AH, THE BEST laid plans of men and mice. Last weekend, my wife and I had a great camping plan, but unfortunately, it not only went awry, it flew off the tracks and into a bottomless chasm.

Things started out quite well Thursday, when I set up our A-frame camper at a secluded site right above Plum Creek at the Plum Lake campground. There were very few mosquitoes, the sun was hot, the beer was cold and the dogs were happy to be out of the house.

Before my wife got out of a meeting at 8 that evening, the dogs and I saw something of the wild I had never seen before. While I read a newspaper, Gordie was keeping guard. All of a sudden, he went rigid, fixing a stare that would have frozen a cup of java. Then he woofed a deep threatening woof, the kind he woofs when he spots rabbits near my flower beds.

I looked where he was looking and saw nothing, but having lived with good hunting dogs all my life, I knew better than to think he adopted that pose for nothing. Sure enough, a minute later, here came a young fawn splashing up the creek in water to its knees. It stood 25 yards away from us across the creek, matching Gordie stare for stare. Five minutes later, Mama splashed up the creek and they both stood motionless watching us watch them.

Eventually, they decided we meant no harm and splashed upstream a few more paces to where an upturned balsam had left a dry depression under its root ball. Stepping into the depression like he had done it dozens of times before, which he possibly may have, the fawn laid down. Mama watched over it for a few more minutes, before heading uphill to find a good browsing spot. My wife arrived with enough daylight remaining to watch the little guy too and when we turned in sometime after dark, our little fawn was sleeping soundly.

I got up a little after 5 the next morning and found our visitor had departed. Undoubtedly, Mama had returned to collect him as mama deer will do with their little ones practically every day. I’m guessing deer, dogs and campers had all enjoyed the encounter.

Friday morning was the last of the idyllic part of our camping weekend. Thunder and lightning started up around 5:30. Choosing the better part of valor, we quickly retreated home with the dogs, hoping that by evening things would be better.

As we all know, they weren’t. Thursday was the only night we slept out; though in our snug and dry camper we could have every night. But then, which would you choose? A small camper with two people sharing floor, dinner table and bed space with two large dogs or a home with full-sized bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom and living room, and Bob Uecker on the radio — DirecTV® was out most of the evening — calling a Brewers game?

Saturday brought no early relief from the rain, but at late afternoon, when we hit a short window of sunshine, we thought maybe we could squeeze in a campsite cookout and another night in our little home away from home. We were wrong.

Fifteen minutes after getting to the campground, before I could even put together a maple wood fire, the dark clouds were back, followed shortly thereafter by more heavy rain. Determined to make a camping trip out of the weekend, we holed up in the camper and with much less enthusiasm than a wood fire would have generated, I fried up hamburgers and seasoned shredded potatoes on a gas range.

As rain pelted down, we enjoyed our repast and when it let up the teensiest bit, I even entertained a notion to put my kayak in the water for a quick try at fishing. A flash of lightning and a clap of thunder put that notion to rest in a hurry, and 10 minutes after supper was over, we were in our vehicles and headed for home. Another night of camping thwarted by Mother Nature.

Instead of s’mores by a campfire, we elected to spend the evening with our good friend, Mr. Bill, for the opening night of the Sayner Lodge bar. A basket of mixed snacks were a whole lot better, at least for me, than a burned marshmallow smushed between two pieces of soggy graham cracker and the best Tom Collins made in the world by Mr. Bill was much, much better than the bottle of light beer I had planned on quaffing by the fire.

When all was said and done, our first camping outing of the year was pretty much a total washout. Sunday morning, with glum faces sported by me and my dogs, I cranked down the stabilizers, dropped down the camper roof, collected dog leashes and grounding stakes, loaded unused firewood into the truck, hitched up and headed home.

There was some small consolation Sunday afternoon. With all the camping gear packed and ready for another try perhaps as early as this coming weekend, we took advantage of afternoon sun to head for a small beach area on the north shore of one of our favorite lakes.

While my lovely wife dangled her feet in cool water amongst a large school of minnows, I started flinging retrieving dummies for the dogs. Short tosses for 9-year-old Molly, long heaves as far as I could throw them for 1-year-old Gordie. It goes without saying, my arm wore out long before they did, but no matter. 

While Gordie went about logging along the shore, dragging out sticks and small logs up to 4 inches in diameter, Molly searched the lake bottom for rocks, sticks and birch bark to chew on. Uecker brightened the afternoon on the car radio, though the Brewers brought only gloom and all things considered, it was a very nice end to a mostly forgettable weekend.

At least our house is still standing, our road is in one piece, mostly, and my flower beds, though looking quite bedraggled, will recover. 

It’s time to plan another camping trip.