Thursday, October 30, 2008

Camping

It’s been a while since I have last blogged. Honestly, the only reason is because there hasn’t been much to blog about. But I did have an exciting and fun weekend, and I thought I would share my memories before they fade.

When the weekend arrived, we embarked on a camping and fishing adventure. The adventure included my friend and his brother, and me. Just men being manly in the woods…ya know…living off the land, killing and preparing wilderness food. OK, well, not really because we had a propane stove and coolers, but still.

So after getting everything loaded up and set to go, we left town late afternoon on Friday and arrived at the campground. After paying for our campground rental, we drove around to find the perfect spot. We ended up actually being the only people at the resort to be camping via tent.

Now, I imagine a couple of reasons for this. My first guess is because it seems people who would be camping at this place, would be using RV’s or paying for the nice cabins provided at the “resort”. My second guess, and probably the more accurate one, is because no-one was as stupid as us to be camping outside without a cabin or RV in the 30 & 40 degree weather at night like we did. I think I am correct on my last guess.

While picking out our campsite and unloading, our neighbors next door in an RV introduced themselves as Sam & I can’t remember his wife’s name. But he was a construction manager/supervisor or something and he was working on one of the big building in the town, so he was staying at the resort in his RV until January. He was a super nice guy and good neighbor.

So after setting up camp, putting up the tent, and unloading all the gear, we realized that we didn’t have any power for the air pump to blow up our air mattresses. There was a power outlet at our campsite for an RV hookup, but the mattresses couldn’t be blown up and then fit inside the door of the tent. So guess where we had to go? Yup, WALMART! We weren’t even at our campsite for a couple of hours before we had to make our 1st trip there.


After driving into town to get an extension cord, paper towels, and bath towels, we finally arrived back at our campsite and started the fire. After getting the first started, we started to prepare all our gourmet meats, bread, cheeses, and sauces. Luscious aged juicy beef cooked to perfection, rustic herb encrusted bread, with flavorful sauces with elegant colors…. Ok, so we had hot dogs with mustard and ketchup. But hey, who doesn’t love a good campfire hot dog?


After putting away some hot dogs, we rested and relaxed around the warm campfire. By this time, it was nighttime and getting COLD. So we cranked up the heat and put more wood on the fire and fixed some s’mores. The s’mores were good but it didn’t seem to warm us up any. I had thought that I brought enough wood for the entire weekend, but we ended up using almost all of the supply that we brought for the entire weekend, in one night. Once we couldn’t bear the cold anymore and were tired enough, headed to the tent to bed. I had brought 4 blankets to use as warmth, as well as long john under my sweats, and I still froze to death. That was a cooooold night.

The next morning, after a hot shower and dry clothes, we started to thaw out and make breakfast. We feasted on bacon, Lambert’s style potatoes and onions, biscuits & homemade gravy, and cheese eggs. Everything turned out perfect except the biscuits. Since we didn’t have a Dutch oven, we figured we could just fry the biscuits in the skillet on both sides and that would work. Well, it did, but we ended up burning half of them. That was the weirdest way to prepare biscuits I’ve ever done. Because they were pan seared, they turned out and tasted like little bread pancakes. It worked, but biscuit dough gets hot VERY quickly.

After “tearing us up some grub”, we clean up and got ready to head on out to the river. Now, I, being the guide, know where the fish are on this river. Because we ate breakfast first and didn’t get an early start, we headed out around 11:00 that morning. So we fished between 11:00 and 4:00 that afternoon. The worst time of day to fish when it’s the hottest, and the fish aren’t feeding. But needless to say, I still put them on the fish. We ended up keeping 5 to eat for lunch, and threw back around 10 to 15. Good day of fishing, and I was proud of my friends brother, who had never been trout fishing or had caught a trout before.

After our fishing adventure had come to a close, we pulled anchor, loaded up, and headed back to camp. Once arriving back at camp, we cleaned up a bit to get the “fish stank” off of us, and we started with the fish fry. Fried trout fillets, hush puppies, raw onion, and homemade slaw. GOOD stuff! Once again after feasting, it started getting dark and the cold air once again returned. So we made our SECOND trip to WALMART. This time getting more drinks, a card game (which we never ended up playing), and I purchased an electric blanket because I froze the first night.

