local features

Ben Meyer/WXPR

The cabin sits on U.S. Highway 8 between Crandon and Laona.

When Johnnie Aschenbrenner was growing up, it was his home. Despite being on a major highway, there were no power lines until 1962, so the family used generators for electricity.

Nowadays, the cabin has an updated yet rustic feel, and Aschenbrenner rents it out as part of his small resort on Wabikon Lake. It’s literally connected to the tiny bar Aschenbrenner also owns. All told, resort guests can expect a pretty modern experience, DIRECTV included.

Except for one thing.

Gary Entz

Today no one really thinks about air mail as anything particularly unique.  In the past, however, the railroads transported most interstate mail in the U.S.  To receive a letter with a special air mail envelope and stamp meant that it was either important enough for the sender to pay extra for the postage, or that it came from overseas.  


Last summer, COVID-19 pushed more people outside and onto Northern Wisconsin’s lakes. For this month's Field Notes, Susan Knight tried to take the pulse of how residents felt about increased boat activity on our area lakes.


Do you have a role to play in the management of Wisconsin’s elk? In this week’s Wildlife Matters, the Masked Biologist makes the argument that you do, and gives us a quick peek at the state’s elk management plan.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

The internet connection was working as expected at Coontail Market in Boulder Junction on Tuesday.

The grocery, convenience, and outdoor sports store could accept credit cards and access its servers.

But it’s not always like this.

At least once a week, said owner Steve Coon, there is some sort of internet issue.

“It happens way too frequently with DSL, which is the product, of course, that most rural areas have,” he said.

Coon said internet service is not only slow, it’s unreliable.

Wisconsin Historical Society

In the nineteenth century, government rarely got involved in issues of health care. In the absence of government aid, the Catholic Church often stepped in to fill the gap.  There were many people involved in bringing quality hospital care to the Northwoods, but for Rhinelander the life of one individual member of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother serves to tell the story.  

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Earlier this month, Isaiah Miller and Ryan Van Dyke made their very last home solar installation until the spring, just in time to avoid the harshest cold and snow.

They climbed a slanted, shingled roof in Rib Mountain to install a few more solar panels.

“We are currently setting down the last seven modules for this system,” Miller said as he braced himself against the roof’s slope.

The system will be able to generate 4.3 kilowatts of solar power, which could be enough to provide electricity to the entire home.

Wisconsin Historical Society

In the past, many Northwoods communities held annual winter carnivals featuring competitions in ski jumping, cross-country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, curling, snowshoe racing, and sled dog racing.  Rhinelander was no exception and embraced what is today called “silent sports.”  But in 1950, one young girl stole the show.  

Nicolet National Forest

On a clear late November afternoon two days before the start of the Wisconsin deer season in 1937, Royal Nettleton, 29, a Nicolet National Forest junior forester, climbed a tree.

Erin Gottsacker/WXPR

Ed Steigerwaldt’s last name means 'walk in the woods' in German. It’s an appropriate name for someone who grows trees for a living.

Steigerwaldt started growing Christmas trees with his father when he was just a kid.

“That’s what I grew up as,” he said. “As a little boy, I used to follow him and help him out in the woods. And I loved the work.”

Now Steigerwaldt owns 15 tree farms in Northern Wisconsin. With rolling hills, his farms are home to rows and rows of fir and pine trees.

Wisconsin Historical Society

Christmas is a time when children and grandchildren return home to visit with elderly parents and celebrate the season.  Traveling by airline or automobile over the holidays can be stressful, but modern highways and airline schedules make it relatively easy to accomplish.  Stress has always been a part of holiday travel, but imagine a time when the pace was slower, and the journey was part of the celebration.  

Joe Giersch, USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center

Walking from my truck into work last week, I noticed a frail looking insect flitting along the surface of the snow on the trail in front of me. On closer inspection, it was a stonefly. Stoneflies are small insects that live most of their lives in streams and rivers, emerging only to complete their reproductive life cycle. Like stone flies, many aquatic insects, including many flies, mosquitos, dragon flies and damselflies have a life cycle that is partly in water and partly above water. But, most of these species emerge and take flight in spring and early summer.


As the year comes to a close, the Masked Biologist takes a few minutes to ponder the fate of endangered species around the globe and closer to home.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

To Scott Williams, most drones are just toys.

They can fly high and take photos and video, but can’t do much more.

But his drones? As he sees it, they might change the world.

“If we could put a flying cell tower [up] there, then we could do computing, we can do whatever right off of this thing,” said Williams. “We need a flying computer. We need this network that we can put anywhere and just let everyone compute off of it.”

Wisconsin Historical Society

Few corporate brands are as recognizable as Coca-Cola.  The soda has been around for over 130 years, and for much of that time it was bottled right here in the Northwoods.