness Reserve is one of the largest hunting preserves in the country and this makes for a challenging hunt for even an experienced hunter. This is why it is crucial for the guides to know the property and the animals.

Brian describes his role as connecting each hunter with the perfect animal for that individual. He enjoys creating the opportunity for a successful and enjoyable experience. But it goes beyond the actual guiding of the hunts. Brian and the other guides love to make the whole weekend a blast, entertaining guests with their stories and adventures, introducing them to other outdoor activities, and just in general adding that something extra that guests appreciate.Unique Hunting Reserve Experience with Big Game GuidesA great example of this is meal times. Hunters are treated to three meals a day in the rustic Northwoods lodge, compliments of Teammate and experienced Chef Tom Neville, who loves to whip up delectable dishes for each evening’s dinner. These meals tend to be lively, filled with laughter and jokes, leaving all with full bellies and happy souls.

Discover the Wonders of Reserve Hunting

A weekend at The Wilderness Reserve is a wonderful way to bond with sons and daughters, strengthen ties, and rejuvenate a passion for the outdoors. With enthusiastic and personable big game guides like Brian, and a property so special that you won’t want to ever leave, your weekend will create memories that will last a lifetime. No words can describe an experience such as this, but we would love to hear you try!

Share your Wilderness Stories – Book a Reservation Today!

Cross Country Skiing in Wisconsin & Upper Michigan

Cross country skiing, like snowshoeing, is a wonderful way to enjoy the winter season in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. You get a great workout and a unique experience amidst the beauty of nature and the chance to spot majestic wildlife! Are you planning a winter vacation to the area and having a hard time choosing between snowshoeing and cross country skiing? Why not try them both?

Comparing Cross Country Skiing to Snowshoeing

The best thing about both of these winter silent sports is that they require very little practice to get the hang of. Each is fun for any age, and depending on your goals, don’t require a high fitness level. When choosing between the two for a winter outing, consider the workout you want, as well as the terrain and your time span for the outdoor activity.

If you are planning on setting out in the woods off groomed trails, snowshoeing might be the better option. This is especially true if you will be carrying heavy gear or are expecting to encounter hilly terrain. Snowshoes provide a larger surface space to distribute your weight, and if you have ever tried to ski UP a hill, you know it’s not easy! However, if you are an experienced cross country skier, breaking your own ski trail can be very rewarding.

On the other hand, if you like a little more speed, than break out those skis! Although cross country skiing does take a little bit more practice than snowshoeing, it is an even better workout and allows you to skim over the snow quicker. Now it’s just a matter of finding the type of cross country skis best suited for your adventure!

Differences Between Cross Country Skis

Landscape Cross Country SkiingAs cross country skiing grows in popularity, the options for types of skis grows as well. You don’t have to be limited to groomed trails, or by speed. There are skis available for almost any terrain and challenge level you could want!

Classic Nordic Skis:

Classic cross country skis are best suited for groomed trails with nicely packed snow. They are narrow and lightweight, and can be waxed or not, although for this kind of skiing, using wax is more common.

Touring Skis for Backcountry Skiing:

Touring skis are designed to glide over unpacked snow to forge your own ski trail. Off trail skiing allows you access to areas that are otherwise hard to reach in the winter. There are several varieties of touring skis to choose from, based on the terrain you hope to navigate. The metal edged touring skis offer a good grip in icy conditions, and tend to be heavy, wide, and shorter. Shorter skis are easier to use, but slower.

Skate Skis:

The latest popular cross country skiing method is called skate skiing because the movement resembles that of an ice skaters. This method works best on groomed trails, but is also a perfect way to enjoy a trek across a frozen lake (The Wilderness Reserve boasts of 5 private lakes for your winter enjoyment!). The skis are short and stiffer than classic Nordic skis, and provide an even better workout.

Plan a Cross Country Skiing Vacation!

With the abundance of snow and beautiful scenery, Wisconsin and Upper Michigan are the ideal locations to enjoy a cross country skiing vacation. The Wilderness Reserve is a great place to break in your new touring skis, or enjoy the forested roads and trails on your Nordic skis. And after a day exploring nature, nothing is more satisfying than returning to your secluded cabin to enjoy an evening by the warmth of a wood fireplace!

If you are looking for even more winter fun, check out the abundance of ski trails throughout Vilas County. There are also miles of cross country skiing and snowshoeing trails available in nearby Iron River, Michigan and Watersmeet, Michigan. Whether you are an experienced skier or just looking for a new adventure, The Wilderness Reserve is THE cross-country skiing vacation destination!

Book Your Winter Vacation Today!


