My Camping Unpackening.

I survived my thirty hour weekend. However, looking at my schedule for the next week, I saw I worked all 7 days, giving me essentially a 10 day week with no days off. Not too sure what I’ll be able to gin up for content, but I’ve got a few ideas clunking around upstairs.

Anyhow, I’m not too sure how the unpacking process goes in anyone else’s house, but in mine, it’s hectic. Even as a kid, returning from a camping trip meant an afternoon of hurried laundry washing, dish washing, and equipment unpacking, so it was done before we had to return to work or school or whatever. Things haven’t changed, really.

When we got back last Thursday afternoon, we started the process. The camper gets parked in the drive, and we begin to unload it. The first things to come out are usually the coolers, so they can drain. I brought in our dirty and wet clothes to begin washing them (though they still aren’t folded as of this writing- it’s my most hated chore). All the dirty camp dishes were brought in to soak. Since we fished so much this time, we had the added task of packaging up and freezing our catch. Since that needed to be done sooner rather than later, once the coolers were drained, I emptied them.

Drained of melted ice, set by the front door.

Drained of melted ice, set by the front door.

I have an order for this. It’s simple. The coolers, once drained, are set by the front door. I carry in everything that needs refrigeration, wipe it down, and put it away. Anything we aren’t keeping gets tossed straight into the big trash bin, or fed to the dogs. Additional water is dumped out, then the cooler gets carried to the back patio so it doesn’t track dirt through the house. It then gets hosed out, scrubbed down with bleach, and rinsed.

SAMSUNGOur backyard has no shade, so they get left here to dry out in the sun (nothing worse than opening a cooler that had soured water inside), and carried the short distance to the garage to be put away. This typically leaves my house looking pretty messy, though. The kitchen in particular.

You can see our reusable ice packs in the center of this photo. They also get soaked and sanitized before being chucked back in the deep freezer.

You can see our reusable ice packs in the center of this photo. They also get soaked and sanitized before being chucked back in the deep freezer.

After everything from the coolers is accounted for, we bring everything else back in and put it all away. Dry food, the guns and bows in this case, any clean clothes, camp cooking and eating utensils, the works. We do it all right when we get back, and I make sure to do it before I sit down or take a shower and the motivation deserts me. Once the camper is emptied, I get in there with a broom and the Shop Vac and get all the dirt off the floor and other surfaces, and it gets scrubbed down. Then Matt backs it up to the back fence where we keep it when not in use.

Since we got soaked to the skin on this last trip, and everything we were keeping outside the camper was soaked, too, we had the added task of drying everything out for a few days. This included our tackle box (a cloth one), all our camp chairs, and the trout fishing bag. I also soaked the minnow bucket with some bleach water and rinsed it well- some minnows died a hard death in there, and it was kind of stanky.

Once everything is put away or waiting to dry and be put away, I clean up me. And usually order in some dinner. This time it was pizza, because I had lactase pills on hand.

Is your camping unpacking process hectic, too? Or do you have it down to a streamlined art? Obviously, we’re still working on ours.

 

 

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One Last Summer Fling Before Fall and Life Catch Us Up.

Normally, my new posts go out on Mondays. But we got back from this vacation on a Thursday. I’m also working all through the weekend- closing the dining room tonight, and closing the bar on Saturday and Sunday. Those two days I also arrive at work by 11 am. They’ll both be long days. I’m not too sure how much I’ll have to write about come Monday, but I had an idea. You see a lot of how-to for packing for camping. I took some pictures of my get home, get unpacked process.

Anyhow. Last Monday I wrote about the salmon fishing we did last week Saturday. We stayed that night in the Appleton area with Matt’s brother and his wife. Sunday morning we hooked the camper back up, packed up the pups, and headed further north. We stopped at a little grocery store in a town along the way to stock up on food. It was a very pleasant ride all along country roads on a sunny day.  Farmers were haying, and that far north, we were seeing the outermost leaves on the ash and maple trees beginning to change color- in spite of temps in the 80s and up.

