Posts

Showing posts from March, 2012

Natchez to Strawberry Plains

Image
Day 12 – March 29
Natchez, MS to HollySprings and Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, MS
The air had a haze of humidity this morning, but the temperature was a pleasant 70F.  I suggested to Mike that we walk down to the Natchez Under the Hill area before we started driving.  We really haven’t gotten much exercise on this trip and I wanted to see a little more of the area. 
Our hotel was on a busy street and before we crossed, I spotted a small, brown brindled dog walking towards us.  As we crossed the street with the light he turned and followed us, with us calling to him to hurry up.  He seemed friendly enough, as he trotted next to and ahead of us.  I got him to stop once and when I went to pet him, he rolled over onto his back in submission and I rubbed his belly as he blissfully licked his licks.  After we started walking again, I thought, “Oh boy, I probably own him now.” He was such a happy go lucky fellow I decided that if he had a name it would be Happy Jack Brindle. 
We wal…

New Orleans to Natchez

Image
Day 11 March 28th New Orleans, LA to Natchez, MS Our plan for this day was to visit with a group known as Common Ground Relief, Inc. We had bought a Groupon to go on a wetland restoration excursion, where we would help with planting and learn more about the ecology of the area.  But with the change of dates with the Pascagoula Audubon program, we had to alter our schedule and plans with Common Ground. We wouldn’t be able to do the excursion, but could meet with them in their office in the 9th Ward – the area most seriously damaged by Katrina and see the greenhouse that provides the nursery stock for the restoration.  Our first decision, though, was to use another Groupon and have breakfast at The Broken Egg.  The reviews proclaimed some of the best omelets and southern specialty dishes. However, not knowing the area very well, we didn’t realize that Mandeville was 26 miles away – across Lake Ponchartrain - the second-largest inland saltwater body of water in the United States, after…

Bay St Louis to Metaire

Image
Day 10 March 27 Bay St. Louis to Metaire Sunny and 75F as we drove away from the Casino complex – none the richer, but only $4 poorer.  We were headed back to the Pascagoula (a Chocktaw word meaning bread making) River for a boat tour of the bayous and river itself.  Mark LaSalle had arranged for us to take this tour and we welcomed the chance to get on the water and see this landscape – which is SO much water – with a fresh perspective.  The boat was a flatbottomed, aluminum craft with an awning and benches that faced out on either side.  It was completely full with other adults and some homeschooled kids and their parents.  ‘Beanie’ McCoy was the captain of this boat, a middle aged man with a lifetime of experiences on the river and its backwaters.  For two hours he shared his knowledge and enthusiasm of this land and waterscape with us.  Mike and I were at the back of the boat and the only passengers with binoculars.  The Pascagoula is a tidal river with brackish water.  Popular…

New Orleans to Pascagoula MS

Image
Day 9  March 26   Bay St. Louis and Pascagoula Audubon Center Our day was pretty free and open. We had a talk scheduled for the evening for the Pascagoula River Audubon Center, so we took our time in the morning, catching up on internet tasks like Mike’s on-line classes.  Heading out around noon, we grabbed a couple of (way too expensive) sandwiches from the Casino grill and a couple of sodas and drove back down the shoreline looking for a nice beach where we could eat al fresco.  What we found was major construction. They’re building sea walls all along this part of Bay St. Louis. We only found one public beach that was still available and we pulled into the parking lot.  Laughing gulls were in an uproar over some food that had been spilled or dumped on the asphalt.  There was a roofed structure with some park benches beneath it and this is where we sat and ate.  Mike wandered with his camera, but we couldn’t see any shorebirds at this location, so we got back in the car and start…

New Orleans and Jean LaFitte

Image
Days 7 & 8   March 24th and 25th New Orleans Since I haven’t posted anything for a few days, I’m sure you’re thinking – Oh they got to the French Quarter and are still recovering.  But no – that’s not the case.  The 2 days in New Orleans were filled with training sessions with the National Audubon Society and a field trip to Batavaria Swamp/Jean LaFitte National Historical Park and Preserve.  We were invited to attend the training sessions because of our past connections with Audubon, but also our upcoming biking adventure in 2013 when we will bring attention to the Mississippi River and the Gulf it flows into.  They invited Audubon Chapter members all along the River to attend. We were the only ones from Minnesota who were able to make it. The goal of the workshop was to train and inspire volunteers to go back to their communities and clubs and share what they learned with their members, as well as their elected officials. The National Audubon Society with its new president, Da…

Jackson, MS to New Orleans, LA

Image
Day 6 March 23 Jackson, MS to New Orleans, LA We had such a nice room in Jackson at a Courtyard Mariott, and we were only 2 ½ hours from New Orleans, so we decided to give ourselves a slow morning.  I got up and went to the fitness room, then sat outside next to the pool in the strong late morning light.  The water in the pool was the temperature of bathwater.   I was the only one sitting out next to the pool.  Mike caught up with his on-line classes and I got some internet time too.  We finally got underway around 11:30 A.M.  and drove into a superb sunny southern day, with the temperature a very pleasant 70F.  Mike said he heard a fish crow calling when we came out to our car. I heard a crow, but don’t know the fish crow’s call.  Spotted our first palm tree on a boulevard.  Mike wanted to take photos of the state capital, an impressive stone edifice encircled by great live oak trees and other southern species.  We had passed an interesting looking restaurant on our way there – Chi…

