One of the many spectacular feature of southeast Minnesota are the pristine trout streams. The Whitewater River system is no exception. The valleys of the Whitewater Rivers – middle, North and South branches are a wild and great thing of natural beauty. This incredible area has been mentioned in my posts a few times over.
Whitewater Way | Photographers in the Mist | Mississippi Sunrise – Weaver Bottoms | Back-roadin’ – Preston/Lanesboro, MN to Red Wing, MN | Goodbye Sweet Face
This river has provided several years of recreation to my friends and I. Not that long ago we had a long-standing (10+ yrs) tradition of camping the weekend of trout fishing opener; some years arriving the Thursday before the Saturday opener just to spend some extra time camping along the river. We spend most of our time on a track of the South Branch outside of Altura, MN off 248. It was always an adventure to travel to our campsite from the main road.
The path was steep, rocky and muddy all at the same time as the minimally maintained road was carved from the ravine-side. The 400′ decent on the goat path was often challenging and never boring…this was 4×4 access only, but you’d be surprised how many attempted it in a regular car only to be met by extreme disappointment – both theirs and their parents. Crazy kids. The farmer on top of the hill has pulled out many from this muddy trout haven no doubt.
We a few years with snow on the ground and many years where it rained more than it didn’t. It did not seem to matter in our younger years. We came to camp with friends, our dogs and grill lots of food. We drank and we were plenty merry. Most of the time there were more dogs than guys – a pack of wild and crazy Labrador retrievers they were. No passer-by ever successfully fished the holes around our campsite. The dogs simply wouldn’t allow it. If you were not getting licked to death they were splashing around in the stream. Needless to say, only the true dog lover lasted more than a minute where we were. I always remember the ride home – stinky wet dog – crashed out on the seat next to me; never saying boo until we pulled in the drive way at home. This was a favorite spot of my Sweet Face. Terrah and Kosmo where there from the beginning and their offspring Kramer and Ruby join not long after. Terrah and Kosmo are have been gone a few years now. I sure miss those crazy stinky wet dogs.
Somewhere along the line, our tradition was dubbed “trout-o-rama.” I have heard said that, “All good things eventually come to an end;” I suppose that is true to a degree, but the memories still remain. I guess we just got old and more accustom to the comforts of life. Camping in these parts were totally privative. No running water (unless you count the stream), toilets or showers. There was a special place off to the side, back a bit among the brush where you never trusted where the toilet paper lie. You may or may not get that last statement, but if you knew the guys I spent most of my time with back then, you would know there was a joke or two in there and even a special name for that very place.
Those were not only the good times, but they were the best of times. I think about the trips we had and fun we made; I think of them often as I drive back through this enchanting area. Thanks Chris, Al and Jamie for all those years of fun. We will have to plan a trout-o-rama reunion at some point, but lets not wait too long, that place will not be walker accessible anytime soon.
This is preciously why areas like this need to be preserved, protected and cherished.