New Orleans is a gem of a big city, one of our country’s most generous and creative, and determined to thrive in the face of tragedy. Surviving Hurricane Katrina and four failed levies in 2005, and then 4 months ago, surviving 9 foot waves driven by Hurricane Isaac, even more damaging because the City had no opportunity to recover as the storm sat on New Orleans for 3 days. “You have to be crazy to own property near the river, lake or shore on the Gulf Coast”, says the Californian (….who doesn’t purchase earthquake insurance). As we well know, when you love someplace, you assume the risks, and spend your last dime to be there. Yep, it is crazy, but being a part of a community with like-minded people is so important. We appreciate George Rodriques’ piano donated to the City’s children’s music programs.
New Orleans is also surrounded by thousands of acres of protected reserves, wildlife refuges, and terrific state and parish parks. One can leave the city in any direction, and within an hour be surrounded by enormous acreage of protected open space. Certainly the easiest access is across the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway, the longest bridge over water anywhere in the world. Two parallel bridges actually, puts you close to huge swamps, especially the Big Branch Marsh NWR, and of course… a Chef John Besh restaurant, La Provence! We see many bald-headed eagles, hawks, terns, gulls, egrets, and heron, all thriving in this fecund part of the world.
It was raining and 37 degrees, so we did not meet our fitness goals today, only a tiny slice of the Tammany Trace, a 37 mile rail/trail conversion, mercifully flat. The Visitor Center is housed in a canvas tent, with the damage from 2 feet of flooding a few months ago evident.
We hiked through the Cane Bayou to a boardwalk built to safely traverse the alligator area, only to find that it was destroyed by Hurricane Isaac, except for a single track, 4 inch wide plank, precariously balanced on the sunken boardwalk. Although Lety is an agile young dog, we worried about her ability to “walk the plank” and the consequences if she fell…dinner for a big reptile?
We stayed in the Fontainebleau State Park with the best amenities we’ve found: free wifi, hot showers, and sewage dump, inexpensive laundry, and privacy. However, we got swarmed by mosquitoes (which never go away in the swamps apparently, even when freezing weather hits) and ran out to buy an army surplus bed net for safe sleeping. I am sure as we head southeast into Florida’s swamps, we will have an opportunity to test it out.
We thought it was safe to let Lety off leash in our completely empty part of the campground, as we get her running back and forth between us for her exercise . Unfortunately she saw a deer and took off into the swamp. From her excited yipping we knew she lost the scent quickly, but being a street dog from Mexico, she disappeared for almost an hour when she found a garbage pile of abandoned jambalaya filled with jalapeno peppers and shrimp carcasses….which ended up as vomit on our bed two hours later. Back to the laundromat for the second time that day….and cancelled dinner reservations for our last gourmet meal in Louisiana. Oh no! No blue crab bisque! No slow roasted lacquered duckling! No sweet potato beignets with cane syrup ice cream! Oh well, we know we will come back, with my mom next time, for more incredible Louisiana joie de vivre. Adieu, mon petite choufleur!