As much as we enjoyed spending the past two winters in the southwest, and the past two summers exploring the western mountains, it’s really exciting to be traveling a completely different path this fall and winter. After all, that’s why we embarked on this adventure – to see new and different places. For the next month or so we’ll be traveling along the Gulf Coast – an area that’s nearly unexplored territory for us. With the exception of Florida, I have spent virtually no time in the south, and Tim has only visited some of the southern states once, many, many years ago. Due to some planned family meet-ups for the upcoming holidays we’ll be moving a bit faster than we would like, and missing out on truly experiencing all that the south has to offer, but we are managing to squeeze in two weeks exploring a state I have never been to before – Louisiana. First up is a week at Palmetto Island State Park.
This fairly new state park is located south of Lafayette and not far from Vermillion Bay. In my mind all of the south is warm, humid, covered with dense tropical looking foliage, and filled with large insects. So far, Palmetto Island is meeting all my expectations. The landscape here, which Wikipedia describes as “coastal bottomland hardwood forest”, has a little bit of everything. Giant magnolia trees, colorful red maples, Live oak trees dripping with vines, and tons of other plants I can’t identify. As you can probably guess from the name of the park, the predominate vegetation here is Palmetto Palms. The understory of the forest is dense with palmettos, creating a jungle-like environment.
For the first half of the week the heat and humidity part of my southern fantasy rang true with temps in the high 70s (where I come from that’s down right hot for November), and the humidity up somewhere around 1000 percent. Seriously. Our laminate floors were sticky, the towels refused to dry for days, and getting into bed at night was like sliding into a soft, pillowy swamp. A cold front came through last night and the humidity seems to have gone down some, but those first fews days were rough.
As for the final part of my southern expectations…yes, there are large insects here. There are also tons and tons and tons of tiny insects. You know, the kind that land their disgusting little bodies on your skin, drink a bit of your blood, and leave behind an itchy welt? Oh mosquitos, how I loathe you. Since the campground is essentially surrounded by a swamp it’s no surprise that there are so many mosquitos. But it’s still super annoying. Speaking of swamps, there are several swampy looking ponds in the campground with canoe trails between them. We plan to rent a canoe and do some exploring this weekend, but for now we’ve just been riding our bikes over to the ponds in the afternoon hoping to spot an alligator or two. So far not luck.
We’ve also been keeping our eye out for the other wildlife the ranger warned us about – bears and wild hogs. I was kind of paranoid about running into either of these animals when I went for a walk by myself that first morning, but so far we’ve seen neither.
The one animal we have seen a lot of (besides mosquitos) are armadillos. The first day we arrived around dusk, and while we were setting up noticed a near constant rustling noise in the bushes. The Palmetto leaves make a lot of noise, and I was convinced the rustling was caused by a larger animal, like maybe those bears and hogs we had been warned about. The next day we learned that the noise was in fact coming from armadillos. They are incredibly prevalent around here. Mostly they come out around dusk to hunt for grubs and insects, but I’ve seen them in the middle of the day as well. Despite Tim teasing me about googling “what do do in case of an Armadillo bite” the truth is that they couldn’t care less about us humans. They remind me a lot of squirrels in both their pervasiveness and disinterest in humans. They startle easily, but if you’re quiet it’s possible to get fairly close for a photo opportunity without them noticing and running away. Aren’t they funny looking?
The campground here is very nice. It has a typical state park feel with large sites, some with good separation and privacy between, and basic amenities such as a picnic table and fire ring. All the sites have electric and water hook-ups for the very reasonable price of $18/night. The shower buildings are new and clean, and the best part? Get ready for it…free laundry! That’s right, each shower building (there are two) has two washers and two dryers that campers can use for free. For us full-timers free laundry is an unheard of luxury. One that I will definitely be taking advantage of before we leave.
Our site is number 65 way down at the end of one of the camp roads in a cul-de-sac. Considering how wooded it is around here our site is very open and sunny. Also, because we’re in a circle of sites, the neighboring sites are very far away.
All of the sites here are large and wide, and with a few exceptions I think even the biggest RV could fit in most of them. My favorites are the ones all the way down on the other road, in particular 50 and 56. They are both long sites with lots of trees surrounding them for privacy.
We’re here for a few more days and have a busy weekend planned with a visit to special island where they make a very special sauce, the possibility of tasting some local cuisine (which I am a bit afraid of), and a canoe ride to find some gators. If all goes as planned I will have a lot to share with you on Monday.
I would love to touch an armadillo! :-)
Looks like a wonderful place to stay, minus the mosquitos. We like Natrapel for a natural mosquito repelent. Though I don’t know how well it would work in a severely infested place!
I think if you crept up on one really, really slowly you could probably get close enough to touch it. I imagine it feels kinds of like reptile skin. I’ve used Natrapel before, but it doesn’t work for Tim. I think he has some sort of super mosquito attraction scent :)
Saturday morning at Fred’s Lounge in Mamou..not to miss.
Thanks for the advice!
We were at Avery Island 2 years ago this month. We saw alligators so you may get to see some if you’re there on a warm, sunny day. I think there are pictures on my blog under November 2012. I loved Avery Island and Louisiana in general. Have fun!
Should be warm and sunny tomorrow when we go to Avery Island so maybe we’ll see some. I’m going to check out the pics on your blog.
The South definitely has its charms, but it also has its evils — 1000 percent humidity (as you said) and biting bugs of too many varieties (as you said). That’s why I left many years ago for less humid and less buggy locales. But it sure is beautiful, and we love visiting (in the winter). Don’t worry, there are LOTS of gators in your future! We had so many photos of gators from last winter that I stopped posting them because it freaked out all of our friends back in Oregon!
It sure is beautiful around here! We finally spotted a few gators yesterday, and the humidity is back down to a bearable level. Excited to explore the south for a few more weeks.
Again great info. You should see plenty of gators at the island of sauce :)
We saw some! Pictures coming in the next post.
Louisiana is a state I have longed to visit but I imagine I would also be complaining about the insects and humidity. Looking forward to seeing where your travels take you this winter.
Luckily, the humidity has not been consistent, but the bugs are still terrible!
If you are in Abbeville area you should experience Betty’s RV park for a night or two. Google it! Betty will give you a warm LA welcome and refer you to some reliable local food finds too. It’s a one of a kind RV park experience. While you are at Grayton we recommend treating yourself to dinner at the Great Southern Cafe in charming Seaside. Try the “Crabtini” starter–amazing! Up by Topsail there is an excellent fresh seafood market with delicious peel and eat shrimp among other goodies. We were just there a week ago, now enduring dreary cold weather in Elkhart IN for a few more days. We were thrown back into full timing on a moments notice when our “not for sale ” AZ home sold for cash, including all our furniture in October and closed in two weeks! We literally got an offer we couldn’t refuse–and also sold our second car in that time too. We figure it was meant to be. Hope to meet you on the road one day. Have fun!
Thanks for all the great recommendations Tina! I don’t eat shellfish, but we have family visiting while we’re in Grayton Beach and that cafe sounds like a great place to take them. Sounds like things are happening fast for you! Good luck and hope to see you down the road.