Chasing Rainbows (and Brookies, too)



Thanks for stopping by!  The last couple of weeks have been pretty crazy.  There was the spider bite thing (which is improving daily with continued antibiotics).  I had started working full time at the gas station… then got my first day off eleven days later!  A trip was definitely in order.

Just a side note… A couple of people asked how the new gas station job is going.  Great!  I like the store, the bosses, the hours, the nature of the work, etc.  It’s doable.  The only part that had been difficult was the long stretch without a day off.  Thankfully, we hired more people and I can settle into a normal 5 day work week.  It’s going to fit with the van living lifestyle.  I just hope this gig lasts for a while!  It’s been fun… and is bringing in some money.  🙂

14_GarnavilloDespite being exhausted and still taking a lot of antibiotics, I took off and headed north.  Wednesday night’s camping occurred in the little town of Garnavillo – a place where the owner of a grocery store lets me camp in his parking lot for free.  I did the classic vandweller thing – camp after dark and slip out early in the morning.

Thursday morning’s trout fishing was just a fifteen minute drive from the water tower.  Within an hour I’d caught and cleaned five trout – a mix of rainbow and St. Croix brook trout at Bloody Run Creek.  That left the rest of the day to drive around and check out the scenery.

Northeast of Decorah is a place a friend recently told me had the best trout fishing he’d ever found.  As we talked, it took the two of us at least ten minutes to find it on Google Maps.  Why?  We had to search with the satellite view.  The place is in the boonies!  This location is where the Upper Iowa and Canoe Creeks meet.  There is a cool “pull off” that looks like it would provide safe, free camping.  The only problem is that the creek is very low right now so it wasn’t worth staying overnight.  Catching trout likely wouldn’t happen!

Decorah Canoe CreekWinding around the same area, I came across an older gentleman who was fishing on a bridge over the Upper Iowa River.  I stopped the van on the bridge and chatted with him.  A retired school teacher, he was a lover of the outdoors and told me where to find some excellent walleye fishing, particularly in September.  Now doesn’t that sound like fun?  It’s likely I’ll return and do some trout AND walleye fishing this fall.

Most of Thursday afternoon was spent cooking some new recipe ideas; they turned out pretty tasty.  One of the most unusual ones is a veggie pancake with spinach and leeks.  Others included an easy cinnamon applesauce as well as butter rum carrots.  Cooking and camping are both passions.  Some have said obsessions.  That’s okay.  If a person embraces his or her passions, success is more likely to follow!

CampgroundHere is a picture of the campground in Decorah.  There is a tiny little newly planted tree on the left I was trying to avoid while backing in… I didn’t see the larger one directly behind until… WHACK!!  No harm done, thankfully.

The van was dwarfed next to a fancy fifth wheel.   They sure look nice, but those camping units seem better suited to weekenders and retirees.  The van is so much easier to drive and there is no setup.  I cannot imagine trying to maneuver into some of the little parking areas next to the trout streams or having to level a rig daily.  Now a Roadtrek or other van-chassis camper… That would be nice!

Decorah_DeerpathThe next morning,  I hit the Trout Run stream early – about 6:30 and it was a crisp morning – 49 degrees.  While fiddling with the camera, this cute little Bambi came out of the cornfield and stared for quite some time before bounding across the trail.

Decorah_FlowerDecorah and, specifically, Trout Run Trail are beautiful places.  For some reason, it seems like every time I’m stressed, it’s the perfect retreat.

The flowers along the trail are add so much to the experience.  Well, at least the friendly ones.  I noticed a number of the dreaded poison parsnips plants but they appeared to be burned.  The pattern indicated that the plants may have been sprayed.  Had they still been intact, dozens of fisherman would likely have been burned by the nasty sap.  Been there, done that, got the scars!

