RV Trip 10.4 – Lake Fausse Pointe SP, Layfayette Vermilionville HH, Sam Houston Jones SP, Pickled Pelican RV Park – Nov 23 – Dec 4, 2022

Lake Fausse Pointe SP was SE from Lafayette. We had a weird experience when we checked in as they had just cut a large dead tree down and it turned out there was a massive ladybug nest in the tree. The RV was completely covered with them and more appeared inside the RV for the next 4 days! Lake Fausse Pointe is a small park that juts out into Lake Fausse. The lake used to be connected to the Atchafalaya River flow but then was separated in the 1930’s when the Atchafalaya basin levees were completed, we had driven along one of the levees to get to the park. Once we were settled in, and tired of eliminating ladybugs, we went for a short hike to see Trail A and Trail B with the scenic overlook and cell phone reception area😉

The next day was US Thanksgiving, and the rain was supposed to come in so we started out early to do Trail C which was the longer of the trails. We took the side shoots to see the various primitive campsites, so we ended up doing about 10 kms. Along the trail we saw alligators and a water snake but nobody else doing the hike. Did you know there were 2000 species of mosquitoes? We got back to the RV with about 10 minutes to spare before the rain started. In the afternoon we watched a rebroadcast of the Macy’s parade (which was about 4 hours long) while working on the previous blog.  A good rainy-day activity.

The campground was booked for the weekend, so we headed to a Harvest Host in Lafayette, Vermilionville.  We took the back roads, passing the sugarcane fields that they were in the process of harvesting.  They usually do two crops/year of the sugarcane.

Once we arrived in Vermilionville we parked in the back area and the host said it would be fine for us to stay 2 nights, which was good because the other Harvest Host (HH) had never responded if we could stay with them. The Vermilionville Living History Museum and Folklife Park was meant to represent the 1765 to 1890 time period and was right on the Bayou Vermilion. The park represented the Atakapa Native Americans, the Acadians, the Creoles, and the African descendants who lived in this settlement. The settlement of Vermilionville eventually became the city of Layfette. The park had historic buildings, some that were moved here and others that were replicas of the building styles. They had interpreters in period costumes in the buildings to demonstrate and explain the history.

The entrance was $10 per person and since it was lunch time our first stop was the restaurant to try some of the local dishes. I had the baked Catfish special that came with seafood rice, creole green beans, a buttermilk biscuit, seafood gumbo (which was excellent), and apple cobbler for dessert. Sharon had deep fried shrimp with sweet potato fries, crawfish etouffee, coleslaw, tartar sauce, and a rum punch. We really enjoyed everything we tried.

There were a lot of display boards throughout the grounds but instead of including all of those in the slides, since they are sometimes hard to read, I will give you our summary of the key things we learned:

  • Pre 1699 Bayou Vermilion was a connector between a north-south river and an east-west river, so it was used as a trade location. The Atakapa people hunted bison, deer, bear and small game, and harvested fish and shellfish.
  • The first house we went in was La Maison Coussan which was from the 1850’s. The frame construction was from heavy timbers that were mortised and tenoned together. The timbers were covered with wide horizontal boards on both sides. Then the walls were filled with bousillage which is a mixture of mud and Spanish moss for insulation.
  • In this house they had an interpreter who was a chief of the Avogel tribe, and he was a retired teacher so he gave us lots of history about the various tribes in Louisiana and what happened with the treaties and land claims.
  • From 1699-1718 France claims and begins to colonize La Louisiane (original spelling) named after King Louis XIV. During the early 1700’s the Acadians were establishing settlements in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Their farming techniques dramatically improved the quality of the soil making it a highly prized area. Unfortunately, this in turn meant that the English colonization efforts wanted this land, and they brutally expelled the French speaking catholic Acadians starting in 1755. The Acadian men were put in prison and the women and children were shipped all along the US eastern coast where they were unwanted in most of the settlements.
  • Following the France defeat in 1763 from the Seven Years War they cede the land in Louisiana west of the Mississippi River to Spain who in turn offer land grants for immigrants who will settle in the Attakapas District. Acadians start to migrate from the eastern US coast and even from France and they start using the term Cajuns. From 1765 through 1800 there are additional waves of people migrating to Louisiana including Spaniards from the Canary Islands and Malaga, refugees from the French Revolution, Creoles from the Mississippi River valley (free persons of colour) and enslaved persons of colour brought by force. This is how Louisiana became the mixture of the cultural groups.
  • In 1803 the US acquires Louisiana from France in the Louisiana Purchase for $15,000,000. At that time there were 3746 people in the Attakapas District.
  • In 1847 Longfellow writes the poem Evangeline which portrays the story of two ill-fated lovers through the Acadian odyssey. To this day many things in Louisiana are named Evangeline.
  • From 1870-1900 Louisiana passes “Jim Crow” laws legalizing racial segregation in education, transportation, and public accommodations.
  • In 1901 oil was discovered in Louisiana it currently produces 25% of the US production.
  • From 1880-1920 large scale rice farming begins while the lumber trade removes the Cypress trees from the swamps and the bayous. Interesting side note is that now the rice fields are used to raise crawfish in between rice crops.
  • In 1910 French language was outlawed in Louisiana public schools which caused a gradual decline of it’s use.
  • You may now be asking why you are giving me all these history notes. Well, the interesting aspect of these cultural mixes lead to the creation of the famous Cajun Gumbo. The Acadians brought the flour and oil-based roux base, the Spanish brought sweet potatoes, the Africans brought okra, the Chinese brought dried shrimp, the Native Americans brought dried ground leaves from the sassafras tree, and migrants from the West Indies brought hot peppers thus creating different types of gumbos.
  • In terms of the other homes in Vermilionville we walked through an architectural progression. When cooking was open flame the kitchen building was separate from the house and later the kitchen was still separate but connected with a walkway to the house. It was also interesting to see some of the roofs with boards sticking up at the peak which was a hold over from the Canada Acadians design to keep water from dripping through the joint at the roof.
  • In the farm area we saw a “hinny”, a cross of a horse and a donkey. There were a few turtles in the Petit Bayou and we got to cross with a rope pull ferry.
  • In the schoolhouse we heard a musician playing the accordion and in another house a lady told us all about how they made their clothing by spinning and weaving cotton.

