Sunday, May 4, 2014

4-7-14 A Ride Around the Block in Louisiana

Friends that know us well, know of our love of "rides around the block" and looking for "blank spots on the map", and going there to see just how blank the area really is! In Westcliffe, we have an around the block ride that's @ 20 to 25 miles, and takes 2 & 1/2 hours. We have taken our neighbor (whose name shall remain nameless to protect his privacy-that okay there "longpants"?) around on it twice, once while he drove, and he still can't do it solo!

On Monday, April 7th, we combined both approaches and took a drive over a road we had driven on when we came into Abbeville from Texas in 2010. Rt. 82 originates near  Port Arthur, Texas, which is where we left from in 2010 and headed east to Cameron, Louisiana and on to Abbeville. We always wanted to go back and explore the country along that lonely road, which we did on this drive. As the saying goes, "It's not the end of the world, but you can see it from there"!

That southwest corner of Louisiana, an area about 100 miles long and 50 miles deep, is all marshland-there is no shore, and no beaches. It's also full of lakes, both large and small, and is a lot like a map of northern Canada, with few roads and lots of lonely country. People do live there, in the few places high enough to be out of the water, but recent hurricanes in the last 10 years have destroyed a lot of property, and many people have left, not bothering to rebuild. Quite a few places are/were weekend getaways and hunting/fishing camps. Other than the 2 state highways that traverse it (82 and 27), every side road dead ends, either at a pier, an oil installation or at a locked gate. There are also a bunch of wildlife refuges-some accessible by car, but most only accessible by boat. We poked around 2 of them, Rockefeller State Wildlife Refuge and Cameron Prairie NWR.

The road out of the campground (Palmetto Island State Park) ends at Rt 82, so from there to Forked Island you are still in farmland, but at that town you cross the intracoastal waterway on a very tall bridge, and down on the other side, the marsh begins and you are surrounded by marsh grass off and on for the next 60 miles.

We had spotted a road on Google Maps, Freshwater City Road, that left Rt. 82 at Pecan Island, and headed south down to the Gulf, so we did too. What a crazy drive! It was about 12 miles long, and continued on in even taller marsh grass. The pavement soon quit and we were on gravel. Don't ask me where they got it-there is none in southern LA, and no rocks you could crush to make it with either. After a bit, we came to some houses, one of which was a really funky house that had a pair of rowboat planters out front. The place was manicured to  "T", something you just don't see in these parts, and whoever was living in it was doing a beautiful job. We didn't get the greatest pictures here, as it's a little weird to be standing out on a road taking pics of someone's house. Especially in southern Louisiana-it could be detrimental to one's lead-free health.

Across and down the road from that place was...grazing CATTLE! And the pavement also restarted, after a 5 mile hiatus. 

This road did not have any curves-every turn was a right angle change in direction, and when we whipped around a corner on one of them, we got a little surprise...we weren't sure who had the right of way, but at least the boat was in the proper lane.

A couple more turns & we saw what was going on-shrimpers, and that we were at the end of the road. The picnic bench is a tiny Fish and Wildlife picnicking & fishing area. Nearby were docks for oil service companies as well as the fishermen, all on a channel that took them into the Gulf of Mexico.

The fellow in the blue coat out at the end was fishing, and hobbled all the way over to us to ask for a light-we didn't have a thing with us to light a smoke-we felt bad, as he struggled so to walk. We also have NO idea how he got there, as there was no car, and there were no houses for miles. His "tackle box" was a plastic grocery bag.

All in all, it was a great side trip-here's some other sights we saw along the way:

Glad they replaced the bridge!!!

We continued west when we got to Rt. 82, stopping somewhere alongside it to eat the lunch we brought along. There's not much of anything but marshland on the 30 miles between Freshwater City Road and the Rockefeller National Wildlife Refuge's west end, where the only road into the Refuge (Price Lake Road), heads south for 3 miles before dead-ending at a dock and an observation tower. 

We took a few pics there, but discovered the first flight of stairs was missing off the observation tower! You could get on it if you were nimble enough to jump up and grab the last stair tread and pull yourself up, but those days are long over for me! I asked K to do her wifely duty and let me stand on her shoulders, but she just laughed and tried to push me off the dock and into the alligator infested waters. Cheesh-I've lost enough hair without one of them chewing the rest off! Somehow, we forgot to get a pic of the tower on top of it all, but here's a Heron fishing off the dock. Big "L's" on our foreheads!

Another 32 miles took us through Grand Chenier, one of the towns struggling to survive, with less and less structures remaining after each hurricane that comes through, and into Cameron. Along the way, we tried to take Earl Road, which, had we been successful, ran deep into the marshlands to the north, and by a couple of remote Refuges, and wound back down into the back side of Cameron. Alas, we started up Earl Road, waved at the two old guys sitting on their front porch, went 2 miles north, around a 90 degree left and ran smack into a locked, steel gate. HATE it when that happens! We got turned around and retreated back to Rt.82, waved at the two guys again, and headed west into Cameron. Which we ALSO neglected to take any pictures of!  So, here instead are some pics from 2010, coming east on Rt. 82 from Texas. Rt 82 starts and ends at Cameron, and to continue on it or get to Cameron from Texas, you have to board a free ferry across the outlet of Calcasieu Lake.

Approaching the bridge over Sabine Pass, which is the Texas-Louisiana border, from the Texas side.

View off the top of the bridge, looking south at a jacked up oil rig under repair. We had taken a drive down through there a few days before and the thing was huge. 

We also visited a non-existent Texas State Park on that same drive, that was literally blown away in a hurricane, leaving only a few stretches of asphalt, and that was it. All  the buildings were gone.

Along Rt. 82 heading to the Cameron ferry through Johnsons Bayou and Holly Beach.

Along Rt. 82 heading to the Cameron ferry

End of the road, and waiting for the boat.

Random ferry passenger from that red car next to me.

 Another random ferry passenger!

No idea what this boat was for, but it sure was impressive! And I used to think the hose reels on the airports fuel trucks were big!

A local fix-it guy....couldn't cure my hair loss though.

So from Cameron now (in 2014) we back-tracked on Rt. 82 to to Rt. 27, and headed north towards Lake Charles. The last stop was along this road out of the great marsh, at Cameron Prairie NWF. Lots to see here, with a 1/2 mile boardwalk through a section of open swamp, and a drive around a bigger section of the Refuge, with a lot of alligators around.

Couple of boardwalk pics above

You gotta wonder who's crazy enough to try and take a bite out of an alligator, much less two! So THIS what they mean by "gator bites" on the restaurant menus...

Hunting from his man blind. I wonder if he has a Labrador Retriever to bring the bodies back to him....

From there we scooted along up to Rt 14 and followed it east back to Abbeville, a spectacular 235 mile ride around the block. Would love to get hold of a boat and see some of the interior some day.