The Miracles of Black Bear Hibernation

As the weather turns colder and daylight hours decrease, many of us appreciate the cozy comfort of our homes. Hot chocolate becomes a staple in your diet, and your mouth begins watering for all of the tasty holiday foods. Some of us begin dreading that winter weight gain that comes along with decreased activity and heightened appetites. Oh, but if we were black bears…

Wisconsin Black Bears in the Fall

Wisconsin Black BearBlack bears actually go through 5 stages of activity levels throughout the year – hibernation, walking hibernation, normal activity, hyperphagia, and fall transition. During fall transition, much like fish and other animals, the bears eat excessively to bulk up for the coming winter. At the end of this period, they actually stop eating, even before hibernation begins, and focus on drinking liquids to expel waste. They begin sleeping more and more, sometimes only awakening and moving around for 3-4 hours a day.

Actual hibernation periods can vary greatly, depending on the weather and region where the black bear lives. In Wisconsin, hibernation can begin as early as September and last through April. The preparation, though, begins in the summer months when the bear chooses a spot and begins digging a den. But black bears tend to wait for one of those Wisconsin size snowstorms to actually retreat to their sanctuary.

Black Bears in the Winter

As the bear retreats to its den, it begins to enter a period of deep sleep. The heart rate, body temperatures, respiration levels and metabolic rate all begin to slow. Did you know a hibernating bear only breathes once every 45 seconds? The body temperature goes down by about 10 degrees, which is significantly less than that of other hibernating mammals. Another difference for black bears is that they CAN be awakened fairly easily during their deep sleep – hence the saying “don’t poke a sleeping bear!” At 400 pounds, a Wisconsin black bear is not a creature you want to bother!

Another interesting fact about black bears during the winter is the birth of their cubs. Female black bears can actually delay implantation until late fall to determine if she has enough fat reserves to successfully birth and nurse her young. The actual birth takes place in the den, typically in January. As the mother slumbers, the little cubs nurse and grow quickly beside her, ready to leave the den with her in the spring.

Hibernation Cures for Humans

Black bears get to enjoy all the comfort of holing up for the winter, but unlike humans, they don’t have the added pounds to show for it come spring. In fact, despite the fact that black bears do not eat for long periods of time, they emerge in the spring healthy and healed from their rest. Now, if you were to eat very little all winter to scare off those few pounds, your muscle mass would be deteriorated and you would be starving. And likely pretty grumpy!

The hibernation of black bears is quite interesting, and has even proven potentially useful to the health of humans. Their metabolic changes during the winter months of these majestic creatures have been popping up in health and science studies for the last few decades, trying to uncover the mysteries that could benefit human health. It’s believed this could be beneficial in several areas of health problems, including:

  • Bone growth and healing
  • Preventing osteoporosis
  • Reducing cholesterol buildup
  • Utilizing/storing key nutrients
  • Maintaining physical health during comas

The applications that nature presents for human health are fascinating! We have long relied on medicines and cures from the world’s plant and animal life, and the possibilities continue to expand every year.

Next time you chance upon a lumbering black bear, or are enjoying the beauty of the forest foliage, think about the miracles that nature presents, the intertwining threads connecting man to wilderness, the sheer bigness of the world in all of its magic. Because simply by taking a moment to breathe in that beauty, you have begun a wonderful journey! And the next time you are sipping a delicious steaming cup of hot cocoa, make a toast to the sleeping black bear that is dreaming of such a treat!

Connect with Nature at The Wilderness Reserve of Wisconsin!

Forming a lifelong connection with nature can be one of the most rewarding journeys of your life. Introducing a child to that wonder and awe is even more satisfying. By planning a family vacation to The Wilderness Reserve, you can experience Wisconsin wilderness up close and personal! Enjoy your choice of outdoor activities on this 5,500 acre reserve, where the trees stand tall and the views can take your breath away. Can you imagine a better setting for a Wisconsin family vacation? We can’t!

Book your Family Vacation at The Wilderness Reserve Today!


Make the Most of Autumn in the Midwest

Summer has passed, and the beautiful season of autumn is upon us. This is the perfect time of year to appreciate the natural beauty of the forest around you and instill a deep connection with nature in our youth. But do you know why the leaves change color in the fall to give us such a stunning landscape portrait? And how do you make the most of the season?

Understanding the Forest in the Fall

Throughout the summer, the forest trees soak in the sunlight and the rain to maintain their healthy green coloring. When autumn comes, a complicated process involving the leaf pigments, the amount of daylight hours and weather conditions takes place to create the vivid hues we all love so much. As the color pigments in the leaves change, depending on the environmental factors, the forest comes to life with fiery oranges, yellows, and reds.

