New Year’s Celebration with Woody

Coleman Fold and Go Grill2 

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Pike’s Peak Park overlooking the Mississippi. Wisconsin is on the other side.

Greetings and welcome to the blog today.  Happy New Year!

Thursday was quite the day.  It was cold – temps being around 20 degrees or so.  The wind was very stiff.  I’d decided to do some fishing and camping to celebrate the new year transition.

The destination was the Big Spring Hatchery near Elkader.  I’d considered not going (due to cold weather) but the trip turned out to be a lot of fun… mainly because of the antics of a dog named Woody.

Blog readers might remember the animated, energetic brown dog who is sort of a mascot of the trout hatchery.  On the way up, thinking of Woody and hoping he’d be outside, I bought some Canadian bacon at the Edgewood Locker for both of us to enjoy.

Before fishing though, I stopped in Postville, Iowa to take some pictures for Sis.  Postville is known for a Kosher meat processing plant.  The town had decorated for the holidays with both Christmas wreaths and Jewish Hanukkah menorahs.

Menorah and Wreath

Postville, Iowa has a diverse community of Jews, Somalis, Latinos, and caucasians.


Upon arriving at the hatchery, Woody came out to the van, barking his suspicion.  When I called his name, he looked at me like “Who the heck are you?”  After presenting the Canadian bacon, Woody quickly warmed up.

Woody Canadian bacon

Who doesn’t like thick slices of Canadian bacon?


The fishing was difficult for multiple reasons.  I had not dressed properly, only wearing tennis shoes, no gloves, and an open jacket despite the cold and wind.  The fish were not biting very quickly, likely because the Turkey River had flooded after the last visit and the water was still a little high.  But Woody’s antics made the trip much more enjoyable and the time flew by.


Woody loves the outdoors and is often content just to watch the water go by…

I caught a couple near this first culvert.  The fish were acting strangely, just tapping the bait a bit rather than biting much.  They were swimming very close to the shore – just a few feet away.  Woody would see them and go into the water, scaring the trout back to deeper water.  His help did not always help!


Woody playing in the water of the Big Spring’s output. Fish were caught toward the left, after the warmer spring water mixed with the river.

By this time, the last of the five trout were caught.  While I had been fishing, Woody had been in the stream picking up rocks (about the size of grapefruit) and was depositing them on the bank.  Later he snapped a twig (sounded like a gunshot!) and brought it to me.  We played fetch.  Woody would become excited when fish were landed – he licked a couple of them.  When it was time to leave, I hugged Woody a whole bunch and gave the favorite dog some more Canadian bacon.  Woody is going to receive a package in the mail next week – I’d bought him some chew toys and had forgotten to bring them along.

If you’re ever trout fishing near Elkader, stop at the Big Spring hatchery and visit Gary and the other friendly DNR guys and, of course, mascot Woody.  It’s a fun place to tour and a great location to fish.  Let me digress just a minute…  The reason the name of the hatchery is “Big Spring” is that the spring that feeds water through the raceways is the largest spring in Iowa.


The raceways… Fresh spring water continuously flows through the fenced concrete runs (dumping into the river). Fish are grown and about 150,000 trout per year are stocked in 15 area streams.

After fishing, I was feeling the effects of the cold, perhaps mild hypothermia (confusion, clumsiness, slurring).  It’s kind of scary how that can creep up on a person.  It was time to warm up and set up camp.  Because of the desire for electricity, I chose to camp at Pike’s Peak State Park.  The temp was down in the mid-teens on Thursday night and the wind had picked up.  Cooking a good meal was fun and man, did that food taste great in the cold!

Despite the fun, this trip was a good reminder that it is January.  It’s cold… and perhaps time to stop camping for a bit.  Hibernation with the kitties sounds pretty good right now.  I’ve also got some other irons in the fire… more about that later!

Happy New Year to the blog friends!  Safe and happy travels!  For those of you down south right now, it must be nice!!!  Take care!

Thanks for visiting today!

Brad, Jesse James, and Jennifer
Jones County, Iowa


When it’s cold outside, the trout go into their own fresh water “raceway” at the homebase but it’s a one-way trip.   🙂


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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"

6 Responses to New Year’s Celebration with Woody

  1. Kathy says:

    Happy New Year!

  2. my_vantasy says:

    Camping in the snow and cold wind –you rock! The little dog and I will wait until spring. Happy New Year to you and kitties!

    • VanTrekker says:

      A very Happy New Year as well! I don’t blame you for waiting. It’s doable to camp in the snow and ice but a person sometimes has to ask if it’s worth it… On the upside, January 11th is a special day… I might be camping on that occasion. 😀 Take care – stay warm!

  3. LAguy says:

    I dreamed of working as a reporter for the Debuque Telegraph Herald. That was in the 60s when I was young and in the army in Hawaii. I ended up at small papers and the LA Times. My first visit to Debuque was kinda grim. I’ve never been to Decora, but it’s on my list.

    • VanTrekker says:

      It’s a beautiful state. A lot of people don’t like the extremes (hot and cold) but I enjoy it here. A person adapts. I’ve been to LA before and enjoy the climate but not as much as the laid back Iowa lifestyle. Dubuque is a cool place… It’s about 40 minutes from here. Sometimes I drive there and just wander along the river road toward Minnesota. 🙂