Camping may change but it will never get old

Published 1:01 pm Saturday, April 30, 2016

“Rainy days and Mondays always get me down” are part of the lyrics to an old familiar song. I’d guess there are times this spring when a person could get a little discouraged when it comes to the weather. We have had some days that were almost picture perfect and life was good, but this type of day only seemed to last for a short while. It seems that whenever the temperature is just right and the sun is shining, the wind is blowing almost off the chart. Such is the weather in this lovely state of ours, and I personally would not trade it for anywhere else.

This very same weather thing was one of the reasons that I eventually gave up camping on Memorial Day. There was a time when my boys were young that camping with the same group of friends was a tradition on Memorial Day weekend. We enjoyed some good times, but eventually it began to seem more like a survival test.

When our family first started camping, we had a pickup with a topper and a tent. I had purchased all the necessary gear for tenting like a Coleman lantern and stove, which I actually enjoyed cooking on. Camping was not without a lot of positives like the smell of bacon frying in the pan, roasting hot dogs and making s’mores, which the kids (of all ages) loved to do. Camping wasn’t camping without a campfire, and when we hit a streak of rainy Memorial Day weekends as the kids grew older they became less excited about the thought of spending a weekend in a waterlogged tent.

Email newsletter signup

The last Memorial Day we spent tenting was a disaster because it rained the whole time, and my youngest, Brad, came down with pink eye and shared it with the rest of the kids. In the years following, we were periodically reminded of that. Shortly after that trip we purchased a pickup camper, and life was much better because even if it rained we had a dry place to sleep and hang out.

As the kids grew older, the camper seemed to get smaller and smaller and eventually seemed cramped. To this day, I still look back at the vacations and camping trips that we spent in that pickup camper, and I get a warm cozy feeling. Those times were actually very good times that we spent as a family — just simple times but fun times. We did spend a lot of time up north fishing and camping, mostly at Spider Lake, and those were times that made memories that will last a lifetime.

Yes, camping can be a little work, but it is still a great way to spend quality time as a family. A guy can purchase a tent, a few camping accessories, put on a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt, grab a hatchet and be “that guy” for a week or maybe just a weekend. At the end of the day, there is nothing better than sitting around a campfire letting your mind get lost in the magic of the dancing flames. Yes, that is when you can tell yourself that life, at least for the time being, is pretty darned good.

I have to admit that even after we had our camper I had this burning desire to tent. Maybe tenting made me feel younger and closer to nature; or maybe I just didn’t want to admit that I was growing older. My last three tenting experiences were always at Spider Lake. There was one particular time when I decided to head to Spider alone for some fall fishing. Brad was still in school and his older brother, Brian, was working. Brian said he would let me use his truck, so I headed north to Spider Lake to try my luck. After I had pitched the tent and set up camp, I was ready to hit the lake. That night it rained and rained and rained about 5 inches worth. I had what I thought was a pretty good tent, but it leaked in every possible place and there seemed to be a river running under the floor. That night I slept in the front seat of that little S-10 pickup, which was cramped to say the least. The next day, I put the coolers and other things on the cot in my tent and made a bed in the back of the truck, which had a topper.

It rained periodically the rest of the time I was there, but I fished and took comfort in knowing that I at least had a dry place to sleep. Even after all the adjusting that I had to do, I have some good memories of that fall fishing trip.

I tented another couple of times after that: once with my brother-in-law, Mike, and another time with my son Brian and his brother-in-law, Jeremy. Both times we had more than our share of rain, but at least the tent stayed dry. Mike and I had pretty good fishing, and all of the rain, which was quite a bit, came at night so the days were mostly dry and sunny.

When I fished with Brian and Jeremy, it rained almost every day, and the night sky was so clear that you could count the stars. That week it was extremely cold for July, so we put the grill in the screen tent that we had brought along and used it to burn firewood so that we could warm up and dry off. Considering the cold and all of the rain that we’d had fishing was still actually pretty good.

Looking back at those trips with all of the little inconveniences, I would do any of them again in a heartbeat. These are memories of good times that I will always cherish.

Until next time, it’s time to get outdoors, wet a line whenever the opportunity arises and if you don’t want to fish, it’s still a great time to take a walk or ride your bike around the lake.

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


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