Adventure 45 took me to the location of some of my earliest childhood hikes, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve in Marrero, Louisiana, just across the river form New Orleans. Simply known as Lafitte National Park, it was great to return to a place I’ve loved exploring in the past, even if it’s not quite as large as I remembered it being. The park has 6.27 miles of trails but with a number of them being out & back trails, you are looking at about 9.32 miles of hiking when all trails are open. Unfortunately some were under maintenance while I was there so I had to leave a few miles of the park unchartered on the visit. Lafitte NP is pretty much split down the middle by Barataria Boulevard with swamp trails on the west of the boulevard & woodland trails on the east. The swamp area, complete with boardwalks, a large alligator population, & bridges overlooking canals is what this park is most knows for. On this particular visit, the waterways were covered with thick vegetation, much of which I believe to be an invasive species. They now periodically have to dredge the canals to open the waterways. Possibly because of the vegetation or maybe because it was almost 100 degrees the day I was there, my wildlife sighting were limited to one alligator, a few black mask racers, some little fish, frogs, squirrels, insects, turtles, & birds, which makes for a pretty good day of sightseeing, even if I didn’t see as many alligators as I am accustom to seeing out there; nor did I have another, less common, deer sighting. Alligators or not, Jean Lafitte National Park never disappoints. The scenery & animals make for an amazing day on the trail, a must visit for anyone in the area, & probably the easiest & safest way to actually go deep into a Louisiana swamp without a Pirogue or pair of waders.
Able to get one more Ozark hike in before returning to reality, we headed to Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park in Middle Brooke Missouri, one of the many parks that the famed Ozark Trail passes through. The term “Shut-ins” refers to a place where the river’s breadth is limited by hard rock that is resistant to erosion, according to Wikipedia. Also, it should be noted that in 2005 the park was devastated by a flood but was able to reopen the following year for hiking, camping, & splashing around in the water at the shut-ins. There are over 70 miles of hiking trails at this 8,647 acre park, including 35 miles of the, previously mentioned Ozark Trail. With a limited amount of time we opted for the 2.25 mile Shut-Ins Trail, which would of course take us to their namesake feature. The hike was very nice; we crossed some tiny streams & picturesque rock structures while climbing mostly uphill along rock & dirt trails through some thick woods. The shut-in’s did not disappoint. First off they are easily accessible by a cement path from the parking lot so wheelchair & stroller guest can also easily enjoy their beauty. I feel that words & pictures do not do much justice to these structures formed by the thousands & thousands of rocks that the Black River’s crystal clear water runs through, over, under, & across forming tiny steams & waterfalls everywhere you look. This is a must see park for anyone visiting the area. It’s just over an hour out of St. Louis & well worth the trip.
Last week I got to go for a hike in Bellview, Missouri’s Elephant Rocks State Park, a 133.75 acre recreation area that the Missouri Department of Resources has been operating since 1967. Though it only offers a few miles of hiking, Elephant Rocks is quite a unique place. First of all there are the rocks. Large natural rock formations were formed, in short, by molten magma exposed to years & years of water & weather, eroding them into some pretty amazing rock structures that many feel resemble large elephants. Secondly, the trail has been adapted to suite visually impaired visitors. The main trail has been paved, there are ropes in some sections to help people stay on the trail, & the signs are in braille. Also, for those who enjoy a little history on their hikes, one trail takes visitors to an abandon granite query that was used to haul rocks out of the area in the late 1800’s. There are also views of a beautiful lake & many opportunities to climb on or squeeze between the rocks & to wander through the mazes they’ve created. This park is truly one of a kind & a “must see” for anyone visiting the area.
