Thirty-Five Years an Outdoor Writer

By Mark Walters
Posted 5/15/24

Hello friends,

If you think that life doesn't go by in a blink of an eye, I am about to show why I feel it does. Thirty-five years ago, this Friday night I wrote my first column. I was living in …

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Thirty-Five Years an Outdoor Writer


Hello friends,

If you think that life doesn't go by in a blink of an eye, I am about to show why I feel it does. Thirty-five years ago, this Friday night I wrote my first column. I was living in the Canadian bush and called my column "North of the Border”, and it was about living in, fly-in only locations as a camp manager for Chimo Lodge and Outposts and working for a man that is like a father to me, Pete Hagedorn. I was 27, now I am 62 and still feel like I am 27.

I wrote for Richard and Molly Emerson and when I say "wrote" I mean it, I handwrote this column from ‘89 until ‘97 and the process never failed. Eventually my days in the Canadian bush "kind of" came to an end and I named my column “An Outdoorsman's Journal” as before I was in the newspaper business I kept a journal on many of my outings.

In ‘92, I self-syndicated and that is when crazy became, real crazy. Some examples would be, I was not just going to write about shooting and catching, so in the winter I became a hardcore winter camper. My first trek back in ‘93 was 135 miles on The North Country Trail. Pure insanity and a sharp learning curve would best describe my first winter adventure or should I say "I had no clue." I spent 17 days in the Penokee Mountains, lived off food stashes, did not have a tent and taught my golden retrievers, Ben and Star, to pull sleds. Those were the days of cold winters and deep snow. I loved that trip and have done it four times since.

My education basically ended at 3rd grade when I fell in love with looking out the window at school. Back in the day the newspaper industry was king and my lack of education never slowed me down as I personally got to know my contact at every paper I wrote for and what I wrote about was so unusual as was my writing style that it helped sell newspapers. By ‘95 I was in 12 papers and making $150 a week. In my younger days I was a steel fabricator and always had money. I always had a simple rule, if I can't pay for my beer, I shouldn’t drink it.

Back in ‘94 I met a very wise man who had been a career game warden out of Solon Springs. Tony told me that I should hike, paddle, ski around the entire state. Thus began the first of many trips and it was to hike on the ice, the entire Wisconsin shoreline of Lake Superior. I spent 17 nights doing this and used 35 of my 100 lives jumping open water while pulling a sled.

To date all of Wisconsin is behind me but the southern border.

What was really cool is that I taught my golden retriever Star to do the same crazy things. Star would do this after me as I was the official ice tester and Star always had Pearl in her sled.

I became a stepfather to Joey, Travis, and Kevin Dushek in the mid to late ‘90s and the father to Selina in 2001 and this was a ride that was so crazy only the boys and Selina can validate it. We had like zero money, their mom was a stay-at-home mom and we all loved that, but we lived on a writer’s salary and that was very cool. Fear was not in our vocabulary and becoming very good at harvesting and existing in wet, cold conditions was the norm. One example, leave on Thursday night for Lake Waubay in South Dakota, back when it was always cold. Driving my Jeep Eagle with just as much stuff strapped to the rack as in the trailer. I was the only adult. Build a camp on the ice, stay until the following Sunday, "10 days," fish that day and then drive home and get home just in time to get the kids to school.

I hate to say it but I am running out of space, the newspaper industry is very honor bound, I write for 60 papers, I might retire if I die or hit $500,000 in my retirement. This journey has been so incredible it is almost surreal. If I had the finances, I would not retire for a long time.

Fast forward 32 years, I have used 94 of my 100 lives, long-time readers know that. Do not cry for me if I croak on the job, it's been a good run!