Heading to Lake Fausse Pointe State Park, southeast of Lafayette, Louisiana, provided me an opportunity to reach beyond the main highways and urban areas. Narrow roads lined with fields of sugar cane and the occasional low hanging live oak trees were the norm.
I managed to successfully cross a precarious looking one-lane bridge that did not project confidence or stability. Then I followed along an earthen levee, where I was unsure which side of the levee was being protected from rising waters. Houses on stilts, gravel roads jetting over the levee and an overall scene of Cyprus trees covered with hanging moss.
Lake Fausse Pointe State Park
While registering for my campsite at the Lake Fausse Pointe State Park ranger station, I am provided a canoe/kayak trail map noting meandering routes through the swamp and bayous complete with mileage and GPS coordinates. At my campsite is an awesome wood deck extending a few feet out over the bayou with boat tie-off cleats and no handrail to enable easy access to the water. Perfect for launching a kayak. Then there is the sign on the deck – “Beware of the Alligators”, which also included this intriguing notice: “Do Not Dangle Feet Over the Water.” Seriously?! Message received.
“I’m looking forward to the future, and feeling grateful for the past.” — Mike Rowe, American Television Host and Narrator
A camp host stopped by shortly upon my arrival to provide a welcome and make sure all was well with the campsite. I just had to ask. What about alligators and kayaking? He says, “The ‘gators may approach toward you a little and check you out, but then usually leave you alone.” Again, seriously?! Operative word in his sentence – “usually”. My kayak stayed on top of my truck.
An absolutely beautiful time to be in Louisiana. Comfortably cool, the sun blasting through the blue sky and a slight breeze. During the day, the cool breeze managed to keep the majority of hummingbird sized mosquitoes away. Perfect day to sit in a sunny spot and enjoy the warmth penetrating the crisp air, so I set my chair out.
A few minutes later, I’m in my RV and I notice my cats staring out the screen door with a keen focus. Typically, this means anything from a leaf falling that caught their attention to a passing squirrel, but they really appeared uncharacteristically spooked. I take a gander before heading out to my chair. I usually don’t mind sharing, but not with a snake slithering right beneath the chair I was planning to occupy! Yikes!
Camping among the cypress trees in the swamp along the bayou has provided me a genuinely authentic experience. It seems so foreign and I appreciate the opportunity to be inducted into this part of the country. A lot to learn, as I am merely scratching the surface.
Cajuns are tough. Living in the swamp is certainly not for the faint of heart. I heeded the simple advice from a friend, “Just watch yourself. There are things that can kill you out there.” Great! Then I see these two local kids jump out of a canoe, and slosh through the mud from the bayou to their campsite in their bare feet.
This immersion into the swamp has been fascinating, and has heightened my interest to seek out an opportunity to meet some locals and experience traditional Cajun culture. I’ll be back, but for now I’m off to volunteer for two weeks with Habitat for Humanity in eastern Louisiana.