Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Archive for the month “October, 2022”

October Camp and Colors

Driving down Sturgeon Valley Road last Friday, early afternoon, it occurred to me I was driving through a forest fire. The colors seemed to close in from both sides of the road. The yellows, oranges and reds were illuminated by the bright sun. The feeling passed but the thought stayed with me.

First to Arrive

I met Natch, Jake and Feral at a favorite remote camp spot, burnt clutch camp, which is near the Pigeon River and Grass Lake on Ford lake Road. I arrived on Friday afternoon and expected Natch around 9:00 PM so I had a fair amount of time alone. I pitched my backpack tent and readied the fire for later then went for a long walk on a trail that leads to the river. I hooked a Carhart beer holder to my belt and also a hunting knife on the extremely remote chance I might come upon a bear. I wrote a paper in college about bear attacks in national parks and the stories stayed with me. Most of the really gruesome stories involved grizzly bears, not the black bears found in Michigan, but I figure if it ever happens I’d rather have a knife on me. The reason I was even thinking about bears is a story told to me by my doctor, whom I had just had an appointment. She knows I camp and mentioned how a grizzly approached her and her sisters out west. On the same trip she was standing on an outcrop of rock, looked up, and saw a mountain lion staring at her. I have a very fun, interesting doctor. With camping experience!

The trail to the river.

After the long walk, which was hypnotic because of the colors, I had a sandwich at camp, played a couple songs on my camp guitar, then decided to walk some more. Incredibly Natch got off work early and showed up closer to 6:00. We took the same trail back to the river. The light was fading and when we turned back to camp believe it or not I heard a growl. A low, guttural growl. Possibly bear. The trail drops off on one side and the sound came from down there. It didn’t strike fear in our hearts or anything like that, we were working on some beers and feeling light-headed like you legally can in Michigan now. We kept walking. It was good. We lit the fire at camp and had some leftover pizza Natch brought along. We saved the cheese brats for the next night.

Saturday morning Natch and I went into Vanderbilt for some breakfast. On the way we spotted a bald eagle and took some photos. I stopped the car and we got out. It crossed the road, tree to tree, and didn’t seemed concerned about us. Natch took this photo.

Bald Eagle

We dropped thirty bucks plus tips on an “okay” breakfast so my earlier story of making breakfast in my trailer to save money reverberated. We headed to the river about 10:00 am and left a note for Feral and Jake to know when to expect us. The temperature was in the mid-sixties and warming up. The Pigeon River stays open past the normal close of trout season but you can only keep rainbow trout. Last year, same time, Natch caught a twenty inch rainbow. So it can happen. We didn’t catch anything but we would not have traded that slow wade up the river for anything. The colors along the stream were spectacular. We had no cares or expectations of another rainbow trout. It just felt great to be up north.

Luth at the car, Natch in the river

We had just returned to camp when Feral and Jake showed up. Jake brought the 1961 Apache Chief camper. They set up the camper and went bird hunting.

There’s some slashings along the bottom of a ridge close to camp (next to the trail to the river) and they started there. Feral walked on one edge of the slashings, Jake the other. Natch and I headed up the ridge to check out the view. We heard Feral shout and two seconds later saw Jake shoot. We could see him search for the bird. They kept hunting along the slashing and Natch and I did some exploring. Natch speculated that an old two-track trail we stumbled on led to a spot we could drive to. Last year we took a faint trail off Tin Bridge road down some hills into a field. The faint two track stopped at a north south intersection of another faint two track. Natch guessed if we took that trail south we would end up on the trail we had just discovered. Long story short, we drove over there but someone put up a berm on the two-track so people couldn’t drive in there. I am guessing the DNR fun police. It’s okay for logging companies to drive into remote areas of the game area and clear cut, leave a mess, and make some two tracks impassable, but two fishermen can’t take an old trail into an area to access the river or explore. But don’t get me started on that… I have too many examples of river access blocked by the DNR.

When Natch and I fished the Cornwall stretch Natch found an elk skull and placed it on a log next to the foot trail. Feral and Jake took the foot trail hunting, found it, and stopped for a photo.

Back at camp Jake and Feral wanted to hunt some more and Natch and I decided to replenish the firewood. We drove to one of the clear-cut areas and used his battery powered chainsaw to lop off the ends of small pine trunks sticking out of brush piles. It took maybe fifteen minutes to put a row in the back of his new truck. That’s another story. He traded in his jeep. At the last trout camp Natch talked about a mysterious, impossible to find electrical problem that rendered the jeep undriveable. He replaced the CPU himself, no luck, and took it to the dealer who also could not track down the problem. He finally found a mechanic that could diagnose and do the repair but by then he had no confidence it wouldn’t someday happen again. So he traded the Jeep in on 2019 Chevy truck. Nice truck!