Sikeston, MO to Jackson, MS

Image
Day 5 March 22nd
It was grey and rainy when we checked out of our hotel (Days Inn). Temperature was a cool 54F (Yay).  We took some roads (not on the bike route) down to New Madrid (MAdrid) past fields with standing water.  Don’t know if they are rice or cotton or sorghum fields.  There was stubble – but not corn and it looked as if it had been burned. 
Mike has always wanted to come here because of its historic geologic importance. This is where the mid-continent earthquake occurred in 1811; a massive quake that reshaped the Mississippi River, creating Reelsfoot Lake, which we would drive past (it is on the bike route). First we needed to get to Dorena in order to take a ferry across the Mississippi and we couldn’t figure out a good route, without backtracking almost back to Sikeston.  At a gas station, Mike started chatting with the guy pumping next to us, who sounded like Bill Clinton.  Finally, Mike asked if he knew how to get to Dorena.  He assured us he did and could give us b…

Keokuk to Sikeston

Day 4  March 21
Keokuk, IA to Sikeston, MO
65F and overcast when we left the hotel in the morning.  And glory be – no wind!  We headed across the river hoping to avoid the big storms to the south of us.  More flooding was reported in Louisiana and Arkansas.  The red bud trees continue to astound us.  Their color is almost a faint neon pink? Purple? Fuschia? And the flowers seem to grow directly out of the branches, outlining them in the process. It reminds me of the creosote shrubs in the desert – only their flowers are yellow.  
As we crossed over the river we could see a big Hydro power plant near the lock just upriver from the bridge. Makes me wonder why there aren’t more hydro plants along this big river, instead of all the coal fired ones.  
We soon came to a town called Warsaw and passed (and stopped) a castle looking building that was the Warsaw Brewing Company.  Too early in the morning to be open, we still pulled in to look at it and take some video. Part of the brick build…

Dubuque to Keokuk

Day 3 – March 20
After a night of thunderstorms and rain, the day broke clear and 63F.  There are significant rain/thunderstorms and flooding in states south of us.  It’s a slow moving system and we’re hoping  to somehow avoid it all.  The Weather Channel also reported a massive onslaught of tree pollen around the middle parts of the country because of this heat wave and the sudden, quick blooming that’s happening.
We saw a flowering magnolia tree as we left Walford.  It was a stunning mass of pale pink blossoms.  Daffodils are in bloom, as are the yellow forsythia shrubs. There is nothing to compare, really, to the first flowers of the year.
Our Mississippi River Trail guidebook really helped us get through Dubuque and onto the road to St. Donatus, where I wanted to stop for lunch at the Kalmes Restaurant and Store. It was featured in the book Feasting on Asphalt.  It was written by a TV food personality Alton Brown and covered a motorcycle trip he took following the River North f…

Onalaska To Dubuque

Image
Day 2 – March 19
Left Onalaska, WI around 9 a.m. with the temperature at 66F and cloudy skies.  Looked like rain coming, but we didn’t see any until around noon in Prairie du Chein, then it cleared up as we drove down the Iowa side of the river and over to Walford. 
Crossed the bridge over the river from WI, back into MN near La Crescent and drove to a MN rest area on the river, managed cooperatively with USFWS and Army Corps.  We saw a tugboat going downriver as we crossed the river, but it was out of sight by the time we stopped.  A big kettle of turkey vultures were slowly circling near the top of a bluff and we saw some hawks flying a duet too.  The surrounding trees were full of cardinals, robins, red winged blackbirds, grackles and even a song sparrow in full throated song.  It’s always a beautiful sound when we first hear it in the springtime.
The guidebook spoke about a route that would be visually entertaining with wide vast wetlands on our left but a two lane road with ve…

St.Paul, MN to Onalaska, WI - Along the Mississippi

Full length Mississippi
DAY 1 MARCH 18, 2012   SCOUTING TRIP
Left home with temperatures in the 70s and high humidity.  The most bizarre weather we’ve ever seen in our lives for Minnesota in mid-march. It was overcast until we hit the Twin Cities and the temperature continued to rise, pushed by strong southerly winds. Another strange phenomena at this time of year.
We had just heard the first Eastern bluebird of the year at our house – far earlier than normal, and on the way, going past Pine City, we saw great blue herons flying over the trees of their rookery.  The Snake River still had ice on it, but it was dark in color and obviously close to going out.
This will be our ‘scouting’ or ‘ground truthing’ trip for next year’s bike expedition. We have a number of guide books with directions for roads/trails to take along the river and we are going to try to see how accurate they are.  The most recent one was written in 2008. 
Getting closer to St.Paul, we saw a mature bald eagle flying wi…

Mississippi River - St Paul - Onalaska

Full Length Mississippi
DAY 1 MARCH 18, 2012 SCOUTING TRIP
Left home with temperatures in the 70s and high humidity. The most bizarre weather we’ve ever seen in our lives for Minnesota in mid-march. It was overcast until we hit the Twin Cities and the temperature continued to rise, pushed by strong southerly winds. Another strange phenomena at this time of year.
We had just heard the first Eastern bluebird of the year at our house – far earlier than normal, and on the way, going past Pine City, we saw great blue herons flying over the trees of their rookery. The Snake River still had ice on it, but it was dark in color and obviously close to going out.
This will be our ‘scouting’ or ‘ground truthing’ trip for next year’s bike expedition. We have a number of guide books with directions for roads/trails to take along the river and we are going to try to see how accurate they are. The most recent one was written in 2008.
Getting closer to St.Paul, we saw a mature bald eagle flying wit…