Sunrise is at 5:20am in Boulder Junction this time of year, but the sun can’t wait that long to wake me. She brightens the sky to gray and starts to peak into my open window just bit before dawn. She blows gently through the screens to brush my cheek and whisper, “the forest is waiting for you already, lazy thing. Come and smell all this oxygen!”
Despite the fact my bones are resting on the most comfortable bed in the universe, or maybe because of that fact, I’m full of energy and eager to rise and take that first morning look at the water in my bay. I’m surprised by how lovely it is.
Every. Single. Morning.
The best place in the world is this little neck of the northwoods. The best way to view it: with the scent of brewing coffee in the air and a pair of little dogs grrr-ing at my side.
“We are very scary, we tiny wolves,” they warn that mama deer to keep her distance and her twins on her side of the window screen.
Mama doe doesn’t give a damn, and because she doesn’t, her twin fawns, momentarily alarmed, laugh them off and dance around again.
I am home. Welcome to summer as it was meant to be. Summer as the poets describe it. Warm and fragrant and as unlike the kiln hot days in Austin as a pair of eagles is to a swarm of fruit flies. Summer days are long and lush here, hearty and full as ripe strawberries. I jealously hoard every minute.
“Don’t go yet, the dinner dishes can wait,” that same temptress Sun whispers as she paints the sky pink over my bay and turns the still water into a mirror that reflects the peachy clouds. It’s very nearly my bedtime, but how can I leave her sweetness? I won’t. I’ll stay until she can no longer cling to my side of the world. I am surrounded and sublimated by love.
I hope you sleep well, my friends.
At the end of an active summer day, you can’t beat the peace of sipping a Spotted Cow on the dock, gazing out at the sunset-colored sky reflected in the waters of the lake. But after dark, I like a little more company. For a tiny town, Boulder Junction has a delightfully varied selection of bars and pubs for cocktail hour. Some nights, a leisurely stroll to enjoy any one of them is just the thing. And other nights, we’ll designate a driver and sample the best from them all. Here are my favorite choices from my favorite night spots in town.
Aqualand Ale House
These guys serve the best craft brew selection in the area from 20 taps.
My personal favorite is the Cold Water Cream Ale. It feels light, but creamy rich and goes down EASY. I don’t usually waver from that choice, but Scott will try something new each time and this week he enjoyed the French Oak Saison.
Of course, when you’re feeling indecisive, you can always opt for a flight of 5 or 8.
Boulder Beer Bar
A short walk from the Ale House, right next to Mad Dog Jakes, is the Boulder Beer Bar. (I may have mentioned the most amazing fried cheese curds here a few hundred times) This is a cozy, classic Wisconsin bar. Despite the name, there’s a full bar to choose from and a friendly staff to serve you and generally houses a pretty festive crowd. This is a great place to stop in and strike up a conversation or watch the game on TV.
McGann’s Café and Wine Bar
Here we feel at home in a super comfortable family atmosphere. I will almost always have a glass of red wine – or two, selected from their extensive list. And of course, there’s a choice of popular mid-western beers. The real refreshment here is the company. We sit at the bar and chat with local patrons or proprietors Denny and Ellen. We’re always greeted by the resident golden retriever, who’s happy to see us every time! It’s easy to feel the love that went into the creation of this friendly place.
My final favorite for a nightcap is Headwaters restaurant. Here, I always get a Wisconsin Old Fashioned. If you’re not familiar with it, the Wisconsin version of this classic drink it’s made with Brandy instead of Bourbon and can be ordered “sweet” or “sour.” I can’t decide which I like best. The sweet version is typically washed with 7Up and has muddled orange and cherries in the bottom. The sour version comes with soda and an olive. The best thing, really, is just to alternate between the two every other night. This is Wisconsin after all!
