1-22-2014 Sam Houston Jones State Park, LA taking a slow day

Current Location: Belle Chasse NAS LA  Current Temperature: 32 and “ice pellets”

Sam Houston SP_035After our busy short week at the NAS near Corpus Christi, wonderful visits with friends, and trying to see as much as possible, Mo and I both were ready for a bit of down time. When planning this trip, I had the sense that might be the case and I wanted a park that could be a resting place about half way between Corpus Christi and New Orleans that wasn’t far off our route.

Sight unseen, and with no friends leaving campground reviews, Sam Houston Jones State Park turned out to be a perfect choice. The distance from Anahuac NWR wasn’t long, just a short leg on our journey east toward New Orleans.  We are getting close to the day when we will board a cruise ship heading for the Caribbean….hopefully the current cold snap won’t extend all the way south to Belize and Honduras!

Sam Houston SP_008We arrived early afternoon and with reservations arranged for a site with electric and water there was no concern about space.  Once there, however, we decided that the space on the end row, number 33 was much more to our liking than site 27 I had chosen online right in the middle.  There are sites big enough for large rigs in the central area of camping loop B that have full hookups with sewer, but we didn’t need sewer for just two nights.  There is also a dump station nearby.  There are two very large, “premium” sites that have long, level concrete pads close the the rest room building. 

Sam Houston SP_007Seems as though there is some kind of dutch oven cook-off coming up, but we didn’t know that, and the minute we arrived a very loud, very verbal, very intrusive gentleman in an electric scooter came over to tell us how to hook up, where to put the motorhome, how to put down the jacks and how to hook up the water.  He just kept talking.  Mo said to me, “I do NOT want to stay here”, so I went back to the office and arranged a move.

Within minutes, we again had our privacy and silence.  Whew!  The site was perfect for us, even though the water faucet sprayed all over the place.  Mo simply put a rag over it to contain the spray, and we unhooked it at night.  Needed to do that anyway since temperatures were dropping below freezing due to the Arctic Polar Chill Thingy coming south to Louisiana. 

Sam Houston SP_016I reserved two nights so that we could have a nice afternoon and then one entire full day doing absolutely nothing.  What a perfect place to do that.  The daytime temperatures weren’t too bad even with the cold nights.  I spent most of our day off writing and processing photos while Mo sat outside in the sunshine enjoying her book. 

Sam Houston SP_029In spite of our commitment to do nothing, we couldn’t resist going for a walk around the expansive park.  Although the sounds of Moss Bluff, the small town nearby, are evident, the park itself is beautifully quiet.  There is something quite haunting about Louisiana bayou country.  The water is everywhere, the cypress, even without their leaves, are fascinating with their little knees all around.  The thought that there are poisonous snakes in the underbrush and alligators hiding on the muddy banks of the waterways makes it a tiny bit threatening, but not too much.

The park is encircled by the meandering Calcasieu River. There is a boat launch to the river, and nearby there was a large swamp/pond that was completely dry, and with all the wetness in other parts of the park, we never quite figured that out.  No alligators here, that is for sure! Sam Houston SP_023

On our way back to our campsite, we took the leaf covered Orange Trail around the perimeter of the park for an easy  1.6 mile walk.  The trail winds through the forest  and emerges  at times for views of the huge Louisiana homes that line the banks of the river across from the park.  Late afternoon sunlight filtering through the dripping Spanish moss on the barren cypress trees was reflected in the water of the swamps.

Sam Houston SP_037One of the greatest things about the park, that would make us return, were the roads and paths that were perfect for biking.  Of course, on this, our do-nothing day, we didn’t even take the bikes off the rack. The campground bathrooms were pretty darn sweet as well, with plenty of room and privacy, and lots of hot water.  For some reason on this trip, I seem to be using campground showers more than in the past.  It just seems easier sometimes and letting that hot water run forever when I am tired is a huge luxury.Sam Houston SP_030

Jeremy loved this spot, and spent a lot of time exploring close to the campsite, enjoying scratching on various trees and balancing on the cement culvert barriers.  Abby could hang around off leash and was completely protected from view by the angle of the parked motorhome and car.  We had a nice solid picnic table, and wonder of wonders a campfire ring!  Even more wonder, we could actually have a fire.Sam Houston SP_044

I don’t think I mentioned that Mo found some really good firewood in the middle of nowhere when we were boondocked at Joshua Tree.  Yup, that was a month ago.  We have carried that firewood in the Tracker the entire time, dribbling dust and bark on all our stuff, but it was worth it when Mo started up our evening campfire and we ate dinner once again outside by the warm flames.

