Up North Between the Raindrops

Central Park, Amber Iowa, West Lake


Hello and welcome to the blog.  TGIF!

After cooking out and camping at Central Park last Monday night, some more outdoor fun was desired.  Looking at that pond to the west and not fishing it was a shame.  I returned on Wednesday to try my hand…  Sadly, I only got one bluegill.  It was immediately released.  But the experience ignited the caveman instinct… and more fishing was a must.


The time to take another fishing trip was ticking away.  Next Wednesday I’ll be starting a part time job at a gas station.  In the meantime, the terrible 24 hour shoulder pain I’ve been having is all but gone now, thanks to physical therapy.  The absence of the pain has helped me feel better inside as well.  Now I know what Mom went through with her rotator cuff… It’s hell.


Squeezing in this Thursday to Friday trip was a gamble.  The forecast made it sound like Thursday’s weather was iffy at best.  I took off early — 4:30 AM or so.  The weather was forecast to be good for a while but there were strong storms 50 or so miles to the north of where I would be fishing in Clayton County.


A nice modern toilet nearby.. Well, at least it had a plastic seat!


By about 8:00 AM I had four fish on the stringer… and the stocking truck had not yet arrived!  Soon the skies darkened and lightning was cracking all around me.  I retreated to the van for a quick snooze.  Thankfully, it never did rain despite the thunder!


Thursday’s catch


A couple hours later I heard Gary’s stocking truck go by.  Hopping out of the van, I noticed a few more anglers had showed up.  After heading downstream I ended up with one more fish and a couple of Dryad’s Saddle (a.k.a. “Pheasant Back” mushrooms).


Dryad’s Saddle a.k.a. Pheasant Back. It’s one of the most common mushrooms in Iowa… and edible!


In the meantime, one of the old timers told me about these crawfish chimneys just a dozen or so feet from the creek.  When crawfish burrow they displace the mud and move it up and out of the their tubes.  The critters live in water filled tunnels much of the time.  It is thought that the chimneys help with obtaining oxygen.

Crawdad chimney


By this time it was about noon.  I ate a cold lunch and listened to the radio for a couple hours, finally taking a nap in the van during 85 degree weather.  Surprisingly, with the Fantastic brand fan running, it was not that uncomfortable.

Dirt cheap, tasty, easy to reheat, and you can put all kinds of stuff in it… It’s a great “lazy” camping food…


Supper was simple.  Back home I’d made a package of Knorr brand fettuccini alfredo (extra milk and parmesan) and added pre-cooked chicken strips.   Reheated on the propane burner, it really hit the spot!


He didn’t have anything to say but seemed intrigued.

In the evening I made a friend.  The little tree frog seemed afraid at first.  I kneeled by it and was even able to pet it a few times while softly speaking to it.

After watching a couple old shows on the laptop, the night’s sleep was peaceful.  In the morning I walked to the end of the stream access and limited out with 5 more very nice fish.  By this time the belly was growling for breakfast.


It always tastes better outdoors.


This scrambled egg dish had some good stuff in it.  At home I’d cracked a few small eggs into a plastic bag, beaten them, adding garlic powder and dehydrated onions.  Just before cooking I mixed in some cheddar cheese.  The meat was chopped, smoked jalapeno and cheese sausages that the store had discounted.  But the best part were the Dryad’s Saddle mushrooms.  The ‘shrooms were cut into strips and sautéed in butter before adding the other ingredients.

By this time it was time to head back.  We never did get rain in the area of that stream however as I’m writing this post Clayton County is getting pounded.  It’s all a matter of timing!

An awesome little hole… There were a couple fish lurking in there.

Thanks for riding along on this little excursion to the peaceful tranquility of northeast Iowa.  Take care and happy camping!

Brad and Jenny and Duke
Jones County, Iowa

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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 Up North Between the Raindrops

  1. Jo Harmon says:

    Well you sure brought home lots of fish this trip.
    I like those meals and the once that say 90sec. they are pretty much cooked and you can just through the package into boiling water or dump the contents into a pot and heat it up. Yes food specialy breakfast tasts so much better outdoors

    • VanTrekker says:

      Quick is often better it seems. I’ve camped for so many years but it seems like so often it’s nice to cook easier dishes and used prepped stuff. Tonight was spent making stuffed trout. Duke was a fan. I’m not sure when the next camping outing will be, depending on work. Stay cool down that way. Up here we are watching the rivers and the skies. Might have to build an ark! 🙂 VT

  2. my_vantasy says:

    Hello! By now, you should have started your new job. Hope it is going well and turns out being a good fit. I love your short excursions and how descriptively you write…I can imagine myself right there. Have you ever done any writing outside of your blog? A college professor once told me that writing is a talent and a gift. I think you have that talent. You could write articles about camping, fishing, cooking, vandwelling, cats…something to consider!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi! Yes, the job started on Wednesday and I’ve not had a day off yet… I must also work Memorial Day as well but it’s time-and-a-half. The new job is very physical and I’ve been putting in 9+ hours a day. They do not give a lunch break (which sucks but is legal in Iowa). The work itself is fun. I’m pacing and it’s buying catfood for the fur babies. 🙂

      Thanks for the kind words! I do enjoy writing and telling stories. One of the projects I’ve considered is a book about what many of the low paying jobs are like in this world. There are so many stories to tell – both good and bad – and I’m sure it would be entertaining. I might just have to give it some more thought!

      There will be a camping trip somewhere this coming week. The rivers are in bad shape but an overnight trip and some fresh air would be great! Take care! — VT

  3. John says:

    Leave some trout for me…were ya using spinners?

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi John! I was using Berkeley Powerbait and worms. On the first day they liked the Powerbait. The second day they wanted mostly worms. It’s always good to have several kinds. I do carry spinners but almost never use them. I kind of like to tease them with bait. On that last trip thought, I dragged the warm along the bottom and that sure stirred the fishies to life. 🙂 Take care! — VT