The Nicolet National Forest is a rich natural resource, established in 1933, located throughout several counties in northern Wisconsin. Prior to 1933, it was owned by the timber companies where it had been heavily logged and was in need of serious reforestation.
Because the land had been so devalued by the logging process; government purchased what is now known as the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin. During the depression, the project of reforestation provided jobs and a promise of a brighter future for local workers. Through the years the forest has rejuvenated; and abundant wildlife returned. In 1998, the Chequamegon and the Nicolet forests were officially combined into the Chequamegon-Nicolet, together they encompass 1,522,485 acres that cover much of 11 counties in Wisconsin. The Nicolet portion accounts for more than 666,000 acres of land. The combined forests have over 2,020 lakes and many rivers and streams that provide folks with opportunities for camping, boating, canoeing, kayaking, white water rafting and fishing. There is an abundance of wildlife that calls the forest area its home including deer, bear, red tailed fox, badgers, porcupines, wolves, coyotes, turkeys, bald eagles, blue herons, ducks, geese, grouse, and many, many more.
Spur of the Moment Ranch is located at the southern end of the Nicolet portion of the forest. It is located in the town of Mountain, Wisconsin which is one of the small towns along the train route that went through in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Other towns that reside on that train route to the south are Suring and Gillett, Wisconsin; to the north is Lakewood and Townsend, Wisconsin. At some point once the railroad was gone; the railroad bed was rebuilt into a multi-use recreational trail. This trail runs nearly 60 miles; the ranch is located on the trail with direct access; it is now known as the Nicolet Trail.
The Nicolet Trail is a multi-use trail for hikers; ATV’s; horse back riding; carriage driving; and snowmobiles in the winter. It is from this trail that the majority of ATV trails head off to the east with forest trails; play areas; and scenic drives. Horse trails head off to the west on logging roads; sand trails; a water crossing; and old cross country skitrails. For those folks who are interested in exploring the area from another perspective; carriage rides are available by appointment from Ranch. Spur of the Moment Ranch has a 6 seat wagonette pulled by their big black percheron draft horse named “Black Rose Thorn”.
There are many points of interest in and around the Nicolet Forest in Oconto County, Wisconsin, one of the favorites is Bass and Boot Lake. They have lovely swimming areas with sand beaches. Water is beautiful and clear with plenty of beach front for family fun. There are some picnic tables available; as well as a bathhouse at Bass Lake. There is a nominal carload fee but it is a great value for the money. So bring your picnic lunch and beach towels and enjoy the day. Bass and Boot Lakes are approximately 1/2 hour from the ranch.
Cathedral of the Pines is a wonderful area of the forest. It is a 40 acre grove of white pine and hemlock. The US Forest Service Sign at this sight tells a short story. “In the early 1900’s, Lucy Rumsey Holt brought her children here to teach them prayers and bible stories. These pines and hemlocks seemed to her a sacred place. She named it “Cathedral Woods” and persuaded her husband, the president of Holt Lumber Company, to preseve it. Because of her, this stand of virgin timber was never logged.” It is a beautiful, peaceful place to explore. According to the National Forest Service Guide there are more than 100 blue heron nests that reside in this area. The cluster of nests is referred to as a rookery. Nesting season is from May through July; the birds make amazing sounds during their nesting season. The forest service asks that you stay at least 300 feet away from the nesting area. Cathedral of the Pines is aproximately 1/2 hour from the ranch.
Chute Pond Overlook Trail is very close to the ranch; approximately 5 minutes by car; and probably 1/2 hour by horse. This is a short, moderately steep trail that leads to the top of a rock outcrop. It overlooks Chute Pond; Bagley Rapids; Green Lake; The Old Fire Tower; and the radio tower on Suring Hill. You can see 6-8 miles from the top. Enjoy the hike and the view. Close by is Chute Pond County Park which has a hiking trail that takes you out to a natural rock slide that you can slide down called “slippery rock”. Many of the folks who have come to the ranch; and remember this area from their childhood have great memories of playing on “slippery rock”. It also has a swimming beach and boat launch. The county park is about 5 minutes by car from the ranch.
The Lakewood Auto Tour is a marked route that loops through the Lakewood and Mountain areas. There are featured stops on the route which highlight wildlife; natural history; forest management; and historic sites. Numbered auto tour signs are posted; brochures with maps are available at the Lakewood Ranger Station just south of Lakewood. Length of the tour is 65 miles. There are many places along the way for photograghs and hiking. Make a day of it.
Jones Springs Area Trail is approximately 1/2 hour from the ranch. This is a great area for hiking; horse back riding; and groomed cross country ski trails in the winter months. Jones Springs is a 2,000 acre area managed for non-motorized use and offers several loops. The area features three lakes; Fanny, Upper Jones; and Lower Jones; as well as a variety of forest landscapes which offer a variety of opportunities to see much wildlife in their natural habitat.
The Lakewood Cross Country Ski Trail is a 22 kilometer main trail. There are several secondary loops that connect to the main trail. Trails are groomed for traditional cross country skiing, as well as ski skating when snow conditions are favorable. There are beginning; intermediate; and advanced routes that wind through beautiful, wooded settings with rolling hills. In summer, mountain bikes are welcome to the area with the exception of the portion that goes through the golf course. The Lakewood Cross Country Ski Trail is approximately 1/2 hour from the ranch accessible from old HWY 32.
A well hidden treasure is the Oconto River Fishing Trail located on the South Branch of the Oconto River. The South Branch of the Oconto River is home to Brook Trout and Brown Trout. Explore the area on the boardwalks that lead to several fishing platforms that jut over the river or you can choose to sit and enjoy the scenic riverway and the quiet of the forest with the ripple of the water. Again, you are about 1/2 hour from the ranch.
In Mountain itself is the old Mountain Forestry Fire Tower. Folks are welcome to climb to the top and soak in the view. The old Fire Tower is not for the faint of heart. It is a steel tower that rocks, rattles, and rolls as you go. It is definitely a feeling of pride if you make it to the top.
Beside the natural resources, the small towns in the area have many weekend activities year round for residents and visitors alike as well as shops; local artists; supperclubs; bar and grills; small town museums to explore. For more information about what might be happening when you are planning your adventure please visit www.ocontocounty.org for more information.