Time to Rest Really Helps!

View from Dutton’s Cave Park, West Union, IA


What a difference a day can make.  Last week was stressful at work and I started crumbling from the inside out. It did not seem too likely that I would return to work after the fishing trip.  A couple days of relaxation helped renew the patience a bit though.  Fishing is better than Prozac!
Back to the trip… Sunday morning was kind of miserable.  A major storm was rolling through.  We had intermittent periods of very heavy rain and thunder.  Bored, I decided to pack up and drive toward Decorah in search of some fun.
A few miles north of Buck Creek park, I reached a “T” in the road.  To the left is Decorah.  To the right is the Mississippi River and the town of Marquette.  Roughly paralleling the east-west road is Bloody Run Creek.  I’d always fished to the right, the lower end that is near the county campground and the mighty Mississippi.  For some reason I had never explored the west portion of the creek near Spook Cave.  Could this be the time?

On impulse, I decided to try the western portion of the stream.  (where you see “new fishing location”).  As you can see from the map, eventually the creek widens and is again stocked further downstream.  The area in green is an “artificial only” area – a great place to catch a brown trout on a fly.


At this west end, Bloody Run Creek passes through Spook Cave – an area attraction worth seeing.  Spook Cave offers cave tours by boat during the warm months.  It’s pretty cool except you have to hunch down to keep from bonking your head on the cave roof.

Directly across the road from the cave property and their private campground is the upper end of the stocked portion of Bloody Run Creek.  This part of the stream gets hit hard during camping season but at the moment the campground is closed for the year.  It’s a great time to fish this area!

So how did Bloody Run get it’s name?  Was it some kind of a battle between the Native Americans and the white man?  Nope, nothing that interesting.

The name “Bloody Run” was given because of Lieutenant Martin Scott of the U.S. Infantry (stationed on the “Wisconsin side” from 1821 to 1826).  Lieutenant Scott loved to hunt deer in this area.  When the animals were consuming moss near the stream, they were easy targets.  Lieutenant Scott would often say “I am going to make the blood run today over my hunting ground.”

The following picture was not taken by me but it’s a wider part of the creek.  A railroad passes nearby.  If you are camping in the area, you will be awakened at least once during the night.  If the sound doesn’t waken you, the vibrations will!


With some excitement, I parked the van in a little gravel parking lot and hiked about a half mile down a hill to the stream.  It was raining lightly so I could not take the new camera along. 

I baited and cast into a hole under a tree when….  ZING!  Without warning, the line suddenly went taught nearly making me drop the fishing pole.  After an exhiliarating little battle I landed a very nice rainbow trout!  As the intensity of the rain increased to a deluge, the trout became even more aggressive.  Twice I had fish leaping into the air when they were hooked.  The rain was even stronger at this point but it is almost like that made the fish even more agitated.  I got my limit of five fish in that one hole with no hooks left.

It was then I realized that this the most exciting trout fishing experience in my 47 year old memory.  For those who love the outdoors, perhaps each one of us can remember a time when fishing or hunting was so rewarding that it brought tears to your eyes.  The intense fishing fun triggered a relief of all the stress that had been built up the last few weeks.  It was sort of a “grand finale” to the best darn trout fishing season I can ever remember.  It’s been a fun year!
By now the coat was soaked as were the rest of the clothes.  I trudged back to the top of the steep hill, falling several times on the steep, muddy, crushed limestone road.
With waterlogged, itching feet, something had to be done.  On the way to Decorah, I stopped in the small town of Postville and bought some cheap shoes at Dollar General.  They are kind of like “Crocs” with strings… Dry shoes are a good thing!  But the rest of me was still wet and cold.

While in Postville, I stopped at the Kosher store – Glatt Market – and bought some fantastic turkey hot dogs made several blocks away at the slaughterhouse.


Once I got to Decorah, a few supplies were needed at Walmart.  The Customer Service lady at the Wally World kindly provided directions to a local laundromat.  What an experience that turned out to be!

