Mardi Gras at Fontainebleau State Park

Published: May 18th 2009
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Happy Mardi Gras from Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville, LA!

We started out Friday after picking our grandson up from school and were on the interstate by 3:10, which is well ahead of the normal east bound traffic out of Baton Rouge on a Friday afternoon.

We arrived at the Fontainebleau gates just before 5:00 and got our RV set up and hooked up well before dark. Our campsite was not my first choice but unfortunately, by the time we realized we could take a 4 day weekend, this was the only spot left to reserve. So we took it. Actually after surveying some of the other sites, ours wasn't the worst. It is in the old part of the park and there is a much newer campground area where we usually camp.

Since we'd decided to visit Mickey D's before arriving, we were able to take a nice walk before dark and experienced a super nice sunset. After getting back to the RV, we put Landan to bed and settled down for some evening television. Landan would be leaving tomorrow to spend a few days with his mom. That will give Randy and I a few days
Landan and RandyLandan and RandyLandan and Randy

Walking the road at Fontainebleau State Park
alone with only our dog to care for. We are looking forward to that.

Saturday morning we all awoke and had our breakfast, walked Woody while Randy and I drank our coffee. Landan's mom called and they would be here to get Landan before 11:00 so we decided to take a hike up to the old Sugar Mill to kill some time. Unfortunately, it was rather wet and muddy from the excessive amounts of rain we've had recently and Landan made sure to hit as many of the puddles as he could. We went through the interpretive center and watched a man use some type of old mill equipment to shave down a long piece of wood to make a walking cane. He showed us one that he had made previously and he told us the camp hosts had brought the wood from up north.

After looking around the center a bit, my cell phone rang and it was Landan's mom asking if they were at the right site. Seems they made it much sooner than we expected so we high tailed it back to the RV. Landan was very excited to see his mom and we put
Woody Woody Woody

Woody loves to camp
his things in the car and they drove away. Whew! Now only adult conversation for at least 3 whole days! Not that we don't enjoy him, but we are getting older and he is so full of energy. We have been getting up at 6 am to have him at school for 7 and it is starting to wear us out.

Randy and I decided to start out on a hike toward the old Sugar Mill where we had just come from earlier. There is a hiking trail that we have not hiked our previous visits here because it had been closed since Hurricane Katrina. They have since cleared this last hiking trail and we are anxious to check it out. Along the way we saw many downed trees and many had been mostly removed but a lot of the larger trees still remained laying with their massive root systems standing 10' and higher. So many of our trees in this are were not only lost in Katrina but also Hurricanes Rita and Gustav.

We saw many wild flowers starting to bloom along the trail and managed to sneak up on several deer that were grazing along the trail on the lucious fresh green grass. We saw the Dogwood trees in bloom with both pink and white flowers. We watched an armadillo wander around for a bit and saw a lizard sunning.

After this hike we started back toward the RV and noticed a couple of people talking with a Ranger who had a telescope set up in the opening by the Sugar Mill. Not being too shy, I walked over and asked what they were looking at. They pointed up in the top of an old Oak tree and we saw a nest with two baby owls looking out over their nest! What a sight to see. I have never seen baby owls in the wild.

The Ranger told us they were Great Horned Owls and had only been discovered by some campers a couple of weeks ago. He also told us there was a Bald Eagle nest with a baby a mile or two down one of the park roads. We will check that out right after lunch. Both of our necks were hurting by now and it was time to get on back.

We enjoyed sandwiches for lunch and then went back out to check the eagle nest. We brought our binoculars so we could get a better look. Sure enough, about two miles down a long gravel road, there was a sign and people were looking up beyond the sign. One of the people pointed it out to us because it was certainly not easy to spot on your own. We were kind enough to do the same for others who came later.

We watched for probably close to an hour as the mother and father made several trips to the nest. We saw what appeared to be two baby eagles. We took several pictures but the zoom on our camera leaves a lot to be desired. This year, before vacation, we will have a new camera.

After the eagle viewing, we headed back toward the hiking trails and enjoyed some cooler conditions. Where we were to see the eagles was full sun and it is unusually hot today.

We then headed toward Lake Ponchartrain to watch the sunset. When we got back to our RV we grilled some steaks for supper. While Randy grilled, I prepared potatoes for baking and heated some canned pork and beans to
Dogwoods in bloom!Dogwoods in bloom!Dogwoods in bloom!

The Dogwood trees were sparse around Fontainebleau State Park, but the ones we saw were pretty.
complete the meal. The steaks were wonderful as were the potatoes and beans. We cleaned up and watched the stars for a while.

Sunday after having our breakfast, you guessed it...hiking again. We need to go check out the baby owls. We can see them a lot better than the eagles. After checking on the owls we walked along the boardwalk where we have been before. We saw a snake swimming around and saw lots of smoke billowing from off in the distance. We hope there is no emergency situation somewhere and maybe it is a controlled burn. Many of the people we met along the walkway were equally alarmed and inquired what it might be. We shared our thoughts about maybe a burn and we all hoped that was the case (We later find out it was a controlled burn).

We checked back in on Woody who is patiently waiting for us at the RV and had our lunch. Walked around the campground after lunch and searched for the perfect site for future reference, checked on the owls once again and made our way back to our site.

