"We like camping better!" --Raymond Alexander Kukkee

view of the north shore Critter Pond, KOA Canandaigua NY [c] 2009 jcb

Camping, when a river runs through it: Part I

By Cherry Kelly guest author

My earliest camping memories come from my pre-school days. The tent was not fancy, but belonged to Grandpa. It was a tarp type that he used to cover with hay, some ropes memories of tent camping, photo courtesy of US Forest Servicefor tie down and tie up to whatever trees could be found. Ground cover was also an old tarp. (I think they were WWII-era tarps -- they were smelly when wet.) At that time it was just an overnight camp at some fishing lake. Our only campfire was one we built surrounded by rocks.

I remember gathering wood from the nearby woods, as most of the lakes were surrounded by a lot of trees, had small beaches for fishing, and the camping areas were quite rough and often needed clean-up before you could even put up any kind of tent. Food and water were carried in containers from home in hampers -- canned food, as the coolers were not the greatest. We did cook the fish we caught as well. Kerosene lamps and flashlights were a must.

Our first tent with a ground cover was quite a step up! So, too, were sleeping bags instead of blankets, then the propane camp stoves and other camp equipment. The poles and pegs were a great improvement, too, as it allowed us to pitch a tent in places without handy trees.

A great memory: The fireflies winking in and out of the campsite and the sounds of crickets and bullfrogs calling. Backwoods camping in remote areas made some of the best memories.

...in which black bear interrupts our sleep:

We were on a camping canoe type trip where we had to portage between waterways. Small tents, sleeping bags, all water and most of the food had to be carried -- so it was definitely a survival-type camping trip.

black bear cub in a tree, courtesy of Tuckamore LodgeIt was in the very early hours of the morning when the black bear wandered into the camp. The snuffling noise woke up most of the group (about 8 or 9 of us -- don't recall exactly, but small group). Flashlights and lamps were lit in the various tents, and I could hear quiet voices.

"What should we do?" and "Is it a cub or grown-up?"

"Should one of us get out and scare it away?"

It grew quite hilarious until one of the guys yelled out, "bark!" Next thing you could hear were barking noises from the various tents. Looking out, I saw the poor young bear (probably a year old and alone) running to the nearest tree.

In the morning, as we loaded up the tents to leave, one of the guys asked, "What happened to the bear?" Our camp guide pointed up into one of the trees. There it was, stretched out on a limb, not quite asleep, but definitely treed.

...in which the creek makes a grand entrance:

The camper van, actually an older Econoline van, worked well with our tent camping -- tents for the boys. We pulled our van into a fishing campground after putting the boat into the water and tying it to the dock. We found a good spot to put the van and set up the tent beside it for the boys.

Other camper-type vans and tents soon joined us.Along came a tent guy (actually two brothers) with brand new gear, new boat -- the works. They set up their tent, and we all told them -- not a good place to do so. Iit was a creek bed area, mostly dry during the year, but...) These two 'city slickers' just laughed as they said they had the flattest area for their tent...yadda yadda yadda.

Of course, the second evening of camping we had a little rain. It was very difficult not to laugh at the 'city slickers' who had to make a very hasty move when the little rain sent water down the creek bed. We all helped them retrieve their 'floated away' items. The cooler was almost half way across the lake. (Good thing it was tightly sealed!) Rain cleared out by mid-morning, and fishing was quite good, amazingly.

...in which snapping turtle tries to drag away mother:

Since we are talking about camping and fishing, there is a story from a little lake called Trumble in northwest Iowa. This lake is somewhat strange as a ridge runs across one section of it. You can actually wade halfway across the lake and continue fishing.

There is a very rustic area where you can camp on the point near that ridge. We were there for early spring bullhead fishing. The tent was small, but fit our needs as we spent most of the time fishing anyway.

Worms don't bother me. Fact is, when I was younger I had a night-crawler business of my own. I'd go out with a flashlight and pick worms. Those went into an old fridge in special plastic box containers with a mixture of buss bedding and newspapers. Some were sold, and some used by our family. So putting a worm on a hook was nothing new for me, and fishing and camping were things that went together.

I've caught logs, shoes, tree branches -- and on that occasion, someone's lost stringer of fish with 8 live fish on the stringer. Some had probably escaped the stringer, but it was an odd day. It got funnier as the day went on.

snapping turtle photo courtesy of Tanglewood Nature Center Mom was barely five feet tall. She and Dad were fishing on one side of the point, and suddenly I heard her yelling for help. My two younger sisters and I ran back across the point to where we found Dad laughing and laughing. There was Mom, her line going out into the water, and she was being pulled INTO the lake.

Out from shoreline was a snapping turtle quite obviously hooked on her line. It was huge! Dad just stood there and laughed, telling her to cut the line; and Mom being stubborn said NO! The struggle went on, with her being pulled more than she was able to pull back.

About this time Dad realized that Mom was not going to give up, so he went over to help her pull in that snapper. He could not pull it in either! Then the ranger came around and, seeing the situation, went back to his car and got a gaff hook and waders. When they finally got that snapping turtle to shore we all stood back in amazement. It was the biggest one I'd ever seen, and the biggest the ranger had ever seen.

The ranger killed it with an axe, and put it in the back of his jeep to take back to his park office to display. It was there for many years until the office was destroyed in a fire in the 1980's.

After the snapper bit, we found the fishing was greatly improved. Later that day the ranger returned and presented mom with the clean front claws of that snapping turtle. Mom strung them together with fishing line and would often hang them on our main tent pole when we went camping.

Memories -- wonderful ones of childhood years and camping and fishing with Mom and Dad and my two younger sisters.

Reprinted by permission from Cherry Kelly.

See See Cherry's original post replies at Helium.com

See Molly O'Shea's River Runs Through It: Part II

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1 comment:

  1. Cherry, these are splendid!

    Thanks for sharing a few of your favorite camping memories here. Great stories, all.