Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blood Moon

I decided it would be fun to try to get a picture of the so called Blood Moon.  First, I set out coveralls, tripod, and boots. Then I went online and found settings for the camera to get somewhat of a decent picture. (ISO 6400, F5.6, 1/4 sec, 200 mm) I can never remember this type of thing.  Finally, I set the alarm for 1:45 am & crawled into bed.

I seriously considered turning off the alarm when it seemed to go off immediately after getting in bed, but I didn’t and glad of it.  Clouds were obscuring the moon when I went to bed but, thankfully, the sky was clear at the prescribed time. 

At 1:45 am the eclipse had already started.  So, I set the tripod up and waited.  Of course, I am not a serious photographer so there will be better pictures. It was red and beautiful.  This was my best shot.   In the end, it was fun to just sit and enjoy history.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dry spell broken–Geocache found

We checked our gauge about mid afternoon.  It showed 1.3 inches.  It has rained some since then.  If this cloud wasn’t so beautiful, it would have seemed threatening.

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Our three local grandboys were down over the weekend.  In between games of Sequence, Evan searched for a geocache.  He is the only one who likes to look with me.  It ended up neighbor Christi wasn’t doing anything so she joined us.  We had to drive all over the place south of the river.  It wasn’t that the caches were so hard to find, but we couldn’t get cell phone service.  Definitely would be nice to have a GPS unit but, for now, the cell phones work fine. 

It ended up Evan actually spotted the box.  The name of the Geo was “Twin Mounds.”  Here he is with his cache.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Cute sayings

It must be spring, because there have been many cute sayings reported from proud grandparents lately.  Several of our friends have grandbabies who are just beginning to communicate in sentences.  Good stuff.

We have had many of those cute observations in our past.  I should have written them down.  I thought maybe we wouldn’t be blessed with any more since our oldest, Aaron, will be 15 in May and our youngest, Evan, will be seven in June.  School replaces the sometimes brilliant random observations of the very young with more analytical communication and thinking skills.

Today, Evan said something that touched my heart, though.  And, it was directed to me.

Here’s what Evan said, “Nana, I think you should make drive by cinnamon rolls.”  He explained that my cinnamon rolls were so good that people would drive up to a McDonalds type window just to get one. 

Of course, Evan will get fresh, hot  cinnamon rolls any time he is here for breakfast.  There is no need to tell him I make those cinnamon rolls in a bread machine either.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Can’t dance, too wet to plow and too windy to pick up rocks

I’ve never been too sure what this saying really means, but I have several ideas that I won’t get into here.

As it turns out, though, it has not been too windy to pick up rocks. Because, that's what Dan and I have been doing for three plus hours at a time for the past week. The wind blows and blows and those rocks just lay there. It would be nice if they would blow into a pile--the wind has about been that strong.

Last fall we had a big machine come in and push dirt in every direction in our a 30 acre crop field. The end result is amazing improvement in drainage and tillable acres. It is also amazing how many rocks "floated" to the surface, mainly on the terraces. Spring is here and Mark, our man with the expensive equipment that those rocks could harm, reminded us planting time is approaching.

We’ve had rock picking up projects before. We even got our grandkids involved on this project. Our kids say we made them pick up rocks when they were young. The last time we visited our Colorado family, son Doug told his son he doesn't have it so bad. Because he (Doug) had to pick up rocks on his birthday--and I think he even mentioned he had to pick up rocks on Christmas morning.  Neither Dan nor I remember making the kids pick up rocks, well maybe once----or twice. However, both Dan and I remember having to pick up rocks when we were kids, so I guess this activity makes vivid childhood memories.

One more day and we'll have the current rock project whipped. No kids, no grandkids, just the two of us. However, if everyone gets home this summer, we do have this other area....

Friday, March 28, 2014

Oh well–Old well

Several years ago, on April 4, 2012, I wrote about an old well in the valley below our house.  Here is the picture I posted then.

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We put the old bed springs on top of it when we first found it.  It was open before then, located in an old farmstead.  I think this home was abandoned before Clinton Lake was built.  All is left of the home is one side of a foundation made with stacked rocks.  If you didn’t know where it is located, I doubt you could find it.

We went back to the site today to check the well.  I was thinking of hiding a geocache in area of the farmstead.  The open well is a concern for safety of those searching, though. We discovered the well is currently dry.  A first.  Usually when we shine a light down we see water.  It is 14’ deep and lined with rock all the way to the bottom.

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We decided if I hide a geocache, it won’t be here. 

