Louisiana Lingo

Looking at maps and brochures of Louisiana, as we plan our activities here, one of the things we learned is that the state has its own distinct lingo. You don’t cross boundaries from one county to another–counties are called parishes. Sometimes you do cross rivers, but other times when you think it’s a river it’s actually called a bayou.

St. Tammany Parish, where we spent the first part of the week, has an interesting historical footnote. It was one of the Spanish-governed West Florida parishes that was not included in the Lousiana Purchase of 1803. In September 1810, residents revolted against Spanish rule and created the Republic of West Florida. The republic lasted 74 days, raising a new flag and electing a president, before being forcibly annexed by the US in December 1810.

Unlike the days that we had spent along the Gulf Coast in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, the weather this week promised sunny skies, giving us the opportunity to spend some time camping.

For two days we were at Fairview Riverside State Park on the banks of the Tchefuncte River. The nights were quite cold, but since the days were sunny, we enjoyed being able to move our camp chairs to a sunny spot after breakfast and warm ourselves up before beginning the day’s activities.

Boardwalk at Fairview Riverside

Tchefuncte River at Fairview Riverside

Fairview was a small park, but was a good base camp for doing other activities in the area.

We rode our bikes on the Tammany Trace bike path, doing a north section one day and a south section a second day. The trailhead in the town of Covington has a small park which felt like being in a small Iowa town for RAGBRAI.

Leaving Covington and crossing Bogue Falaya River

The Trailhead after Covington is another small town, Abita Springs. A pavilion here had a statue and plaque dedicated to the Legend of the Abita Princess.

Words on the plaque:
“Many years ago a dying Choctaw princess was brought to drink from a natural spring flowing from a cypress stump and then fully recovered. The healing properties of the Abita Springs have been famous ever since, as Abita Springs remains a favorite destination for those seeking the cool, pure waters and the ozone air of this very special place.”

Cherokee Rose in bloom along Tammany Trace

At the Bayou Lacombe Trailhead on the Tammany Trace. This was an interesting stop because the bridge that the bike path crossed was actually a drawbridge–can you believe it, constructing a drawbridge just for a bike path?

Another two days of camping was spent at Tickfaw State Park. Whereas Fairview Riverside was close to an urban area, Tickfaw was way out in the swamps. We were a bit apprehensive about going there because of posted warnings that some of the tent sites were under water. It certainly was a wet area and we had to carefully look at all the sites to find one that wasn’t too muddy or too far from the bathrooms. The first night only one other tent site had campers and the second night we were the only ones in the tent camping area. But it was quiet and peaceful and as long as I didn’t let my mind wander to thoughts of something from the swamp crawling up into the tent at night, it was fine.
Campsite at Tickfaw (it looked better when the tent was set up)

Roadside view driving through Tickfaw

River Trail at Tickfaw

Boardwalk Trail at Tickfaw

Tickfaw was the base camp for our excursion yesterday into the Big Easy. We couldn’t be this close to New Orleans and not take one day to play tourist.

Jackson Square in New Orleans

Lunch stop in courtyard of a small eatery on Bourbon Street

Street musicians

Tonight we are in a motel in Baton Rouge. The weather forecast calls for rain tomorrow so we decided to forgo another day of camping. We now have to decide whether to head west on Interstate 10 into Texas or to go further north exploring other parts of Louisiana before driving into Texas.

Westward, Ho!

Goodby, Florida.

When we decide to move, we really move! Leaving Florida and heading west, we’ve gone through 3 states in the last 2 days, all in an attempt to find some warmer weather. We are traveling a southern route on I-10 around the Gulf of Mexico. If you look at a map you can see that we have only gone through a small portion of Alabama, Mississippi and Lousiana so it’s not as many miles as it sounds.

Before leaving Florida yesterday we did one last Florida bike ride on the Blackwater Heritage State Trail. North of Pensacola, this is Florida’s westernmost rail-trail. A paved 8-mile section passes through rural areas over several streams and then joins the 1.5-mile Military Heritage Trail that is on Whiting Field US Naval Air Station.

Clear Creek crossing on bike trail.

There wasn’t much sun on yesterday’s ride but it was warm enough that we didn’t need jackets. Rain and cooler temperatures were in the forecast but we didn’t realize until today how much cooler it would be. Back to wearing long pants and jackets. Since it wouldn’t be camping weather for the weekend we decided to keep driving west, spending last night in Mobile, Alabama.

Before leaving Mobile today we made a visit to Bellingrath Gardens, a 65-acre botanical garden and mansion located on the Fowl River in Theodore, a suburb of Mobile. Even in the gray, rainy weather it was a beautiful place to walk through. Because the weather has been mild, the azaleas have bloomed a month early.

River side boat launch area at Bellingrath

Bayou Boardwalk at Bellingrath

Mirror Lake at Bellingrath

Tonight we are in Slidell, Lousiana, not too far from New Orleans. We haven’t yet decided how long to stay in the area, but are hoping that the rain is finished and in a day or two temperatures may warm up enough again to do some camping.