“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.” J. R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings
The soft patter of rain on my tent is soothing, so much so that I tap the snooze button on my phone and nestle a little deeper beneath the covers. But after a moment my eyes open and I toss the covers off. California isn’t coming to me, after all.
Rocky springs up, brown eyes bright with anticipation as he looks up at me wondering what we are doing next–excited about whatever it is.
Getting up was a good thing. No sooner had I repacked my car when the soft drizzle transitioned into steady rain. By the time we reached the road it had escalated to a downpour.
Mississippi ushered me on my way with lights and sirens of the thunder and lightening variety.
I wish I could safely pullover to snap a picture of this bridge that is transporting me into Lousiana! It isn’t so much the bridge, but the lush green trees rushing by beneath me. You see, Louisiana is one big mysteriously magical beautiful swamp.
Moments later a visitors center sign beckons to me and I pull off the interstate. A charming white house surrounded by green grass and flowers laid claim to the title of ‘Visitor’s Center’. Standing just as proudly, but in startling contrast across the road is the Swamp Shack gift shop.
I spend some time chatting with the owner of the Swamp Shack, a friendly woman with a bounty of southern charm. She proudly shares with me that very soon I will be traveling across an 18 mile bridge that will carry me across the largest swamp in the US. And she tried very hard to get me to buy an alligator head or claw (Nope!)
The 18 mile bridge really is 18 miles and it crosses the Atchafalaya swamp. Right in he center of it is another visitor’s center.
Louisiana with its swamps, wading birds and Spanish moss slips apast the windows of my car until I reach Jenkins and I once again leave the interstate for adventure.
At the Gator Chateau a line of kids, maybe ages 6-10 filed through the door before me. For a less than a moment I consider abandoning my quest. After all, I seemed to be the only grown-up interested….So what‽
As I sat on the bench and stroked the surprisingly soft skin of the baby alligator, I ask if all this human contact effects the gators when they are released (The Gator Chateau is an alligator rescue and release program)
No, she reassures me, gators don’t form bonds. I think about that as I drive away. Does that mean the gators are like sociopaths? Then why does a mother protect its nest and babies? Is it really just instinct?
Houstin is huge! At least to this Maine girl it is! And I manage to hit it around 4 in the afternoon. Fourteen lanes, tangles of overpasses above me, buildings towering in the distance. I’m glad my tank is full and my bladder is empty!
And now I’m here at Stephen F. Austin State Park, 45 short minutes beyond Houston, bundled into my sleeping bag as I listen to the night time songs of insects, the occasional hoot and howl from the woods behind my tent and enjoy the warm smell of wood smoke.