For the most part, we spent the week fishing. This was another National Forest campground- Richardson Lake. We camped here once last year in June, before I ever started this blog thing up. It was rainy and chilly the entire time, and we were stuck in a tent. At the time, the jon boat had only one trolling motor on a too-small battery, and the old Merc didn’t work. We also didn’t catch any fish.  Not so this time. We had the camper and the canoe. It was nice and warm most of the week. And were the fish ever biting. I didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked, as my phone and only camera blew through its battery fairly quickly. I need to remember to turn off mobile data that far in the stix so it isn’t constantly searching for a signal.

We fished mostly there on Richardson, but one day we did go to a different lake, where Matt’s grandparents live. That’s where we caught the big pumpkinseed and the big bass. When we weren’t fishing, we were visiting Matt’s family and tooling around the area.

An Adventure in Wet Pants and Smashed Toes…

One thing I wish I’d gotten pictures of, but wisely did not take my phone/camera for was a trout fishing attempt. The Oconto river near Matt’s hometown is cold and rocky. It holds brook and brown trout. One of his old high school buddies took us down there for trout. It was rugged and beautiful. When we picked his buddy up, we should have known we were in for trouble. On the phone, he specifically requested Mike’s Hard Black Raspberry Lemonade and jalapeno beef sticks. He said without those, there would be no trout. He was waiting in his driveway in a pair of chest waders. Matt and I were in shorts and sandals. We went offroad in the Durango for a couple miles, and then bushwhacked our way down to the water. When I said rocky, I meant bouldery. And loggy. When logging was still a big thing in northern Wisconsin, they’d floated logs down the river, and you can still see some of the bigger ones. The rest are all deadfalls. We spent two or three hours scrambling over rocks, under trees, and through icy water. Matt dunked himself repeatedly. I didn’t go in over my knees until the last minute, soaking my right side. No trout, only chubs and smashed, tender feet.

Besides Fishing…

Other than fishing, we did some shooting. I got in some practice with my bow and got it sighted in. We also did some trap shooting, and I got more practice with my shotgun. Based on my practice, the ducks and geese have quite the upper hand this year.

We also went coyote hunting on his grandfather’s farm. The first morning we didn’t see anything. But we went our last night there (Wednesday). It turned into a bit of scouting. We saw at least 5 deer. We also saw a flock of turkeys. Three toms, three jakes. We didn’t see any coyotes, but they did answer our calls in the distance.

Blurry turkey blobs. I need a new camera.

Blurry turkey blobs. I need a new camera.

However, we started to hear thunder rumbling. On the way over, we’d caught some weather advisories out of Marquette, Michigan and Marinette. We hoped it would pass north of us, but then the thunder got louder and this happened.

Not good.

Not good.

It poured. We got soaked. The deer got soaked. The turkeys got soaked. We were mighty grateful for the camper when we got back to the site. Our firepit was full of water, and there were a couple inches of water standing on the ground over most of the site. If we’d had a tent, we’d have been screwed. We changed into dry clothes, and waited it out.

It stopped raining, and Matt decided to throw a line in the lake. Earlier in the trip the dogs had knocked my sandals into the fire, leaving me with only my hunting boots or my leather boots. I opted not to go. After about 20 minutes, Matt shut off the generator on me and said “I’m vetoing you. Come down here”. He’d had a pretty decent bite. We pushed the canoe out for some post-storm fishing. I caught a tiny blue gill, which we used for bait. And Matt finally caught a pike. But the best thing was the light at sunset.

Thursday morning, we headed out one more time to fish. In the pictures above, we kept 32 of the fish we caught. We tossed at least that many back, and used some of the really small ‘gills for bait (only in the lakes we caught them in). Once the morning bite stopped around 8:30, we packed everything in, and headed back home.

A Return to Normal.