By the way, we know of one other open hand dug well in the valley.  We’ve reported both of them, but…..oh well. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Land Between The Lakes and home to Land Above the Lake

We’ve been within shouting distance of Land Between the Lakes before—this time we decided to see what it is about.  This is one place we will  spend more time.  If we are willing, we could get there in one day—about a nine and half hour drive.

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The area between the Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley is called the “Land Between the Lakes” and the road is called The Trace.  It is a United States National Recreation Area.  President John F. Kennedy commissioned the area in 1963. 

One of the reasons we would return is the Turkey Bay OHV area.  There are about 100 miles of off road riding.  If we are pulling the ATV that far, we might as well drop by the St Joe State Park in Missouri which contains 2,000 acres of off road riding.    I could see this happening during fall color.  We’ll see.

We didn’t stop much on our way through (we are headed home, you know) but we did visit one of the many cemeteries in the area.  There were numerous small communities with churches before the land was claimed by the Tennessee Valley Authority.  Of course, each church had a cemetery.  These are fun places to look for geocaches.  And, I did find the “Jenny Ridge Cemetery Cache.”  (If you are into geocaching, I am “lindanorthstar.”

We didn’t arrive at the LBL area until afternoon.  After exiting the Natchez Trace, we drove north on the Tennessee Scenic Hwy 13 Tri River Road.  Dan and I will most always choose backroads rather than four lanes.  However, in this instance scenic meant very curvy.  There were even two hairpin curves.  Did I mention the horse was headed for the barn?

At this point on all of our trips, we usually have to go through a grumpy time.  Dan is ready to get home and I am sad the trip is over.  We work through it and even decided rather than drive until we were exhausted, we would park in the Booneville MO Walmart.  We arrived home at 10:30 am.  That’s even with a stop in Lawrence to fill up with propane.

So, we got home, unloaded and put away in time to see KSU lose.  Not to end with a negative, I will say again, it was a great trip.  Thanks for following along!   

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Natchez Trace–a rural mail route not for sissies

Sometimes when we point our van toward home, it is hard to slow up enough to visit anyplace else.  With the Natchez Trace, we could just keep on driving north and learn  about history as well.

It was the early 1800’s and the Mississippi Valley settlements were isolated from the east coast.  It was a long tedious process getting mail to the area.  To speed mail delivery and to bind the areas together, President Jefferson ordered the Army to clear a trail first used by animals and Native Americans. 

This “road” was called the Natchez Trace.  One of the informational signs said, “This early interstate road building venture produced a snake-infested, mosquito-beset, robber-haunted, Indian traveled forest path.” Besides mail carriers and Indians, traders, soldiers, settlers, slaves, circuit rider preachers, outlaws and adventurers used the trail.  Also there was a group called “Kaintucks” who floated their commodities down the rivers to Natchez or New Orleans, sold their boats for scrap wood and walked home.  Despite his great adventure, Meriwether Lewis was killed on the Trace.  Unbelievably,  the postriders could carry mail between Nashville and Natchez in ten days.  It took 30 to 35 to walk.  In 1820 steamboats made the trip much faster and easier.  The Natchez Trace lasted only 20 years.

Now the entire length of the Trace from Natchez to Nashville is a National Park.  It is a well maintained two lane road, free of any commercial traffic or signs with a 55 mph speed limit.  We hopped on the road for ten miles or so south on our way to New Orleans.  Then we picked it up again headed north after our family visit.  We didn’t go all the way to the end, but felt we experienced what it might be like to be on the road in times past.

This is how the road looks now.

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There are numerous areas where we could walk the old Trace.  Here is one.

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There are Indian mounds in various places.  These were places for the chiefs to place a house on top and it is thought they were used in ceremonies.

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There is a first come, first serve,  no charge campground along the Trace—a beautiful location in the trees.  It was easy to imagine this might have been the place a traveler might have camped 200 years ago.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Alabama Family

We’ve been excited about this part of our trip since we left home—spending time with Dan’s brother’s girls and their families.  And, we had a great visit.   It was good to see  them in person rather than a Facebook picture.  They are all Alabama girls, but are quick to say they don’t fall in step behind the Bama or Auburn backers like everyone else in their state.  We are glad they still claim the state of Kansas.

Here is the newest addition to our family and his parents.  So cute!

IMG_5303 Here he is with his Nana

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Our  niece and her daughter.  We helped them bottle feed their little calves and saw all the beautiful horses.

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Horses and this little dog.  He was hilarious to watch. As with most dogs, he liked Dan.

IMG_0915  I had to include this one.  Everyone was trying to get precious little one to laugh so all of us are cracking up.

