As we drove from New Orleans we were lo trying to arrange to get our windshield repaired but the shop that did mobile repair couldn’t seem to find a place to meet us in the State Parks we were heading to so we’ll have to try the next large city. It was very different scenery driving across the causeways to Grand Isle State Park. We saw lots of Oil rig structures and ships to service them and also lots of shrimping boats. We had to pay a toll to go across the causeway and there were a couple of places where the road did a full 90 degree turn. Once we got setup we went for a bike ride to the Observation Tower and out to the Fishing Pier where we saw about a dozen dolphins playing in the water (very hard to get a photo) and all the Pelicans (Louisiana state bird) coming back to the rock point after feeding at sea during the day. Then we finished off we a nice sunset from the tower.
The next day we went for a MTB ride along the Nature Trail, a little challenging with some sand and mud sections. This was the first time since we’ve been away where we actually saw some flowers in bloom, likely because of the unusually warm weather. We also saw a couple of thorny bark trees, White Herons, Snowy Egrets, ghost, fiddler, and hermit crabs, and a Blue Egret. Grand Isle is a barrier island similar to others we have visited and it continues to shift west. After our ride we went for a seashell walk along the beach where we found several whelk shells and an olive shell and saw lots of tiny angel wing shells. There were lots of terns and sandpipers on the beach which all took off as we walked closer.
Since this SP had Wi-Fi access we spent a fair amount of time the next day writing up the blog for New Orleans. In the afternoon we went for a bike ride to the town of Grand Isle and in turn went to Dean’s Seafood Market. Shari and Randy had gone there the day before to buy some fresh shrimp. When we got there they had large shrimp for only $4 per pound! You had to clean them and devein them but what a great deal. The guy ahead of us was buying 10 lbs for his Super Bowl party. Unfortunately since we were going to do some more bike riding it wasn’t practical to buy some. Along our ride we saw the Mosquito Crossing sign and I could say the sign was true based on the number of bites on my legs from the night we arrived. Shari and Randy had invited us to their campsite for dinner and they cooked up an amazing Pad Thai dish with fresh shrimp from Dean’s. Sharon made chocolate brownies for dessert. We had a really fun time talking about all the places we had travelled. We hope we run in to them again in our travels.
On the day we left Grand Isle we planned our longest drive yet since we’ve been travelling along the coast, a 5 hour drive. We planned to go to Avery Island to the Tabasco factory and then on to Palmetto State Park. Avery Island is a salt formation that was pushed up from the earth (highest point is 160’ above sea level) and is surrounded by Bayou and waterways so they call it an island. The factory tour was self-guided and we started off in the Museum where they had display boards and video presentations. All Tabasco is made on Avery Island and has been family run since its inception in 1868. They have only had 7 family members as President/CEO of the company since 1868. The original blend is made from the Capsicum Frutescens pepper which is in between a Jalapeno and a Habanero in Scoville heat units. Some of the peppers are grown on Avery Island but they also ship them in for the factory to process. There are currently 7 different flavours of sauces and they also have joint marketing efforts with other brands adding Tabasco in to their products like, ketchup, mustard, pickles etc.. They mash the peppers up with some salt and store them in oak barrels for three years until they are ready for blending. For blending they add white vinegar to the mash in large vats and stir and filter out the sauce after about 3 weeks and then it is on to bottling. They don’t bottle on Sunday so we didn’t get to see that in process. They still mine salt from Avery Island and the family also has a wildlife sanctuary where they helped to bring back the Snowy Egrets when they were endangered. The one sign in the media area was hilarious, read the label changes very closely;-)
Next stop was Palmetto SP which could easily be renamed wildlife SP! Once we got the RV setup our friendly neighbourhood Cardinal landed on the hood of our rig so he could eat the dead bugs. He also really liked to look at himself in our large side view mirrors. The next morning we went for a long bike ride around the campground and also did the Lagoon trail. The park is named due to the Dwarf Palmetto’s that grow here but you could hardly call them dwarf. They actually grow to the maximum size for this plant. In the afternoon we went to the office and rented a canoe for two hours for $10. We picked the canoe up at Evangeline Pond and started down the canoe trail and within minutes we had seen our first alligator. In total on this trip we saw 5 gators, 2×2’, 1×3’, 1×5’, and 1×7’. We also saw a White Egret and some Pond Slider turtles. The biggest challenge was getting the canoe positioned to take the wildlife photos without getting too close. There were lots of Turkey Vultures in the trees which made us wonder if they were waiting for gator left overs, hopefully not us;-) The last gator we saw was 7’ and the scariest because he had his mouth open and was hissing at us to warn us to not come any closer! We also saw an Armadillo as we rode back to our campsite. We were so glad we rented the canoe because most of these areas could only be seen by canoe. The following day we did many loads of laundry since the machines were free to use in this park. It was also the day we had our third Tornado Watch scare but luckily in our area we just got rain and one loud close bolt of lightning.
When we left Palmetto we took the hug the coast highway so we went by lots of rice fields (who knew they grew rice in Louisiana), and also through the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge with canals and sea oats on both sides of the road. When we reached Cameron we took our first ferry ride (it was only $1) across Calcasieu pass (very short but saved a long drive around). When we reached Johnson Bayou we found the RV parks more like oil industry work camps so we decided to carry on and enter Texas.