Three different pigments come into play for the popular autumn color change in the Midwest. Carotenoids, anthocyanin and chlorophyll are the color pigments. As the amount of sunlight goes down, the trees respond by producing less chlorophyll, the green pigment that dominates in the summer. Then the carotenoids step up to bring in the orange and yellow fall colorings.

You may think that the reds are brighter one year than the last, and you are right. The carotenoid pigments are present in all leaves, and the yellows, golds and oranges are fairly consistent from one year to the next. But the red coloring is produced by anthocyanin, which doesn’t exist in all trees and needs just the right conditions to shine bright.

What are the best conditions for a spectacular autumn season? Warm and sunny days with cool evenings that are above freezing are best. This is because these conditions create more sugars, which lead to brighter colors. A hot and dry season lowers the color intensity because the soil moisture level is lessened by the heat. Even climate factors in the spring can affect the fall color season – a late spring or early summer drought can delay the color change.

Identifying Trees by Their Autumn Colors

Identifying Fall Colors Phelps WisconsinLooking at the forest as a whole, most people don’t consider the individual trees that make up the view. In fact, it’s only because of the wonderful diversity of trees in the Midwest that the fall colors are so stunning. Each type of tree has its own hue, and, as discussed above, can be different every year so no two autumn forests are the same.

  • Oaks – reds and brown leaves. These are some of the last to change colors.
  • Sugar maples – orange red leaves.
  • Red maples – bright scarlet red leaves.
  • Beech – light tan leaves.
  • Aspen & poplars – golden yellow leaves.
  • Black maple – bright yellow leaves.

Study up on the different types of trees in the area, and then put that knowledge to work with some educational outdoor activities!

Inspire Children with Nature This Fall

Kids love being outdoors, no matter the season, and the possibilities are always endless for fun activities and learning experiences. Here’s some ideas to get children excited about the fall season:

  • Go traditional by jumping into a big pile of raked up leaves together.
  • Have a day of apples – taste test apples from different trees and pick from your favorite to make an apple pie.
  • Take a hike through the forest, identifying types of trees from memory or a guide book.
  • Have a leaf scavenger hunt by trying to collect fallen leaves from as many different types of trees as possible. Throw in some pine needles and fall ferns for an even better learning experience.
  • Take the collected leaves and make a scrapbook for the day, complete with drawings and photos from your outing.
  • Make an autumn leaf collage by pasting different colored leaves on a hand drawn tree.
  • Do some leaf sketching by placing paper over a leaf and rolling a pencil across.
  • Study together how the leaves are broken down once they fall to the ground, and discuss why this process is important.
  • Go for a boat ride to admire the colors from the water, and try your hand at some fantastic fall fishing.
  • Visit a local farm to pick corn on the cob, or explore a corn maze.
  • Get involved with geo-caching.
  • Get sporty with pumpkin bowling – set up some short, fairly light logs as pins and roll the pumpkin for a strike.
  • Go on a color scavenger hunt – set out with a chosen color and find all the things in the forest of that color.

What are your favorite fall activities and traditions? We would love to hear from you! Share your fall inspirations with The Wilderness Reserve on Facebook!

Plan Your Wilderness Family Vacation in the Midwest!

The Wilderness Reserve Family VacationWhat better way to strengthen your family bonds than a wilderness family vacation? No matter the season, your family will enjoy the inspiring beauty of nature at The Wilderness Reserve. Secluded cabins offer the perfect base to explore the surrounding forests and lakes on the 5,500 acre reserve. Ready to book your wilderness family vacation at this convenient Midwest destination? Call us today at 715-545-2700!

Book Your Trip to The Wilderness Reserve Today!


Tips for Northwoods Campfire Cooking

Nothing beats the warmth and comfort of sitting around a campfire at dusk, as the wilderness behind you slowly disappears and the flames bring a gentle and flickering light to the darkness. Whether you are enjoying this outdoor tradition with your closest friends or your dear family, the experience is sure to ignite childhood memories, warming you from the inside out. Where better to ponder the meaning of life or share old stories than around a campfire in the beautiful Northwoods?

And where else to enjoy a meal filled with smoky goodness and unbeatable flavor? Campfire cooking can be fun for all ages, and offers a lot more variety than your standard hot dogs and marshmallows. Why, you may be asking, would we be talking about campfire cooking on The Wilderness Blog? Sure, the cabins at The Wilderness have kitchens equipped with all the cookware and dishes you need. But why not enjoy a campfire meal to make the most out of your wilderness vacation? For that matter, use these tips right at home, in your own backyard, to bring a tiny bit of the wild into everyday life!