After hanging around the RV the rest of
Hiking TrailHiking TrailHiking Trail

The trails are wide and open and super nice for hiking.
the day with Woody, and enjoying a couple of adult beverages, we settled in for the night. All this hiking is wonderful but we are tired and as luck would have it, a rain storm was heading our way! We prepared our site for the severe spring storm and rode it out just fine. It rained on and off throughout the evening and night.

Monday is another day of hiking and this is going down to Bayou Cane. We had seen a cut off yesterday that went to the bayou but we weren't sure we'd have enough time so we saved that for our last full day of our trip. We decided to take a shortcut despite the fact that a sign told us not to enter that way...(why? we never knew, because it is the same way we came out yesterday on the trail. It cut off about 4 miles of hiking that we had already seen.) It was rather wet from the rains yesterday but we managed to stay on the "makeshift bridges" that others had laid out to get us across the muddy areas. Obviously it stays fairly wet in these areas.

After a couple
Randy by an uprooted treeRandy by an uprooted treeRandy by an uprooted tree

There are still too many downed trees to count. I assume most of these are still from Katrina because when we were here in Oct., this trail was still closed.
of miles we made it to the opening where Bayou Cane is visible. We sat on the picnic tables and enjoyed the breeze and the peaceful place.

We made it back to the RV and had lunch so we could go check the baby owls again. We keep checking back in hopes of seeing the mother owl coming to feed them. Two ladies with some expensive cameras told us they had a picture of her feeding them a whole goose! She showed us and I could not believe how big that goose was. I felt bad for the goose but I know the babies have to eat too. We learn from talking with the ladies that they are both photographers and one of them is fairly famous. She shared quite a few of her photos and she is amazing! I have no doubt she will be well known soon although she is too modest.

We lounged around the RV the remainder of our afternoon and semi prepared the RV for the trip home tomorrow, and after supper and showers we retired for the night.

Tuesday morning~Happy Mardi Gras! A couple with Wisconsin plates has moved in to
Pretty yellow flowersPretty yellow flowersPretty yellow flowers

There were plenty of these yellow flowers coloring the trails.
the site next door. Our first RV came from Wisconsin so we have a special place in our hearts for that state. I would like to give them some of our Mardi Gras beads that I have strung around the outside for decoration, however after we were dressed and ready to emerge from our "home", they had taken off walking down the road. Oh well, maybe they will make it back before we take off to go pick Landan up from his mom's house.

Randy began to unhook the electric, water, antenna, etc. , while I finished putting the last of the things away like our coffee pot and cups, and other things we can't pack until we are almost ready to travel. Then together we take down the awning, lights and Mardi Gras decorations and ready the rig for the road.

Luckily, just as we were ready to pull out, the couple from next door came back. We gathered most of the beads I had brought and went out to meet them. They had left Wisconsin due to no work and hoped to have a better chance of employment here in the deep south. We sure hope they have. They were both very nice and I hope they enjoy our Mardi Gras beads.

After walking Woody one last time, we raise the steps and take off down the road and out of the campground. We only have to go about 5 miles down the road to get to where Landan is but would you believe about a mile from the place, we ran straight in to a Mardi Gras parade. Now normally that would have been fine and we might have even parked and participated in the festivities, but we had to make it home and prepare for work and school the next day.

Having grown up here is Louisiana, Randy and I have both had our share of awesome parades and most of them were in downtown New Orleans. Not that the small town parades aren't really nice, we just enjoy the ambiance of the New Orleans Mardi Gras parades.

We had to turn around and to all the way back a couple of miles past the campground where we had left a half hour or so ago, and go 5 miles north to get on the interstate, then go about 10 miles
Old Live Oak trying to recover Old Live Oak trying to recover Old Live Oak trying to recover

from 2 major hurricanes in three years, Katrina in 2005, and Gustav in 2008.
past where the parade was to get past it and come back up the original road to get to Landan.

It ended up taking an extra hour and we probably should have just parked the RV and enjoyed the parade. By the time we picked Landan up, the parade was just disbursing and we only had a short wait until the road was cleared. Otherwise we would have had to back east the way we came around to get past the parade, and then go back to I-12.

It turned out to be a looooong ride back when in reality it should only take about an hour total from Mandeville to Baton Rouge. We arrived home late afternoon and began the task of unpacking our stuff from our 4 day weekend. It was worth it but I think we are all tired.

Additional photos below
Photos: 33, Displayed: 30


Baby Owl flapping his wingsBaby Owl flapping his wings
Baby Owl flapping his wings

Look at the top and right in the middle. There were 2 baby horned owls in this old dead oak.
View from rear of RVView from rear of RV
View from rear of RV

The small park and one of the bath houses were right behind our RV. Some rude campers chose to walk right through our site. :-(
We saw Bald EaglesWe saw Bald Eagles
We saw Bald Eagles

There was a nest high in a Pine Tree and 2 baby bald eagles were nesting.
Bald Eagle's nest Bald Eagle's nest
Bald Eagle's nest

It's hard to see but the large dark clump to the right of the pine tree, is the nest.

22nd November 2009

Yellow Flowers
The yellow flowers in that photo are Carolina jasmine. I live in the area & it's all over the place. Glad you enjoyed your trip to Fontainebleau. :)

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