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Lake Pontchartrain

January 8, 2013

Louisiana – Friday, January 4

I’m intrigued by Lake Pontchartrain right by New Orleans. It’s a huge lake – not as big as one of our Great Lakes, but still so big you can’t see across it. There’s a long causeway right across the middle of it (which I will drive across later) – and several other shorter causeways closer to shore. I drove along its north shore until I came to the town of Mandeville. I had called the Samaritan Center food pantry in Mandeville earlier to see if their wish list was current, and I’m glad I called. They had some different requests. They needed powdered milk, canned tuna and chicken, and shelf staples like flour, sugar, salt and oil. So I got some of all of that, and took it over to the center. I met Amy, who I’d spoken to on the phone, and she showed me around. Their food pantry is well organized and they help 140-160 families a month. They get a cart full of goods – starting with an assortment of non-perishable items, and then they top it off with some perishable food. They also run a thrift shop next door. We chatted a bit and got a picture, then Amy showed me a pile of sleep mats that someone had made out of plastic shopping bags. They looked like they’d provide a little comfort for someone sleeping on a sidewalk. She asked if I’d be able to take a few with me to give to a homeless shelter in a different part of the state – they’ve kind of distributed all they can in their area. So we put a few in the car, and I told her I’d let her know when I find a place to drop them off. From the Samaritan Center I was able to walk down to the lake, and found a nice walking path along the water. It was a pretty day and the water was sparkling. The walking path went right along the water, and there was no beach – just a concrete wall with frequent sets of stairs to make it possible to get in the water for swimming. The lake was pretty calm, but I can see it wouldn’t take much for the lake to overflow its banks. As a result, all the homes built on the street across from the lake are built off the ground – some people use the lower area as garage space (I don’t see a lot of garages around here), or storage space for outdoor furniture etc. It made me curious how often the lake floods. Tula and I walked from one end of the lake trail to the other, and through the little town of Mandeville and covered almost 4 miles. There’s also a long rail-trail that starts in town, but before walking on that, I wanted to head out to Fontainebleau State Park. The park had some trails, and Tula and I walked another 4 miles. Up until this point, my walking shoes had still looked pretty new despite having 200+ miles on them already, but they got some good old Louisiana swamp dirt on them today! The park used to be a sugar plantation and was bordered by the Bayou Cane. There’s still a few remnants of the old sugar mill. I ran out of time to walk on the rail-trail, but plan to hit that on the way back out of Louisiana. I’m glad it’s staying lighter a little longer in the evening – I took advantage of that and headed over toward Baton Rouge for the night.
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