Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Trails of Lake Fausse Pointe State Park

We had never been to Lake Fausse Point SP but after an interesting journey getting there, Penny and I enjoyed getting out on their many trails. 

Most are very bikeable if you are comfortable with roots and long rather narrow bridges over swamps.  You see lots of neat things like this gnarly tree:

And this sign:

And this cottonmouth

From time to time, while I am checking something out, Penny relaxes along the trail

One outing, we came back to the interpretive center and in talking with the naturalist, I asked, “Any alligators out this time of year?”  She said, “There are eight out back.”  Sure enough, in the small pond behind the center, a bunch of small ‘gators were lying around, quite dormant in the cool temperatures.  There are two or three in the picture below -- but I would never have thought to look for them if she had not told me about them.

We endured a line of storms with a tornado watch while we were there.  Most of us gathered at the conference center because of the concern of high winds but all passed without damage, aside from a deluge of rain throughout the night.

One ranger told me:  “This is Cajun country and you have to want to get to this campground to do so.  It’s off the beaten path.  We like it that way.”   

Aside from the rain and mosquitos, so did we.

Check out my birding blog at Vermont Birder

Monday, January 23, 2012

I-10 Builds Character

We moved today from Fontainebleau State Park which involves jumping on to I-12 which hooks up with I-10 out of New Orleans.  It's never fun and today, with the temperature a muggy 79 degrees, it seemed worse than ever.  The haze hung over the wetlands and the tractor-trailers made life miserable.

Things got worse as we headed past Baton Rouge in a windy section with heavy traffic.  A kid in a car beside us yelled something and pointed toward the back of our rig as we navigated some curves.  I swung into a breakdown lane, just after an on ramp, and carefully exited the truck.  The traffic roaring by was scary but as I went to the back of the trailer, I saw what they had been yelling about.  Our electrical cord had escaped from the holder and was dragging the plug down the highway.  Talk about road rash -- the plug looked pretty sad as I stowed it safely away.

Getting back on and up to speed was tough and then we nearly missed a split of the highway, needing a quick change to a left lane but then we were over the Mississippi and things got a bit more quiet.  The GPS route to Lake Fausse Pointe State Park looked a little crooked but I wanted off I-10 so we followed the routing. I told Mary, " It looks like a goat path on the map." Louisiana doesn't spend a lot of money on their back roads -- the road we were on was narrow, pock-marked, but straight with a speed limit of 55 mph.  No way was I going that fast on such a road, which wound back and forth, through little hamlets, past many fishing camps, and eventually coming to a pontoon bridge, ending with a sudden lurch up over a levee on to a real road.  (The park ranger, hearing my route, told me that several bigger rigs have lost antennas and mirrors on that bridge.)  We won't be going back that way.
A pontoon bridge rated at 5 tons (now what do we weigh?)
Nearly every camp/home we passed on the "goat path" had a name:  "Bud's Swampland." "Who Dat?" .... It was an interesting look at rural Louisiana but it was nice to get on a wider highway for the last 15 miles down to the park.  As we listen to peepers this evening, it's a far cry from the chaos of Interstate 10.  In spite of the mosquitos, I prefer this setting much more.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Southern Comfort

After a nice stay at Harrison Bay State Park in Tennessee, where we had the park nearly to ourselves, we drove down to ClarkCo State Park in Mississippi where we have stayed before.  Since we were moving on  Martin Luther King Day, the traffic was relatively light through Chattanooga, Birmingham, and Tuscaloosa.  We settled into ClarkCo and I had a chance to take the dog on several long runs (she can roam on the back trails since no one is there.)

Staying with in ClarkCo for a few days gave us a chance to see Kevin and Jason, our Mississippi friends.  They took us out to eat at a local favorite -- Charlie's Catfish House -- and we enjoyed a wonderful meal and had a great time.  Of course, the food is fried and tasty -- one of those places where you don't worry about calories.  We topped it off with a King Cake back at Kevin & Jason's Laurel home and I got the baby, which means good luck and I have to buy next year's King Cake.

Catfish, Steak Fries, & Hush Puppies
It's a pretty easy four-hour drive down to Fountainebleau State Park, on the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain.  The park is great -- even while nearly filled with locals here for the weekend.  It's neat to have kids framming around on bikes and enjoying 70's weather.  The birding here is superb as well and all Louisiana parks have decent wifi.  So, after a week of 3G, we could get caught up on some of our laptop projects.

I've had the bike out and got Penny running alongside.  It's a good way for both of us to get exercise when we can't let her run.  We are off to Lake Fausse Pointe state park tomorrow -- a place we've not visited, then start heading west toward Texas.  Enjoying shorts and T-shirt weather and many birds.