Once back, we relaxed by the warm fire (Note- we found more firewood for sale that someone was selling within walking distance of camp. The dude ended up giving it to us for free because we only needed a handful of pieces), and turned on the radio in the truck to listen to the Razorback game. During the game, our neighbors Sam & his wife that we had met earlier yesterday, set up their dinner table outside with a fire and brought out their little flat screen TV to watch the Mississippi State game. After talking with them and chatting with them for a while, come to find out they were from Mississippi and they both attended Miss State and that was their Alumni school.

Note- While visiting with them, they wanted us to try some Oysters that they were eating. Now granted, I have never had an oyster, but the slimy feeling of the food just didn’t appeal to me, but I wanted to be grateful for their hospitality, so Adam and I both tried them. They were very fresh and didn’t have a “fishy” taste or a funky taste at all. To be honest, I didn’t think they even had a taste. All I could taste was the saltine cracker and cocktail sauce that was with mine. Although, I have to say that the texture and feeling of the oyster had almost gagged me. It honestly felt like eating and chewing a very soft snot ball. GROSS. But they insisted that we try them and they had proved a couple more from their stash. So even though I didn’t enjoy the first one, I am a very firm believer about trying new foods and new places to eat and giving them more than one chance. So I ate 2 more to get the feeling of them and to truly see if I would end up liking them… I didn’t. They still had the slimy snot ball feeling in my mouth and I didn’t enjoy them. My friend only forced down one, and I could see the pain in his eyes as he ate it.


After enjoying some football and company, and not so much the oysters, we headed back to our fire that was slowly dying out and Sam and his wife went to bed. So after enjoying some pipe tobacco and cigars, and some good laughs, I had to get the nasty taste of oysters out of my mouth. So I fixed a traditional Boy Scout foil pouch meal. I made a foil patch with aluminum put some oil and butter in the bottom, lined with cut potatoes, onion, and seasoned hamburger meat all seasoned and crimped up in the pouch. It was placed on the fire for around 10-15 minutes. The aroma and smelled coming from this dish is incredible.

So after more laughter, and more pipe and cigar smoking, we headed to bed. This time, when I arrived in my bed, I was greeting by toasty warm covers. My electric blanket along with 4 other blankets made me so hot in the middle of the night that I woke up sweating and my sweatpants sticking to me from sweat. So I quickly turned down the blanket and stayed warm the rest of the night.

The next morning was a little sad. After feasting on sausage and pancakes, we started packing up the gear and blankets and tearing down the campsite. We hung around and took our time packing everything up and sitting around and enjoying the last day at the campsite. Sam headed out to work and we said our goodbyes to our gracious neighbor and he welcomed us back any time before he leaves in January. After finally getting everything loaded up and set, it was around lunchtime. We started the charcoal fire and fixed our burger patties and grilled them to the yummy juicy stage.

After chowing down on our burgers, chips, and drinks, it was time to go. So everything was loaded and it was time to hook up the boat and go. When I turned the key to pull up the truck and hook up the boat, the battery was dead. YOUR KIDDING ME I thought! Apparently the doors open and the radio on from the game last night drained the battery down. Luckily, we had the boat battery to jump the truck battery. That was scary but made me kinda laugh later when I thought about it. Once the boat was hooked up and we were ready to go, we checked over the campsite and boded farewell to our beloved campsite, only hoping to return again one day.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fishing

So another Saturday of not being able to fish has come and gone. Oh I could have gone fishing, but the gas expense of loading up the boat, heading to the river, around 45 minutes one way, driving all the way back can be a bit of a strain on the wallet these days, especially with gas prices so high. Two of my fishing buddies were not interested in going, my dad was gone in Louisiana for a ballgame, my wife would rather snooze in bed all day, my brother lives too far away and is now raising a family, and my best fishin partner is recovering from Prostate cancer surgery. So needless to say, I didn’t go fishing this weekend.