Three hours later, we re entered civilization and our normal lives. I work all weekend. Matt works all of today (Friday). Next month he takes over the Madison recruiting office (for the next couple years), and I have the rest of the season to finish out at the golf course (who knows how long the weather will hold). By January, I hope to be back in college classes so I can maybe get this godforsaken degree of mine an inch closer to done.

This vacation was, I think, just a pause or a breath before we both enter a bit of a new chapter. Dealing with recruiting duty with Matt just a canvassing recruiter for the last three years was incredibly hard. The first several months of him running the office will be tough as well, particularly since he’s starting right when school does. It will be a different kind of hard. I’ll be paying down the last of what I owe UW-Madison from two years ago (yuck, I know), and saving up to pay for next spring. Our one touchstone through all of this mess will be our outdoors hobbies. Hunting, fishing, all of it. It keeps us grounded, and it keeps us together.

Staycation

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My first fish ever caught on the lakes in Madison

So, after busting part of the engine on the riverbottom a couple days ago, we’ve fixed the shear pin and been out a couple more times.  We trolled for muskie and pike yesterday (Wednesday- I’m writing this Thursday night). I caught the little bluegill you see above while waiting for Matt to untangle the trolling lines.

It was a gorgeous day out on the water, even though we didn’t get any big fish. Lot of sailboats out, and the sunset was lovely.

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We deliberated Wednesday night about where to try next. Monona is an A1 muskie lake- not a lot of them, but the ones in there are trophy sized. Lake Wingra is A-2- smaller, but more numerous. I voted for Wingra, since we’d never been. We drove through town to the launch off Monroe street. It was another gorgeous day. We started on the west end of this weedy little lake, and were on panfish almost immediately.

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Your blogger has looked better.

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Matt’s pumpkinseed

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Most of the lake was like this.

We had a good variety of fish. Umpteen bluegill for each of us. I had a black crappie and Matt had a little perch and a bass. None of the muskie we were after, but it was still a lot of fun. We headed home to run a couple errands and begin packing for this camping trip.

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Matt got himself a lay out blind for goose.

Naturally that included a trip to Gander. I don’t want to talk about how much Matt spent there, but it was good to get one of the layout blinds out of the way, at least. Then we came home, and I began a cooking and baking bonanza. We have a large batch of chocolate chip cookies, a plum cake, a double batch of pancake batter, two pasta salads, a container of cooked couscous, prepped dry oatmeal, and a couple different snacks and sides.

We’re stopping over by Matt’s brother in Appleton first. He has a buddy who can take us out salmon fishing (!) Saturday. I drew up a big grocery list to get us to next Thursday, and we’re going to get everything up in Appleton or Green Bay to save us a few days of keeping everything on ice. So, depending on when we have access to internet/electricity, it could be a week or so until I put up anything else. Or maybe not! If I find some wifi or whatever.

Matt Sent Me Camping Pictures + Planning

Matt left early this morning for Cash(sp?) Course training in Kansas City. He’ll be back next week Friday, leaving me with one empty weekend, the rest of this week, and a few days off next week to fill. Yesterday, however, he sent me the handful of phone pictures I insisted he take last week before I got up north. I know I was wondering exactly what he got up to. Matt’s recount of the three days before I got there was brief at best, so the pictures he took himself helped fill it in, from Matt’s perspective.

Probably right before he unhitched the camper.

Probably right before he unhitched the camper.

Ada lake.

Ada lake.

From the beach, probably his first morning.

From the beach, probably his first morning.

Proof that the 17" bass wasn't a fish story.

Proof that the 17″ bass wasn’t a fish story.

I heard at least one night was made a bit more colorful by one of his old high school buddies.

I heard at least one night was made a bit more colorful by one of his old high school buddies.

And this stuff. Plus some Captain and Miller Light.

And this stuff. Plus some Captain and Miller Light.

