St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Louisiana Daze

We pulled into Louisiana last Monday and parked at Chicot State Park, near Ville Platte (south central part of the state).  We are in Evangeline Parish (county) named after the Longfellow poem. 
     The area is a mixture of blacks, whites, and folks who call themselves Cajuns -- French is spoken in about 1/3 of the homes here.  The culture is Cajun, Creole, Black and rural white folks.           The mix is interesting, generally low income, and lots of poverty that shows in low quality housing.  
    As a farm kid, I like to see what is growing.  The crops here include soybeans, corn and hay, but also cotton, sugar cane, rice and crawfish.  About all that is active right now is crawfish harvest in the flooded rice field stubble.
   Lots of oil wells around here.  Much of he land is very flat, and here and there are pastures with beef cattle including one that specializes in Brahma cattle, more adapted to the hot summer weather. 
   The Louisiana spring is here.  A few violets are blooming, Carolina Jasmine, Azaleas, tulip trees, narcissus, camelias and a few others I don't know.  Creeping Charlie and dandelions are beginning, clover is just poking a few blooms, and some of the trees are budded or even leafing out.  
   We have been enjoying temperatures that ranged from as low as 46F this morning to 81F yesterday afternoon.  Normal would be 50s-70s and that is what we see for the coming week. 
   The park here is quiet during the week, filling with fishermen with boats and campers Friday and Saturday as the park is on a panfish and bass lake.  
   Haven't met any other folks from the north on our camping so far, they probably go more south where it is even warmer.  Almost all of the folks who camp here are those with the very big units that bring home away from home.  One tenting couple are here and another popup camper pulled in today.  
  The history of the area is that of plantations, civil war battles, and the Cajuns.  That means music, food, language and friendly unpretentious folks who love fishing and hunting, dogs, beer and good food. 
   You can buy a basic house in Ville Platte for $20,000 that is livable and ready to move in. For half that you can buy one to fix up.  Of course there are many modern houses that are normal prices and many that are expensive too.  
   The Park here is severely underfunded, as are all public services in Louisiana.  Huge tax cuts led to huge spending problems and parks, police, roads, schools, libraries and health care have all taken a back seat to making sure the rich have less role in helping out the community as a whole.  
   The park restrooms are taken care of by a camper who "hosts" the campsite.  He gets free camping ($120/week) for cleaning the bathrooms and sort of checking on things.  He does not seem to take the job seriously.  He lost his house in the recent flooding "down south" and moved here to get away from being homeless -- he does have a nice large camper unit and vehicle that are now his home.    
   Once a week, a young kid (probably 20 year old), without supervision drives a truck around and empties the garbage cans he can see are in need of emptying -- he doesn't check them all, just the running over ones.  He told me he gets $8/hour and no benefits and is on his own to do what he thinks needs to be done.  Another person is in the office to take fees and check visitors.  We think there is someone in charge too, but no one seems to ever come out to the park areas to check on anything.  The main office is open 7 days a week for 12 hours a day, so probably need 3-4 folks to cover it.  It appears some may be part time -fill ins on the weekend, as the person who set us up when we first arrived had no clue about any of the campsites. 
    Campers seem to be pretty good at cleaning up their sites, and the park, unlike the roads leading to it, is clean from litter.  The road in are absolutely terrible with litter.  
    The weather here is nice; it is quiet, the bathrooms on the North loop are decent, and so we are happy staying here for the weather break from the north.  
    Our plan is to return about the beginning of March, and maybe stay here in this park until then.  I have a lot of computer work (books) I am working on and so I setup in the shade outside and work; then take a walk and photos, work and walk. 
   Margo is handling the sort of roughing it camping better than I thought.  She does some walking, some computer surfing, some taking it easy, and so on, and her back does not seem to be any worse than when we are at home.  We usually take a drive into the countryside or a small town each day too, and have more to explore. 
The Bayou Chicot

Concrete burial vaults about 3 feet into the ground with a cover to keep folks from floating away in a flood 

Hundreds of fundamentalists churches each with their advice

The north campground has handicapped facilities that are nice 

Azaleas shed some in the wind and rain of the past two days

Even dandelions are welcome

Headed to a bird watcher's walk Saturday 9 am.  Haven't seen any strange birds here in the park. Robins, sparrows, an owl, crows. blackbirds, cardinals, etc. 

Spanish moss and Resurrection Ferns add some decadence to the park 

The states down here only require back license plates, so the front ones are for personal statements.
Spring violets -- only about 3 months ahead of Wisconsin