CaptureTwo nights and a day of nothing were just what we needed before continuing east.  Thursday morning dawned gray, with some predicted rain, but the hard freeze didn’t materialize and the coldest temperatures were in the low 30’s.  I think we left the Lake Charles area just in time because today there has been freezing rain and sleet and even snow right behind us.

Atchafalaya_014The trip to New Orleans was a simple one.  I had no desire to repeat the route along US 90, that goes through Avery Island and into New Orleans along a southern path.  In 2007 we followed that route, and I used the blog to remind us that it was long and bumpy and that we never wanted to repeat it.  Instead we traveled the also bumpy I-10, but at least the speeds were more acceptable.

Both Judy and daughter Deanna had mentioned the Atchafalaya Bridge that crosses the Atchafalaya Basin, and the Atchafalaya Visitor Center as something not to be missed.  They were so right!!  In fact, we were so aghast at the wonder of that bridge that we actually missed the quick turn into the visitor center and had to continue several miles before we could exit and turn around.  This gave us the chance to cross part of that engineering challenge three times!

Atchafalaya_023The Visitor Center was in a bit of turmoil, with new septic systems being installed and new kiosks.  When I walked in the big doors on the wide southern porch, my mouth dropped open in amazement.  I don’t think I ever heard the word “Atchafalaya” before, and knew absolutely nothing about the Atchafalaya Basin.

The Atchafalaya Basin is the nation’s largest river swamp, containing almost one million acres of America’s most significant bottomland hardwoods, swamps, bayous, and backwater lakes.  This is the heart of Cajun Country, and I learned the difference between Cajun and Creole, and watched the movie in the round theater about the ecologically rich swamp that surrounded me. The place caught my heart deeply, and yes, I do want to return. 

Atchafalaya_022No matter what, if you are on I-10, crossing this amazing bridge, stop at the visitor center.  Surprisingly, the center had extensive information about the Atchafalaya Basin, but nothing on the construction of the bridge.  Searching the internet, I found that to build the bridge, they first had to build a canal that could open the swamp to transport of vehicles and materials.  The bridge is 18.2 miles long.  The view is of vast wet swamplands, breathtaking in their beauty and wildness.

Within a few more hours, we arrived easily at Naval Air Station at Belle Chasse, on the Westbank side of the Mississippi River just a few miles south of New Orleans.  I had read about this campground when Erin and Mui stayed here when it was brand new and it is a perfect location to stay while we take a vacation from our vacation.  The campground is clean and simple, with once again, huge private bathroom showers, a great laundry, and quick access to base amenities.  The very best part of this campground, however, is the “away” policy.

The collage below is of some of the vignettes at the Atchafalaya Visitor Center01-22-2014 slow day in Louisiana

When we leave for our cruise on Saturday, we have only to pull in the slide and disconnect the hookups.  We can then leave the rig parked here for the entire length of the cruise for just $1.00 per day.  Yup.  You read that right.  A buck a day to store the motorhome.  The fur kids will be staying at a nice doggie and kitty condo back in New Orleans while we take an animal break.  And yes, I am looking forward to that, sorry to say.  Every parent needs a break from the kids now and then.

We spent this very cold, rainy day organizing for our cruise and readying the MoHo for a break from us. I probably will be offline until we return the first week of February. 

Later:  We just dropped Abby and Jeremy off at the Canine Connection in Uptown New Orleans.  Seems like a great facility, and they were all so good at meeting the animals and helping us to feel safe about leaving them there.  I am really delighted with or choice for a boarding facility. 

With a suggestion from Elijah, Kenny’s assistant here at the park, I found and downloaded a Mardi Gras Parade app to the iPhone and it seems there is a parade today on the Westbank…right on our way to the hotel where we will overnight before boarding our ship tomorrow.  So, again, see you later.