We are making our way to the Florida Keys for a March stay that we reserved a year ago.
It hasn’t taken long to get acclimated to our regular travel schedule again. There were a couple of quick stops in Deming, New Mexico and Fort Stockton, Texas – just passing through. We slowed the pace down for the next couple of stops in Texas and Louisiana.
S Llano River State Park, Junction, Texas
This park was home for 4 nights in January and was right on the river with some nice trails and bird blinds. We saw an armadillo and a fair number of deer in the sparsely occupied campground. I still think armadillos are cool little creatures but locals think they are pests! We don’t have them in my home state.
The wooded park still shows lots of flooding debris caught at the base of trees and sometimes high in the branches from torrential floods two years ago. We met a deer researcher from Texas Tech University on the trails who told us about that flooding event. The water was tens of feet over our heads! I can’t imagine that! He said the campers couldn’t get out over the spillway road and had to take a dodgy 4-wheel drive emergency-exit road through someone’s property, leaving their RV’s behind. It sounds so scary! Stories like his don’t do much for my already existing dislike (phobia?) of extreme weather!
It seemed like nature was still dormant and quietly recovering two years after the big flood.
Brazos Bend State Park, Needville, Texas
Ahh, Brazos Bend is teeming with birds and animals in many different habitats. We enjoyed hiking and photographing along the trails during this 4-night stay a couple of hours South of Houston.
I never defined myself as a “birder”, I just love all wildlife and really look forward to seeing beautiful new bird species. It’s fun learning about them and tracking them in my Sibley’s Guide to Birds book and matching app (Thanks Rob for the recommendation!).
I loved walking past people that would whisper, “Watch for the Crested Caracara and Vermillion Flycatcher up ahead!” It’s official, I have become a birder and I’m not afraid to admit it! (keep reading after the pictures below)
February in New Orleans
A week at Bayou Signette State Park in Weswego, Louisiana gave Bruce a chance to show me around New Orleans, only 30 minutes from our campsite. He found a good combination of touristy and history excursions. I have a new appreciation for this place and I’m so glad we got to see it together.
We started out on the Steamboat Natchez paddle-wheel boat trip up the Mississippi River. Bruce had never been on a paddle wheel and it was great to see the city from the water. Pre-boarding entertainment from the steam calliope was actually being played live! The musician was on the roof of the steamboat playing as the steam from the amazing instrument raised up into the morning air.
We walked around the French Quarter a couple of different days, Sunday and Monday. Both were busy but Sunday was insane! Jackson Square had a line-up of horse-drawn carriages ready for hire and artists surround the square selling unique and beautiful pieces of all different kinds. Famous for the night life, Bourbon Street was quiet on the mornings we visited. The French Market offers everything from food to jewelry with music from street performers drifting through the crowd. Though Mardi Gras is still weeks away, some decorations were already going up around town.
We tried some of the traditional foods like seafood at Mr. B’s, muffalata sandwiches at Central Grocery, and beignets at Cafe Dumonde. The food is reason enough to return to New Orleans! The muffalata sandwich was so huge that we split a half sandwich and it was plenty. We also split a beignet piled a good two inches high with powdered sugar! Cafe Dumonde serves only beignets and chicory coffee 24 x 7 – really! I couldn’t even get tea but it’s always crowded and for good reason, it is really good. Don’t miss the authentic beignets, it’s a thing and you won’t regret it!
I’m not a big fan of battlefields but found it interesting to learn about the Battle of New Orleans at Chalmette Battlefield National Historic Park. I learned so much about living in that time and the stories of the young men that lost their lives left me with a renewed wish for peace.
After the recent heavy rains, the Mississippi River was running so high that a paddle wheel boat had to disembark passengers at an unusual spot to hear the presentation. The dyke protecting the area seemed so small against the wild river rushing by. It must be crazy during big storms.
Our visit to Whitney Plantation provided a small but sobering view into the culture of slavery. The plantation has memorials that focus on the slaves living on that particular plantation but within the broader context of enslaved people throughout history. It was a fitting excursion to honor Black History Month. Being from the West Coast, our education seems to have skipped a lot of details of these rich stories.
As the history of these areas was sinking in, I found myself looking at my family tree in Ancestry.com during that time frame again with new eyes on finding information.
Florida Here We Come!
By the end of the Super-Bowl week in February, we were ready to keep moving on to Florida but I could have stayed at these locations to explore longer!