Fun, Fishing, and Food Up North – Day 1

Marquette / MacGregor Iowa along the river road


Note:  This blog contains more food references than normal.  One of the friends asked about recent health problems.  My diabetic condition worsened (A1C = 9.5) over the winter and spring.  The breathing also got very bad.  But between hard work, cooking healthier, and such I’m doing better and losing weight… although the sugars are slow to reflect this.  This trip featured a LOT of fruits and vegetables and I’ll share some of the ideas for fun, healthy eating.  It could make a person hungry!


Hello and welcome to the blog!  I took an amazingly relaxing trip up north on Sunday and Monday.  It was so therapeutic!  I’ve come to the conclusion that a two day trip is much better than a one-day journey.  Between planning, packing, driving, cooking, etc. it can actually be a lot of work – almost stressful – to go for just an overnighter.  It’s made me rethink about how to do these van treks.  More time out is better!


Yellow River Forest – Little Paint Campground.  Though beautiful, the yellow parsnips plants secret and acid that will cause sever boils!


On Sunday I procrastinated and packed things as time allowed, not even getting underway until around 2PM.   By the time I got to Allamakee County 90 or so miles away, it was pushing 5:00 PM.  Allamakee is the farthest NE county in Iowa, touching Minnesota to the north and Wisconsin to the east.  There was only an hour to trout fish at Little Paint Creek that night but it was no biggie; a good healthy supper and peaceful night of sleep sounded better.

Trout and murky water don’t mix.  No luck here!


The water was high and murky due to recent rains.  If the fishing wasn’t bad enough Sunday night, the gnats and mosquitos were terrible.  No biggie – this trip was about relaxing.  Fishing could wait.  I decided to hike back to the van which was about 3/4 mile away.  The next step was to cook supper.  It seemed logical that the smoke of a fire would drive the bugs away… and it did for as long as it took to eat and enjoy the sunset.

Stir fried veggies with peanut sauce, fresh cherries, and sweet corn.


The fruit / veggie plate was actually enough for supper by itself.  The stir fried veggies with peanut sauce is a favorite.  That recipe will be on the next post for Day 2.  It’s very satisfying, cheap, and easy to prepare.  But at the same time, the little bird over the coals was also a tasty camping food.

Cornish hen with Cajun spices.


The intention was to do a rotisserie-cooked, Cajun spiced Cornish hen.  These little birds are just the right size for a meal.  Unfortunately, I forgot the charcoal lighter fluid and had to try to ignite all this with piles of collected junk mail.  I think AARP supplied most of it!  The coals were slow to take off so I covered the disposable pan with aluminum foil and placed coals on top.  The bird was to die for.  The peppers on the left were stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon.  The bacon gave the small hen even more flavor.


Out of 125+ campsites, on Sunday July 7 there were only a half dozen or so people camping!


The overnight comfort was like none other.  On Sunday night the low temperature was around 64 with low humidity.  It was chilly but very comfortable in the van and 9 hours of sleep seemed to take minutes.  It was one of the best nights of camping sleep as far back as I can remember.


Egg Beaters make fantastic omelets!


About 6:00 AM I got up and left the campground in search of fish.  The appetite kicked in and I stopped at nearby Paint Creek (aka “Big Paint”).  The stream was in even worse shape – high and muddy.  Instead of fishing, I cooked a tasty breakfast.  I love omelets and the Egg Beaters product makes delicate, healthier dishes.  This one had some smoky bacon cheese and veggies inside.  The square griddle pan is indispensable for these trips!


United Methodist Church near Luana, Iowa


The rest of the second day was scenic and brought fishing fun and really pretty pictures.  Those will be on the next update.  Throughout the first and second days, life was so happy.  The pain from working 10+ hours a day (with no breaks) on my feet was gone.  The drama from work was in the rear view mirror despite the phone ringing (and not being answered!).  Big Sis taught me about boundaries and the importance of setting and enforcing them.  If a person doesn’t his/ her boundaries, nobody will… and most jobs any more don’t care one iota about your happiness and mental well being!


Dashboard ornament of Tiger Lillies picked along the roadside.  Reminds one of the flowers in a VW Bug


For now that’s about it.   There will be another post on Thursday recapping Monday.  This was turning out to be a very enjoyable trip.  Whereas I used to cook crazy new dishes, the healthier stuff was actually easier to concoct and has been helping the body feel better as well!

Take care and thanks for visiting.  Please check back in a couple days for more fun pics!  Safe 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"

4 Responses to Fun, Fishing, and Food Up North – Day 1

  1. Jo Harmon says:

    Sounds like a delightful trip. Glad to see you are eating better. I use those eggbeaters but the store brand as they are so much cheaper. I’ll be looking forward to your recipes.

    From reading lots of YouTube camping videos I learned a lot of things for starting a camp fire. I think the cheapest and easiest is the cotton ball method, and vaseline. You just add vaseling to the shredded cotton and add some dead grass or weeds over the top once it lights.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jo! Thanks for the note about the cotton balls and Vaseline. I’ll try that. That would be a good thing to put on the blog, too. I agree that the store brand for those eggs beaters would be cheaper. They are so high priced! Take care! 🙂 🙂 VT

  2. my_vantasy says:

    Mmm…all of those fresh fruits and vegetables look fantastic! After staring at your dinner plate, I may have to pick up some sweet corn this week. I love fresh cherries, but they are pretty pricey in my part of Ohio. I definitely agree on two night stays versus one night out. In fact, I like three nights even better. I am happy to hear that you are feeling better and being proactive with your diet and coping with stress. I need to follow your good example!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi! I’m really trying with adding fruits to the meals. That and the new meds are helping a lot with the blood sugars. The tastes and colors of the fruits and veggies are so yummy! I’ll definitely do something with lots of veggies on the next outing (later this week, maybe?) Take good care!