Now the story of what Matt did without supervision is rounded out.  I’m wondering what I’ll get up to with the full weekend to myself. Of course, the weekend he comes back, I work Friday and Saturday. I’m taking the VW in for new tires + oil change today, so while it’s over at the tire place, I may stroll down the bike path near the house with the dogs, and see if the blackberries along it are ripe yet. If they are, I’m donning long sleeves and an entire can of bug spray to go berry picking tomorrow out at Sunny Slope. I want at least a pie, and maybe even a gallon carboy of blackberry wine. With all the rain we’ve had this year, I’m hoping the berry bushes are heavy. That’s if I’m not too late entirely. Besides that, I may try to bank fish somewhere. Maybe beg acquaintances with boats to take me with them. Hopefully I’ll find something to do.

 

Update: On that walk, I saw an older gentleman out picking berries in the ditch. I chatted with him and he said about half of them were ripe. That means berry picking this weekend is a go!

A Beautiful Saturday in the Northwoods

I was a bit short on time this morning to finish that post. However, the rest of the weekend went pretty well.

When I woke up, I took my camera to get a look around at the spot. In the brief phone call I had with Matt, he said he got the best spot there. He wasn’t wrong.

She towed beautifully, he said.

She towed beautifully, he said.

Fire pit, and the glow of sunlight on the lake.

Fire pit, and the glow of sunlight on the lake.

The dogs were super excited for a morning swim.

The dogs were super excited for a morning swim.

Ada Lake, 50 feet from our site.

Ada Lake, 50 feet from our site.

The only time Matt cooks for me is camp breakfast.

The only time Matt cooks for me is camp breakfast.

We fished most of the day on Saturday. In the morning, Matt took me to the lake behind the house he grew up in, and we caught a lot of bluegills, a couple perch, some tiny baby bass, and some green bluegills. We would barely get our bobbers in the water before a little ‘gill was running with it. The only ones we kept were ones that died on the hook. I got very badly sunburned on my legs. It’s still swollen.

The road to the canoe launch, which we missed the first time

The road to the canoe launch, which we missed the first time

Matt in the canoe.

Matt in the canoe.

A bad angle on the first green bluegill.

A bad angle on the first green bluegill.

The tiniest perch.

The tiniest perch.

As the day got warmer, the bite died down. We packed up and headed out. We dropped off the fish we kept at his dad’s house, chatted with his grandpa a bit, and went back to camp. After lunch, a swim in the cold spring water of the lake, and a nap, we were ready for more fishing.

At that point, I was beyond frustrated with my camera’s read error when I tried to make room on the memory card. It needs to be replaced very badly. No photos of the evening fishing, sadly. It was lots more little tiny ‘gills. Matt managed to reel in three good sized bluegills, though. He kept them to attempt to taxidermy them himself. I imagine that will be another series all its own. On my last cast of the night, I hooked into a nice largemouth. It was 12 inches, which isn’t too shabby. The limit up north is 18 inches, though. Back in the water it went.

The glow of both campfire and last light.

The glow of both campfire and last light.

We paddled back from the fishing spot, and made our dinner. Matt’s family stopped by to chat, as we were leaving early in the morning. Matt had to be back by 11:30.  We chatted and hashed out some ideas for a trip to replace the one we were originally taking to Texas. So far, the one sticking out is to head up to Door County and play on Lake Michigan or the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior. Possibly hire a salmon charter. It would be in August or September.

Anyhow, we woke up around 6 to pack up camp, hitch the camper up, and hit the road. We left with no major issues- I just separated from Matt to drop off the cell phone charger and thank you to the clerk at that gas station. Even with that and a second pitstop farther south, I rolled in maybe 10 minutes behind Matt. He went off to work for a bit, and I unpacked the camper. Being able to leave so much stuff in it makes the whole process so much easier. By now, the laundry and dishes from the trip are done, and all the dirt is swept out of it. But I’m ready to go again.

