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Cat up a tree

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Can you spot him?

Here, let me make it easier: Continue Reading »

Overall, it’s going well.  I think.  The kittens stay in the van every night, and clearly regard it as home.  They have learned (mostly) to stay out of the front area when we’re on the road (every now and then, perhaps once/trip/kitten) they need a reminder: being grabbed by me and tossed onto the bed in back.  Thus I was able to take down the big kennel/crate, which I had put in mainly to contain them while driving.  This has made the interior of the van feel much less crowded and improved visibility to the rear.

Another point of progress is I don’t have to take them out as often.  They seem just fine even when it’s been up to a week since we went out.  This is a very good thing, because it means I can get other things done with my life.

The big new focus is leash training.  Well, leash accustomization; “training” is not really the right term, because I don’t do rewards.  We’ve had two go-rounds of it so far.  Pictures from the first round are absent–managing two kittens, each on a leash, is hard enough, without also taking pictures.  You’ve heard of herding cats? Yeah.  Well. Continue Reading »

Camping with Cuties

First, allow me to introduce the Cuties:

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The gray streak would be Attilla the Cute; the darker cat-shaped blot is Tamercutie.  The names will be explained in due course, and are subject to change. Continue Reading »

Peak Experience

Had what is probably the second peak experience of the trip this afternoon.  The first was Carlsbad Caverns, which I never finished posting pictures of even on FB.  Will post today’s pictures here with a few comments in between, but mostly—just look at the pictures.

First, to give credit where credit is due, the tour company is Swamp Adventures.  If you ever make it to New Orleans, I totally recommend them.  They offer 10-person airboat tours and 6-person tours; I took the latter, and am glad I did.  There were only 4 of us on the boat, and because of that, and the rain last night, the guide. . .

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(I think his name is Jerry, but I’m not sure.  Bad at names, you know.  But I’ll call him Jerry anyway.  He has the most lovely Cajun accent.  I wanted to go have a beer with him afterwards, but didn’t quite have the nerve to propose it.)

Anyway, Jerry decided to take us off into little a little “trail” he said he’d only done maybe 5 times since October.  For whatever reason, the territory he took us into was just beautiful—close to as surreal as Carlsbad.

First a few pics of the avenues. . .

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Those were a bit tricky to get, as the boat was going quite fast down those avenues, and I had to hold my hat on.  But he slowed way down to make the turns, and that gave me the chance to snap a few.

Here are some deeper in to his small trails:

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Those give a flavor of the beauty of the place, but as with Carlsbad Caverns, you really have to experience it for real.

Jerry asked us at the beginning what we wanted to see, and of course we all said “alligators”.  Up to that point, I had only seen two—one in Texas, and one at Palmetto.  Now I’ve seen way more—I lost count after about 6.  The smaller ones are quite pretty.  We saw a lot of them from a couple of feet long to maybe four feet long, but they were quick and I didn’t get many pictures of them.  This first one you’ll have to look hard to spot.  Look for the head near the center of the photo.

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Here are a couple of one a bit easier to see.

 

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Jerry said the open-mouth pose is for expelling gasses–alligator burping, I guess.

The bigger ones get more lethargic and less pretty, but are of course more exciting to see.

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Those last two Jerry obviously knows well—he knew right where to go to find them.  A male and a female.  He tossed the female some chunks of fish–of which she deigned to eat one, the one that literally hit her on the snout.

He also knows this next one well—he called her Madame Robicheaux, and he took us right to her at the beginning of the tour.  I think he’d spotted her earlier in the day.

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Soon after turning into the smaller “trail”, he stopped and hooted a bit, explaining he was calling his “buddy”, an owl he has known since it was a baby.  As proof, he showed us a picture of a baby owl.  And by darn, the owl came.

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There’s no doubt it was responding to Jerry’s calls.  It watched us for several minutes, from more than one tree, and it followed us quite a ways after we resumed the tour.  Jerry has named it, but of course I forgot the name.  He says it’s a barred owl—I wouldn’t know, but would take his word for it.

 

 

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If I had the money, I’d go do this a couple more times—my only complaint about the experience was that it was too short, I want more.

Destination: New Orleans

New Orleans was in my mind from the beginning of the trip as a major destination point, and I have now arrived (sort of).  I’m actually at Fairview-Riverside State Park, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, and will stay here four nights.

