Camping and Mississippi River Fun

Looking upstream toward the dam at Guttenberg, Iowa


WARNING … This post contains two FOOD pictures.  They might make a person hungry for outdoor cooking…

Hi and welcome to the blog!  It felt so good to get some camping time in.  Things were crazy at work the last couple of weeks after the derecho storm that wiped out 50% of the trees in Cedar Rapids.  If I’ve heard correctly, 12,000 truckloads of tree parts were taken away.  Now the power is back on there and far fewer people are coming to Jones County to shop and eat.  Unfortunately, we have another prediction of severe weather on Friday.  Oh joy!

During the busy times the last two weeks I had cashed in on the extra hours available, working 50% more hours than normal.  The stress and hard work took a toll.  Camping was more of a necessity than a wish!


A sign at a shop in Guttenberg… It brought some chuckles on Facebook.


On Monday the plan was to get up at 4AM and head north… after working three shifts between Saturday morning and Sunday noon.  Instead, I slept all day Monday to the point the neighbor lady thought something was medically wrong with the author.  It’s so nice that we watch out for each other!  But then the fishing poles came out and the van was loaded up.


Guttenberg (marked “G”) is only about 60 miles away but has some of the most beautiful views in Iowa. Home is the “A”


I didn’t leave town until nearly 5PM on Monday evening.  The van arrived at Buck Creek campground (about 70 miles away, just north of Guttenberg) at approaching 7:00.  There was enough time to catch a small trout (which was tossed back) at the same time I cooked a triple onion (onions in the meat, on the meat and on an onion bun)  bacon cheeseburger.  Buddy Steve’s tomatoes made it all the better.  The meal hit the spot just before the sun set for the night.


As an middle aged bachelor, it seems the only healthy meals are when out camping!  Note the scars on the right hand.  That’s where Mister Duke bit Daddy a few months ago!


Though pretty tired in the evening, this trip had to have some normalcy to it – some fun other than just sleeping – so I watched an episode of T.J. Hooker (the cop show from the 80s starring William Shatner).  Next to the bed was a bag of jalapeno popcorn recently purchased and forgotten about.  You can’t beat a favorite TV show, a favorite snack, and doing a favorite hobby (camping) at a $5 campground.  The sleep afterwards was blissful!


Overlooking the Mississippi


On Tuesday morning I left around 6AM, for the neighboring town of Guttenberg along the Mississippi River.  The fishing breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs with cheese and hash browns.  The muffin had some sausage but also a homemade, sugar-free, red raspberry jam.  (Red raspberries, Splenda, lemon juice, several jalapenos and a couple Thai peppers).  The jam was intense and delicious.  The fruit was topped with fat free yogurt.  The granola?  Some packets of it were gifted by a boss when the yogurt parfaits were discontinued.


Why is it food tastes so much better outdoors?


After the delicious breakfast, I went down to the bait shop and paid Ed for a ride by boat to the barge which is anchored below Lock and Dam #12.  In days past, the barge was filled with people angling.  On Tuesday, nobody else was fishing, perhaps due to the heat!  The temperature was in the mid-90s.  Sadly, the fish were nibbling lightly; I only got 6 sheep head where usually there would be way more.  Part of the problem was that there were turtles of all sizes all around the barge.  Turtles will kill the fishing action as the fish flee for their lives.  Oh, how I wished I’d had some leftover steak or hot dogs to catch one of the terrapins!


The fishing barge with tables, benches, chairs, and porta-potties. This is pretty close to Glory, in my book!


After 5+ hours of fishing, the worms ran out.  When ready to depart, a person calls on a radio for a ride back to the bait shop along the shore.  Using their cleaning table, I filleted out the fish you see on this cutting board.  Sheephead fish are very difficult to cut through due to scales – I had to keep sharpening the Buck knife.  (An electric knife is on Santa’s list)  Though there was shade from a canopy by the cutting table and on the barge, the weather was still hot and muggy.  More than a gallon of fluids went down the hatch and got sweated out.  It felt like a good cleansing…


12 nice fillets from these guys mean a few meals for the freezer this winter. Drum (Sheephead) taste much like bass, with light white flaky meat.  Note the folding Buck fillet knife.  I have two and swear by them..


This trip re-ignited the desire to be outdoors and balance work with relaxation and that will happen again soon. The weather is going to change from the mid 9os to the upper 70s by this weekend.  Camping will occur more often and I’m planning a 5 day vacation in September to do some outdoor things along with Jenny.  Mister Duke prefers to be an indoor sophisticate.  (sophisti-cat?)


Jenny and Duke are reminders that love is what life is all about… Though we disagree at times the love bonds us together.


I know that 2020 has been a rough year for many.  Heck, I don’t know what the future will be for me and the kitties and the home base.  People are stressed nationwide with the Coronavirus, politics, maks, all that stuff.  We just have to stay positive and thankful for every day God has given us.

That’s about all for now.  There will likely be more fishing this week and next.  There is another pond that will require walking but is said to have large bass and turtles.  We’ll have to see what happens!  The kids at work would say “I’m down for it…” which I think means it sounds doable.  Stay tuned.

Take care and thanks for visiting.  Safe and happy camping and outdoor fun.  Best wishes from the camping buddies in corn country!

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 Camping and Mississippi River Fun

  1. Jo Harmon says:

    I’m sure happy you got to go camping and fishing after all those hours. Your food always looks so good and yes food tastes so much better when out camping. We are still in triple digits but looks like they will drop into the mid to high 90’s BUT with high chances of monsoonal weather. But that’s OK we really need rain. Hope you get to do your 5 day vacation and camping trip

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jo! It was fun out there. Sounds like it’s still plenty hot where you are. It’s around 80 right now. It would be nice to go out but with the insurance adjuster coming this week, sadly the days off are going to be spent doing some overdue housecleaning. The boss said it’s cool about a vacation later this month. It’s cooling off fast in Iowa. A week from now they are talking 69 for a high and 47 for a low! Take care. Watch out for the monsoons! — VT

  2. my_vantasy says:

    Nice to see you went camping! I don’t fish, but that barge looks fun. I could totally sit and read or do word puzzles there. Love all of the fruit on your plates. I am starting to eat healthier again after about two months of fast food and frozen dinners. Fingers crossed for you that the insurance adjuster is helpful.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi! It sure felt great to go camping! That barge is a lot of fun. In fact, the reading and word puzzles would be much fun. Under the canopy you could sit and enjoy a nice breeze and a plate of tasty fruit. I’m really eating a lot of fresh fruits and veggies lately. I will detail that in the next post. It’s a cool program through the state of Iowa. 🙂 Take care! I’m really hoping for the insurance adjuster to help me out. There’s also a State of Iowa disaster recovery program that might assist as well. Take care! — VT