New Orleans and Bayou Recap

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Such ambiance!

Length of Stay:

  • 4 days, 4 nights

Highs:

  • Kayaking in the Bayou
  • Exploring the unusual cemeteries
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Above-ground stone crypts

Lows:

  • Spending more money than I had originally anticipated

Favorite Hike:

  • Bayou Coquille Trail and March Overlook (at Jean Lafitte NP)
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Just a lil’ gator

Favorite Treat(s): [so many!]

  • Beignets
  • Seafood gumbo
  • Aligator meat po’boy
  • Crawfish étouffée fries
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Crawfish étouflée fries

 

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N’awlins

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Famous Cafe Du Monde beignets

The food is incredible.

The sights are boundless.

The humidity is tolerable.

The laid back, slower pace of life in this city has earned New Orleans the nomenclature The Big Easy. Streets cater to pedestrians, narrow alleys are ideal for intimate meals, and music seems to seep out from unexpected places. Compared to my recent stint in NYC, N’awlins was relaxingly mesmerizing.

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A cute pedestrian-only alley

The Garden District is a playground for celebrities. Who knew that the likes of John Goodman and Sandra Bullock regularly call this city their home? I took a walking tour of this neighborhood, marveling at the gorgeous architecture and delightful foliage of plantation-turned-mini-mansion neighborhoods.

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City Park was another highlight of this fascinating city! The green space was well-kept and an intriguing place to meander whilst sipping a chickory coffee (bitter).

And now to end on a quote (of an author I’ve never heard of):

“Yes, a dark time passed over this land, but now there is something like light.” – Dave Eggers

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City Park

* Check out the N’awlins Bayou post

In the Bayou

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My last gator sighting had been in the wild world of the Everglades.

I was overdue for a look at one of these fascinating critters.

Chock one up for Louisiana – it sure packs a punch when it comes to the local flora and fauna found within the beautiful landscape of the Bayou. I saw 7 alligators, including an adorable baby one I named Jeremiah! There were snakes, bugs, fish, and all sorts of interesting things to look at during my hikes within Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. Besides another stamp in my passport, I gained an appreciation for this area of our country, discovering a serene paradise.

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Hooray for another National Park site passport stamp!
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Strolling along the boardwalk in Jean Lafitte NP

The smells were fruity and organic. The sights were varied and unique. The sounds reminded me that I was surrounded by many different animals, some that only live within the delta of this state.

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A gator…

During my Bayou swamp kayak tour the night before, I appreciated the peace-giving atmosphere of being enclosed by the baldcypress trees. I snacked on the Mayhaw fruit – a type of berry that tastes a bit like an apple – as I paddled within the wetlands. Unlike some of my other kayak adventures (Biscayne and Mammoth Caves), this one allowed me to truly get off the beaten path. Our guide was a local who grew up along the river, an expert as navigating his way around the swamp ever since he was just a little kid.

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Our expert guide informed me that this tree is referred to as “The Hand” by the locals.

Louisiana may not have an official National Park, but it has so much to offer when it comes to natural places. I finished my morning hike with a bowl of gumbo from a local establishments, replete with seafood fresh from the wild.

I miss Jeremiah the alligator already. 😦

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My friend Kate and I (she did most of the paddling). You might recognize her from my second trip to the Rockies.

 

Poetry Intermission (Part II)

Move, Coast, Repeat (Great Sand Dunes)

 

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Sandboarding down the Dunes (August 2016)

She grips the cube of wax in hand, wielded like a sword

Plopping down on the sand, she quickly flips the board

Then like a desert artist, she draws a spiraling curl

Quite certain of the purpose – intent to give a whirl

She carefully removes her boots and sets them to the side

Then places each foot carefully within the sandboard binds

Rising up, she inches close – the point of no return

Brow is furled, lips are curled, it’s time for her to learn

Knees bent

Begin descent

Faster and faster, her board speeds down the dune

The laughter come unbidden, like a favorite tune

Leaning back, she attempts, a cautious revolution

Wobbly legs and spinning arms become the best solution

The speed now uncontrollable yet joyous all the same

Reaching the bottom now becomes her central aim

Once the focus falls away, her limbs begin to flail

It doesn’t take much longer for all her balance to fail

Poise is lost

Limbs are crossed

Tumble and squeals

Head over heals

A mouth of sand comes spitting out but the gritty feel persists

She warily stands up again and shakes out both her wrists

The long walk back from her wipes-out is sure to take awhile

But up she goes, forgets her woes, shouldering a smile

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Backyard Magic (and a “Comfortable Runabout”)

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February is the month of introspection and restlessness. Typically winter lolls about like a tantrumming toddler, beating its fists and creating headaches all around.