As usual, I didn’t know what to expect of the campground, and I was actually a bit worried.  I don’t really like what I think of as “RV ghettos”—places that accommodate sometimes hundreds of RVs, many of which are literally as big as  Greyhound bus, crowded together in spaces with only 15 or 20 feet between (sometimes less.)  Palmetto S.P. had essentially become such a ghetto Friday night, though because of the greenery a more bearable one.  I was afraid that this close to N.O., RV ghettos were all I was going to find, and was thinking about how to entertain myself away from home, so to speak, if it was awful.

But Fairview-Riverside is anything but awful.  It accommodates around 90 RVs, but a lot of spaces are empty right now, and I lucked into a spot on the end of the row with extra space around it that has a nice open feel to it:

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So as soon as I pulled in, the notion of pulling out again to look for entertainment elsewhere lost its appeal.  

I’m pretty close to the bathrooms (that yellow building the the background)

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which are positively luxurious.  Shower, sink, and potty all in one large room, wheelchair accessible.  There are only three for women and three for men; I’m hoping the prevalence of big rigs means I won’t have too much competition for one in the morning.  We’ll see.  

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Once I was set up—electricity hooked up and AC on—it was time to explore the rest of the place, so CJ and I took a walk.  The park is on the Tchefuncte river—and I have no idea how to pronounce that.  This is a shot of the open area by the river.

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Took the opportunity to get a close-up of the Spanish moss, and to touch it.  It’s softer than it looks.  It’s beautiful—but I honestly think the moss I took so many pictures of on Fort Ord is prettier (which is apparently actually a “fruticose lichen”; I went looking for the name, and discovered that.  It also gets called California Spanish Moss.)

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Here’s a tree growing out in the river; took this one just because it’s pretty.

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Then there’s a nice little boardwalk through a swampy area.  

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An iris.

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And does anyone know the name of this plant with the. . . heart-shaped?  spearhead-shaped? . . . leaves?  I feel I should know it, but it has not appeared in my actual brain.

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My campground last night was quite pleasant, attached to the Baton Rouge Equestrian Center.

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Google, btw, had a terrible time finding it—it led me astray twice, once ridiculously.  I’m having to learn when to ignore that little voice and navigate myself.  If I was smart, I’d take a good look at the overall map before throwing myself on the mercies of the google voice, but . . . I’m not.  Or not often enough.  

It was nice and cloudy this morning, which meant walking on the levee was really pleasant, so CJ got her longest walk in some time.  There were a number of boats tied up? anchored? to the near shore.  I only got two pictures because I had let the battery run down.

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Does anyone know why one would push a series of barges up the river, instead of towing them up?  I have a hypothesis, but I’m not sure it makes sense.  This one was making very slow progress–I was able to keep pace with it just at my usual walk.

According to the Weather Channel app, tomorrow will be thunderstorms, after which the weather will cool down.  I don’t know if I’ll have the gumption to go exploring in the rain, or exactly what I even want to do.  Tuesday afternoon I have a reservation for a swamp boat tour, and plan to do the associated plantation tour in the morning, and I’m thinking Wednesday will be a good day to go in to the French Quarter and just walk around and look and eat.  Thursday I think I’ll do a long drive, destination Destin, Florida (see how that works?  It just happened that way.)  Two people have told me about the beauty of the Gulf water there, and there’s a couple of parks close by.  I need to get reservations, though, I suspect.  Will keep posting as time and energy and inclination allow.

 

Decided to rent a canoe this morning.  I only took it for an hour, which was plenty, my shoulders and legs informed me.  Rowed it about a mile altogether.

This first picture is just to show I really was in a canoe.  The second gives a better idea of the ambiance.

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After the first narrow channel, you get to a largish pond.  Here I saw my second alligator of the trip.  You may have to look closely to spot it.  This one’s bigger than the one I saw in Aransas, not big enough to scare me, but big enough I didn’t really want it to come any closer.   Agreeably, it didn’t.  Well, I assume it didn’t; it went underwater and I didn’t see it again, given the opacity of the water who knows where it went?

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The rest of these pictures are just to give a feel for the place.  I saw an egret, several shore-type birds, a water snake, some frogs (or rather, the splash as they entered the water), a baby turtle, and a slew of bugs, including a dragonfly laying eggs and hundreds of some very quick surface-dwelling bugs that I couldn’t get close enough to to really describe them—to me they moved like a fish with one eye above the surface, but i’m pretty sure they were just bugs. You can use your imagination to distribute those among the pictures.

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After canoeing I went into Abbeville and had a leisurely lunch at a place by the river.  A VERY leisurely lunch.  Service was very slow.  But I was in no hurry, so managed not to get impatient—something I’m working on.  Something I’ve worked on all my life, mind you but I’m hoping that being retired and all, I may actually have some success at it now. 

