A little fishing, a little camping
Outdoors at Hartman Creek State Park
By Greg Seubert
Tyler Ellis is about to start his new engineering job with General Motors, but this day, he had something else on his mind.
He and his friend, James Twaddle, just graduated from Purdue University with an engineering degree and checked out Hartman Creek State Park May 21 for a day of fishing.
They purchased a one-day admission pass to the park, picked up a pair of nonresident fishing licenses and parked their truck in the Allen Lake Picnic Area.
“We were just looking at some fishing areas nearby,” Twaddle said. “We were trying to take our canoe out, but we didn’t have any bungee cords. We were looking for places to do some shore fishing and found this. We decided to come on down.”
Twaddle and Ellis headed north from Indiana to spend a week at Twaddle’s aunt’s cabin on Sand Lake, about 10 miles north of the park.
“This is a little bit of paradise outside of the rest of my life,” said Twaddle, who will attend graduate school at Purdue. “We’re taking a week to get away from everything.”
Twaddle is from South Bend, Indiana, while Ellis is from Marion, Indiana, and was visiting central Wisconsin for the first time.
“I do a lot more river fishing in Indiana,” Ellis said. “We have a river that runs right by us, so I fish there a lot. There aren’t a whole lot of lakes, so I’m looking forward to doing some of that here.”
While Twaddle and Ellis tried their luck on Allen Lake, Jerry and Jackie King of Fond du Lac walked a mile from the park’s family campground to the beach on Hartman Lake.
The Kings have made Hartman Creek State Park their first camping destination of the season for several years.
“This is our first one every year,” Jackie said. “We always come in the middle of May. We like this campground.”
The pair have camped at several state parks around Wisconsin, including High Cliff, Governor Dodge, Governor Thompson, Peninsula, Pattison, Mirror Lake and Lake Kegonsa.
“It’s our little group of favorites where we go every year,” Jerry said.
“If there’s one that’s maybe 20 miles or even an hour away, we’ll drive to it and check it out to see if it’s something we would like to come back to,” Jackie said. “We try to go when we know that there are other campers there. We look at our camper and how it’s going to fit in there and how hard it’s going to be to maneuver, that kind of thing.”
The camping trip is Jerry’s first after a serious bout with COVID-19 last year.
“I’m lucky to be alive,” he said. “I was hospitalized with covid in November and the doctors and some of the nurses said, ‘You have no idea how lucky you are.’”
The Kings usually camp every other weekend.
“We go for walks,” Jackie said. “We sit, enjoy ourselves and enjoy nature.”
“Some days, we’ll get in the truck and go for a drive and enjoy the countryside,” Jerry said. “If it’s raining, we’ll read a book or play cards.”
Jerry likes camping early in the year.
“It’s cool yet, but you don’t have a lot of bugs,” he said. “We’ve camped here when it was snowing in the middle of May. People were sitting around their campfire with all the clothes they have just to keep warm.”
“You go away and you forget about everything that’s happening at home, the other stuff that you contend with on a daily basis,” Jackie said.
She didn’t have to think too hard when asked about her favorite part of camping: the campfire.
“Just to sit there and the cracking and the smell of it, I like that a lot,” she said.
“We even make popcorn over the campfire,” Jerry said. “It’s a little kettle with a stick on it. You just go back and forth and when it’s done, you put butter on it and have at ‘er.”
Ellis, Twaddle and the Kings didn’t meet each other while at the park, but they showed up for the same reason.
“It’s a breath of fresh air and it reminds me a lot of home,” Ellis said. “I prefer it out here. I’ll take a deep breath, not worry about moving and just come out here and fish.”