Building a Campfire for True Northwoods Cooking

Campfires are not all created equally, and when you are going to cook, it’s all about the coals! A proper campfire starts with selecting the right type of wood – stay away from green wood in favor of nice, dry hardwoods that will burn better. The trick is to build up the fire slowly, adding a log at a time, while brushing the coals to one side. Once you have a white hot bed of coals about 2 inches thick, it’s time to cook!

Campfire Cooking with a Stick

Campfire Cooking With StickTraditional campfire cooking requires the chef to venture out into the forest to find just the right branch for a cooking stick. If it’s too thin, you risk dropping your treats in the fire and too thick means a gaping hole in your dinner. Whittle the end of the chosen branch to a point, and get rid of any twigs or leaves. Make sure your stick is long enough that you aren’t risking burns, but not too long that you lose control of the exact placement over the fire of the food. Or you can choose to go the city slicker way and buy a metal cooking stick – we strongly recommend wood for the best flavor and true sportsman bragging rights!

Here are some of our stick campfire cooking favorites:

  • S’mores: Everyone loves a gooey marshmallow! But if you don’t know how to make a s’more, well, you probably shouldn’t be the campfire chef!
  • Hot dogs: ditto the above, there’s really no wrong way to do this unless you attempt to cook without the stick!
  • Pig on a stick: tasty upgrade to the hot dog; wrap a cooked sausage link in Pillsbury breadstick dough, place on the stick, and roast until the bread turns golden brown.
  • Kabobs: Fan favorite kabobs can be made with almost any meat and the vegetables of your choosing. Try cubed steak, pork, chicken or shrimp and mix with mushrooms, onions, peppers, cherry tomatoes, and potatoes. This easy roaster allows everyone to create their own to their personal liking. Pair with corn on the cob for a finger licking, no fork needed dinner.
  • Roasted banana: spear your banana with the stick and slowly roast over the coals. When it begins to toast and is heated through, roll it in crushed cereal, chopped nuts, or even sprinkles. For a sweet treat, dip in chocolate

Campfire Cooking with Foil Wrap

Wrapping your meals in tin foil allow you to place them right on the coals and capture the smoky flavor to the fullest. Pay attention to the tips for building your campfire discussed above, because you can’t just toss your food into the flames and hope it turns out edible. For any foil wrap campfire cooking, be sure to flip the packet over a few times and check doneness before eating. Double wrap is always best if you aren’t using a really sturdy foil. And wrapping in a way that leaves a little tinfoil ‘handle’ makes for easier control.

Campfire wrapped favorites:

    • Campfire baked potatoes: Please refer to Stick Campfire Cooking #1, above.
    • All-in-one campfire dinner: Make this wrapped dinner with ground beef or your choice of chopped meat. Simply dice up your favorite vegetables and place in the foil wrap with the meat. Top with seasonings and a sauce of your choosing (try butter, ketchup, BBQ sauce or even lemon juice), close the foil and toss on the coals. Cook time should be about 30 minutes.
      Bacon Wrapped Baked Fish: Clean and butterfly your fish and season with garlic, sage and pepper. Fold the fillet around sliced onion for moistness and flavor and wrap with bacon. Cover the fillet with foil and cook on campfire coals for roughly 20 minutes.
    • Campfire Breakfast: Place a hash brown patty or thinly sliced potatoes on the foil. Make sure your packet is crimped upwards, and pour a slightly beaten egg in. Top with sausage patties or bacon, close the wrap, and cook. If you are a cheese lover, try adding a slice when the other ingredients are close to done.

Campfire Muffin

  • Campfire Muffins: Who knew you could make bakery on a campfire? Cut an orange in half, and scoop out the fruit (bonus, serve finished dish with sliced orange). Pour muffin mix into the peel, carefully push halves together and wrap with foil. Cook 10-15 minutes on the coals, and you have fresh, great smelling muffins! Try this with cake batter for campfire cupcakes!

Did you know that you can wrap your chicken or filet in cabbage or lettuce leaves to cook directly on campfire coals, without foil? Extra flavor, extra moistness, extra easy!

Discover Northwoods Nature at The Wilderness Reserve!

When you book your family vacation at The Wilderness Reserve, you don’t just get a place to stay. You get a unique opportunity to enjoy all that nature and the great outdoors has to offer. Take a wilderness hike, try your luck fishing on your cabin’s private lake, and enjoy the timeless tradition of a campfire! Stretch each outdoor moment to the fullest! Ready to schedule your Northwoods family vacation at The Wilderness? Contact us today!

Do you have a favorite campfire recipe? Share it with The Wilderness on Facebook!