Back at camp we had a visitor. A tame chipmunk. Feral and Natch hand fed it crackers. It was completely unafraid of people. Feral kept feeding it smaller and smaller pieces and at one point it decided Feral’s finger might be food and clamped down on that. It let go but surprised Feral, no damage done.

Fearless Chipmunk

At beer o’clock we built a fire and Jake surprised us with gifts. He’s a blacksmith and artist and he handed me a hand-forged fire poker. And, he made wrought iron bottle openers for each of us. Thanks Jake! I wished I would have taken a photo right then.

We knocked down some beers and laughed about the kind of junk guys laugh about. Built a fire. At some point we made the cheese brats to knock the edge off the beer. By ten o’clock we were exhausted by the very long busy day and I am sorry to admit we crashed early. The next morning we were all up by 8:00 packing up and saying our goodbyes for the season. And promising to do it again next year.

Pine fire.

2006 Scamp 16 Review

I spent a few years chasing leads looking for a fiberglass “eggshell” camper. I watched Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace as well as local RV dealership listings. I almost bought a Boler off marketplace but it looked like too much work for the price. What I learned was if you don’t call first on a listing you may as well forget it. And there are lots of scams, especially on marketplace with listing for a thousand dollars or some such low price. I didn’t bother with those but you can imagine the story – some financial crisis where money is needed or it’s my dads trailer and I just want to get rid of it caused he passed away. Can you send some money to hold it?

I found my Scamp at a RV dealership. They posted a listing without pictures so I called about it. They said they wouldn’t be able to post photos until the customer dropped it off. It was a trade-in. The person I spoke with asked if I wanted to get on a list so I agreed and gave them my contact information. Darned if they didn’t call two weeks later, the day it was dropped off. They said I was first on the call list and did I want to see it. I was there in a half hour and bought it on the spot. They were emptying the cupboards when I pulled up. I had a pretty good idea of pricing and expected them to say anywhere up to 15k. They said $11,995.00. The trailer had every option except a heater but hey.. light a burner in the morning to take off the chill. I am not figuring on much winter camping.

It’s a great trailer, designed well. It has a dinette at one end and bunk beds on the other. And plenty of counter space… next to the stove on one side, and next to the sink on the other. A very functional kitchen. Later models added a side dinette but why a second dinette? It only takes a minute to turn the front dinette into a double bed. The tabletop swings down into place with arms and rearranging the cushions is simple. The top front bunk is rated for 150 lbs but the lower bunk sits on top of molded fiberglass so that’s available for anyone including myself. I slept there one night after a trout camp beer night so I wouldn’t have to change out the dinette. No problem.

The main selling point for eggshell campers is they are waterproof. Keep vents and openings sealed and you have zero problems. According to Feral all regular campers eventually leak, water finds it’s way in. And that was in the back of my mind when I was looking. Something practical with a lifespan.

My Scamp 16 has a toilet/shower but not sure if I will use either since it requires clean-out. Which is not difficult, or expensive. Five bucks at a dumping station. It’s lightweight. Mine weighs about 1400 lbs according to the registration and I can tow it with my RX300 SUV. So that was a selling point also. Appliances include a microwave and refrigerator, best run with shore power, but the fridge runs on propane also which makes no sense to me but I tested it and it works. If you are looking at used Scamps, they have a 13 foot model (total length) which takes away counter space so my advice is don’t rule out the 16 foot models. That extra 3 feet weighs next to nothing and you get extras.

The Scamp didn’t get a lot of use this year. My wife was down from surgery for a while and we both caught Covid so there was quarantine and dancing around that. We took it to Sleeping Bear Dunes for a fast weekend but the year was tricky as far as getting away. I took it to spring and fall trout camps with my buddies where I became the camp cook which was fine. Really, I volunteered. It saved everyone money since we often went into local town restaurants. Now we eat for about the price of one restaurant meal. I bought a large All-Clad non-stick skillet which is indestructible and large enough to cook anything. I fried up sausage and made egg scrambles every morning. A couple minutes of cleanup and we were ready for the trout streams. No time wasted driving and waiting for slow service.

I gave my 1961 Apache Chief camper to Jake, Feral’s son (there is an earlier post on this). I know he will be as picky as I was about taking care of it. I should mention it is a main source of visits on the fichigan site. It may be the only one in the world with great, original canvas. You will find lots of photos over the years and some ads for it from the 1960s. Jake asked if I was going to miss it and I told him no, I have a new adventure ahead with the Scamp.

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