A must-do for us at least once a summer, the Min-aqua bats Waterski show is One of the oldest water ski show teams in the United States. We generally hit the show on Wednesday night. It starts at 7pm and, on a Wednesday, we can usually get a pretty good seat without arriving too early. We pack up the kids and leave Boulder Junction around 5:30. The drive is about 20 mins and we like to grab a bite to eat in Minocqua (Usually at the Minocqua Brewing Co.) and get to our seats around 6:45.
Honestly, before I discovered the Min-aqua bats, I wasn’t a big fan of waterskiing shows, having sat through them at theme parks like Sea World and Six Flags, but there’s nothing like a local amateur show with all the earnest personality of these young performers. Watching the not-always-perfect daring stunts they perform gives you a real sense of the difficulty of the sport and the can do spirit of this award-winning club.
Don’t forget to bring hoodies as the breeze off the lake can be quite cool. And take along a bit of cash. Admission is free, but there’s hot cocoa and popcorn for sale, and after you enjoy the quality of the show, you’re going to want to pitch in as they “pass the bucket” for contributions to the clubs’ safety equipment.
A bit of history from their facebook page: “The Min-Aqua Bats Water Ski Club originated in 1950 with a group of local young people water skiing on Sunday afternoons. After noticing their efforts were attracting an audience, the skiers decided to put together a show. And so the Min-Aqua Bats Water Ski Club was born. By 1952, the members had drafted a charter, set up the club as a nonprofit organization, constructed a handmade jump and started performing shows on a regular basis…The popularity of the shows was overwhelming. Soon the club was able to afford its first boat, a red, white and blue Correct Craft, purchased in 1952. Bleachers, lighting and a clubhouse were added by 1956. The concession stand, run by the club members' parents, was established in 1982.”
Read more about them here: https://www.facebook.com/minaquabat...
Looking for a hot hearty breakfast before you set out on the day’s adventure? There are a number of good choices right in town:
If speed is particularly important today, the Granary is one of the best choices. The service at the Granary is excellent, speedy, friendly and attentive without being overly solicitous. Every server we’ve encountered is happy to engage in conversation while keeping your coffee cup full and good at accepting slight modifications to menu items and getting it right.
The food at the Granary is consistent, good quality with a few items that I consider exceptional: If you like corned beef hash – a personal favorite of mine – it’s great here. Crispy and delicious. If you’ve never tried corned beef hash, give it a go! It’s really quite good. The kids love the carmel apple pancakes.
The Granary serves all the basics at a very reasonable price. They also serve lunch and have daily specials – it’s generally worth going with the special – it’s always pretty good and sometimes fantastic.
If you have a bit more time to linger over breakfast, the Outdoorsman is a super choice. First of all, they have their own chickens and serve their own eggs – fresh, free range and it’s noticeable in how delicious the omelets are. Also, they grow produce and buy locally as much as possible, so you can feel really good about supporting the local economy and eating hormone free food. If you’ve got special dietary needs, it’s good to know that the owner/chef at the outdoorsman personally knows the ins and outs of serving a gluten free menu. (noted on their menu).
All of the care put into the menu considerations is clearly reflected in the quality of the Outdoorsman’s food. In addition to breakfast staples – outstanding bacon, for example – try the homemade cinnamon rolls. They are truly exceptional.
The outdoorsman also serves lunch and dinner. I’ve seen excellent reviews, but have not yet tried those meals there. More to come soon.
Just…yum. I can’t even tell you. Everything here is good. The coffee is really good. The donuts and pastries are really good. First thing first morning here run down as early as possible and get a loaf of English muffin bread that you will toast all week (some of us have to go the second day and get two more loaves when the family eats the first one all in the first day – hide the 3rd loaf, you’re going to have to ration it out). They have other bread that other people rave about, but we just keep buying and eating that one b/c it’s too good not to. Also pies….OMG the pies – all extraordinary – if you like rhubarb at all, this is one of the best. Many have to be ordered in advance. Call ahead of your trip and do it, especially if you’re coming up for the holidays.