 

Who Doesn’t Like to Arrive at Their Weekend Destination at 1:30 in the Morning?

I got home safe and sound yesterday from my all-too-brief trip to meet Matt up north. Like I posted last Wednesday, he took off that afternoon, and until I made my way there late Friday night, I barely heard a peep from him. He called me once from his dad’s (rotary) phone, and I got one text, both asking me to bring up a fillet knife.

Work Friday night was steady at best, but since I didn’t have to be in at 7 the next morning, I was designated as the closer. Once I closed my tables, I busted my ass to get all the big closing stuff done. My closing partner OK’d me to head out early, since he could mop and close the other register himself. I sped back home to grab my bag and the dog, and got on the road immediately. This was around 9:45. Matt called, and I told him I was on my way.

It’s a pretty long ride, and it seems even more so at night. I was already tired, and once I got on my way, I forgot to turn off the GPS on my phone. I had it find the destination while cell and data signal was still easy to come by. The majority of the trip is super simple- head north on I39/I90 until just past Wausau. It’s about two hours of heading north until I had to exit and go east. In this case, two hours of draining my phone’s battery. I got to the area near the exit into country back roads where I have mostly no idea where I am, and with a sinking feeling, realized what I’d done. I pulled off at a BP, and ventured inside. I asked the clerk if she had either a universal phone charger, or one for my brand. Miraculously, she did. But even after futzing around outside, walking the pup around until he pooped, and scrubbing bugs off my windshield for a while, I barely had any juice. This awesome lady went to her car and brought me her car charger. She insisted I take it so I wouldn’t get lost. Sometimes the kindness of strangers is pretty humbling. On the way back yesterday morning, I dropped it off at the same gas station with a thank you note and a $5, asking her to have a coffee or a beer or something on me.

Once again confident that I wouldn’t lose myself entirely in the wild in the middle of the night, I got on my way, with the clerk’s caution to watch out for deer and bears. Cripes, I thought; if I hit a bear in my car, I’m as good as dead. It was already after midnight, and there was no shortage of critters (or what I suspect were drunk drivers- this is northern Wisconsin) on the road. I kept count: I almost hit 7 deer (not counting their buddies who stayed back from the road) and one porcupine (which my brain first read as an extremely large, extremely weird opossum), but luckily no bears. After what seemed like one, long, dark, piney eternity of cautious backroads driving, I was there.

It was 1:30 in the morning.

It was 1:30 in the morning.

Feeling like a dirtbag, I pulled into the campground as quietly as possible, hoping not to shine my headlights onto some poor tent camper’s face. I struggled to find a parking spot that wouldn’t leave the little VW stuck on an incline. Matt woke up, and we did some wee-hours vehicle shuffling. I calmed the dogs as best I could, and laid down.

To Be Continued…

 

 

A Quiet, Solo Wednesday Night.

This weekend, Matt was going camping, come hell or high water. It turned out to be neither hell nor high water, but rather, my work schedule. When I submitted my availability for the month, I left this weekend blank, like I always do when I’d rather not work. Weekends are about the only time we see each other for more than 30 minutes.

All the weekdays had available hours, but I still got stuck with working Saturday and Sunday. It took me about a week to connect the dots that this week was the 4th of July, and it took Matt until last week to tell me that he got a full 96 (4 day weekend). The last two summers, he’d had to work most of the long weekend. The joys of recruiting.

So, I spent part of yesterday procuring food for him and part of today helping him get the camper packed, etc. He left this afternoon. I’ve been frantically emailing coworkers to trade shifts, and while I successfully traded away Saturday to work yesterday, my early morning shift on Sunday is proving a bit more difficult. The original taker of that shift had to work at a different job, and it’s requiring some acrobatics to get it covered in the wake of that. Oh the joys of food service. If I can end up wiggling out of Sunday, I’ll be driving up north to him late Friday night after the Fish Fry. We’ll come back fairly early on Sunday, as he has to work at 11. We’re planning to camp, fish, and go shooting. Clays and targets, and I have my bow and an archery target. After that, he’s gotta get packed to head out to training in Kansas City. If I can’t, I hang out till he comes home.

