Tuesday, May 8, 2012

One Very Eventful night at Palmetto Island State Park - Down on the Bayou, Baby

It seemed like a good idea, staying a night at Palmetto Island State Park in Abbeville, Louisiana on our way to New Orleans. And it's not that it was a BAD idea, it's just that we got more than we bargained for.

We started out from Highlands, Texas, just east of Houston, and needed a stopover after about 200 miles. Since we were finally heading into territory where there are good state parks, I thought it would be nice to drop down off I-10 and stay at a park that would then put us on the "low road" - meaning route 90  - to New Orleans. That would take us through the heart of the bayou, instead of just booking along I-10 with all those big tractor-trailer trucks, and having to go through cities.

The problem was Palmetto Island State Park is about 35 miles down from I-10, but it's 35 winding, bumpy and slow miles. So what we thought would be our last half hour of driving turned out to be more like an hour and a half.

By the time we reached the park, RVPainter had been driving almost six hours. Along the road in, all the homes are built on stilts to keep them above flood levels. And, just as we finally drove up to the ranger station, a thunderstorm kicked in. RVPainter has a real fear of rain, and it didn't much help that we were in a place that had been badly hit by Hurricane Katrina.

The park itself looked like a rainforest, dark and mysterious. Trees with hanging vines towered all around our campsite. And one of the first things we spotted were wild pigs foraging at the side of the road!

We went back and forth about whether to stay. But where would we go? We were already off the beaten track and Dick had been driving too long already.  If there had been more people camping there, we would have felt less worried. But there were only two other RVs. After a bit, the rain let up so we decided to stay.

We set up and then ventured out to find the lagoons that were supposed to be the draw of the place. This is when we started to see what a nice park Palmetto actually is. They have built beautiful pavillions on the lagoon. You can canoe or boat on the lagoons, though I don't know if I would considering there was this sign:

Two fellows were fishing from one of the pavillions and the dock. We took over the other pavillion and made ourselves comfortable with our beach chairs and a picnic lunch. In no time we were feeling mellow and relaxed, the wild journey and rude welcome quickly forgotten.

It rained lightly off and on, but the drops hitting the roof just sounded like a waterfall, and when they hit the lagoon they looked almost like fireflies dancing on the water.

I can't even imagine how many varities of birds live there, because constant calls and cackles echoed around us in the dense vegetation, along with a rattling/hissing sound that welled up and then disintegrated. I don't know what that was! Green surrounded us - even the lagoon looked green.

Finally it cleared up for good. We completey relaxed and appreciated this strange jungle-like habitat, abundant with nature and mystery.

Just before bed, the little piggies can by our campsite, foraging in the mud:

Then they went on their way.

At some point, the "jungle" went completely silent - something we haven't experienced lately because RV parks are often near the highways. We slept well.

This morning, as we prepared to leave, our tire pressure sensor shrieked, letting us know that a tire on the Honda Fit (our tow vehicle) had lost pressure. So we had to go into Abbeville and have Jim's Tire Shop take a look. They found a nail in the tire, patched it up and sent us on our way for just $15.

So,  we learned that we probably aren't the type for remote, isolated camping. State parks are great, but we're better off in ones that are a little closer to civilization. That's just us - lots of people would have loved being all on their own like that.

We learned that we can stay calm when things go wrong, like a tire problem.

We learned that people in Louisiana are real nice folks - the ranger at the campground called ahead to Jim's for us, and the folks at Jim's took good care of us.

Even though I probably wouldn't do it again, I'm glad we got to experience Palmetto Island. It's really an amazing habitat and they've done beautiful work there to make it nice. It's one of those things I'm glad to have done, but am also glad is now in the rear-view mirror.

After getting the tire patched up, we came on to New Orleans via Route 90, which took us through the heart of the bayou. A beautiful day and a beautiful drive, and not too long at just under three hours. I absolutely loved the drive today.

We're staying at the Bayou Segnette State Park just outside of New Orleans, and this is more our style. Close to things, but a state park and a really nice campground. There are more people here too, but it's not overcrowded. We'll head into New Orleans tomorrow.

After that, it's on to another state park: Fort Pickens in Pensacola. We're lucky to have wifi here at Segnette, so I could get this post up. But most state parks don't have it so I may be off the grid again for a few days. When I'm back, we'll have pics of NEW ORLEANS!!


  1. I think I would prefer to be closer to civilization myself...especially with signs about alligtors and wild pigs roaming about. Can't wait to see those New Orleans photos.

  2. Sounds like a lovely place with peace and tranquility!

  3. Adventure at every turn! As unnerving as these situations can seem at the time they make great fodder for story telling. Enjoy New Orleans.

  4. I am so loving reading about all your adventures!
    Blessings, Joanne

  5. I'm with Joanne. It is such an incredible adventure and I am so grateful to be coming along for the ride. I suspect on the whole I would prefer to distance myself from civilisation - which isn't all that it is cracked up to be. However, civilised or not I am really looking forward to each and every one of these posts.

  6. I'd have been very happy right where you were! The 'don't feed the alligators' sign made me chuckle - the most I have to contend with here is 'don't feed the seagulls'!

  7. What a great adventure....that is what it is all about....exploring and experiencing.

  8. Dear Melissa, . . . I"ve never visited the southern states, except for Florida. And so I've never experienced a park like Palmetto Island. But I loved learning about it from you. And I look forward to pictures of the bayou also. That's something I've always wanted to see.

    I'm so glad you are enjoying this journey--far and wee.


  9. "It rained lightly off and on, but the drops hitting the roof just sounded like a waterfall, and when they hit the lagoon they looked almost like fireflies dancing on the water." - I love these words of yours Melissa, they conjure up the picture so perfectly in my mind :)

    Megan @ Storybook Love Affair


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