This week I have to cover the deadline for a 10 ten-day, fly-in fishing trip that I make each year to Shultz Lake, which is 60 miles northwest of Red Lake, Ontario.
This past May I hit the 30-year mark for writing this column and so I am going to go down memory lane a bit.
The real reason I became an outdoor writer is because of the way that I was raised by my father, the late Robert Walters, who did one heck of a job being a single parent providing for my sister Lynn, my brothers Tom and Mike and myself.
Our house and garage were always made up of piles of boxes and duffle bags from either the last trip, or the next outdoor excursion that we were going on. We would go on between 12 to 20 low-budget camping adventures where we were either hunting or fishing.
When I graduated from high school, all I cared about was adventure and earning a living. I traveled with dad, my friends, other family members and at least half of the time by myself.
Back in 1987 I tried to canoe up the Mississippi River. In reality, I only knew half of what I was doing, but I was super healthy and scared of nothing. During that adventure I kept a journal, which is exactly how this column got its name, because when I returned from the Mississippi River, I let people read the journal and many of them told me that I should write on the outdoors.
In April of 1989, I contacted Richard and Molly Emerson, who were the owners of The Poynette Press and DeForest Times-Tribune, about writing a column on the way of life while running a fly-in fishing camp in the Canadian bush.
I still remember the interview. I was in my camper at my dad’s place in Poynette. I offered Dick a can of Budweiser and did not wear a shirt. I was offered the spot for 10 bucks a week, and when I came home in November, the column “North of the Border” was pretty popular.
Fast forward a couple of years and the Emersons could not afford to pay me a full-time wage. I was at $25 a week at this point, and my savings were depleting. Dick, who truly was my mentor in this business, told me that I needed to self-syndicate my column, and that is what I was about to do, even though I did not know what it was.
I traveled the state and secured The Plymouth Review, The Portage Daily Register, The Baraboo News Republic, The Daily Citizen out of Beaver Dam and The Waunakee Tribune, and that put me at $90 a week.
At the time, I hand wrote my column, had my photos processed at a one-hour photo lab and the Emersons mailed the column to my papers.
I saved on expenses by literally living out of a tent, camper, cabin, or whatever and going from trip to trip. One of the adventures lasted 116 days and was a 1,244-mile trek on the Appalachian Trail. I always mailed out my column and life was good.
Another part of this way of life is called winter. Instead of writing about every boring technique on how to fish this or that, or selling my soul and my pen to the outdoor industry, I chose to become a hardcore winter camper.
I had zero idea what I was getting into. My first winter camping trip was a simple 130-mile camping and survival trip on the North Country Trail from Mellen to Iron River, and back.
I pulled a sled and so did both of my golden retrievers. I did not bring a tent. The lows at night were from 10 to 40-below. Every hill was a marathon up and down.
As the years went by, I picked up plenty of papers, one at a time, and peaked out at 73, back in the heyday of the late 1990s.
I have never lied in this column and I have never missed a week of putting out a column. I would have to say that my 170-mile trek on the ice of Lake Superior was my most dangerous and blindly stupid major quest of my life.
I parked my truck in Superior and started hiking the ice. Man and beast pulled sleds, I did not use a tent and I used many of my one million lives. In the end I met my goal and was back on the ice the following week.
Many of my comrades have witnessed the harrowing experiences, Dan Berry and I should have died on a mountain in Montana about 10 years ago. Three years ago I helped save a man that made some poor choices and went through the ice three times on the Mississippi River near Stoddard.
This fella was gonna drown. He knew it and I knew it. Three times I went to the edge of the ice and pulled straight up thinking the ice that would not hold him was going to give way. In the end we all made it home, but that experience kind of messed me up.
I have never been bored. I have more friends than time. My health is excellent and this is not a job, its a way of life.
Push yourself, you will have no regrets!