Southern Breezes and Beach Combing

Driving in the winter tends toward the unpredictable. We scooted along the I-10 from Texas to Louisiana. We’d hit several days of mostly clear skies and warmer sunshine—a plus for us. Another adventure awaited us.

We crossed the state line into Louisiana, and a few miles later we came to one of the state’s Visitors Centers. It looked inviting enough to lure us into an unscheduled stop. We were glad we did.

Nobody creates welcome, warmth, and Visitors Centers like the South. We’d discovered that in Texas. Louisiana’s didn’t disappoint. It was large, gracious, friendly, and waiting to be explored.

The picnic facilities dotted the grounds with a taste of whimsy. Made for rain or sunshine, the airy little structures beckoned the traveler to take time to sit and enjoy the scenery. The inlet on the south side provided a marvelous view toward the gulf, while signs warned of the wildlife.

The center’s spacious rooms drew us in with their colors, forms, and pride. Mardi Gras had come to show off its finery. It seemed the only thing needed to complete the tribute to the grandeur of the festival was a miniature float in the lobby.

Fresh hot coffee spread its aroma throughout the displays. For travelers the scent was welcome and much appreciated.

We learned from one of the greeters about the alligator hibernation cycles. We also discovered that the nature hike trail that we would have explored out to the point was closed due to hurricane activity during the previous season. We were disappointed, but when we learned of the wetlands a few miles further east, we gathered in details and headed out.

We try to take advice from locals when we can. She told us we should find the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge Wetland Walkway and Creole Trail. We tracked down the town of Hackberry and followed the road south off the I-10.

We drove through the inter-coastal wetlands of the Refuge—picture the Everglades here with an occasional oil tanker moving along the channel—to where the road dumped out at Holly Beach.

The few houses guarding the beach stood on stilt pylons and occupied the road’s elbow. That pristine beach offered up more perfect sea shells than BJ could find pocket space in which to carry them. The occasional dollop of oil sludge from the Gulf off-shore rig debacle lent an air of disappointment to beach excursions.

While a watery sun came out to play that day, brother wind was determined to cause discomfort for those outside. After picture-taking and shell-reaping, BJ returned to the car and pronounced herself officially frozen. Hence, the move back to the Refuge for photos of birds.

Canals paced both sides of the highway. Turnouts allowed serious birdwatchers to stop, snap photos, and watch the intense egret and heron techniques of fishing. The occasional brown pelican dropped in to tutor the bigger birds on handling food volume.

The small ibis kept its dainty ways to itself without socializing. The kingfisher-like bird (species unknown) seemed to ignore all other contenders for the canal’s menu dishes.

We’d been told that alligators had gone into hibernation with the cold temps that currently reigned in the area. We missed seeing ‘gators in their natural habitat. We spent a peaceful hour and a half with the birds, sunshine, and sea breezes.

From this small exploration we hit the road again for more discoveries to come. Another day, another road, another new place to see.

We’ll continue our sojourn through Louisiana next time.

Further information can be had at: http://byways.org/explore/byways/2454/places/12669

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