Thursday, June 6, 2013

New Orleans trip wrap-up

Well, I dipped on the painted bunting this trip.  The Jean Lafitte swamp was very interesting, but so hot and sunny by the time we arrived, it turned into a herping trip rather than being all about birds.  I found a few warblers and heard several barred owls calling, but most of the birds were in deep cover.  The snakes, lizards, frogs and alligators, however, were EVERYWHERE!  It was amazing to see so many snakes in one trip.  We also found 5 alligators, one big turtle and little lizards and frogs pretty much everywhere we looked.  We stopped at the trail I had read about and was most excited about first, but there was a big school bus full of screaming kids.  We got back onto the road and went to the visitor center.  I opened the door and the place was packed with school kids.  Ugh.  We turned around and immediately got onto a trail.  Well, we hadn't been to the visitor center and had no idea what we were getting into...

The trails at this park are a series of low-lying boardwalks through thick swamp.  We were surrounded by and above water the entire trail.  It was really cool.  We took a side trail to get away from the kids and found ourselves unexpectedly on a long, long, long, long trail.  I'm guessing we hiked at least somewhere between 3 and 4 miles. I was expecting a short tromp through the woods and I was wearing Crocs.  I probably shouldn't have made this hike on a cool day in my best shoes and custom orthotics.  I definitely shouldn't have made this hike when it was 95F and I was wearing Crocs.  I'm still paying for my stupidity.  My feet and ankles swelled and my calf muscles are just now starting to loosen up.  Oh well, at least it was a cool place!

The original plan had been to stop back in New Orleans to pick up some last minute souvenirs, but we were both soaked in sweat and I was in too much pain to go wandering around town.  We stopped at City Park instead.  It was a great stop because it's right on the edge of town and we got to drive by several huge cemeteries.  The park is sort of like Central Park in Manhattan and full of trees and water and fun things to do.  We didn't walk too much, but we did see some birds (no painted buntings, of course) and some beautiful old trees.  It was a fun stop.  Gene is very into bridges this and wanted to drive the 26 mile long causeway over Lake Ponchartrain.  I couldn't even pretend he didn't do all kinds of things for me, so we did it.  It was pretty cool to think about the work that went into this bridge (to nowhere.)  I plan to read about it because it seems like a whole lot of money to spend on something that connects some dink towns to New Orleans.  I'm guessing there is some scandal involved.  Anyway, there were of course no birds out in the middle of the lake, but just as we were exiting the bridge a huge bird came flying toward us.  I assumed it was some kind of heron, but nope, it was my first and only brown pelican of the trip!  I have no idea why it was there all by itself, but I'm glad it was!

We drove on to Jackson, Mississippi for the night.  I was too sore to go hiking around the reservoir early again, but Gene wanted to see it.  The morning I went birding was cool and rainy and yesterday morning was hot and sunny.  The birds were mostly hidden, but Gene was impressed with the spillway and by the huge reservoir itself.  We headed to Memphis to the zoo and were caught in some torrential downpours and minor thunderstorms.  I really wanted to see the zoo and figured I may never have another chance (or at least not for years and years) so we stopped.  It was a good decision because the zoo wasn't busy and the rain made all of the animals very active.  We walked through the big cat area at 2:30pm.  Normally at that time the cats would all be curled up sleeping and barely visible.  We went right after a big rain and all of the many cats in the area were walking around or playing.  We even saw the cheetahs up and moving around.  That's always one of my jokes- it seems like every nice cheetah exhibit has so many hiding spots all you ever see is a yellow blob in the grass.  I had heard negative things about this zoo, but it seems like they are trying really hard to update all of their old, outdated exhibits and most of the zoo was new and beautiful.  I really enjoyed it.

We headed out of Memphis just before 5pm.  I don't know if we just went the right way or if Memphis doesn't have a terrible rush hour, but we had no traffic at all.  We had a 7 hour drive home and we stopped once for food and once for gas.  Gene drove the entire way (I offered, he declined) and we pulled into our driveway at exactly midnight.  The cats were happy to see us.  I can't wait to go get the dogs and I really can't wait to pick up the kids from Camp Zone this afternoon!  Overall, the trip was great.  It was fun to spend time with only Gene and do things we enjoyed that the kids would have found boring.  We had a great time being together.  I have about 80 things I'd like to do during my final 3 days off work, but I think I better force myself to relax and allow my feet and legs to heal.  Grrrr.  Stupid feet.

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