| News for Adventurous Travelers, February 1997|
Far northern Wisconsin is a land of deep forests, heavy snows, impressive facial hair, and taxidermy as a design motif. But above all, it's a playground for nordic skiers-home to one of the nation's most extensive networks of cross-country trails. At the heart of the region, about 150 miles northeast of Minneapolis, is the small, proud town of Hayward-self-proclaimed Vail of the Midwest-and 77-year-old Spider Lake Lodge. Edged up against Big Spider Lake, the lodge's seven rooms have hand-hewn log walls, ancient knotty-pine dressers, and incongruous but welcome Posturpedic mattresses.
Right Out the Door: The frozen lake is quick-access cross-country ski terrain. But most guests prefer to venture about five miles down the road to the trailhead for the fabled Birkebeiner cross-country trail system. The 33 miles of rolling, groomed tracks, lighted until 10:30 at night, are rarely crowded-except during the last weekend in February, when they're jammed with some 8,000 skiers for the annual American Birkebeiner race, the largest cross-country event in North America. A grueling 52 kilometers long, it's affectionately known as the Berserkebeiner to those who, for reasons best left unexplored, compete year after year. The New Moon Ski Shop in Hayward (715-634-8685) rents skis for $10 per day and snowshoes for $12 per day or $7 per half-day.
Farther Afield: About ten miles north, the Namekagon River offers ice fishing and, during thaws, canoeing (rental canoes are available from Wild River Inn in Hayward for $18 per day; 715-634-2631). In downtown Hayward, the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame records international piscine records on plaques mounted inside the world's largest fiberglass muskie (open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; $4).
At the Lodge: In late afternoon, coffee, tea, nut bread, and a roaring fire appear in the Great Room. But morning is the lodge's finest hour, as the sun rises over Big Spider Lake and owner Min Grossi serves her "country" breakfast. And what a country. Fresh fruit, apple-spiked oatmeal, toast, bacon, cheese omelettes, pancakes, and muffins all are regulars-at the same meal. Reservations: 800-653-9472. Rates range from $65 to $90 per night. Birkebeiner race weekend has been sold out for months.