Saturday, April 21, 2012

2012 -10 Natchez Mississippi to Homer Louisiana, Lake Claiborne State Park


Natchez Mississippi
Lake Claiborne Louisiana

Campground:  Lake Claiborne State Park 225 State Park Road, Homer, LA 71040.  Water/Electric. $20.  Free wi-fi in the park.  Heavily shaded, great for those hot steamy summers.  Swimming beach, multiple boat docks, rental canoes and kayaks.  Front load washer/dryers 75 cents ea.  Many great pull-thru’s for an extra $5.  Note: Louisiana parks use Reservation USA and will charge an additional $6 for reservations, even walk ups.

On one of my last days in the Natchez area, I enjoyed a comedy called “Southern Exposure” put on by the local Little Theatre group in town.  It’s all about the Pilgrimage that is celebrated each spring.  Based on the stories and lives of the people in Natchez and their southern heritage and takes place in the 1950’s.  Many of the mansions were under water so to speak and barely making it.  Yet the southern decorum prevailed and the humor begins from there.  This play has been presented every year during the Pilgrimage days for the past 51 years.  Glad I had a chance to see it and get a slightly different perspective on the life and culture of the area along with a few laughs.

Southern Exposure

I received news today that my cousin Henry Palosaari passed away.  Along with my good friend Tim who passed just days ago and my niece Heidi who passed over to the other side not too long ago, I feel a bit overwhelmed today.  I realize it is all our fate to pass on out of this world, but so many so quickly has just got me a bit sad at their passing.

slightly over decorated?

My very last day in Natchez has been terribly uneventful.  It’s been raining the last two days, so not many outdoor activities to be enjoyed. I did drive along a section of the Natchez Trace Trail between the campground on into Natchez and that’s always a special experience.  Stopping at one of the many wayside stops to read about the history of the Natchez Trace (444 miles long) and the people and events that occurred along it’s corridor.  The wayside stop being the Elizabeth Female Academy started back in 1818.  Giving women a chance to learn beyond the simple reading writing and arithmetic they might have experienced.  Only a small section of one of the walls remains as a reminder of this historic site.  Imagine, Mississippi was on the forefront of education back in the 1800’s.

Elizabeth Female Academy

So many of the store fronts on main street are boarded up and closed, another sign that although this town has so much to offer,  it is another example of a town on the decline or at the least, on the edge.  Empty shells waiting to be brought back to life.  Wouldn’t it be great if a big company like Google or Apple could relocate some of their business to a place like this and fill all those grand homes with life again and in return revitalize this town.  Only a dream, but anything is possible.

Downtown Natchez

Lake Claiborne, Louisiana

Well what should have been about a two and a half hour drive ended up being about 5 hours.  Not following the GPS route to the “T” sometimes can cost time and aggravation.  I changed the route because I thought going along the Natchez Trace Trail for a bit, then up hwy 61 wouldn’t be that far out of my way.  Later a detour due to road construct near the State park, routed me many miles out of the way.  When I finally made it to the campground, I found out they no longer honor the Gov Senior pass for out-of-staters , so I ended up paying full price.  Not a terribly bad amount, but a disappointment none the less.  You know how I love a bargain so with a little bit of mental adjustment, I’m enjoying a great site for $20 a night.

And here are a few interesting facts I found out while traveling through Louisiana:

The first steamboat arrived on the Mississippi to New Orleans in 1812, transforming commerce.

1868, Tabasco was founded.

1901, An oil gusher was first discovered in Louisiana in Jennings.

1942, German submarines sank more than 30 freighters and tankers off of the mouth of the Mississippi.  Not something many American's are aware of.

pic from Poverty Point State Historical website
1600 BCE. Poverty Point was designated a US National Monument in 1988.  The site of a 3,500 year old massive earthworks created by Native Americans.  Covering over 900 acres, the site wasn’t even considered for induction into the National Park system until 1960.  Sorry I missed visiting this site.  I’ll have to get to it the next time around.

Louisiana cooking usually begins with a Roux:

First make a roux.  Blend oil (vegetable oil) and flour, stirring constantly until brown.  Add seasonings.  It is not uncommon to use all three: red, white and black pepper in the creation of these dishes.

Add the trinity - onions, celery and bell pepper.  That’s the foundation for all good Cajun cooking.

Add seafood, (sausage may be added)  okra and thinned with stock, you have gumbo.

Add a touch of tomato and shrimp or crawfish tails and you have etouffee.

I’m a huge fan of Cajun cooking all except the crawfish.  It’s all wonderfully seasoned food.

Claiborne Parish Court House  

This has been more of a relaxing stop along the way, with very few side trips for exploring as there isn’t that much to see in this part of Northern Louisiana.  It’s a poor part of the country with Chicken farms, some cattle, horse, goat and donkey ranches.  Oil and gas pumps are dotted throughout the state as well as lumber.

Additional Picasa photos.

Additional travel notes:  Next time I travel through Louisiana, I think I'll take the Delta hwy 65 route.  A north/south route following the Mississippi River.  Here's a link to some interesting site to see along the way.

I’ll be heading to Hot Springs Arkansas next.

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