Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mercer, WI- Land, "Sea" and Air

There is no ice right now, so lets talk about what you CAN do!

If there was ever a town that enveloped a tight-knit community and the feel of the north-woods back-country, it’s Mercer, WI. Recently I had the opportunity to find out what makes Mercer such a thriving area and experience “The Loon Capital of The World”. 
I was invited to Mercer, WI in mid June for a “writers Camp”, an invitational event for members of the Association of Great lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW)The Mercer Area Chamber of Commercehad organized activities for 7 outdoor communicators over the course of 3 full days. We had scheduled fishing trips, meals, tours and an ATV ride; they kept us moving right along in the short time we were there.
Upon arrival to Mercer, WI from the south of HWY 51 you run into the mascot for the Mercer area, Claire d’ loon, a 16’ tall, 2000# loon statute that the chamber will decorate to represent the happenings in town. At the time of our trip Claire was not wearing a hat or wreath like she can be found wearing at other times of the year, but you must stop for a picture with her or stop into the Chamber’s office and speak to the great staff.

The chamber arranged for most of us communicators to stay at a beautiful place on Spider Lake called Pine Forest Lodge. Pine Forest has been in operation since 1938 and features furnished cabins situated on parts of the property to allow the choice of overlooking the woods or the water. The main office has WI-FI and John and Cheri Stratte are some of the most gracious hosts I have had anywhere. One of the most honorable and unique qualities at Pine Forest Lodge is that they cater to clients with physical disabilities. Many of the cabins are wheelchair accessible, and events are regularly scheduled for folks with disabilities to enjoy like ATV trips and Kayak tours. I met some great people on my trip to Mercer and at Pine Forest Lodge I met Rick and Gina, both long time customers who had extremely high praise for Pine forest and all that John and Cheri do. Rick has taken many of the pictures that are found adorning the main office of the lodge and Pine Forest’s Facebook page. Gina can be found at least a couple times a year enjoying time with her son on the property, kayaking, swimming and relaxing. Pine Forest Lodge is the type of place that no matter what you do during the day, how much hustle and bustle you have going on, you can relax here. A trip to the main office to sit and talk with John and Cheri about the day and the surrounding area is something I looked forward to each day.

Everyone has to eat, and you have many choices when in Mercer of places to dine. One name came up every time you ask a local where to grab a bite, The Pines, a small German style family restaurant in downtown Mercer. The Pines does not skimp on the portions and the service is great considering it’s a small family that runs it and the couple times I was there the owner Erv, was the host, bartender, waiter and busboy. The special on a Saturday night is duck, my suggestion, get the duck, so good. Now that I have to wipe the drool from the keyboard, the other great menu item is their Schnitzel, oh so good. I am about two seconds away from dropping everything right now and drive 4 ½  hours to eat. 

So many of the resorts have some great food too! Beaver’s Resort just outside of Mercer is one of those resorts, the owners hail from my hometown of Sheboygan, WI and like many Mercer residents, they had traveled to the Mercer area a number of times and at some point decided to stay. Gateway Resort has some exceptional food as well and newly built “cabins” to enjoy. They may be called “Cabins” but they are way nicer than the house I rent even, and I have a nice house! Tom’s Café was a great stop for a breakfast on a morning before fishing with healthy portions and a nice selection on breakfast items to choose from. Our final evening found us at Cranberry Inn a revamped motel/bar that the owner stuck lots of heart and soul into. With a beautiful décor and excellent food the Cranberry Inn is a must eat place on any trip to Mercer. They also have multiple rooms for rent that have recently been remodeled with the coup de grâce being a basement type dwelling they call the Dorm. Sleeps 8 full kitchen, living room and eating area plus 2 bathrooms for only $149 a night!!! My mouth fell through the floor when I heard that price, what a great deal for a few families looking for great lodging.

To view photos from my trip to Mercer, WI click HERE

Besides the obvious things to do in and around Mercer like fishing (I’ll get to that in Part 2) and ATVing, Mercer has a history of logging, and with logging comes railroads. The Mercer Depot Museum is a nice stop while in the area to see what Mercer was like while the lumberjacks of yesteryear resided there.  Folks from Chicago realized how nice Mercer was long ago and the railroads quickly went from hauling lumber from Mercer to hauling people too Mercer. The shops in downtown Mercer will not disappoint either, with the highlight being the Wampum Shop, if you want something pretty, noisy, classy, or weird they will have it. Known for its eclectic mix of items from handmade moccasins to “I mooned the Loon in Mercer” t-shirts the Wampum shop is where you can find something for everyone for any occasion or no occasion at all. Visiting the antique shops can keep someone busy for a while and if you are in the market for fishing gear, two of the areas best bait shops are right across the street from each other.

Of course this is the north-woods of Wisconsin and there is plenty of wildlife to see. The Little Turtle River area is home to some unique visitors, trumpeter Swans. These large birds were re-introduced years ago and have come back to the area each year to rise the next generation. There are opportunities for bird watchers and nature lovers to explore a wonderful piece of Wisconsin’s wildlife all around Mercer. Zach Wilson is a naturalist that will give tours to showcase loons, ospreys, eagles and other Turtle Flambeau creatures. No trip to Mercer is complete without a sighting of their mascot, the Loon.  To get a greater view, of the surrounding area, try doing it by air. I had a wonderfully scary chance to jump aboard a float plane and see the entire Flambeau Flowage from the sky. I am certainly not a fan of flying, but I wanted to experience a float plane, and with Lauer Aviation I did just that.  

There was some great fishing in Mercer as well and the guides are worth every penny. Read all about my fishing adventures in Mercer in Part 2 of Mercer, WI- Land, Air and “Sea”.

Now you can bet I will be back up to Mercer for some winter time fun as well. I am hoping to run a Trap Line with the Wilsons and I will get out on the flowage to fish as well. 

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