If you have never experienced the “Avenue of the Pines” during the winter after a light snowfall, you are missing out. The stretch of highway between Deer River and Northome on Minnesota 46 is as close to heaven as one might ever be able to imagine. Adorned by tall, majestic pine trees on either side of the two-lane highway, when frosted with a fresh and untouched snowfall, it will take everything in your power to stay focused on driving. Trust me, I lost myself several times on this path and thanks to “lane sensors” was able to stay on the highway. Ah, the joys of modern technology.
As promised, here is a little recap of the annual ice fishing excursion to Lake of the Woods and so you know, unlike summaries of the past which may have included a few “expanded” fish stories, this year the luck was on our side and no reel spinning will be necessary. While there were no lunker Walleye landed by anyone in our party, we did manage to bring home our limit of 13”18” Walleyes and Saugers which any angler knows are great “eaters.” Ryan Banazewski pulled two Northern Pike through the hole at 29” and 23” respectively, which certainly are notable catches. Scott Fuchs also caught an eelpout which finally, after years of talking about trying one, was cleaned, boiled in Sprite (yes, that is how they do it) and then dipped in drawn butter. Poor Man’s Lobster is what they call it, and it was delicious. In two days, we caught around 250 fish, brought home 36 and ate an additional 21 at the resort the first night so, yes… as a fishing trip, it was certainly successful, but it was so much more.
Back to the drive heading north to Zippel Bay. Like any other type of trip or vacation, there is a lot of anticipation that leads up to arrival. Organizing, reorganizing, and then making sure once more that everything is packed so nothing will be left behind is a practice that the members of our party have down to a science, yet often, somebody forgets something. This year may have been the first time that we succeeded and everything that was to make the voyage with us made it. In and of itself, this feat is noteworthy as three of us have now taken at least 55 trips around the sun. Of course, there is the always necessary “relief stop” outside of Milaca as the morning coffee was ready for departure with the next stop in Grand Rapids for a bite to eat and this year was no different. We always stop at the casino for a quick $20 donation and then get back on the road. This year, a couple guys even made withdrawals for once.
As we were driving, I remarked to Terry (Fuchs) just how in awe I was by the beautiful scenery we were exposed to and how happy I was to be able to experience it with a close friend. It was at that time that I realized, fish or no fish, the trip was already a success. He told me about the stretch of road that went through the National Park had a specific name but was not exactly sure what it was. Well, again thanks to the wonders of technology, I was able to dig up the name… “Avenue of the Pines.” As I said earlier, there is no need for exaggeration as I write this column. If you are looking for an adventure, do some of your own research online and plan a little jaunt up to this part of Northern Minnesota. There are resorts, hotels, and campgrounds all over the place so whatever your preferred accommodations are, you should have no problem securing them. While we ventured up in the winter, I can only imagine just how glorious the area is during any season. No matter what activities you seek, the opportunities are ample.
You can thank me later if you take this advice. The 46 miles between Deer River and Northome is calling, and it is calling loudly. I guarantee that if you take the time to head north and spend it with your family and friends, you will find a sense of peace, happiness and tranquility that might only be found by taking the time for an excursion like we made to Zippel Bay. As the popular shoe brand says, Just Do It. “Get Out and Enjoy the Great Outdoors.”