IMG_5305Breakfast and goodbyes this morning at the Mason Jar.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Apalachicola – Love the name and town

The magazine article said Apalachicola is one of the last cities that has retained much of its old Florida atmosphere.  No high rise hotels, no casinos, just small home town shops and restaurants.  Since we were late getting into town, we stopped at the first restaurant we came to.  It turned out to be a good choice.  Dan’s oysters were done to perfection.  We asked our waitress if there is a place we could park for the night.  Sure, she said.  So off we went to what they call the Battery. 

This morning I woke just in time to mosey out on the pier for a few sunrise pictures.  I took a bunch, but this is my favorite.

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This gull must have thought there was sure to be something good come out of the Trekker.  And there was, Dan found some bread.

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We explored Apalachicola finding beautiful homes and cottages.  We toured the Maritime Museum finding it well done and informative.  We learned around the turn of the century, the oyster beds were decimated by overharvesting.  Since, they have  harvested the same as was done for the past century and the beds are flourishing.

Since it is Saturday, no boats were going out, but this is how they lookIMG_0892   This is their tool for bringing the oysters up from the bottom.  It works like a scissor. 

IMG_0890 The rich water coming down the Apalachicola River mixes with the brine of the ocean to make a perfect breeding ground for the oysters.

We then crossed a four mile bridge to St Joseph Island.  It too is a beautiful laid back place—no high rise hotels.  I fixed the vegetables we picked up from the Farmers Market.  Then, finally, we spent a couple hours sitting on the beach.  Just enjoying the wind and waves.  I also got to fly my new kite—a butterfly.  Dan is holding on while I snap a picture. 

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Love this kite.

IMG_0912Sadly, we turned the van toward the west today.  First, we are heading  north to Alabama to visit Dan’s nieces first.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Here is some Love for our National and State Parks

There is a reason the powers that be choose certain locations for national parks.  The same is true of state parks as well. It is a beautiful location that should be preserved for all people. For that reason, if we aren’t boondocking in some obscure location, we’re in a national or state park. 

The Gulf Shores National Park is one of those places.  The personnel were friendly and helpful.  They allowed us to find a open spot even though the computer said they were full.  The showers were clean.  And, the people camped there were friendly.  We almost stayed there today and just sat out on the sand.  The sand on the vast, vacant beaches was white and the gulf was a beautiful blue green. 

It was eerie because to get to the campground we drove through a narrow strip of land where the water was very close on each side.  I’m not sure I made it clear that this is an island connected to the mainland by bridge.

IMG_5252 I’m still not sure we made the right decision but here we are in Apalachicola Florida.  I’ll have more on this little village tomorrow.  I will say we have had enough of the crowds converging on the Gulf for the weekend.  It could even be a few spring break young people as well. 

Before I check out and into bed, I want to show another picture.  The name of this is “Big Bang”  Actually it is the battery Langdon.  It was a part of the Gulf Shores National Park.

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This was built in 1923.  There is a gun in there that will shoot 17 miles out to sea.  The concussion when it was shot  back in the day would make those present bleed from the mouth and ears. During WWII, the top was covered with sand.   We drove past this last night nearly nightfall.  Dan and I wondered if this was a place we wanted to stay—pretty ominous.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Gulf Coast – Mississippi, Alabama on to Florida

When we left Davis Bayou campground in Mississippi this morning, we had an exciting plan involving taking a ferry between Gulf Islands. 

First, though, we visited Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island on the southwest side of Mobile Bay. Construction of Ft. Gaines was completed in 1861 but the island, because of its strategic location, has been an important to those to occupied the area since 1815.  An important Civil War battle was fought there in 1864.  For only a $6 admission, we followed a self guided tour that told us about the battle and the daily life in the fort.  This is the fort from the outside.

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Looking out over the water

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It is meaningful to walk in the same paths and look out the same places as those before us who shaped our nation.  We learned so much more than I will write here. 

Before we visited the fort, we stopped by a little bakery in Dauphin.  Yep, another fish sandwich.  This time a shrimp salad.

Then on to the ferry.  Except that it was broke down.  So, back north and up and around Mobile Bay and back down to the Gulf Shores.  There are two State Parks on the Gulf Shores so after driving around a bit, we decided to park for the night—but both parks were full.

We were surprised at how many huge high rise hotels with beautiful beaches are positioned right along the Gulf Shores.  They will be hopping next week when college spring breaks begin.

Earlier in the day I had called the National Park on the Gulf Island south of Pensacola Florida.  They told me it was full.  However, we decided to bank on a cancellation and at 4:00 took off for an hour drive to the Fort Pickens National Park.  So glad we did because here we are sitting on this beautiful island to explore tomorrow.  In the end, it all worked out for the best.