Anyhow. He left this afternoon, and I spent the rest of the day picking up after him and starting to wash clothes for his two week training. The house is back in order, the lawn is mostly back in order and mowed. I weeded my gardens and cleaned the pond. I also got to cook dinner.

It was a simple one- I started some small venison steaks in a marinade yesterday. A little bit of some Cabernet we had lying around, some olive oil, some marjoram, salt, pepper. Then I made foil packets of potatoes, and of the green beans and peas I harvest from my veggie garden on Sunday and today. It all went on the grill. While it cooked, I looked over my plants. Everything’s coming along well.

Except for the part where I’m missing out on fishing and camping up in the Northwoods.

A Little Bit of Good News

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So, I’ve been working a bunch this week- lots of closing shifts, which means I’m not usually home before 10 or 11. Midnight in some cases, like last night. It was a busy, rowdy night at the bar, but everyone cleared out around 11:30, and we were able to close and get out by about 12:30. I checked my phone around 11, and saw that Matt had texted me. He was saying he’d done something awesome, and wanted me to bring him home a reward. He sent it around 9. Figuring he’d be long since asleep by the time I finally got home, I decided I’d get him ice cream on Friday.

This morning, we got up, and he tried to get me to guess what the awesome thing was. It was pre-coffee, and I had nothing to go on, so I failed that one. He’d tinkered even more with the old boat motor, and got her to start! Turns out that in spite of draining the tank 3 or 4 times in the last month and a half, there was still some water lurking in the fuel. Luckily, this motor is from 1949, and is incredibly easy to work with. Couple that with the fact that he got it registered for Wisconsin (it was previously registered in Iowa), and we can take her out again! Now we just have to remember to renew our Madison Lake Access Permit so we can use all of the 16 lovely, well-maintained launches on the Madison chain.

In other news, the camper sprung a leak. Honestly, it’s probably the leak that originally caused all that mold in the upper part of the front, where we had to knock out all the modly paneling. Matt’s been up there spraying over cracks with that nifty spray-able rubber stuff that Rustoleum makes. We’ve got a blower fan set in there to dry things out a bit now.

This weekend, we were planning on trekking back to Milwaukee to go to Summerfest. But I also have a Friday night off for the first time since probably February, when the golf course started up their Friday Fish Fry. We may make it out to fish tonight and a couple more times this weekend, and we’ll be able to do more than troll a quarter mile from the launch!

One Project Down.

And just like that, the camper’s done being painted. I got spray paint today and painted the shutters and we put them back on.

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I’m going to put the light covers back on tomorrow. I need to find something to un-fog the plastic on them. Besides that, my only idea is to try and paint the outlines of the branding decals. As it is, the paint lays on them a little funny. Plus, they pretty kitschy, neat things. The “TrailBlazer” logo is a pretty bad depiction of a Native American person, though. I may leave it off. But she is finally finished!

The Camper’s Painted!

Matt told me Friday night that he planned to start painting the camper today. So, while I was at work for twelve hours, he did just that. I got a text around 6:30 telling me he’d gotten pretty much all of it painted. I got home a little before 8 and it looked great. Time for a before and after.

The camper way back when we got it late last summer.

The camper way back when we got it late last summer.

A lovely glossy white.

A lovely glossy white.

We’d assumed it would be exterior house paint on the aluminum of the camper. I found this paint bucket on the porch, though, so maybe it didn’t go according to plan? I’m not sure, as Matt isn’t home yet and has some work-related activities going on, and I doubt he could answer his phone.

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So, for the camper that leaves painting the little decorative shutters, and it’s finished! I think I’m going to get some glossy spray paint and make them a green to match both the interior of the camper itself, as well as the Ditch Boat and our little fishing boat.