Camping is all about making lasting memories

Published 6:00 am Sunday, May 3, 2015

Column: Woods & Water, by Dick Herfindahl

As the weather becomes more spring and summer-like my thoughts have turned to all of the years our family spent camping. I can look back on those times and say there were some trying times, but they were all good.

Before my wife and I welcomed our firstborn, we camped with a group of long-time friends, and we always managed to have fun. Most of the time, our outdoors activities consisted of Frisbee, whiffle ball or badminton, which was my personal favorite. This was just a lot of harmless fun that gave us a little exercise and a chance to compete without getting too serious.

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On one of our first camping excursions, we were with two other couples and Kenny Bauman. One of our group had a tent that was built onto a trailer and when folded out made a nice three-room tent with a floor and a porch. It was decided that because there was room for all of us we could just use Kenny and his wife Georgette’s rig. We had decided to go to a campground in a farmer’s field that was on Lake Elysian. We were told that the camp spots were on a first-come, first-serve basis, and you paid on the honor system by depositing the money in the slot on the end of a pipe by the gate. I can’t remember for sure, but I believe that it was two dollars a night.

Once we were there, we paid the money and picked a spot to set up camp. Setting up Kenny’s rig was not all that easy because it involved leveling the trailer and way too many tent poles and stakes for my liking. After we had finally accomplished that mission, we decided it was time to gather some firewood. Besides my wife Jean and me, the other adventurous campers were our friends Russ and Sue Laite. The girls decided that because men were gatherers they would stay back and plan supper, but before that plan was put into action another camper approached us with some news that we really didn’t want to hear. He informed us that we were in another person’s spot, and that we would have to move. We explained to him that it wasn’t just a matter of dragging a tent to another spot, but he was insistent so we began the taking it down. Eventually we had it moved, but we had to finish it in the dark.

After muttering more than a few expletives, we finished the task. Once again the gatherers went out pursuing firewood, while the girls waited patiently for our return. We had to climb a barbed-wire fence that surrounded the cow pasture, and after stumbling around in the dark and finding numerous cockleburs and thistles while ripping our shirts and jeans on the aforementioned barbed wire, we were greeted by the bellering of the farmer’s bull. We hastily exited the pasture with only some scraggly branches and twigs to show for our effort. As we neared our latest campsite, we were greeted by the three girls sitting around a roaring campfire. We asked them, “How?” They said that the guy that asked us to move felt bad and offered to let them use his firewood. First, more expletives, but then an appreciation for the gesture he had made in an effort to atone for all of our work.

Whenever I camped, I had one thing I always needed to have happen no matter what, and that was to be able to do a little fishing. It didn’t really matter what I was catching as long as I could fish. However, on this particular occasion I had visions of catching walleye offshore from the point on which we were camped. We bought some minnows the evening before, so we were up early and fishing at the crack of dawn. Maybe not the crack, but fairly early. It wasn’t long before we were getting bites and losing minnows with nothing to show for it. I finally had one on and as I reeled it in. I knew without looking that it was a bullhead. This wasn’t just any bullhead but one that went just a little larger than my minnow. All that we caught on this trip were those little bullheads, and I have to admit that this was one of the rare occasions that just catching any fish didn’t do it for me.

On another occasion, we were camping with the same friends at a Kampgrounds of America near Owatonna, and I had brought my trusty ultra-light along just in case. There was a stream running through the campground, so I had to see if there were any fish in it. After a few casts, I caught a sucker, which was about 6 inches long. I went on to catch more of those fish, and to say I was disappointed would be wrong. I hadn’t expected to catch anything, and the kid in me was catching fish, so this time it really didn’t matter to me what kind.

One Fourth of July weekend, our same group camped at a campground on Jefferson Lake. This time I had brought my boat along, so we were able to fish both German and Jefferson but had very little success. It was a very hot weekend, and the mosquitoes were biting a lot better than the fish. When we went to bed in our pickup camper, you could hear those pesky little bloodsuckers buzzing at all the windows. Sometime during the night, someone kicked the screen out of one of the windows and in the morning the inside of the camper looked like a blood bath had taken place. It’s like all of the mosquitoes were trapped in our camper and took it out on us because they couldn’t find their way out. I am starting to scratch myself just thinking about it.

Until next time, the weather is getting nice, and the fish should be biting, so take some time to get out and enjoy the great Minnesota outdoors.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers because they are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.

Dick Herfindahl’s column appears in the Tribune each Sunday.