How a Tent Camping Girl Acquired and Renovated a 1966 Indian Trail Camper

All last week, Matt was planning on spending the entire weekend sleeping and doing nothing. I’m pretty sure he imagined it would be a nice, recuperative 48 hours, after two weeks of long days and little sleep, and a lot of stress.Saturday during the day we kind of puttered around the house. We tried working with the deer hides.

Working my stiff, greasy doe hide

Working my stiff, greasy doe hide

We made some headway, but Matt wants to try to buy an old dryer to tumble them in, because they are extremely stiff. Saturday night we attended a work function for Matt’s office. Sunday we couch potato-ed it up.

Only, Matt overestimated his ability to handle inaction. Twenty minutes after we got up late on Sunday morning, Matt was telling me he was bored. While he ate breakfast. Asking me to brainstorm for something to do. Well, last week and the week before, he went on a Gander Spree and also bought a new shotgun. So shopping at the outdoors stores was out.  So, we didn’t do a ton this weekend, except to begin plotting a trip for midsummer before his promotion takes effect. We want to trek down to Texas for gator gar bowfishing, and hog hunting, stopping to visit some of my family in Missouri on the way.

Anyhow, since we didn’t do much of anything outdoorsy (we barely left the house), it gives me a chance to tell a story from last year.

1966 Baby.

1966 Baby. That’s pine tar on the top.

Last year, we took our first bowfishing trip after reading all about it and purchasing all the gear for it. We decided to go big for our inaugural trip, and go down to my home area for the asian carp on the Illinois River. It was early August, hot and dry. We were in the midst of the drought, and we took our little tent with us, not thinking much of the weather. Our first night passed just fine. We set up camp in the afternoon, went off to acquire our fishing licenses for Illinois at the local Farm and Fleet, and then set about finding a boat launch. We bowfished until the wee hours, and were moderately successful. We slept that night, woke up, had breakfast, and went out the next day in the heat.

There was basically no action during the day. The Illinois is muddy enough water that you can’t see more than 3 inches into it. The only carp jumping were doing so in the wakes of the barges on the far side of the river, and we aren’t stupid enough to go play in the shipping lanes. So, we pulled the boat up onto a shady bank to play in the water with the dogs. We lounged, picked at rocks and driftwood, poked at fish carcasses, the usual.

Well, I’d been away from the prairies long enough to forget how fast summer storms roll up. Plus, we’d barely had any rain all summer. I spotted dark clouds in the distance, and warned Matt we should head in. We packed up the boat, headed to the launch, and loaded everything up in a hurry. We crossed the bridge in Utica, and made it through that little town before big, fat drops started to hit the windshield of the truck. We had neglected to check the weather, and thus also neglected to put the rain fly on the tent. Matt laid on the gas. As we parked the truck near our walk-in tent site, the skies opened up.

The campground we chose required us to put our boat in a different parking area than the one near our site. Matt rushed off to unhitch the boat, while I ran like hell to get the fly on the tent to salvage our bedding, and then attempt to pack up anything else. This was a nasty storm. Sky-turning-yellow storm, with high winds. Within seconds, I was soaked to the skin.

Putting the rain fly on the tent was apparently a two person job. And even if it wasn’t originally, it was in that wind. So, I secured it as best I could. By then, Matt came running up to tell me the tornado sirens were going off, so we ran back to the truck to sit out the storm with the dogs.

It rained for over an hour. We dozed in the truck in our wet clothes. When it let up, we went to check on our things. The tent was still there, but the rain fly had been blown loose. Both of our sleeping bags were dripping wet. My backpack of clothes was soaked through. Matt’s was miraculously dry. Most of our food was wet. The firewood was wet. The power at the campground was out. The dryers provided in the main building were useless. We wrung out our things as best we could. We slept in damp sleeping bags on wet foam pads. We began to mutter to each other “Damn tent…” “…Camper.” “Yeah, camper.” When we went out bowfishing that night, we were hugely successful, though.

When we got back to Madison, Matt immediately began to scour Craigslist for campers. He found one pretty quickly, north of where he was from. It was $200. He had his dad go look at it for him, and pick it up for us. Then he trekked up north one evening to bring it back down. It… needed a little help.

Orange floral curtains- check. Scratchy orange upholstery- check. Mold- Double check.

Orange floral curtains- check. Scratchy orange upholstery- check. Mold- Double check.


I took out all of the upholstered surfaces, bleached the floor and counters, rubbed lemon Murphy’s Oil Soap into all of the panelling. I covered my nose and mouth and knocked out all of the moldy panelling in the front. Then, I measured and I went to the fabric store. I resolved to pick sufficiently kitschy fabric for this old bird of a camper. And I began to sew.

The cushion covering fabric is tastefully plaid.

The cushion covering fabric is tastefully plaid.

I sewed and sewed. It took a little over two days of sewing, and then stuffing the aired-out foam cushions into their new clothes, and hanging the curtains. And the fabric store was just short enough fabric. I still need to buy enough to cover two more cushions. Matt also needs to put new panelling up when I took out the molded stuff. Eventually, I hope to either paint the exterior of it, or find a way to really shine it up.

There are postcard likenesses of moose, bear, and ducks on the curtains. She's from the Northwoods.

There are postcard likenesses of moose, bear, and ducks on the curtains. She’s from the Northwoods.

The weather is supposed to warm up this week, and be in the 50s by the weekend. Not only am I thrilled to death, but we hope to get the camper finished. I’m going to spend the week sewing. And maybe if the ground softens up, we can start on the boat trailer. I’ll be making a post about that tomorrow.


7 thoughts on “How a Tent Camping Girl Acquired and Renovated a 1966 Indian Trail Camper

  1. Pingback: Update on the Camper Reupholstering, Etc. | Play Outdoors

    • Thanks 🙂 I like the old girl, even if she was/is a lot of work. We still haven’t had it out camping, though. If we can get it finished this weekend, we may take it on a trout/salmon fishing trip. And we’ll definitely be taking it to bowfish on the Illinois this year. I definitely recommend Craigslist for this, if you have a robust one where you live. As noted, this old girl was only $200, plus the maybe $50 I spent in fabric. The new panelling may very well end up being some free panelling we got of Craigslist as well. Just your own hours of work.

  2. Pingback: Dispatches from Matt’s Toybox: The 20 Foot Boat in a Ditch Edition. | Play Outdoors

  3. Pingback: If You Lived Next Door to Me, You Might Be Annoyed, Too. | Play Outdoors

  4. Pingback: Daily Prompt: Come View my Personal Creative Space. | Play Outdoors

  5. Pingback: Wild Food: Hunters Eat Salad, Too. | Hunt/Fish/Play

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s