My most recent adventure was a short hike on the C.L. Dees Trail in Gautier, Mississippi. This ¾ mile trail is run by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service & is located at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR Visitor Center & Headquarters. There is no charge for exploring the trail & the visitor center is complete with clean bathrooms, educational exhibits & displays, & a gift shop. The trail & it’s surrounding area have become a destination for birding & though I saw numerous birds, my camera was never ready at the right time & my bird identification skill are lacking so I’m not going to say exactly which birds I saw but there were plenty of them out there. The trail is surrounded by waist height growth, palmettos, & some trees, nothing like the heavily wooded trails that I’m more accustom to hiking, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t beautiful. Along with its numerous birds & plants there were also a number of carnivorous plants & spectacular views of Bayou Castille. I had a great time C.L. Dees Trail & would recommend this short, yet unique, hike to anyone who finds themselves in the area.
My most recent adventure took me to Palmetto Island State Park, a 1,299 acre state park located in rural Abbeville, Louisiana. On this adventure we opted to stay at one of the primitive backpack camp sites. On a busy Veteran’s Day weekend, this proved to be a good decision. We were able to be camped out in an area where our 365 degree view was nothing but woods & a lake, allowing us to be surrounded by nature with only a 10 minute walk between us & nice clean restrooms & the noisy & busy camper area filled with the sounds of energetic children & country music radio. Their site lists a .7 mile hiking trail known as the Cypress Trail. I believe it to be outdated because there was also a Palmetto trail that connects to another more primitive trail without a sign. I think it’s safe to say that they have at least three times the .7 miles of hiking I had read about. Such little hiking will undoubtedly leave you wanting more. You are in luck; Palmetto Island also rents out canoes & has three small lakes connect by a canoe trail. Though the park is small, has very little hiking, & our wildlife sightings were limited to armadillo, squirrels, & ducks I had a great time here. The park is very clean & beautiful. Sometimes it’s nice to go to a park where instead of killing myself trying to leave no inch of trail unexplored I can enjoy getting comfortable & relaxing with some amazing views & a good book.
One of my recent adventures took me to Paoli Peaks in Paoli, Indiana. At least once a year I find a way to get myself to a ski resort so I can take part in one of my favorite outdoor activities; snowboarding!!! In recent years, now living back in Louisiana year round, I don’t get to strap in as much as I had in the past & not nearly as much as I’d like to. Only making my way to a resort or 2 a year, I go out of my way to find ones I’d yet to visit. This year I went to Indiana & had a great time. The first thing I noticed upon my arrival was that Paoli Peaks is completely upside down. Having been to dozens of ski resorts in the US & Canada, I have gotten use to the normal setup with parking, lift lines, lodge, shopping etc. at the bottom of a mountain. Paoli’s slopes are the result of hills & valleys & here ya park at the top & ride or ski down to the lift. I loved it; instead of buying a ticket, gearing up, & getting in a lift line, I got my ticket, strapped in, & was immediately on my way down a slope. The downside being that after the final run of the day, ya have to ride a lift back up to the beer; I mean car. When you are at the bottom, waiting to catch a chair lift back up be sure to have a look around; the view is amazing. There’s a small river that runs through the snow covered woods, creating the most picturesque scenery. Paoli is a small resort so there aren’t that many slopes & they’re quite a bit shorter than ones in mountainous areas but none of that will bother you when there are almost nonexistent lift lines & lift tickets that cost less than half what you’d pay for one at a larger resort. I also lucked out & 2 of the 3 days that I spent there were powder days* also they have snow blowers & are able to remain fully operational when having dry spells without snow. There is no lodging at the resort but hotels are close by. The resort doses have a waffle & coffee bar, a cafeteria, bar, & a large gear & apparel shop. They also rent snowboarding & ski gear, wax ski’s & boards, give lessons, & offer snow tubing. I owe the guys in rental/wax/repair section of the shop a debt of gratitude. When I was asking about hardware to repair one of my bindings, a worker asked to see my board. He disappeared in the back with it for a few minutes, & brought it back all fixed up & in tip top shape, free of charge. Thanks rental/wax/repair dude! If you’re looking for a fun, small, friendly, & affordable places to go skiing or snowboarding, Paoli Peaks definitely belongs on your list of places to visit. I had a great time there.
