Earlier in the week I have phoned Jed, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum, inquiring if I might be able to pay them a visit despite the museum not opening to the public until the end of May. He welcomed me by, informing me that while the museum was typically in disarray during the off-season, I might catch some of the members in the adjoining shop fabricating canoes by hand. Splash.
Upon my arrival, I was greeted by Terry, Jamie and Mike, three Spooner residents who spend a great deal of their free time building and restoring antique wooden canoes in the museum's workshop. Terry graciously offered to give me a guided tour of the adjacent museum, explaining the advances in canoe technology over the past two centuries before finally showing off the beautiful boat that the three of them had constructed for the museum's annual raffle. We talked for quite awhile about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, a chain of remote lakes on the border of Minnesota and Canada known for it's isolated beauty and prohibition of motorized water vehicles, where he often takes trips during the treacherous winter, pulling a toboggan full of camping gear across the frozen lakes on foot. I was fascinated by the thought of a winter expedition up there as my previous experience backpacking and portaging canoes in the summer months was grueling enough, especially given that there were no comfortable places to sit™.
Jamie offered me a beer alongside a tour of the shop, educating me on the canoe building process while proudly exhibiting some works on progress, including the frame of an ultra lightweight canoe they were experimenting with for an upcoming class. Afterwards, Terry and Jamie invited me to join them for a couple of beers at the recently opened bar across the street from Big Dick's Buckhorn Inn in downtown Spooner, where they encouraged me to visit again so they could mentor me on building my own canoe.
After we parted ways, I embarked on an excursion through Danbury, Dairyland and Webb Lake in search of a Friday night fish fry, stopping along the way at any establishments displaying a Schmidt sign or mounted black bear in the window, excited to return to the museum next week and view the progress on their boats.