Unseasonably warm weather was upon us by the time we left Hot Springs, and the air grew warmer as we drove south. Now that we are no longer rushing, we are only driving around 150 miles at a time. John searched state parks in northern Louisiana at the right distance away, and came up with Lake D’Arbonne State Park. This park offers several short hiking trails and, most importantly for John, a disc golf course.
In preparation for taking advantage of the disc golf course, we picked up the right kind of discs for disc golf at a Dick’s Sporting Goods shop on the way out of Hot Springs. We had a great time trying them out – the small discs are much more cooperative at landing in the basket than the frisbees we used before. Even I had some great throws! My best throw flew far because the course fell into a valley. When we walked down to the small stream near which my disc landed, a small deer was laying there looking at me. It ran off, but stumbled and rolled, clearly injured. We slowly collected our discs trying not to scare it too much (it was struggling to get up), and moved on to the next hole, both very sad because we were unable to help the poor creature.
After the game, we explored the rest of the park, and were at the lake just in time to view an amazing sunset. Flocks of coots floated on the water and fish were jumping in the lake. The fish were too fast to see; we could only hear the splash and see the rings on the water surface. Such a tease!
The following day was also sunny and warm, so I took full advantage of the lake and beautiful weather by renting a kayak. I paddled around the lake most of day, stopping back by the campsite every couple hours for a break. I had such an amazing time exploring the lentic ecosystem; the experience made me really glad that I know how to paddle a kayak! I saw many birds – flocks of American coots that run on water when you get near, cormorants roosting in trees, herons and egrets flying out of the marsh bush and turkey vultures floating gracefully over the shore looking for a meal.
I even saw fake ducks, which totally duped me the first time I saw them. I was floating along, coming closer and closer to the large flock of ducks, which I only saw in dark silhouette against the bright lake surface. I kept my distance, not wishing to startle them. Staring at them, I thought to myself “they are so still, I would almost think that they are fake”, but I did not suspect they were ACTUALLY fake, because who would put a flock of fake ducks on a lake? Well, later I came across another flock of fake ducks. This time the lighting was different so I could see clearly that they were fake, and when I got close I saw a shelter which I assume is for duck hunters. I paddled back to the first flock of fake ducks and found a small shelter there, too. I came across three altogether in the small portion of lake I paddled. The number of hunting shelters was not really surprising…we heard gunshots echoing across the lake throughout our stay; shots from large guns that sounded like small cannons, and even a semi-automatic at one point.
Turtles also abound in the lake. Most of the turtles I saw were sunning themselves on the same log. They seem to know exactly when you see them, and quickly plop back in the water if they are on a log, or dive down if they are floating with their nose up. I almost paddled over one – I didn’t notice its little nose sticking up until my kayak was nearly upon it! Of course, there was nothing to worry about as it dived down just in time.
On one of my trips back to shore I found a surprise back at our site. Well, not completely a surprise, as John had been threatening to do this for some time, but I was really hoping he wouldn’t go through with it.
[ John here: I never threatened to cut my hair. I had been talking about it for awhile, and decided to cut my hair that day. I can now say I’ve had just about every hairstyle imaginable. 🙂 The good thing is: hair grows back, and mine, super quickly. ] [ Heidi’s reply: John doesn’t like that I use the word “threaten”. He had been “talking” about shaving his head, and every time I asked him not to. I even tried to negotiate with him, but he insisted. Is that not “threatening?”. ]
Back in warm weather, we were able to eat outside again for the first time in months. One evening as we were sitting under our awning enjoying our meal and the sounds the cicadas and frogs serenading the night sky, we heard a loud rustling nearby. The rustling kept getting closer and closer…it sounded bigger than a squirrel, but what could it be? A creature so oblivious to light and humans that it wandered by our campsite, mere feet from where we sat in our porch light eating dinner. It was an armadillo! John shined a light on it, and it just kept on it’s noisy way, occasionally sniffing in our direction, but not expressing any fear.
Based on an idea presented in a previous comment, “did you ever sleep with the doors open like that when you had a great nature view?”, on our final night at Lake D’Arbonne (and the final night of the warm front), we tried sleeping with the doors of the van all open. Raccoons woke us a couple times. The first time, I woke to the sound of metal clinking. I didn’t realize what it was until we heard a garbage can outside the van topple over; I scared the raccoon away by shining a light on it, righted the can and placed a large rock on the lid. While outside, I heard something else and looked over to see an armadillo again, only this one wasn’t walking in the normal armadillo way…it appeared to be hopping. As I watched it, it disappeared. I walked over to where it disappeared, and could hear it underground. I returned to bed, still with the doors open, and told John about it. While I was trying to convince him that I really did see a hopping armadillo, it reappeared. I was glad, since John wouldn’t have believed me otherwise! We watched it armadillo for a while; it was indeed hopping…it was scooting backwards and hopping. John found information on the internet about this behavior and discovered that this is how they pull leaves into their burrows. Looking closer, we could see it did have a bunch of leaves under its arched body.
After a time we settled back to sleep. Laying there, I heard the raccoon back on the garbage can, but I was out of ideas on how to keep it out of the can, so I did not interfere. A bit later, though, I woke to what sounded like scratching on a plastic bag. The sound seemed to be coming from INSIDE the van. As I was getting my glasses on and grabbing the flashlight, I heard more scratching, this time on what sounded like the seat cover on the passenger side seat. My motion woke John, and he asked what I was doing. His voice frightened the creature, we heard a thump as it jumped down and ran out. Unfortunately, the bathroom door was open and blocking my view, so I didn’t actually SEE the creature, but I am sure it was a raccoon. Probably the same one.