To put it simply: I am a lover of air conditioning and champagne. I’m not terrified of bugs, but I’m not inviting them to reside in my hair. I won’t throw a fit over a small hike, but I have no desire to climb a mountain. Ditching my phone in the bedroom is scary enough, but having cell service completely taken away from me is downright terrifying.
So, when the idea of going up to the Northwoods of Wisconsin arose, I wasn’t clamoring to make the arrangements. The words my in-laws typically associate with this place are: fishing, ticks, remote, cabins. #nightmares
John’s family has spent summer after summer up in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin at a place called Dairymen’s. Now, don’t be fooled. This isn’t roughing it. While it does involve the above terms, it’s really about getting away from the bustle of the city to just take in nature and relax in some pretty sweet digs. And, you guys… I didn’t hate it. I loved it, actually.
It helps that my mother-in-law is arguably more into bubbles than I am, so we were fully stocked; that my sister-in-law exaggerated the roughness of the trip before we went, so my expectations were far surpassed (thanks, Jen); and that my new family is one of the best in the biz.
Dairymen’s is basically a woodsy country club (read: glamping). There are seven beautiful lakes, thousands of acres of forest and roughly 50 cabins throughout. You can stay in a number of areas on the property, but the cabins we stayed in came with a meal plan in the dining hall. For every person in your party, you get a long table stacked with a corresponding number of chairs.
This is the kind of place that is passed down generation to generation. Everyone you talk to has been going there since they were a kid, just like my mother-in-law. The tables in the dining hall are filled with family members from age 3 to 82. It's amazing. I can imagine the intense sense of nostalgia they all have from going up there time after time. Supposedly not much has changed there from the soups offered daily to the giant stuffed polar bear in the main lodge to the rustic decor in the cabins.
When you’re on the meal-plan, your days are centered around eating. (This is where I really start to relate to the place.) You have a small window for each meal, so you have to coordinate your day around them. You cannot drink alcohol in the dining hall, so you can imagine what a hefty happy hour we enacted to prepare for the lull.
The food was great and very "Wisconsin." Lots of fried lake fish, steaks, hearty soups, sandwiches, fries and cheese. The salad bar was fully stocked and they offered daily specials for each meal. I'm not complaining... but I felt like I needed to eat a strict wheatgrass diet upon return. (Update: I did not.)
The highlight of the trip for me was the “shore lunch.” Bear Lake (one of the bigger of the seven) is equipped with a wood burning stove and picnic tables along the shore. My father-in-law beer battered and fried the bluegill that our 8-year-old niece Lucy caught, and the fellas hand-cut potatoes with crappy knives for garlic french fries. INCREDIBLE!
The fish was super fresh and the light batter just stuck to the meat. But. Those. Fries. THOSE FRIES! They might be the best I’ve ever had. Did I mention the fried onion slices tossed in there? And it was all washed down with some Spotted Cow, my favorite beer, only available in the great cheese state.
Outside of the food, I even enjoyed the fishing. I got all geared up (the outfit was part of the draw), hooked my own worms and even managed to catch two perch! I was so pumped.
On the two rainy days, I barreled through the book The Girl on the Train. Absolutely addicting. I didn’t want the rain to stop so I could finish the next chapter.
If you don’t recall, I’ve shared that reading isn’t something I typically set aside time to do. But times like these remind me how much I enjoy setting my phone aside and picking up a physical book. (Thanks to my girl, Emily, for reinvigorating the tiny reader inside of me.) Giving the brain a break from scrolling through pictures and forcing it to comprehend something is necessary.
Dairymen’s is the definition of tradition. Don’t mess with something good, and keep the people coming back with their kids, grandkids and great grandkids. I hate to admit it, but I actually enjoyed the pause from social media, emails and phone calls. I truly felt like I could leave it all behind and just get lost in a book or on a boat or in a (heated) game of Scattergories with my family. This is what it's all about, amiright?
You don’t have to travel six hours north to get to that place of silence, people. Find a weekend or a day or a couple of hours to truly unplug. It’s good for the soul.
Smokey the Bear