Last Louisiana Day
Louisiana – Wednesday, January 9
I woke up to drizzle and fog. Since I had ended up on the outskirts of New Orleans again, I decided to walk my 3 miles from yesterday in the French Quarter since I was relatively close, and it’s a fun place to walk! Because it was wet out, and not the greatest place to walk a dog, I left Tula in the car and set off along the now-familiar streets and walked my miles. I heard numerous complaints about the weather, and I don’t blame some of the people for being disappointed – the fog was thick enough that it obscured the tops of tall buildings, and people were wishing they could see all of the old St. Louis Cathedral in particular. After my drizzly walk, I figured I had to warm up with cafe au lait and beignets again!
I was going to get out and walk in another town on the southern end of Lake Pontchartrain before crossing it, but the fog was bad, and they were forecasting more rain, so I decided to at least get over to the north shore of the lake. To do that, I crossed a 26 mile long causeway right across the middle of the lake – it was more like an elevated road than a bridge since it wasn’t too high off the water. It was foggy there too, so I couldn’t enjoy the view, and could only see the bit of water by my side of the bridge. I felt like I was driving through clouds. They have 2 lanes going each direction on separate causeways, and every 5 miles or so they have connectors, so if you forget something or have to turn around for some reason, it doesn’t become a 52 mile round-trip ordeal. With about 2 miles to go to the end of the causeway, it suddenly cleared up and I could see the shore, and I had pretty clear weather the rest of the day. The causeway ended in Mandeville, which was the trailhead for the rail-trail I had wanted to walk on during one of my first Louisiana days. I planned to do the whole 8 miles for today on it. I had to drive around a bit to find it again, and Tula was ready for a walk by this time. So we got all ready for an 8 mile walk, only to discover that dogs were not allowed. I was pretty surprised – this is the first rail-trail I’ve encountered that doesn’t allow pets. Tula needed to walk, so we just walked about 1/2 mile down the street where we could pick up the walking path by Lake Pontchartrain. That whole area was very wet – sidewalks had standing water on them, the grass was very soggy and spongy, and the lake had risen noticeably in the 5-6 days since I’d been there. There were concrete barriers at intervals along the shore, and they were plainly visible the last time, and now the water nearly covered them. There were pelicans all over the place – they were constantly flying up and then diving into the water – with shallow water they didn’t need much height to dive in and snatch their fish! It had been rainy, but not THAT rainy, so this was all a good example of how this area just doesn’t have the capacity to absorb much extra water, and why they have so much trouble with flooding. We walked the whole length of the lake path and back, and then headed back to the car. That had covered 4 miles, so I put Tula in the car, and headed out along the rail trail myself. I walked 2 miles out and 2 miles back. After the first 1/2 mile or so, I think I was in a state park nature preserve, which may be why dogs weren’t allowed. There were several wooden bridges over the really swampy areas – it was a pretty walk. Along the way, I encountered a guy walking his bike back to his truck – he had ridden 5 miles and then got a flat tire, so had to limp it back. That’s the second time I’ve seen a bicyclist on a rail-trail walking a disabled bike back – the first time, the lady had been nearly 8 miles out when she got a flat tire. Both of these people were dressed in biking clothes, and I thought most of them carried supplies to fix flats, but maybe the problem with the tire was more complicated than that. Makes me happy to just need my own 2 feet, but I guess something can still go wrong with that too!
I finished my walk, and Louisiana was complete. All 7 donations were done – the poor box in St. Louis Cathedral, the Samaritan Center food pantry in Mandeville, the APAWS animal shelter in Baton Rouge, the St. Joseph Diner (soup kitchen) in Lafayette, the Center for Veterans homeless shelter in Lafayette, the Good Samaritan food pantry in Thibodaux, and the Bayou Area Habitat for Humanity in Thibodaux. And I walked all 56 miles in lots of different places – New Orleans, Mandeville, Baton Rouge, St. Francisville, Breaux Bridge, Lafayette, St. Martinville, New Iberia, Morgan City, Thibodaux, Houma, Cocodrie, and on lake walks, bayou walks, state parks, and a rail trail. I got rained on a bit, but that seemed appropriate since water has such an impact down here!
By now it was late afternoon, and time to head for the panhandle of Florida so I could get at least one day of walking/donating in before taking time to pack and get ready for the Pacific territories leg of this adventure. I need to end up in Gainesville where my daughter Toni lives, and she is going to be watching Tula for the month that I’m gone in the territories. Plus I’ll be seeing my dad and brother there before I leave, so it’s time to head east again. It didn’t take long to cross into Mississippi and drive across its southern end, and then there was the little panhandle area of Alabama, and then into Florida. I stopped near Pensacola, to be ready for the day tomorrow.