Finding adventure in Waupaca
Lencki offers expert advice for lifelong fun
By James Card
Tim Lencki put forth some ideas on finding outdoor adventure in the Waupaca area.
He was the speaker at the Nov. 14 Winchester Academy meeting at the Waupaca Area Public Library.
Lencki is the owner of Adventure Outfitters, a company that provides sales, service and outfitting of outdoor gear such as kayaks, paddleboards, bicycles, snowshoes and cross-country skis.
Adventure Outfitters has a big footprint in the area: there is the “base camp” on Main Street, an outpost near Clearwater Harbor restaurant and another outpost at Hartman Creek State Park. He has lived in the Waupaca area since he was 10 years old and has done plenty of local exploring.
“I can spend all night. This stuff is my passion,” said Lencki.
He first discussed how adventure is defined by most people, giving examples of extreme sports like bungee jumping or traveling to far-flung exotic destinations. He admitted those were certainly adventurous activities but then he expanded the definition.
“Tonight, let’s look at adventure in a different light. Let’s look at adventure as something that might be new. Something that you might do is different. We’re going to look at adventure in Waupaca and we’re going to do it via the silent sports,” he said.
The term “silent sports” is defined as outdoor physical activities with no motors and no crowds that people can do throughout the course of their lifetime. Lencki offers it as a way to detach and unplug from day-to-day digital demands.
“Just think, paddling out on a nice calm lake in your kayak, the sun is just ready to set, no wind, you can hear the birds chirping and you can just go, ‘ahh,’” he said
“Kayaking over the last 10 years has grown dramatically, especially in the last two years with Covid, it has grown exponentially,” said Lencki.
The hardest thing about kayaking is getting in and out of it. His advice: go to the landing when nobody is around and practice.
In the Waupaca area, 95% of the kayaks are in the recreational category (the other two categories are sea kayaks and whitewater kayaks). These kayaks are stable and durable and meant for all-around use.
Lencki noted that people tend to pay well for a kayak and then go cheap on the paddle and that is a mistake. The lighter the paddle, the better the paddling experience over time and Lencki says it can “make or break the kayaking experience.”
Top picks: The upper Chain O’ Lakes, especially Marl Lake for its water quality and clarity. The Crystal River is Lencki’s favorite for moving water. He suggested picking up a free copy of the Silent Sports guide (found at the Chamber of Commerce) that has maps and logistic details for putting in and taking out at various stretches of the Crystal River.
The same goes for the Waupaca River which can be more challenging. He cited the flooding in 2019 rearranged snags and deadfalls in the river.
“It isn’t as popular as kayaking maybe because it is a little more challenging for folks. You have to have a little more balance standing up on the board. But it really is more enjoyable to get out there, especially in the June, July and August months when it’s warm out,” said Lencki.
Most boards suitable for Waupaca waters would be a standard 10.5-foot board. The wider and thicker the board is, the more stable it will be. The same paddle rule of kayak paddles applies to paddleboards: get a quality one for a better experience.
Top picks: The upper Chain O’ Lakes earlier in the season to view fish spawning the clear water. Also, night paddleboarding on the Chain O’ Lakes with LED lights mounted on the boards.
“It’s almost mesmerizing. People almost lost their balance,” he said.
“It’s a great opportunity to be active without having that impact on your joints,” said Lencki.
He covered the five main types of bikes: road biking, mountain/off-road biking, fat-tire biking, electric bikes and gravel/hybrid biking and explained the differences of each. He said the hybrid bikes are the most popular because of their versatility.
Top Picks: Hartman Creek State Park is great for mountain biking, hybrid biking and fat-tire biking in the winter on a groomed trail. The park has 10 miles of single-track trails to ride on.
The Tomorrow River Trails that runs from Plover to Manawa, accessed by the pull-in at Scandinavia, is another top choice. The paved Wau-King Trail is a great local option for road bikes.
Top picks: The Ice Age National Scenic Trail. “There are a number of segments in the Waupaca area. The Ice Age Trail is an amazing endeavor that volunteers have put together. It is well kept and is really enjoyable,” said Lencki.
Hartman Creek State Park has 13 miles of hiking trails within the park. The River Ridge Trail at Swan Park and the Wau-King trail are good choices.
Lencki said that cross-country skiing in one of the best cardiovascular exercises one can do. The catch: the chore of waxing the skis. Lencki explained the ins and outs of waxing skis along with the difference between the classic style and the skate-ski style of cross-country skiing.
Top picks: Hartman Creek State Park for classic-style skiing (and for the annual Candlelight Ski and Hike event). Standing Rocks County Park has both classic and skate-style skiing and nighttime skiing.
The Iola Winter Sports Club has multiple trails for various skill levels and also night skiing. Also, one place perfect for beginners: the Waupaca Country Club that has three miles of groomed trails.
“It’s almost magical walking through the woods after a storm with all of the snow on the pine trees,” said Lencki.
It’s minimal equipment that can be used right out the back door. The key is sizing and the trick is not by shoe size but by body weight: the lighter the person, the smaller the snowshoe. The bigger the person, the longer the snowshoe. After that, all that is needed is a comfortable and waterproof hiking boot.
Trekking poles are a personal preference but good for keeping balance and climbing and descending hills. The biggest concern is not overdressing to prevent overheating during this vigorous exercise.
Top picks: Hartman Creek State park has six miles of groomed trails so the snow is a little more packed down for easier walking. Lencki prefers the Ice Age Trail which is not groomed and one can find fresh, untouched snow. The Iola Winter Sports Club also has snowshoeing trails.