We're making some time heading west, and are camped for the night at the Kerrville KOA in Kerrville, TX. Yesterday, we did some 410 miles driving west from New Orleans through Houston and San Antonio. When we got into Kerrville around 6:00, it was 90 degrees. Quite a contrast to my daughter in Saratoga Springs, NY, who got snow yesterday. We're finally far enough west that the climate has changed a lot. Its now pretty dry, and the sun has that intensity it gets in the spring when the leaves aren't all on the trees. We thought we'd make a post today just showing some of what we saw on the 400 miles across. That's a long drive, but Texas is over 800 miles from one side to the other, and essentially, you're driving from a very wet place (the swamps around Louisiana) to a very dry place (New Mexico).
These dogs are obviously enjoying the cool of the evening on the Mississippi River levee near St. Bernard, LA.
We drove through New Orleans as we left. There were still many houses like this one, that had not been renovated after Katrina.
We also saw a couple developments with modern, small, and efficient houses like these in the 9th ward of New Orleans. Notice the simple construction, solar panels on the roofs, and eave designs to minimize solar gain.
There were many, many miles where interstate 10 was on a raised causeway, sort of like in the Florida Keys, except here, we were driving through the Louisiana Swamps.
There were many projects designed to drain land, or to send water to places other than what Mother Nature intended. Here's one man-made canal we drove across. What is really interesting is that the Mississippi river, in the course of its natural meandering, is trying to change course and run down the Atchafalaya river and would do so if left alone
We got to the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area, which is a swamp bigger than all of the Everglades, and home to the Cajuns. Cajuns are descended from French-speaking Canadians and speak Cajun, which is a localized mix of French. I was listening to a fellow at a rest stop, and I couldn't understand a word.
We crossed the Mississippi near Baton Rouge, LA. There was a lot of barge and ship traffic. The Mississippi is the fourth longest river in the world, at just over 2,300 miles. You can take ocean going shipping all the way up to the Great Lakes. The watershed contains all or part of 31 states.
The Atchafalaya Basin and swamp is actually the nations largest river swamp, containing almost a million acres of swamps, bayous, backwater lakes, and the nations's largest contiguous bottomland hardwood forest. .
We saw a lot of small fishing camps, like this one, nestled in the woods on the edges of the rivers. We also saw several small barges with shacks built on them, tied up to the trees.
This gives you a little bit of an idea just how wet the world is there. You can see the interstate raised up on piers, with water in the middle (its on the sides, too, for a long, long way).
We passed by a lot of open swamp, like this one which was dominated by Cypresses.
In many places, we saw rice patties in various states of the growing cycle. This one is partially flooded.
This one to the left, is very flooded.
And this one has been drained. The soil is dry, and the wind was blowing from the east causing this small dust storm. The rear wind also caused us to get a record 19mpg towing!
Here's a picture that shows one of the small berms separating two rice fields. These are about a meter high.
In the rice fields, they do something called dual-cropping, where you get two crops from one field. Only here, the second crop is crawfish (crawdads, crayfish). These dark looking things in the picture are actually crawfish traps. In one of the flooded fields, we saw a flatbottomed boat with folks going along getting the crawfish from the traps. Crawfish are an incredibly important part of the culture and heritage here, maybe something like Codfish are along the MA coast.
The wetlands serve as habitat for many kinds of animals.
We camped at Sam Houston Jones State Park, in western LA. It was a nice park on the side of the Houston River. On the far side of the river, just about every foot of bank was developed. Here, they're putting in a house. You can the that the shoreline is covered by this long dock/deck, and to the right is a private ramp/ beach to put their boat in.
This house in the adjacent lot is just about complete. They've already got their boat there. This sort of development wouldn't be allowed in MA, because of our river protection act. Half of me wants them to stop, and leave the area natural. Half of me wants to live in that house :-)
The park had a really cool trail system through yet another Tupelo / Cypress swamp. This one was totally different, because there was little open water. All this greenery is really aquatic vegetation.
It looks like you could just walk across this. You can't!
We stopped at an observation pier where I guess people feed the turtles. The minute we stopped, they all came swimming up. This one was the biggest. His shell was about a foot long.
It's hard to tell if you don't know what you're looking for and they're not moving, but we counted 19 turtles.
During the afternoon and evening, the wind blew more and more, and finally in the night, a line of giant thunderstorms came by, with camper rattling thunder, lightning, and pounding rain. When we got up, these poor tent campers were flooded out, their tent completely surrounded by water. Their car was gone, so I guess they left in the night.
Yesterday, we drove on through Houston, which is about 100 miles across of bad, heavy traffic, and at times, 16 lanes. We were happy to get through that, and through San Antonio.
On west side of San Antonio, the road quietened down. It was hot, and noticeably drier, but the views were beautiful.
Karin was especially enamored by the wildflowers the Texas DOT has planted along the highway.
Miles and miles and miles of beautiful flowers, just because (see Mrs. Dr. V's plant file page for more info).
Today, we're heading further west. We were a little behind schedule, so we're trying to make up a little time so we can spend extra days on the west coast. It's hard to believe we're almost half-way through with our journey!