I love to fish. Anyone who has been around me long enough knows that. I have a lot of things in life I am passionate about, but one of my favorite things in life is to fish. Now I know what you are thinking. “Any dummy can fish!” Well, you may be right, but not all people can fully enjoy the experience the way I like to. This is just a sample of a typical Saturday morning of fishing.

Yes, when the alarm goes off at 5:15 on my day off of work, I sometimes think, “What an idiot I am! The one day of the week I can sleep in for as long as I want, and I am getting up even earlier than I have to during the week!” But after getting washed up a bit and heading to the kitchen, the smell of coffee engulfs me. My face turns from an expression of crusty eye boogers, bad hair, and squinting my eyes to find the light switch, to one of those cheesy foldgers commercials when the person is taking a whiff of the coffee and their face lights up. There is just sometime about the quiet sound of clocks ticking in the background at 5:30 in the morning on Saturday taking in the fragrant smell of the first cup of coffee before a wonderful day of fishing. The taste and warmth of the coffee was better than the warm covers I was so comfortably nestled under just moments ago.

With Coffee mug, thermos, and fishing gear in hand, I head out the door to my favorite fishin partners house. There, I am greeted by the sounds of early birds chirping, the rattling of fishing poles, and the pitter patter of little toy poodle feet running to greet me. As I meet my friend with a handshake, and sometime a hug, I can feel myself getting excited. When we have all the gear loaded up and the cooler ready, we head out in search of God’s most beautiful places on earth…the Trout stream.

On the way, we usually start of by asking each other which part of the river we are going to fish that day, usually telling each other about stories from the previous week, quoting the AGFC river report, and telling each other about what we have heard through the grape vine, where the fish are bittin. Usually, the topic turns to religion, politics, economy, health, retirement, food, TV, etc… Once we arrive at our destination, the anticipation mounts as we prepare the boat and supplies for launching. Once launched and ready, we start the motor and are off to “our spot”. The smoking of the cold motor drifts down the already foggy river and fades into the fog. As we start to give it gas, the most wonderful and pure smell awakens my senses to fully awaken my yawning face; cold, clean, pure air. I wish I could breathe the oxygen that has been lingering over a foggy river in the middle of the Natural state every day. This air doesn’t have smells, smog, carbon monoxide, or a “city smell”. Once on the river, you don’t hear traffic. You don’t hear people. You don’t hear TV. You don’t hear cell phones. The only thing you hear is Nature... the sound of rapids going over rocks, streams flowing through forks in the river, bird chirping, otters running along the riverbed, fish jumping for bugs on top of the water, leaves and twigs falling. All of these things make up one of the most peaceful place in the world. As I light my pipe or even a stogy, and puff on the sweet aroma of aromatic tobacco, I am at my full extent of relation. That is until…my line jerks and I catch one of the most stunningly beautiful animals in the river. This fish with its hunter green, silver, gray, and bright pink colors highlighted by black freckles, are one of the most colorful fish you will ever see. Once we observe, reflect, and release the species back to its home in the river, we usually say a couple of our “sayings”. “Well, fish, keep your mouth shut and you’ll stay outta trouble” or “That was fun, I think I’ll go and do that again”.

The only problem we have with keeping ourselves totally relaxed is hunger pains that usually come around the 3rd or 4th hour on the river. At this time, we usually break out the cokes and snacks to hold us over until lunch. Once we have “had enough" of the fishin, and have caught pleny of fish and are out of coffee, we start to head on back to go get some lunch. On the way back to the boat dock, the cool breeze that was originally on the water that morning has been replaced by warm sunlight baking on our faces and necks. Once loaded up and strapped down, we head over to our most favorite eatin place after fishin, The Café. We always order sweet Ice tea, big ole juicy burger, and a big order of waffle fries. Once satisfied, we head back to Searcy. The conversation this time turns to our hard day’s work, what football games will be on, and how good the word “nap” sounds…