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Biloxi Gulf Coast Area

Twelve southern states have four years of their own personal history,  the years they were the Confederate States.   Jefferson Davis was the president of those seceded states.  We passed his home yesterday and decided to travel back eleven miles to visit Beauvier today. 

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And, the library

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The complex of home and library are owned and operated by the Mississippi Division of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans.  The home has a beautiful view of the Gulf.  After Davis died, his widow had the opportunity to sell the beautiful home for a nice sum, but instead she sold it for a small sum to a trust with the stipulation it would be used as a home for confederate veterans.  Now it is open to the public and is as well cared for as any presidential library.  The South takes a lot of pride in its past.

Biloxi has a lighthouse.  It is on many of their publications. 

IMG_5150 During the Civil war they removed the reflector and planted it black. 

We continued our seafood diet today.  Never underestimate the benefits of asking a local where to eat.  That is how we found a little cafe named Rosetti’s inside a seafood market in old Biloxi. Delicious.  And enough for our evening meal as well.

We are staying at the Gulf Islands National Seashore Davis Bayou Campground again tonight.  The price is right $11—half price for anyone with a Senior Pass.  Anyone over age 62 should have one. 

Other than the clean, well run campground, this area has been set aside to keep this part of the gulf shore natural.  The nature trail turned out to be a beautiful place to watch the sun set this evening.  Here is my favorite.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Andrew, Dan & Linda in the French Quarter

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In my hair’s defense, it rained nearly the entire time we were with Andrew Jackson in the French Quarter today.  We saved the main reason most come to New Orleans for the last day.  Even with the rain, we were surprised and even impressed with this famous area. 

We were able to squeeze the Trekker into a regular parking space only a few blocks from the Quarter and headed straight for this historical landmark:

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Rather than wait in a long line for a table, we walked right up to the takeout and ate under our umbrella in Jackson Square.  The beignets were warm and oh so tasty.

Here is the classic photo of Jackson Square.  It is beautiful, but then probably everyone but us has already seen it.  This was taken from the River Walk so Andrew Jackson is pretty small there in the middle.P3100025

There is a Jean Lafitte National Park presence in the French Quarter which means a Ranger with information.  She suggested we might like the museum next to the cathedral where there are Katrina and Mardi Gras exhibits.  It took over an hour to move through the Katrina exhibit.  We had no idea of the extent of the devastation and how many Parishes were impacted.  There were computer graphics showing how the water moved when the various levis were compromised.   They had numerous first person interviews of how it was to be a part of it. 

The Mardi Gras exhibit was happier.  There is a huge amount of tradition involved in this celebration.  The area is home to a mix of nationalities and they all take the celebration very seriously.  There are even a costumed group who ride their horses into the city for the parade.

Spring 2010 trip 018 After the museum we walked around the familiar streets.  Despite the almost steady rain, people were out, doing what they do on Bourbon Street.  People our age are in the minority.  Probably because most our age don’t want to get a huge, sweet alcoholic drink and carry it up and down the streets.

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So, the debate became, where to eat.  Everyone says there is no bad place to eat in the Quarter.   Still, I wanted to find the Grocery Store that sells the original Muffuletta.

Spring 2010 trip 020 This picture does not do this sandwich justice.  It is absolutely huge.  It is dressed with chopped olives and other unknown delicious things.  Dan and I purchased one and ate it for lunch and supper.  There is a small little counter to eat at in the back of the store. 

So at 3:30 pm we said goodbye to New Orleans and started moving east along the Gulf coast, unfortunately, still in the rain.  What beautiful white sand beaches!  In Mississippi, Hwy 90 runs right along the edge of the beaches for miles.  Right now we are in the Gulf Islands National Seashore  Park near Pascagoula MS.  Tomorrow we may go back toward Biloxi to visit a lighthouse and the Jefferson Davis home. 

Oak Alley Plantation

Thanks to recommendations from several who have visited plantations here in the New Orleans area before, we decided to visit Oak Alley Plantation.  Laura Plantation was the other we considered. 

We were slow getting around this morning and the plantation was about 45 minutes from our campground so before we started the tour, we had lunch of left over shrimp from last night with fruit and chips under one of the gorgeous Oak trees on the plantation.  IMG_5113

The entrance fee was affordable, $18 for seniors.  It was definitely worth the cost. 

First we toured the slave quarters.  There were information stations which explained the work required of the slaves, how health problems were treated and punishment.  However, the buildings were new, reproductions I suppose.  I’m not sure they were a real example of how the slaves lived.  One of the most touching displays was a list by name of all the slaves who worked on this plantation as a tribute to their contributions.