This year feels different. Perhaps it’s the mild weather (78° anyone???), or maybe it’s due to the plethera of random activities in which I’ve been dabbling.* In any case, I’ve been venturing outdoors more than usual, exploring nearby places with a renewed sense of vigor.

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Calm and (relatively) clean.

A metaphorical stone’s throw from my abode, The Cross County Trail cuts 40 miles through the entire county of Fairfax. This fascinating path crosses around and under surburbia, including well-populated areas and interstates. What a feat!

My walk/hike was muddy, sunshine-y, and friendly. People smiled at me in passing. I felt protected by a little envelope of trees, grass, running water, logs, and rocks. It was amazing to discover natural wonders so close to my own backyard.

And when it’s time to journey further, I’ve got a new set of wheels.

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Honda CR V (Comfortable Runabout Vehicle). His name is Sherwin… it means “swift like wind”.

Unfortunately, my dear Honda Civic hydroplaned, spun-out, and then became a total loss. It’s been a rough year for him (see Accident of the Deer #1), I mourn his passing.

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Cray-zee, right?

In the meantime, near or far, I am confident that I will continue engaging with all things beautiful in our natural world!

* Axe-throwing, roller skating, etc.

 

Fever of the Cabin

 

Cabin fever: irritability, listlessness, and similar symptoms resulting from long confinement or isolation indoors during the winter.

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This season has been a strange one, vacillating between cold-frigid-dry and mild-breezy-moist. The sun has peeked out for days at a time, and then retreated back to its cloud cover, refusing to dish out Vitamin D.

I was feeling the mid-winter blahs, so I rooted around for my hiking boots, and dug out my day-pack. It was time to hit the trails.

Enter: Prince William National Forest.

This gem is only a 30 minute drive from my house, assuming that I-95 is not a slogging mess of traffic. It wasn’t (hooray).

Things were quiet and closed down for the season. A few families were milling about, taking advantage of the higher temps, and letting their little rugrats release some pent-up winter energy. I took a peek at the trail map, and set out.

The landscape was a blend of white, blue, and shades of brown. The air smelled delicious, and I enjoyed clomping along the mucky trail. My favorite part was the semi-frozen creek along which I traipsed. Pretty is too nominal a word to describe the glistening snow covering, the icy edges, and the brave trickling stream that I followed for the majority of my day.

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I spy some green!

I got up close, taking pictures to help me truly see and understanding this unassuming body of water. I hunched down with my face near the ice cover, noticing the lattice work of the frozen water reflecting the winter sun. Fellow hikers gave me friendly nods, probably assuming I had lost an earring, or a piece of my mind.

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Ice, ice baby

I walked.

I hiked.

I skipped (for just a small portion).

I was glad to be alone, and glad to have my senses ignited.

Fast forward a week: I now sit inside, once again, lamenting the rain that ebbs and flows.

Perhaps I’ll root around for my waterproof jacket and beat the winter blahs once again.

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Sky Time

Throughout my travels near and far, I have experienced nature in the forests, mountains, valleys, rivers, oceans, and even underground in caves.

It was high-time that I took to the skies.*

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Me. Happy.

When my pilot friend (who also happens to be a flight instructor) said, “Let’s go flying”, I was 100% onboard – literally.

It was a crisp, clear day with views for miles. I observed the lacy patterns on the semi-frozen Potomac River that lay surrounded by snow-dusted grounds. The deciduous trees stood as tiny skeletons while pockets of deep green marked the clusters of their evergreen friends. The Chesapeake Bay was a sight to behold with its glossy surface reflecting the sun, making the light dance as we flew lazy eights above.

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The view from above, including the Potomac

I was experiencing my world from a completely new perspective, and thoroughly enjoying it. Things looked prettier from up high, away from the concrete and busyness on the ground. My birds-eye-perspective rendered everything as smaller, simpler, yet somehow even more beautiful.

And yes, getting a chance to take-off and actually fly a bit myself added to my sense of awe.

I was surrounded by air, far from the world as I know it, yet still experiencing the natural world in a phenomenal way.

I cherished every minute of it.

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Our plane

 

* The commercial flights I’ve taken wherein I share elbow space with other humans and have just a peek of blue sky out a too-small window don’t truly count as a “nature experience”