My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Little Swamp Fix

I have never spent this much  time in Louisiana without going out exploring somewhere in my canoe. And every little trip I take, I have to cross water that I KNOW holds more beauty than does the land.

Finally I got so frustrated that I signed up for the Honey Island Swamp Tour, just to see one of my favorite places.  I tried to talk Hulin into joining me, but he was sure the trip would be a disappointment next to what we got out of paddling there. In fact, one of my best memories was of spending my birthday on a paddle up  Gum Bayou off the Pearl River. We had high water and couldn't find dry land, so we landed next to a huge log and sat on it and ate the Mississippi Caviar I'd made for the first time. A tour boat came by and enjoyed the "natives".  Then we continued back until the bayou got too shallow to paddle.  I remember great and snowy egrets, and white ibises everywhere. That paddle was in early April and the southern spring was full blown.

Today was a day when we remembered it was still winter. The skies were mostly grey until just before we were ready to board.  I arrived and started thinking about taking pictures, then realized, in my haste to get in my physical therapy, gym time, and then visiting with Hulin's company, I had left the camera at home.  Then I remembered my "new" iphone - the iphone 5 Hulin gave me.  I quickly took a few pictures with it and then the low battery sign flashed on. I rushed to the car and started charging it.  Then I had to go beg to be put on the second tour boat in order to make it to twenty-eight percent.  But I took all the pictures I intended to, except for one and only lost a few I really wanted. 

This was the first time I remember being in Honey Island Swamp in winter. And I almost missed it, because spring was already entering from the wings. From a distance, the southern winter brown was everywhere, but up close, buds were swelling, some willows had already burst into leaves, and the swamp maples were blooming.  Birds were in extremely short supply.  I saw chickadees, one red shouldered hawk, and one eastern phoebe during the hour and half trip. 

Winter beauty from the Gift Shop

Our departure spot

The tour boat in front of little house boats that belong to locals

The Pearl River

Our boat and Captain Hunter

Swamp view 

A white blooming shrub and palmettos on Honey Island

We met a fisherman in gum bayou - he hadn't had any bites yet

Gum Bayou is where I've done most of my paddling in this area - the little yellow-green patches are giant salvinia, an invasive that clogs streams and lakes, stopping boating, killing fish and killing native vegetation that feeds ducks and fish

Monochromatic beauty

We caught up with the other boat in gum bayou

The sky got prettier and prettier as the tour progressed

The only alligator we saw. - the weather is too cold for the large ones to move around

I had never traveled down the Pearl River past huge modern houses to the shacks of the Cajun hunters and fishermen,  so I totally enjoyed this part of the trip. Captain Hunter told us that one professional fisherman takes hundreds of pounds of catfish out of the Pearl River each day. And one of the best baits for catfish is a piece of ivory soap.

We went under the I-10 bridge over the Pearl River and these power lines

As we traveled down river, we found more and more grass

This was a super high end house just along the river

We enjoyed the picturesque shacks along the river. Many of them have been abandoned after Katrina pushed a ten foot wall of water up the river.  Most of the others were just used for weekend homes or for hunting and fishing. But a few of the residents lived year around and one family had school age children and she has to put them in a boat every day and haul them down to the boat ramp, a mile or two away, where they board the school bus.

Along Main Street

Everyone has to take a boat to the boat launch where their vehicles are parked

Cajun town south of the big houses

Houseboat and travelers

We also saw a house with a several boats in front of it.  One of them had several dogs in it and on the front steps, were three dead hogs sitting up like they were still alive. On the way back, we met the hunters again, heading out with five dogs. Some of the dogs are released to search for the hogs and then others are released to catch and hold the hogs. The dogs wear kevlar vests to keep them from being gored.  Our guide, Captain Hunter, said that the largest hog ever taken from this area weighed 845 pounds. I was unable to document this and the biggest I could find, weighed under 600 pounds. The ones we saw today were about 100 to 150 pounds.

I really missed my camera here - look carefully to find the dogs in far left boat
and the three dead hogs on the steps

The boat I almost go had two hunters and five hounds chained into the boat - they were off to hunt another batch of hogs

When this publishes, I'll be playing with friends in Texas.  I'll not be paddling but will be enjoying hiking, birdwatching, and visiting. I'm especially excited that a Florida friend will be flying in.