We really enjoyed this living history museum, great food, interesting history, well done displays, and very good interpreters to relay information and answer your questions.  I wonder if some day people will be touring homes from the late 1900’s?   I guess Graceland would count but that isn’t exactly how everyone lived.

The following day we had decided to visit the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Reserve – Acadian Cultural Centre, so we could learn more about the Acadian history. The centre was only 1 block away from Vermilionville, but it was pouring rain, so we drove the RV over. This cultural centre was free to enter. They had a 45-minute movie that described the brutal treatment by the English when the Acadians were expelled in 1755 from what is now Canada’s east coast and their resilience to eventually start a new life in Louisiana. The park ranger also did a talk that explained what I mentioned above about the cultural mixture that created Cajun Gumbo. After this we finished going through the museum displays.

On Sunday the Vermilionville museum was having a music jam session with local musicians.  We decided to go back to the restaurant before heading over to listen to the music.  After the talk from the ranger about gumbo, Sharon decided to try a bowl of the chicken/sausage gumbo.  They said some people put rice on their gumbo, others put potato salad, you are in one camp or the other.  Sharon got the potato salad on the side to give it a try.  She also had a side of grilled shrimp. Nearly 1/3 of all seafood consumed in the US comes from Louisiana.  Louisiana is the top provider of shrimp, oysters, crab, crawfish, and alligator in the US.  I had jambalaya which was influenced by the Spanish paella but decided to order fries, so we have now sampled most of the menu items in the Vermilionville restaurant😊

Music Jam Session Vermilionville

The next day we headed west to Lake Charles and on to Sam Houston Jones SP for a 4-night stay. This park was devastated by the hurricanes in 2020 and just reopened this year. The campsite area was all brand new and was completely in the open as all the trees came down in the hurricane. The park had a Longleaf Pine restoration project underway to preserve the trees, unfortunately they lost many trees during the hurricane. The park was named after the 37th governor of Louisiana who was instrumental in having the 1087 acres set aside for public use. The first full day we hiked the orange and yellow trails for a total of 8.5 kms and saw cool reflections of mega homes along the Calcasieu River.  We decided the turtles must have good hearing because anytime we got even close they’d jump off their log into the river. The following day we took advantage of the laundry facilities since the Texas State Parks don’t have them.  Since we had good internet access, we decided we should look ahead and plan our December locations.  The parks are going to start getting busier with locals and snowbirds.  We wanted to make sure we had places booked for Christmas and New Years since a lot of locals go camping during this time.  With some juggling we managed to get the entire month of December booked at 7 different Texas SP.  If you buy a Texas SP pass for $70 you get ½ off your second night at a park.  You also don’t have to pay the daily entrance fee.  Unlike Ontario Parks where you’re camping includes the daily fee, in Texas most parks also charge the daily fee.  So the net was that we saved several hundred dollars by having the SP pass, definitely a good deal. The third day in Sam Houston we did an adventurous 13 km MTB ride on the red, yellow, blue, and orange trails. It was adventurous as the blue trail was still blocked by trees that had fallen in the 2020 hurricanes, so we side tracked onto a fire break bulldozed track and eventually ended up on the outskirts of the park and had to enter through the main gate again😉