Another interesting exhibit was this map.  It shows the southern states and numbers of slaves by shading.  The darkest shade indicates a population of 80% slaves. Notice how dark along the Mississippi River.

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We were lead through the main house by a costumed docent.  She did a wonderful job describing not only the history of the house but of the family who built it.  The Roman family ended up loosing the plantation shortly after the Civil War mostly due to poor management.   Thanks to the last owners, the Stewart family, the house and grounds were put into a trust so all can be made available to visitors.

The alley of oaks is the most striking visual of the plantation.  They were planted in the early 1700’s by an unknown settler which makes them 300 years old.  Even with the beautiful house and grounds, we were most impressed with these trees.  My camera could not capture how massive they were.  Picture from the upstairs porch.

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Picture from the road looking in

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It happened there was a Civil War enactor on the grounds today.  Of course he was a Confederate officer which is a different perspective than what we generally hear.  He told us about battles won by the south and how they fought.  He had a wonderful New Orleans accent and we ended up spending almost 45 minutes listening and asking questions. 

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The picture I took of the trees and house above was from the dike of the Mississippi.  It was a great place to watch the traffic on the river. It is definitely a working river—lots of barges and ships.  It was the first time we have spent any time around the river since we arrived.  It is so flat and there are dikes everywhere, the actual river is hard to see.

One more night here at the Bayou Segnette State Park.  We cooked our evening meal again.  We might have to try again, but as of now, crayfish are not our favorite.  

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Day Two New Orleans Who was at the Zoo?

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We visited two zoos on our honeymoon and haven’t passed one since.  We always take every opportunity to ask locals what we should see in their city and  all we asked here in New Orleans confirmed our decision to spend a day at the zoo.

It happens today was also the 11th annual Soul Fest at the zoo.  The news just said there were 20,000 visitors to hear the seven soul bands.  We arrived early and enjoyed the first couple bands while eating selections from local restaurants and caterers.  I had Seafood Gumbo from Pearl’s Catering and Dan had Crawfish Boudin Balls and fries from Down Home Creole Cooking.  The music drifted throughout the zoo the remainder of our visit.

This is a well designed zoo.  There was a great swamp exhibit as we expected.  Of course it is  always fun to watch these…

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and these

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But, the most astounding moment at the zoo was when we, literally, bumped in to our neighbors!  They are in New Orleans visiting their grandson along with their son and daughter-in-law.  Their younger son and his girlfriend had also flown in from New York City.  We had no idea they were all going be in NO.  I can still hardly believe we saw them, especially on a day when there were so many people there.  Small world.

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We left the zoo around 3:30.  With a little time left for something new, we decided to cook fresh seafood ourselves.  There is a “strip” of businesses selling fresh seafood about 1/4 mile from the State Park where we are staying.  We arrived home with four pounds of shrimp and twelve bottles of beer.  Thank goodness for the beers  because it took about 1 1/2 hours to clean and devein the shrimp.  Our own creation of Scrimp Scampi was definitely worth it. 

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Saturday, March 08, 2014

Jean Lafitte

I woke up nervous to get around and find Bayou Barn, the canoe rental place by 9:00.  Then meet with the ranger at the Jean Lafitte Historical Park and Reserve for a Canoe Trek at 9:30.  I learned the pace is a bit slower down south and everyone was fine with starting whenever. We’re liking that pace.P3070007 

Ranger Stacy and Ranger Amber lead our group.  We learned the Reserve was founded in 1976 with 18,000 acres.  It is one of the most  biological diverse areas in the world.  We learned the swamps around New Orleans are constantly changing, both because of the River and human intervention.   As a matter of fact, much of the swamp did not even exist 700 years ago.

There was a dark side to the swamps and its passageways.  After the United States made it illegal to bring in prisoners to sell as slaves, the trade continued through these backwater channels.  Jean Lafitte, a pirate and scoundrel was one of these traders.  However, since he helped Andrew Jackson win the Battle of New Orleans because of his knowledge of the bayou, he was pardoned. This picture shows how the waterways connect.

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After the float, we walked the nature trail in the preserve.  This is where we finally saw the alligators.  The rangers told us the big ones are still hunkering down in the cool water, but the little ones were out and about. 

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Anyone know what this is?  It is a Nutria—a BIG rat that even the alligators don’t like.  However the Ranger said in a pinch, they aren’t too bad to eat. 

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At 2:00 we decided it was PoBoy time.  Here is our first taste of the New Orleans sandwich—definitely living up to its hype.  Here are our BBQ shirmp and fried oyster.  You know the fish is fresh when the price of the sandwich depends on the market value of the fish.

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