The Hanks, who we met in Topsail Hill Preserve, mentioned that they were planning on going to Grand Isle, LA. If you look at a map of Louisiana and follow the Mississippi River to its end in the Gulf then go northwest across the water, you will see a spit of land with LA 1 that is an island. Going east on that island, eventually you run out of road (and land). That is Grand Isle State Park. The town of Grand Isle has little to offer in the way of entertainment, shopping, or places of interest. There is a small supermarket which includes a hardware store. There are two major oil operations, Shell and Exxon Mobil. There is a lot of shrimping, more on that in a bit.
Given its location at the end of the road, you would think it would be hard to miss the State Park, wrong! By ignoring Germaine (the GPS) and misreading a road sign in the belief that a barely improved thread of asphalt could not possibly be the entrance to a state park, we drove on into a residential area. Fortunately, the road ended in large parking lot for the sport and commercial fishing area which enabled me to turn around and, with the help of locals, find the entrance to the park. As we had figured from the reservation web site there are plenty of open sites. Louisiana is one of the few states that provides a 50% discount for those of us carrying the Golden Age Passport. Compared to $38 plus tax in Florida the net of $9 and NO TAX becomes a real bargain. We are situated in a row of sites with our back to a dune line with the Gulf of Mexico just on the other side with a beach that stretches as far as we want to walk in both directions.
We have been asked what we do in a place like this with no access to the internet since Verizon service dropped off about 20 miles up the road. Our contact with the outside world is pretty good between satellite TV (ugh), local off the air TV (double ugh), NPR radio out of N.O. and the phone. We have many unread books, some of which will be ready to trade by the time we move on and there are people to sit and chat with. Our best entertainment is the sea and bird life. Dolphins feed just off the beach, herding redfish in toward the shore then feeding on them. This takes place 10 to 20 feet off the beach in as little as three feet of water.
The birding has also been pretty good. Here is a list of the identified species we saw yesterday, January 29th, as we walked the beach and lake trail: Willet, Least Sandpiper, American Oyster Catcher, Tree Swallow, Royal Tern, Least Tern, Brown Pelican, White Pelican, Great Blue Heron (on almost every daily birding list I can remember) Great Egret, Double Crested Cormorant and Gulls. I am sure of my identification of Herring Gull and Ring Bill Gull I am sure there were others, but I have not paid enough attention to even think of sorting them out.
We also witnessed the merciless nature of life in the wild. We came across a Cormorant and a Pelican with broken wings on the beach in the space of four hours. In both cases this was the result of the bird misjudging the waves in a dive for fish and hitting the water at a wrong angle. We have sat and watched these birds diving for fish whenever we are near the water and I cannot remember ever seeing this before, but it is more common than we realize. When it happens far out from shore there is no way to see the result. We spoke to the ranger about these injured birds and she said that unless they were banded there was nothing that could be done to help them or to put them out of their misery. Nature will be permitted to take its course.
Yesterday, when we did the birding, was glorious with temperatures in the high 60’s to low 70’s and plenty of sun. We expect that will not happen again for a while. Last night a front came through with a slashing rainstorm followed by high winds. At 5:00 AM we heard a crash as the grill, which I lash to a table, blew over with the table. The winds were so high that we were rocking so we pulled in the slides to preserve the topper awnings and reduce the surface exposed to the wind. This morning we discovered that the doormat we have used for seven years is no place to be found. It is “Gone with the Wind”. [written later] After a brisk morning walk, keeping my eyes open looking for the doormat, I found it tucked up against the street side rear wheels.
I did promise more on shrimping. There are many boats lining the bayous and rivers that are setup for shrimping. This is a major industry in these parts. Although I do not ordinarily eat shellfish, it seemed foolish to pass up the opportunity to have them as fresh as they can be. We set out after lunch, by car, to see what was available on Grand Isle. The supermarket had no seafood at all, just meat. The produce section was better than Carol expected and not outrageously expensive. We bought very little. We stopped in another small shop to ask about seafood and they pointed us to Dean and Blanchard as the only place in the area still open. We found the turn off of LA 1 that they described and realized we had already been that way, but we persisted and this time turned right on a road that seemed to be a private drive. We wended our way toward the shore where we found a large packing plant. In what looked like a breezeway were two large containers with a very large scale. There was a workman there who spoke in a language or accent that was not particularly intelligible to us. We did figure out that he did have whole fresh shrimp in the containers and they were two different prices (presumably different sizes. I bought a pound of the more expensive ($3.75 a pound) and figured I would have them for two meals. After cleaning and grilling in olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and some pepper, I had a very nice portion for one meal. I enjoyed myself, but I doubt I will repeat the experience, certainly not in hurry.
Although the people we gathered for Happy Hour on Wednesday evening asked us to stay on, we decided to move on on Thursday with a deteriorating weather forecast and a desire to get to Texas someday. Thursday we were on the road by 8:45.