Decorah Hatchery, a 1930s Civial Conservation Corp project

Decorah Hatchery, a 1930s era Civilian Conservation Corp project

The waterfall picture above was taken at the trout hatchery.  It is a spring that originates from limestone and flows down and through the south end of Decorah. By this time, there were nine trout in the cooler.  Five were from Thursday and four from Friday.  It meant one more would fill the two-day possession limit.  I’ve never fished right at the hatchery but I thought “What the heck?” and put a line into the tiny spring fed stream.  A fat brook trout grabbed the line and became number ten.  It was close though… I was down to the last bit of tackel.  (I used Mustad #20 treble hooks – they work fantastic)  What a fun end to the fishing trip!

Grimacing from the pain in the feet, I limped over to check out the waterfall.  It was gorgeous!  It seems like every time a person turns around, there is something else cool to discover and enjoy!

Sitting in a bench near the stream, there was time to reflect while listening to the bubbling water.  Dad’s health is diminishing and we’re losing him into the fog of confusion.  The last couple of weeks were tough for me.  Someone tried or succeeded in breaking into Dad’s empty house, destroying the door lock.  A few days ago a person cut the cable and stole my faithful old Raleigh C-20 bike from where it was locked up at Dad’s.  I was tired and still on a lot of antibiotics.  It was okay to need some rest… and get away from Cedar Rapids – a city I once loved but feel it is time to leave behind.

It was difficult to return.  I remember thinking, “I can’t go back.” and feeling like a kid desperate not to return to school in the fall.  An overwhelming feeling washed over me that cannot be explained and it was necessary to sit down.  It was if something external, supernatural, almost like all of nature,  gently whispered deep inside my soul, saying “You can come back.  You are always welcome here.”  I sat on a bench for quite a while listening to the water, the birds, the children and adults enjoying the late summer day and knowing that God is good, knowing that somehow this special place is going to play an important role in the future.  Then it was easy to depart.  Someday I’ll return to Decorah for good but there is so much to work on before then.

On the way home, I passed through the town of Calmar, a dozen or so miles south of Decorah.  It was where the old Raleigh bike was ridden in June.  That was the bike that was stolen a few days a go.  There were a lot of good memories (and a lot of sore muscles) that trip.

I’ll miss the old Raleigh but in a way, its loss is a bit of a blessing.  It needed a new drive train as well as being one more thing to have to store.  Thank goodness it wasn’t the newer Trek bike that was taken!


By this time the stomach was growling.  A Calmar favorite, the “Train Station” restaurant serves what they call the “Flashburger”.  The regular is a 1/2 pound burger (which tastes like very good quality ground chuck?) topped with cheddar cheese, lots of hash browns, and more cheddar.  It seems like a peculiar combination but it works… You cannot beat meat and potatoes!  That sure tasted good to a tired fisherman!

For being such a fast little trip – Wednesday night through Friday afternoon – it was a whole lot of fun.  It was therapeutic and did not cost a lot of money.  Using a grocery store “Fuel Saver” card, I was able to buy 20 gallons of gas for just 94.9 cents per gallon.  While I can keep getting discounts, it’s assured there will be other trips this year and I’m sure they will be equally fun!

Take care and thank you for riding along.  If you’re ever in Iowa, please drop me a line at   It is fun meeting new camping friends!  There are so many cool places to visit.  It’s a pleasure sharing them.

Kind regards,
Bradford, the “Van Trekker”


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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"

3 Responses to Chasing Rainbows (and Brookies, too)

  1. tinycamper says:

    A very moving post, Brad. Glad you found a “home.”

    I’m so sorry about your Dad’s declining health… and the pettiness of people who would steal a bicycle.

    Glad you like your job. And I am so jealous of the trout you are catching! 🙂

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks for the kind words. Dad sure had a treat tonight. I fried up some trout, cooked hashbrowns ‘n’ cheese, cole slaw, and red hot cinnamon apples and took it to the nursing home. “Pops” was happy. He’s too frail to go outside with me but it’s nice to bring something in from the outside… Home cookin’ is great medicine. It’s nice to still be able to enjoy time with him.

  2. Jerry says:

    Hey Brad

    I got 1,740 watts of solar now installed, check it out 🙂

    Keep an eye out for me if you see a good laser at a garage sale
    Maybe I can send the power back to the sun.
    By this weekend I should break the 2k barrier
    There is still tons of work left to go

    Cheers Jerry