This place was a pit.  You can see how dirty the washing machines were.  There was litter strewn all over the floor.  I was appalled at the number of broken washers and dryers, missing ceiling tiles, and general clutter.  At the same time, it was kind of fun to see a place where it was a total shi*hole… I can respect that degree of laziness!  In such a clean town it was amazing.

Most of the other patrons were complaining about the sheer mess.  Since the windows were steamed up a couple of customers used their fingers to write messages on the front windows in reverse – things like “Filthy Dirty” and “Please Clean Me Up Dan”.  It was hilarious!  You could see the messages clearly from the busy road in front.

All was forgiven in short order.  When the sweatpants and fleece coat came out of the dryer and I’d put them on, it was pure ecstasy.   My blue fleece jacket is sort of like the raincoat worn by the TV detective “Columbo”… It’s treasured.


Somehow the topic of food came up among the laundromat folks.  I asked for recommendations of new places to try.  One of the ladies suggested a local fresh food cooperative. 

What a perfect idea!  I visited the Oneata Cooperative and partook of the hot bar items, including baked chicken, mashed potatoes, a wonderful chick pea salad with capers, a pasta salad, and more.  It was spectacular!  This is a new favorite when visiting the area.

It was pure comfort food – every bit as comforting as the warm clothes that just came from the dryer.  Both work wonders in warming up a chilled fisherman.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist posting a food picture.  In addition to the plated stuff, that’s a cup of homemade corn chowder.  Not shown is a large peanut butter chocolate chip cookie.  If you get over this way, don’t miss the co-op.  It’s so unusual to have such an option in a small city.  I attribute it to Decorah being a college town (Luther College).

It’s great to see such a diversity of dining options. 

By this time the sun was starting to go down.  I had just posted yesterday’s notes and then settled at  Dutton’s Cave park (20 or so miles south).  The temperature was dropping quickly.  It had gotten so cold so fast that I had to clean the trout in the van using a cutting board on the bed.  It was delicate surgery but I completed the task without the spillage of blood or guts.

This morning, I headed back fairly early.  Immediately after a hearty omelet breakfast at a favorite haunt in the town of Oelwein, it was only a four block drive to the new Anytime Fitness location. 

I was skeptical after seeing this new site.  The gym was about the width of a cigarette outlet store in a strip mall.  There were only three treadmills and three ellipticals.  I started inventorying the weight machines. 

By golly, somehow they made the same equipment fit that I’ve seen in gyms twice the size!  I did an hour of cardio (split between biking and elliptical) while watching the t.v. show “Matlock” (a favorite).  This region has recently added several new locations.  Now virtually anywhere I go in NE Iowa has an Anytime Fitness reasonable close.  Cool stuff!

Just got back from a grueling shift at work.  It was surprisingly easy to return after the pleasant camping and trout fishing trip.  Work still sucks but it’s reassuring to know that happiness is just a  car key away.
Thanks for visiting.  Have a great week!
Bradford, the “Van Trekker”

About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"
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5 Responses to Time to Rest Really Helps!

  1. tinycamper says:

    What a great story! Loved the wild fishing in the rain, the warm fleece out of the dryer, and cleaning the fish on a cutting board on your bed!

    So glad the recreation re-created you! 🙂

    • Brad says:

      The recreasion sure did help… But the danger of being happier is that it helps you clearer see what pulls you down. I bailed out from the big box store today. There has got to be something better out there… Perhaps in a small town where life is slower.

      Thanks for commenting!


    • tinycamper says:

      I couldn’t have stood the stress either. Glad to hear that you rescued yourself. 🙂

  2. Michelle says:

    Sounds like you had a great time!! You just answered a million questions for me when I start to job camp….my weekends are planned just like yours are. I went into a few dingy looking laundromats too. Really this is your business please clean. UGH!

    • Brad says:

      Hi Michelle… It was a fun weekend. We need those to keep from getting down in the dumps. Isn’t it fun just to roam anonymously? Thanks for commenting.