One winter a friend of mine Ken and I decided we were going to try roughing it for a week at Lake Berryessa. We went to a place we called the Fill. Some of our friends we had invited told us that camping at Lake Berryessa at that time of year was not just roughing it, it was nuts. A couple of them had tried it before and had only lasted for a couple of days because of the rain and cold. So naturally we were going to prove them wrong.
The first day we spent getting our camp all set up. We had our stove, Coleman lantern, sleeping bags and a Coleman catalytic heater and firewood for our campfires. We did have my pickup truck with a camper shell just in case it started to rain. We built a fire pit, collected some pine cones to help start our campfires, and we also had some fire starter sticks.
Roughing this up
We made some beds on the ground out of pine needles and whatever else we could find that was soft for under the sleeping bags. Since we were roughing it, the only food we took with us to eat was two loaves of French bread, a ten-pound sack of potatoes, a dozen eggs and three five-gallon bottles of water to use for cooking and drinking. Since we were going to be roughing it, we didn’t bring any meat because we were going eat all the fish that we caught at the fill. We had fished there many times before and had always had excellent luck catching everything from trout, catfish, crappie and an occasional bass. That night we built a campfire and tried our luck at cat fishing. We fished until about two in the morning and caught zip. So we went back to camp and went to sleep. About two hours later we woke up to the sound of rain. It was pouring. Our campfire was gone, so we got in the back of the camper shell where it was dry and a little warmer. Talk about roughing it.
A Fishing Heaven
On day two we fished for trout most of the day and managed to catch a couple of pretty nice ones, of course, we used up most of our live bait minnows and lost about half of our lures. At least we got to eat some fish with our bread and potatoes.
That night we tried our luck at cat fishing again with the same result. Zip. This time, we decided to crawl into the camper shell to sleep just in case it rained again. When we woke up in the morning it was so cold inside the camper shell we thought we were asleep inside a freezer. We got up and started our Coleman catalytic heater to help us get warm. It was so cold outside there was frost all over everything including our firewood. It took us about an hour to get a campfire going. It did help having the Coleman fire starter sticks. Roughing it isn’t as easy as we thought it was going to be.
The next three days went just about like the first two, raining, cold and no fish. By then we had gone through all of our bread, eggs, potatoes, firewood and most of our Coleman fuel. We were starting to think if roughing it was such a good idea. But at least we had a big pile of pine cones, some of our Coleman fire starter sticks and our Coleman catalytic heater to keep us warm.
Day six we caught two catfish about four inches long. We figured by the time we got done cleaning them; there wouldn’t have been anything left so we threw them back in the lake. We heard some shooting and saw a flock of mud hens flying by, and one of them fell into the water about 100 yards away from us. We watched it slowly float to shore for about two hours.
Since we didn’t bring any meat because we were roughing it, we were so hungry that even mud hens were better than starving. I grabbed it out of the water and plucked it, cleaned it, and skinned it as good as I could. We got the campfire going with the rest of the pine cones and the fire starter sticks and cooked up the mud hen. The pine cones gave the mud hen a different taste.
Day seven we woke up, and the sun was shining, it was about 60 degrees, and we could go home without losing face. We did learn an excellent lesson that week, don’t go camping without proper camping equipment and supplies even if you are going to try roughing it.
A superb outdoor adventure that we won’t forget. If you are after a tent, then here is everything you need to know about camping tents!