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An Outdoorsman’s Journal Buffalo City/Mississippi River camping trip

An Outdoorsman’s  Journal Buffalo City/Mississippi  River camping trip An Outdoorsman’s  Journal Buffalo City/Mississippi  River camping trip

Hello friends, This week’s column is all over the map and, as sometimes happens in the world of outdoor travel, it’s full of “this went wrong” kind of experiences. My 22-year-old daughter Selina Walters and I have taken part in some form of a winter outdoor getaway every year of her life during what used to be elementary, middle, high school and now college as she just finished her seventh semester at UW-Stevens Point.

This year, because Selina had to take a winter-term class, we settled for three days of camping on the ice near Buffalo City on the Mississippi River. Selina’s “friend” Will Meadows, who she met while working for the US Forest Service in Eureka, Mont., would also accompany us. Will is from the Seattle area and, though he is a well-versed outdoorsman, this would be his first ice camping/fishing experience.

Thursday, Jan 12 High 27, Low 17

The first sign of bad luck came before daylight this morning when my 550 Polaris snowmobile would not come out of reverse. Thankfully I was home and changed the plan to my 570 Polaris ATV. We had truck and trailer loaded as full as possible when we left Necedah and the mood was excellent as the five of us, including Ruby and Red, headed west.

When we hit the ice with truck and trailer, we knew we should not go too far as we did not know how thick it was. So, our plan was to do three 1-mile trips pulling three Otter Sleds of gear and human. Daylight would only last two hours and we had plenty of work to do, but the first thing that we did was put out seven tip-ups and Selina and I began to teach Will how to operate them.

At dark we had a comfortable camp built, though we did not have any fish action, but our mood was excellent as we had two more days on the ice. That night we listened to music, cooked a great meal, talked and laughed a lot.

Friday, Jan. 13 High 31, Low 23

They don’t call it Friday the 13th for nothing. So, it’s 4 a.m. and the three of us should be sleeping. Instead Selina has just started vomiting and it will not stop. Our good friend Gary Howe is driving up from Prairie du Chien, which is two hours south of us and I am picking him up at first light. By the time I picked up Gary, Selina was so sick she could not even say hello to Gary, who has been a friend of hers all of her life.

There was not much we could do but keep her warm and, in the meantime, fish and visit with each other. The fish are not hungry and my newest buddy, who I met the day before, hikes by our camp and that is Dan Keller of Cochrane. Dan is a retired contractor and, as we would find out one heck of a fisherman. Dan kept on trucking and Will, Gary and I kept fishing. Selina did not want to get off the ice, at least not yet, so we kept her bundled in her cot and my newest goal was to help Will catch his first northern pike. As hard as Gary tried for perch and we tried for a gator we were having no luck.

At about noon Selina told me that she thought I better get her off the ice as she had vomited 20 times. Next thing you know Dan hikes by our camp with a limit of jumbo perch and, a few minutes later, Selina announces she’s getting better. Dan was fishing about 400 yards away, so Will and I started busting camp for a move to paradise and that is a big job.

The mood is great and after camp was broke, we started building our new camp and Selina started going backwards again. She made the announcement that I would have to get her off the ice by dark and that is what I did. The brightest part of the day was that she was healthy for about three hours and had a real good time with Gary. Our only real fish of the day was caught by Selina, which was a beautiful perch.

Saturday, Jan. 14 High 34, Low 17

This morning I picked up Joey Dushek, Joey Snodie and Dennis Potter at the landing in the dark with my trailer that I pulled behind my ATV. We fished all day and had a real nice time as we all click really well and the bite was very tough. We kept maybe 10 perch and one northern pike.

An hour before dark we broke camp and the ATV and trailer were loaded to the hilt for the journey back. We made it and the guys “insisted” that I write that I, Mark Walters, affectionately called by members of our gang “Master Guide Extraordinaire” won the northern pike bet, which was for a buck a man and my comrades forgot to pay me!

We all know that life has its struggles, we plow forward and do our best!