Photo by Sam Is Hungry

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Tiring Start

Having positioned the rig for a Saturday morning getaway, I slept poorly worrying about the driveway and finally, after solving the problems of the world, got up at 3:45 and turned on the coffee. We had received about 6 inches of new snow and I was out on the Kubota plowing at 5:00. Fortunately, the snow was light and easy to move.

Launching at 6:20 AM, we crept down the driveway in 4 WD and low gear. The Town had yet to plow the road but there were tracks from earlier vehicles and we made it to the highway without incident. Because of the weather, I decided to take the long way through Burlington and down Route 7. Traffic was light but it was cold - hanging at around 9 degrees for the first few hours.

We hit some snow down in Addison County but after a fuel stop in Fair Haven (boy did the rig look ugly with snow, ice, and salt/sand), we headed over toward the Northway and down to Albany. The trip down I-88 was long but uneventful and mid-day, we joined up with I-81 and headed southward. Gradually the temperatures rose into the low twenties and aside from a tough west wind, the travelling was easy.

After 11 hours or so, we pulled into a Walmart in Chambersburg, PA where we have overnighted before. It was a tough night, even though we were tired. It was Saturday night in farm country and every good ol' boy ( or girl) with a tuned exhaust system seemed to drive by, with the engine revved up. The trailer was cold. Our one propane heater was cranking bit after a day of frigid temps, the Airstream held a lot of the cold. The dog was happy since the heater was at her end.

I slept well but Mary did not and we decided to start early again, leaving around 5 AM for a 600 mile drive. It's nice to drive down I-81 early Sunday morning - very few trucks - and we had an easy time through the western tip of Maryland and into West Virginia. The ice and snow was still on the rig into Tennessee but finally, we saw 32 on the thermometer. Knoxville, usually a traffic hassle, was easy on a Sunday and mid-afternoon, we were finally on I-75 heading toward Chattanooga.

Last year, we stayed at another Walmart in Athens, TN but this year, I was aiming for Harrison Bay State Park where there was electricity and, as it touned out, water. After a last minute snag with MapQuest directions, we snaked our way through back roads to the park where a ranger with a wonderful Tennessee accent, told me to pick a spot and he'd come by to sign us up.

Only one section is open but there are only a handful of campers. It was great to settle in before dark, walk the dog, and get some exercise. We decided, since we like this place and its solitude (can't imagine it in the summer), to stay for a while. Yesterday, I washed the salt and grit off the Airstream and we did some neat birding. No wifi around and weak 3G, but it is great to have the iPads along this trip.

Today, Tuesday, it's raining pretty hard so we'll take it easy and let the 50 degree rain wash the truck.

Off to Quitman, MS tomorrow where we'll stay at Clarko State Park. Nice to have the long, snowy drives behind us.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ready To Go

Today has been a real work day, starting with plowing the driveway with the Kubota and then shoveling sand -- it's a long driveway when you are lugging pails of sand.  Then, going up to the Town garage to refill the buckets for tomorrow.

I worked on loading the truck with bikes, kayak, solar panel, and an assortment of books so that I can run Vitesse Press while on the road.  Meanwhile, Mary made dozens of trips from the house to the Airstream and got clothing and food in place.

Then I hooked up the rig and with some maneuvering, I got it around the ledge outcrop (which I hit last year while leaving) and straightened out so that I could back it up to the garage for final loads.

We'll see what the morning brings -- more snow is forecast and it's going to be frigid and windy.  Both Mary and I remarked that this preparation was tougher than the last couple of years -- we're pretty tired but planning to launch early dark thirty.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hunkerin' Down for a day or two

I had planned our departure for tomorrow, Friday, so that we could hit the Tennessee's Sandhill Crane Festival on Sunday but the winter storm, coming up from the south and also in from the west, has made us delay for a bit.  So, all the sand I lugged in buckets from the town pile and carefully spread on the driveway are buried under four or more inches of new snow with more (snow) on the way.

We had a busy early week with medical appointments and a trip yesterday Burlington to donate Mary's Subaru to the Good News Garage so this hiatus is giving us a chance to pack and check things off more carefully.  It is fun to organize kayak gear while watching the snow fall.

The back side of the storm is going to have some stiff winds and very cold temperatures so I expect that the first several nights in the Airstream are going to be a bit challenging.  First to plow out, sand, and get the rig down the driveway.  Probably Saturday but we'll keep a weather eye out.

It was nice to have a nice wood stove fire going last night and watch Syracuse demolish Villanova on the big screen TV.  I'll miss that on the road -- but the sleet, snow, and chill -- not!