I forgot to mention in the last blog that Davis Bayou Campground had our worst bug experience of any park on this trip. There were small no-seem-em type bugs that absolutely loved my blood. The weird thing they only seemed to be in the campground not on the trails.
The day we left we stopped to see Mississippi’s longest mosaic mural and it was very well done. It was just beside the bridge that leads to Biloxi where we next stopped at the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum. This museum had three floors with tons of information about the various forms of Seafood fishing and about the history of boat building in Mississippi as well an exhibit on Hurricane Katrina. Here are a few interesting facts we learned:
- 74% of all Barrier Islands are located in the Northern Hemisphere and the US boasts the largest number in the world at 405 Barrier Islands.
- The Mississippi Barrier Islands are critical for shore protection and for fish nursery habitats in the brackish waters between the island and the coast.
- The US is the 3rd largest consumer of seafood in the world and in 2006 Americans ate an average of 16.5 lbs of fish ands shellfish per person.
- The US imports more than 75% of the seafood consumed.
- Shrimp trawlers on the Northern gulf will go out for 2 – 4 days but if they go to the Southern gulf they will be out an average of 27 days.
We spent about 3 hours looking through the exhibits and watching the videos before deciding we better go for a seafood lunch. We went to McElroy’s Seafood restaurant right on the water. I had crab cakes with shrimp and crawfish tails and Sharon had crab claws and scallops. This restaurant was completely destroyed by hurricane Katrina in 2005. The storm surge of that hurricane was 28’ so they built the new restaurant on stilts at a height of 29’ to hopefully withstand any future hurricane. All of the windows were hurricane specification and the new height gave you a great view of the gulf. In the harbour area we could see the TED (Turtle Excluder Device) devices in the shrimping nets that allow turtles and fish to escape the nets, so they have much fewer by-catch when shrimping.
This concluded our short stay in Mississippi and then we entered Louisiana. Our first location was Fontainebleau SP and we really liked the North campground (more distance between the sites plus the laundry machines were still free). As we setup in our site there were several deer just a few sites over to welcome us. It was good we had booked as the entrance booth was closed when we arrived so we just went to our site. On our first full day we did a 22 km ride around the State Park covering the Sugar Mill, all the hiking trails and boardwalks, as well as the paved roads. The beach area was small but quite nice and then we did the hiking trails which were extremely wet and muddy in some sections. We also rode over to the see the cabins right on Lake Pontchartrain. We were blown away by how big the indoor group camping area was. When we got back to our campsite, we had to do a major bike cleaning from all the mud on the trails.
The park has easy access to the 44 km long Tammany Trace Rail-Trail and believe it or not, there is a Rail-Trail Hall of Fame and this trail was inducted in 2017. It’s a paved, wide, shared trail with many access points. The section we did was beautiful with all the trees, bayou’s, and flowering bushes. We could access the trail right from the state park and took it to Mandeville where the trail went right by the Saturday market, with lots of food and craft vendors and music in the parkette. After enjoying the market, we continued on the trail to the Chafunkta Brewing Company. We went for the beer (Joel’s happy) but stayed for the Crawfish Boil (Sharon’s happy)!! Sharon got a lesson on doing a Crawfish Boil from the two young chefs. You bring a huge pot with water and all the “spices” to a boil, add cleaned crawfish (they live in the mud), put the crawfish in the spice boil, bring back to a boil, cook 15 minutes, turn off heat, let the crawfish absorb the spices for 20 minutes, serve with corn, potatoes and sausage that was cooking in another pot. They also had to give us lessons on how to eat the crawfish once we got our 3 lbs of them and the fixings for $20!! Certainly not a meal if you’re in a hurry. Lots of locals were coming to the brewery for this special Crawfish Boil, good thing we were there early, I’m sure they ran out. We then backtracked along the trace to get back, stopping to check out the marina area on our way home. All total we did 37 kms that day and managed to get back before dark. Good thing the clocks changed that night as we now have an extra hour of daylight in the evening.
The next day we took advantage of the free laundry offered by the park and did 5 loads! It was a beautiful day, so we did a 10 km ride around the park, stopping at the visitors centre to chat with the volunteers and read the displays on the park and the sugar mill.
Time to move to Fairview-Riverside SP just down the road, compared to the 2,800 acres at the last park this 100-acre park is small. We took a detour to Abita Springs to the Abita Brewery for a few samples and a self guided tour. The staff were ordering lunch from a restaurant called Mugshots and talked about the peanut butter burger, best with bacon added and jelly if you want!! We decided to go check it out, supposedly the best burgers on the Northshore. The burgers were good, the peanut butter was interesting. Once settled in at the park, we walked the boardwalk and around the park to see the Otis house (we’ll go back when the guided tours are on). This park has a very interesting location on the Tchefuncte River with lots of boat traffic and we even saw a guy wakeboarding behind a boat.
On our last full day, we thought we would do the tour of the historic Otis House. The sign said they did tours on the hour but when we went over we found out you actually had to phone to schedule a tour of the house (no signs to say this and they didn’t mention it when we checked in)! We phoned and left a message for a tour and then walked around the park again. Later that day she phoned back to say we could do the tour at 9 am the next morning before we checked out of the park. The house was originally built in the 1880’s by a sawmill owner William Theodore Jay. They logged yellow pine and cypress from the lot and employed 250 workers, so it was quite a large operation for the time. In 1936 the owner of the Otis Manufacturing Company, Frank Griffith Otis purchased the property as a retirement home. At his death in 1962 he bequeathed the property to the state of Louisiana so they could make it into a state park. Frank wasn’t married and didn’t have any kids so when the property was turned over to the state it included 80% of the furniture currently shown in the house. It was quite fascinating to hear about the pieces on the dining room table, the wooden door arch that looked like brass, the gas powered hot water tank for baths, and also the kitchen stoves and daily cooking process. It was just unfortunate that the tour wasn’t longer and that we weren’t able to take more photos.
Next stop Bogue Chitto State Park a bit further north in Louisiana.