The Louisiana trip, to start, was not so much for the adventure as it was for a family visit. Because of the family visit to a far off place, Louisiana, I was going to do my best to make it as much of an adventure as I could! After careful consideration and a bit of planning, I decided to drive rather than fly with the rest of my party. I had figured well enough to know that I was probably going to come out ahead in the overall cost. And as it turns out, I certainly did, by at least $120!
Wednesday, September 19th, 2018
To make this trip as much of an adventure as I could, it would need some of the outdoors to be thrown in. Since I had not taken to the road for a full 12 hour stretch, had extra vacation time, and no place to stay while in Louisiana until Thursday, I decided to break up the trip down to Louisiana into two days. Day 1 would be a full 8 hour day of driving (give or take) and I would stop off in Mississippi at the Homochitto National Forest for the night. This would technically be my first stay in a National Forest that was not part of a National Park. I have to say, I was pretty pleased! I was more or less the only one staying in the primitive campground and there was no one in the improved sites loop that I saw. Other than the campground host and a lurking tourist that might have slept in his car after arriving late (probably to steal a night of camping), I was completely alone in the dark.... and it was wonderful!
Although I packed my usual gear, tent, sleeping pad, and whatever else, I decided on my hammock and sleeping bag as the needs for my camp. It would make taking down camp incredibly simple next morning and it would be an early morning to say the least! Tearing down camp needed to be as easy as possible!
Thursday, September 20th, 2018
To say it was an early morning was an understatement. Having gone to sleep at a shockingly early 8:30 PM, I was up on my own about 8 hours later at 4:30 AM. I suppose by not flying I had hoped to avoid the early morning nonsense but here I was, up at an insane hour of the morning. Not bad when you have adequate sleep to get going! I also found a minor flaw in my minimalist camping plan.... flashlight. Fortunately my phone has a flashlight to it and I had my phone with me otherwise I would have been completely in the dark. Literally!
Surprisingly, the Louisiana border wasn't much further passed where I had camped. Less than 1 hour into the drive on day 2 and I was at the border! I would continue on another 3 hours or so before I made it to my final stop, Lake Charles. Along the way I would catch a beautiful sunrise I was ill prepared to catch a photo of, a surprise treat of crossing the 175 foot tall Mississippi River bridge at Baton Rouge, and another surprise trip across the 18 mile long Atchafalaya Basin bridge! I would get videos and pictures on the return trip now that I was aware of what I was going to see! Having arrived in Lake Charles, I would scout the area for a bit, locate the hotel, and head to the airport where I would meet the rest of my party and their rental car for the trip.... don't ask.
Together we would venture over to Sam Houston Jones State Park for a bit to kill some time waiting to check into the hotel and meet up with relatives. The park isn't huge but does offer camping and wildlife spotting. I'll keep it in mind for the next Louisiana visit as I felt I might have been able to handle the 12 hour drive all in 1 day if I only knew I could camp here. I just don't know about those alligators though...
Later that night we would meet up with my relatives in Louisiana for dinner before checking into the hotel. The first part of the adventure had ended with more to come!
Friday, September 21st, 2018
This was a free day for us as we were unable to meet with relatives so that meant it was time to see the Gulf of Mexico again! I suppose the last time I had a chance to see the Gulf of Mexico was in 2004 during a trip to the Florida Keys. From Key West, I should have been able to see the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico at once. If that doesn't count, I then have to go much further back in my past before I can recall having been to the Gulf of Mexico. So far into the past I do not have recollection of my own as I was far too young to remember. Anyway, with this trip, I would now claim having been to the bordering waters of North America, the Arctic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, in the same year! From 71°17'N to 29°46'N; roughly 3,692 miles apart! I'll take that as an accomplishment!