*Powder days are what skiers & snowboarders live for. It is when everything is covered in a thick layer of fresh snowing, creating the smoothest & most maneuverable riding surface imaginable.
The Tangipahoa River runs 122 miles, starting in McComb Mississippi & ending in Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain. This weekend’s adventure was a short kayak trip through an 8 mile stretch of the river in Independence, Louisiana. Tangi River Kayak runs a great service, picking kayakers up at Serenity Sands, a campground along the river. They then take you to their place where you are given a kayak, paddle, life jacket, & some instructions then sent on you way. You eventually arrive back at your vehicle between 4 & 5 hours later. The paddle was great with cool water to dip in periodically to get a break from the July heat. The water runs a little over 2 miles an hour so paddlers are able to sit back & just steer if they don’t feel like paddling hard. There are also numerous little beaches along the way that make perfect places for picnics & breaks. Wildlife sightings were limited to some birds, little fish, frogs, & a turtle but I know deer & snake sighting are not uncommon along the river. Even if you don’t see any wildlife, the constantly changing scenery & landscape make for an unforgettable adventure. We had a great time & for only $35 per person. Kayakers at any experience or skill level would enjoy themselves out here. If you’re looking to spend a few hours on the water & have a great time get in touch with Tangi River Kayak! Do yourself a favor!
Poverty Point Historic Site located in Pioneer, Louisiana is a 500 acre property that was home to a prehistoric civilization well over 3,000 years ago. The site houses numerous ridges & mounds that have allowed historians to understand a little about it’s past inhabitants & about how they made this place home. The 2.6 mile trail around Poverty Point gives visitors a view of the mounds the former inhabitants built, beautiful scenery, & the wildlife that now calls this place home. There are also daily tram tours allowing people to explore the site without having to walk the whole way. Though dear are common & there have been rare black bear sightings, my wildlife sightings were limited to birds, squirrels, a large frog & a garter snake. I was also able to get a spectacular view of Bayou Macon. I would advise visitors to take the guided hike allowing a ranger to share some of Poverty Point’s amazing history. There is also a museum & a film that I would suggest checking out. I had a great time visiting poverty point, not only was I able to spend a few hours on the trail exploring nature but I was also able to get a glimpse back in time & learn a bit more about the history of this great state.
My most recent hike took place in Forest Park, Portland, Oregon. This park is 5,100 acres large, with over 70 miles of trails. Needless to say I was unable to see it all. Along the three trails that I did get to hike wildlife sighting were again limited to small birds & squirrels, which is the down side to visiting parks that are heavily frequented by hikers & trail runners. The upside of course is the friendly greetings, people to ask directions of, & the occasional small talk. I felt like I was constantly going up & down on this hike with all of the switch backs & elevations changes but nothing steep enough to make this a strenuous hike. The highlight for me was the Lower Macleay Trail. This trail is along the Balch Creek offering a spectacular view of numerous tiny waterfalls & the land & rock formations formed by years & years of running water. I need to get back out here someday; I want to see a lot more of this park as well as paying another visit to Lower Macleay.
Adventure 36 took place at Seattle, Washington’s Discovery Park. With almost 12 miles of trails, this 534 acre park is a must see for any hiking enthusiast. These are a few elevation changes but nothing that would be considered anything more than moderate. Most of the hike is through forest & along dirt trails. Though there have been rare black bear, coyote, & cougar sightings my wildlife sightings were limited to small birds & squirrels but the beautiful thick covering of trees & plant life made for a great day of hiking. The park is located on the shores of Puget Sound offering spectacular view & overlooks of the sound as well as encountering a lighthouse along the hike, something that doesn’t seem to happen in southern Louisiana. I hope to return to Discovery Park one day; it really is a must see for anyone visiting or staying in the Seattle area.