After a sleepless night in a casino/truckstop parking lot, we headed to another amazing Louisiana State Park. We have been impressed at the quality of this state’s parks – the wildlife viewing opportunities, educational displays and amenities (free laundry!) all contribute to an enjoyable stay.
Lake Fausse Pointe State Park is a comfortable two hours’ drive from the post office near New Orleans where John received packages, so we headed there. Along the way, after leaving the highway and most of civilization, John realized we were quite low on gas. Modern technology (i.e. an Android phone with data signal) allowed me to find that there was indeed a gas station selling diesel fuel just a little out of our way, and only a 15 minute drive from when the needle hit the top of the “Empty” tick. We were feeling good about our prospects of not running out of gas when we pulled up to a disheartening scene. A draw bridge was up, a large boat below it, and cars parked on both sides of the road on both sides of the bridge; they must have been waiting quite awhile. Our best hope for not running out of fuel was to wait it out, because we were not going to drive all the way back to the highway to search for another gas station with diesel, so we pulled over and waited with them. As we sat there, we realized that the boat under the bridge was positioning a roadbed in place between the two ends of the bridge; I am not sure if this was an emergency fix, or if the contraption is the way the bridge opens up, I have never seen anything like it. We also noticed that the bridge clearance is 9.5 feet. The top of the van’s AC unit is 9’ 6’’ off the ground, this is a close one! Luckily, we did not have to wait long before the bridge was complete and traffic started flowing. Cars on our side were directed over the one-lane bridge first, but we waited until the other side had also cleared so we could inch our way under the clearance bars. I got out as John rolled under it, with plenty of room to spare. We made it to the gas station, rolling in on wheels without having to resort to our feet.
Sunny and warm days made for a pleasant and fun stay at the park. It is off the beaten path and during the middle of the week, so we had few neighbors. We chose a site on the empty wooded side of the campground loop, even though each site on the bayou side has its own dock. We didn’t need to camp at a site with a dock to use it…with so many vacant sites, I welcomed myself to use a free dock as a yoga studio.
After eating lunch upon arrival, I spent the rest of the afternoon on a short walk to stretch my legs. The trail I chose traversed an area named “Armadillo Ridge”. The small peninsula of land in the bayou didn’t seem like a ridge, but the area sure lived up to the “armadillo” part of the name. The noisy critters were everywhere, sometimes two or three in my sight at once. From what I have read, armadillos are nocturnal and territorial, so seeing so many in one place in the light of day was quite a surprise. The armadillos in this park are so habituated to humans that they let me get quite close in trying to photograph them; I could approach to about four feet, and if I stayed still they would walk even closer. Sometimes I would be the one to stand up and back track. I wasn’t too worried about them injuring me, but they can carry rabies and are the only known animal besides humans to carry leprosy, so better safe than sorry. When I took John back to the area to see all the armadillos, he chased a couple to try to scare them into their main defensive move – jumping four feet in the air. They did not fall for his trick.
Canoes are available at the park, so we rented one and paddled on the river and lake around the campground. We spotted many birds, snuck up on several turtles, and even caught a glimpse of an alligator! The alligator was on shore when we saw him, but quickly slipped into the water while John tried to get the camera out. The turtles were also elusive, slipping off their sunning logs when we could hardly see them, but we did manage to get within several feet of a couple. Many stretches of the waterway were marred by what appeared to be floating trash. The trash was comprised of plastic bottles used as makeshift buoys, each with line, hook and meat hanging into the water – an absentee method of fishing. We also passed by several docks used for oil drilling, and one site with what may have been a gas leak. We could hear the sound of pressurized fluid escaping a pipe when we came near just after another boater warned us of a gas leak up ahead. A fast boat traveled back and forth between there and his headquarters, sending a lot of wake our way each time it passed us.
We paid a visit to the nature center and learned that it is currently closed. No one was in charge of the center and educational programs for some time. We spoke with the young woman who had been hired into the position. She had just started the prior week, and was still taking stock of the contents in the nature center. It has an amazing array of specimens – turtle shells, including a giant alligator tortoise, mammal pelts, various bugs and larvae in formaldehyde, and much more – so she has a lot to work with, but creating a new educational center and program is a big job for one person fresh out of college. We wish her the best of luck.
From Lake Fausse Pointe State Park, we drove toward Austin, TX. This is a long drive, and we hit Houston rush hour traffic right around dinner time. Crawling along on a highway, we decided to stop and eat dinner in the next parking lot we came to. Even when the next parking lot turned out to be for an industrial building and rather than a retail store, John insisted on pulling in and parking in the “Visitor’s Lot”. We parked, pulled out the toaster oven, switched on the inverter and started to heat up our leftovers. As we were waiting for our food to heat up, a security guard knocked on our door. We opened the door and he asked if we are employees. John answered “No, we are visitors!” (explaining why we were in the visitors’ lot), at which point I jumped in before John talked us into trouble. “We were just in that traffic right there (pointing to the highway with the crawling traffic) and needed a place to pull over and eat dinner. We thought this would be okay because it is the visitors’ lot.” The guard responded that it was private property, and asked how long we’d be; he also informed us that he had locked the gate before he noticed us parked there. John thought of the brilliant idea to ask if we could drive just outside the gate and finish up there. The guard was happy with that plan. After chatting about our road trip, he led us out to the gate. We drove very slowly and carefully, as the toaster oven was still running!