Anyway, food was good once it came, and people-watching was interesting.  One 50ish, paunchy man came in wearing a dark blue suit, with red tie and handkerchief, and what I can only describe as saddle shoes though I’m sure that’s not correct (two toned, light over dark), hair slicked back, and lunched by himself on (as near as I could tell) a martini and some chips.  Seemed very much of another era.  I dearly wanted to take a picture of him, but knew it would be just too rude.  Later, a table of five Cajuns, three men and two women, sat next to me—the language sounded to me like French spoken with a southern accent, though I’m sure that’s not a fair characterization.  One of the men seemed about my age, another more 40ish; the younger seemed to be translating for the rest.

On my way back into camp, I spied this guy—first of these I’ve ever seen in the wild.  First pic was taken through the windshield, second out the passenger window with the window open.  Good thing he didn’t move too fast.

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Later I walked the nature trail with CJ.  Spotted an owl fly up into a tree, and managed to sort of get a shot of him—you can just see his outline here.

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On down the trail, there’s this.  I’ll let the signs explain.

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And back to the van, deploy the awning, and kick back.  My kicked-back view:

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That was my day.  Tomorrow I’m headed toward Baton Rouge.  Good thing too, it’s Friday night and the campground is filling up.  Am surrounded by neighbors now.  If anything interesting happens—and I have time—I’ll tell you all about it :-)

To catch up anyone who happens on this post that isn’t hooked into my Facebook, I’m on my first post-retirement swing around the country, mostly the south this time.  I had gone from San Antonio down to Rockport, Texas, hoping to get a boat tour of Aransas National Wildlife Area, but the boat had a motor go kaput.  The big draw to the preserve is whooping cranes.  (I met some birders who came all the way from England hoping to see them, so my disappointment was as nothing compared to theirs.)

So this morning I decided to at least drive around it, not seriously hoping to see the cranes but hoping so see something.  And I did, a few things.  Might have seen more except I was reluctant to leave the van because of the mosquitoes.

I saw more than I got pictures of.  But pictures first.

Here’s what I learned from the birders (who also decided to drive around the preserve) is called a Night Heron:

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I also saw a bunch of egrets—big ones, so I think they are Great Snowy Egrets?  Or some such?

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Then there were these red birds, that I would call Cardinals except that they don’t look quite like the cardinals I saw in Ohio in my youth.  Not as red, and scruffier looking.  But still could be cardinals for all I know.

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Perhaps the coolest birds I saw ( or glimpsed, via binoculars) was roseate spoonbills.  Identification also thanks to the British birders.  Those blurry whitish things in the back of this pic are a few of them, but I think I glimpsed 4 others before I got the camera out.  You’ll have to take my word for it, though :-)

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And of course I saw buzzards.  Wouldn’t even comment on them except for a couple of things; one was a pair (here you only see one) that had claimed the top of the observation tower at the end of the drive:

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The other is that these buzzards have white round spots, largish, at the ends of their wings.  You’ll have to take my word for this too, but that and the fact that their head is not naked makes them different from my familiar buzzards out west.

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The last pics I have are of my first (hopefully not last) alligator in the wild.  Can you see it?

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How about here?

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I know you can see it here.

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Things I saw but didn’t get pictures of:

Peccaries: a bunch of them, behind us (me and CJ) on the trail.  Or maybe juvenile feral pigs, which are apparently a problem in the preserve.  I also think I heard one being gotten by an alligator—sounds like a distressed pig, and low grunting that could have been the alligator.  I know I saw a feral pig, adult, later on—it was very aware of the vehicle even at some distance.

White tail deer.  Just glimpsed it as it disappeared into the brush.

One more thing I heard but didn’t see or get a picture of: turkeys.  Very distinctive gobbles

Overall, the preserve seemed dry (no water in “lakes”, no visible water in “marshy” areas), and I didn’t see much in several miles of driving.  So I headed out, with the main goal of getting east of Houston today.  And have made it.

To a perfect spot: Anahuac National Wildlife Preserve.  I’m parked out at the end of a gravel road, I think at the Bay Boat Ramp area, and saw more birds while driving in here than I did in the entire drive around Aransas.  It’s also more beautiful scenically—in the morningI’ll take pictures and post them either here or on FB.  I think I’m even legit—overnight parking is permitted “to facilitate night fishing”.  But still permitted.  No campfires allowed, but that is not an issue.  And I’m the only person out here.  I think I’ll walk and drive around here tomorrow before moving on.

 

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