We decided to splurge on our last four-night stay in Louisiana at the Pickled Pelican RV Park in Holly Beach.  Would the $75/night price tag be worth it?  If you love sunsets, sunrises, beach walks and bike rides with no one around, shells, sea glass, the sound of waves and peace, it sure was.

Since we would be many days away from civilization, we did another grocery shop and Sharon had to buy a new pair of shoes.  Her slip on/slip off RV shoes fell apart and she needed a new pair.  To keep Joel happy, so he wouldn’t complain about Sharon’s shoe purchase, she suggested lunch at a Brew Pub, new shoe purchase soon forgotten 😊.  We had lunch at the Crying Eagle Brewery in Lake Charles, and I tried their Porter and a Dark Honey Dunkel as well as a sample taster of the Rye Barrel Aged Russian Stout (it was 11.2%!). The owner of the brewery had a very interesting collection of historical beer cans.

To get to the RV park we took the Creole Nature Trail south to the gulf.  They had a self guided tour you could download to your phone.  Here are some interesting facts about the area:

  • In 2005 during category 5 Hurricane Rita, the 235 mph winds destroyed Holly Beach and several other communities in Cameron Parish.  63 oil platforms were destroyed and 30 damaged, destroyed platforms became artificial reefs. The surge of salt water flooded freshwater marshes with the salt eventually killing the trees and freshwater vegetation.
  • Since 2005 Holly Beach has been rebuilding, it’s not a big place, no stores and mainly a summer destination. Some people have house/cottages on stilts, some have trailers.  Several trailers have permanent shade and deck structures but if a hurricane is coming, they can move their trailers to a safer location.  Unfortunately, in 2020 two hurricanes hit this area again.  At our RV park the water surge was as high as the top of the picnic shelter (about 13 feet).  It deposited 3 feet of sand on the RV parking pads.  The owner had all the sand removed and then 3 weeks later another hurricane hit, and more sand arrived!!
  • Louisiana is one of the top natural gas producing states.  Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) is mostly methane gas in liquid format.  It is much easier to transport as it takes up 1/600th the volume of natural gas.  We saw a HUGE freighter being filled at one of the plants on the drive down.
  • As we drove this route, we were driving over some of the network of buried pipelines.  A quarter of the oil used in the US makes its way through Louisiana.  There are thousands of oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, pumping one million barrels of crude/day.  We couldn’t see too many rigs from our location at Holly Beach.

The RV Park just has 8 sites with cabanas on the water and when we arrived, we met Ray Lee the owner. We got setup and went for our first stroll along the beach and got back in time to enjoy wine with the sunset.

The weather was abnormally warm for this time of year both in the daytime (75F) and the nighttime (61F) and unfortunately this meant we also had lots of mosquitoes due to the proximity to the marsh land. It was so bad on 3 of the nights a spraying pickup truck came by and sprayed the area. On the Friday we rode our bikes down the beach (8.5 kms) but with the sun out the sand was drying fast which made the ride quite physical. On Saturday we had fog, so we just walked the beach and when we returned, we saw our first Fog Bow! It’s also called a white rainbow because the water droplets are much smaller in the fog versus the rain and therefore don’t give the colours of a regular rainbow. On the Sunday we rode down the road first and then went on the beach for a total of 14 kms and the sand was easier to ride since it was harder without the sun drying it. We found a massive number of shells almost at the end of the beach as very few people get down that far. It was also cool riding along the road as we saw about a dozen Great Blue Herons, White Herons, Egrets, Hawks, and even a King Fisher. We really needed our friend Kyle with us so he could take some amazing shots of the birds. They flew away quickly as we rode by. On the beach we saw a variety of Sand Pipers and they also took off as we rode closer. Tomorrow morning before we leave Sharon will have to pair down her shell collection so that will be a challenge for her😉

Sand Pipers fly away as you ride closer

This concludes our just under 1 month visit to Louisiana. We visited 5 new (to us) State Parks, a county park, a Harvest Host Museum, and an RV park. We hope you have enjoyed this trip through Louisiana with us😉Next stop Sea Rim SP in Texas which will be a return visit for us.

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