My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Extended New Year's Party Part I - Setting Up and Hiking

To celebrate the end of the year, my  friend, Bob, set up a three day camping/paddling trip to one of my favorite places, Lake Fausse Point State Park. Dutch and Bill joined us. We carpooled over together in two cars, since Dutch had to come back on Sunday.

Bob and Bill  loading boats - mine is next

Lake Fausse Point State Park is in the historical Atchafalaya Basin, that wonderful South Louisiana swamp. It is home to lots of alligators, turtles, nutria, frogs, all kinds of fish, river otters, bobcats, raccoons, beaver, and lots of other mammals and birds. Many of the Cajuns made their living in this swamp, hunting, fishing, trapping, collecting and drying Spanish moss to sell to use to stuff mattresses, and cutting and making building materials from the cypress trees. A good percentage of Louisiana crawfish come from this swamp.

I love to paddle through the maze of canals, bayous, sloughs, and lakes. 

Bob studying Bill's tent which is behind Dutch's, on the tent pad

We drove in behind a rain that had put about three inches of rain in the park and severely cooled  off the temperatures. I was packing up in shorts and a T-shirt, then changed to a long-sleeved shirt and long pants to travel,  but needed a couple of layers on to set up camp. Afterwards I took a short walk in the cold, windy, wet air. But the spring peeper chorus never abated and made for a beautiful white sound. The park had more than it's usual wet places and half our site was under water, including our fire ring.

The bathhouse and reflection in the frog pond where the spring peeper chorus was loudest

No fire bans  here but we didn't want to sit in the water either

By morning it was bitterly cold - for us - I think the temperature was 37 degrees - and still cloudy and  very damp. We were awakened by the duck hunters going out in their boats and then we knew it was time to get up at the first gunshots, thirty minutes before sunrise.  I suggested we take a hike in the morning while waiting for the sun to re-emerge.  We walked around the paved areas to the day use area and then took a trail that would lead us to the only campsite that is accessible by either water or land. Lots of birds were out, including a red-breasted nuthatch, a golden-crowned warbler, lots of myrtle warblers, a hermit thrush, lots of robins, chickadees, and titmice. We even had a red-tailed hawk that mostly hung around the campground. And cormorants, wading birds and grebes were in the waters we crossed. We had an enjoyable five mile hike, then came back and ate lunch. Afterwards we decided that we were too cold to paddle. The day had remained cloudy so we felt colder than we would have felt with a little sun. The guys went to find gas and mess around and I retreated to my tent to read and nap.

Bob took our picture at breakfast

Resurrection fern - it dries up in drought and then comes back to green life a few hours after a rain.

A long view of the campground and the guys.Note the Christmas bows put up by another camper

My first good view of a red-breasted nuthatch - even though they have been seen on all the counts I've been on

Golden-crowned kinglet

Dutch on the trail

View from the trail

Shelf fungi

By evening, it was still cloudy and even colder. I had made turkey gumbo from the bones and small pieces of meat from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass and only had to heat it.  We all felt much warmer after eating but went to bed pretty early. Our fire ring was still under water and, though our neighbors had told us to come to their fire, we were all a little hesitant to impose on them. So we didn't have a fire that night. And we didn't see many stars as most of them hid  behind the cloud cover. However the almost full moon did peek through the clouds before we went to bed. The spring peepers did not let the cold night bother them and kept up their chorus.

The moon giving us hope that tomorrow will be sunnier
 You'll get to see some of our sights on our paddles we did over the next two days in my next blog.

  Have a happy and blessed New Year.