Before arriving at the Gulf of Mexico at Holly Beach we would make a few stops along the way in the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge! I sincerely hope they were not protecting mosquitoes in this refuge as I had no choice but to kill on contact or risk being drained of my blood within seconds. If you are not prepared, they will strike when you turn your back and they will dig in and not let go. Killing them is the only way. Within a second of stepping near the tall grass, I was inundated with mosquitoes…. possibly ten on each leg. I would smash my hand against my leg and kill multiple mosquitoes in a single blow they were on me so thick. Even walking at a brisk pace, something that would get you a break from normal mosquitoes back home, was, like Alaska, inadequate to provide an escape here too. They were just as desperate here as they were in Alaska. Willing to bite down at whatever cost just to have a chance at living. Unfortunately they were unaware they had no choice. Die of starvation or die of blunt force trauma; either way, they were dead.
The view of the Gulf of Mexico from Holly Beach, LA!
On the way back from Holly Beach, we would make a side trip to fill the latter half of the day by stopping off at the USS Orleck Naval Museum!
It really didn't look like much but, having survived WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and hurricane Rita while in Texas, it had every right to look as rough as it did! Fortunately, a great group of people were dedicated to maintaining the vessel and keeping it a treasured piece of history. Unfortunately, things were not looking good and the ship may soon be taken for scrap or an artificial reef of the coast of Alabama. That was a bit disheartening hearing the caretakers express this as this truly was a great museum stop. In all the times I have visited a naval museum on a ship, this was the first that would allow you to go wherever you pleased, as long as it was not locked, and touch whatever you pleased! A true self guided tour where you could experience things on your own terms. It was well worth the trip and in the end, we had the surprise of seeing our first wild alligator on the trip! Double win in my book!
Saturday, September 22nd, 2018
This would be the final full day in Louisiana as, Sunday morning, the rest of my party would be boarding the airplane to start their trip back home. We were able to gather one last time with our Louisiana relatives for lunch before heading back to the hotel to rest up and gather our belongings together for the next day departure
Sunday, September 23rd, 2018
I, again, miscalculated the presumed avoidance of waking early for air travel. Staying in the same hotel as those flying out, I would have to be out at the same time as them. The night before, while loading whatever I could before going to bed, I learned my stuff, though packed in a "waterproof" softshell cargo carrier made by the company Rain X, got soaked when water leaked through the cargo carrier... My sleeping bag makes for a fantastic sponge. This would mean I would now have no choice but to drive straight through to get back home. I had no sleeping bag to sleep in, no tent, and no hammock. To be clear, the tent and hammock were also in the carrier and they too were quite soaked despite my sleeping bag's best effort to soak up all the water.
Since I was up so early already, it was no trouble getting started on the straight-through journey home. I calculated, based on my journey down, that I could easily do this arriving home before it became too late to unload gear. I also felt fine on the journey down to have continued straight through but, lacking a place to stay, I opted for the original plan of camping out in Mississippi. In other words, I was up for the challenge despite not having much of a choice. After 14 hours, with stops, I went from Lake Charles, Louisiana back home. It wasn't my preferred way to end the journey (preferring a bit more adventure and perhaps more camping) but it was what I had to do given the failure of my not so weather-proof gear.
The drive back wasn't completely without adventure as I did cross the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge at sunrise with camera ready, cross the Mississippi River bridge in Baton Rouge with camera ready, and diverted myself through New Orleans to cross the much desired Lake Pontchartrain Causeway! The Causeway is a 23 mile long bridge straight across the middle of Lake Pontchartrain! This was very much a highlight of the trip and, like the Eisenhower Tunnel and Pikes Peak of the Rocky Mountain National Park trip, a must for the "car guy" side of my adventure streak! The weather was beautiful, the air was clean, and traffic was light. What more could you ask for? To further the adventure, somewhere in Mississippi I found myself following a car that, while I followed, lost the hood latch on the car causing the hood to fly up on the windshield of the car while other various parts went shooting out all over. Not sure how the driver was able to steer to the opposite shoulder without seeing but they did it! Quite a scary situation to be following that car as it lost the hood latch and have really no place to go to get away. If only I had gotten that on camera... The rest of the trip would pass by rather uneventfully through pouring rain and, after the last of the 14 hours, I was home! Span of 5 days; Approximately 30 hours and 23 minutes of cumulative driving; Approximately 1,876.7 miles; Approximately 132.23 gallons of gas used; Approximate average MPG 14.14; Approximately $281.23 spent on gas; Average fuel consumption rate 4.352 gallons per hour.