My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bear Festival Paddle on Bayou Teche

I got to take a holiday from volunteering at Anahuac NWR and paddle three days with old and new friends. Donovan Garcia, a man passionate about saving Louisiana swamps, bayous and historic waterways was our host and guide. We camped in his huge shady yard, right on Bayou Teche and got to use his pool house for early coffee, meals and showers.  The weather was perfect for paddling - not too sunny or hot  - so I didn't work up much sweat in my shorts.

The campground in Donovan's yard

Morning muse from Donovan's dock
Me at a put-in

Boats waiting for the shuttle run on Bayou Teche

We also went to the Bear Festival in the evenings to listen to various kinds of music, including Cajun and Zydeco.  One person was from Australia and she loves Zydeco.  She ended up buying two washboards, one from Earl, who gave a lesson by standing behind here and playing on her front.  (I think the lesson  also included the washboard.) AND he signed the washboard, with LOVE. We also enjoyed the antique boat show.  The Wisconsin guys were bragging about all the brands of old motors that had been build in their state. My favorite boat was  a beautiful hand-made push boat, in which the boater stands up and moves the oars by pushing them away as he steps back and forth on a track in the bottom of the boat.

Some of the antique boat show taken from the water

We didn't get to actually paddle in the Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge was bought with money designated to make a refuge to harbor bears. But politics raised its ugly head and John Breaux managed to force through a sale of swamp lands which makes for very marginal habitat for the few Louisiana Black Bears left. So they have to leave the refuge and look for food.  Mostly they live short lives on garbage before they get run over by cars. It was a pretty sad case of deals taking the place of good policy and misusing our money.

The water entrance to Bayou Teche NWR on Hampton Canal

But we got delicious food for lunch on our paddles from very unlikely places such as a tiny shack and a truck stop. And the paddles were interesting and lovely. We learned about the sugar industry, although most of the mills have closed. We saw a truck with a load of raw sugar, bringing it to be stored in the old mill until the prices are right for selling.

Perfectly cooked catfish, white beans and rice, and cookies

Paddling past a sugar mill on Bayou Teche 

Southern mansion built with money made from sugar

We paddled a short stretch of Bayou Teche the last day, then paddled into the Hampton Canal which once had locks on it. It was once the first parts of the Intercostal Canal System but now is a quiet, beautiful place.The water was high enough that we paddled a little ways into the surrounding swamp.

Donovan and friend in Hampton Bayou

In the swamp

Hampton Canal view

Wisconsin paddlers in Hampton Bayou

All too soon, it was time to come back to Texas and plant trees again. But I'll be back.The bayous of Louisiana are among my favorite paddling streams.