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Published: January 22nd 2010
Lower Treman Falls, Dec. 2009
This picture typifies winter in the upstate New York area. It is beautiful, but not for four months!
This is the first leg of our 2020 trip. Our intent is to get as far south as quickly as possible with the end of the first leg, a few days of relaxation in New Orleans. After that, we will travel across the southwest to California. On the way we will travel one day with the next day to enjoy locations along the way such as Sam Houston Jones State Park in Louisiana and McKinney Falls State Park in Austin Texas. The western-most terminus of our trip will be Joshua Tree National Park, the Salton Sea, and Palm Springs California where we will spend time with our son, Nick, and possibly our other son, Rob and maybe Rob’s wife Leila. After about ten days in California, we are heading back into Arizona to meet up with our good friends and former neighbors, Peter and Trudy Brussard, from Reno. We will work our way across the southwest to the Rio Grande valley where we are going to leave our trailers and dogs for a few days and to take a birding and butterfly trip to the El Cielo Biosphere Preserve in Mexico. After returning to Texas, we will spend March and April
Heading south, the first day
We were amazed at the amount of snow on the ground south of the Mason-Dixon line.
at the Bentsen-Palm RV Park in Mission to partake in a hawk migration survey. We hope to share our adventures with you and friends along the way via this travelblog.
We left Ithaca on a bright sunny but cool January day (1/14). It was wonderful to have blue sky; it hadn’t been seen in the Ithaca area for about a month—just constant lake-effect snow and wind! On our first day, however, we had more sun than we needed. Because of the time of year, it never got far above the horizon. We went east early, south during midday and southwest in the afternoon; all directly into the sun.
The other thing that amazed us was all of the snow south of the Mason-Dixon line. Except in places with lots of southern exposure, there were at least six inches of icy snow on the ground until we got to southern Tennessee. We imagined that that snow was the result of the storm that hit the middle-south around Christmas.
The first night, we camped at Ft. Chiswell, in southwestern Virginia after a long nine plus hour drive. The campground was covered with snow and the temperature was in the
Fort Chiswell RV PaRK
Located in southwest Virginia about 10 hours from Ithaca. Aside from a few transients and some residents, it is pretty deserted.
teens in the morning. I-81 in Virginia runs between the Appalachian Mountains to the west and the Blue Ridge to the east. The mountain ridges are beautiful and the valley is rolling. With all the snow, it looked more like Vermont than southern Virginia. We could almost imagine the Adirondacks on one side and the Green Mountains to the east.
On day two, we traveled to Gadsden, Alabama in beautiful sunshine and looked for birds along the way. There were lots of red-tailed hawks looking for dinner along the interstate. Travelling through Tennessee we discovered about eight black vultures feasting on something along the highway. Many turkey vultures were observed circling, riding thermals high above us. We stayed at River Country RV Park on the Coosa River and the place is very beautiful. We enjoyed walking around in 60° sunshine in the late afternoon and viewing flocks of coots, geese, herons, egrets, belted kingfishers and other waterfowl along the river.
The next morning we got our comeuppance, we woke up to cold, wind and rain. However, we figured that we would drive in the rain to New Orleans and then enjoy nice weather there. As we were preparing
Fort Chiswell RV Park
Cattle grazing on the hills around the RV park.
to leave, we discovered a flat tire on the Airstream. I guess we were lucky that the flat didn’t happen on the highway where real harm could have occurred. However, the tire was beyond repair and by the time we got a new tire installed, it was after noon. We decided that we would do a little exploring of Gadsden in the afternoon, then leave for the Big Easy in the morning. We disconnected the truck and headed for Noccalula Park in Gadsden (the only attraction that looked vaguely interesting). This park has a 75-foot waterfall and a gorge trail. Aha! back in the Finger Lakes!. The park was operated by the city with miniature train rides and children’s activities. The falls, as you can see in the photo, were quite beautiful. Unlike the Finger Lakes falls, there was a huge cave behind the falling water. However, like the Finger Lakes falls, there was a lot of ice under and around the falling water. It amazed us to see all that ice in Alabama.
On Sunday, 1/17, we woke to more cold, wind, and rain but all of our parts seemed to be working. We prepared the trailer, hitched
River Country RV Park
Located on the Coosa River in Gadsden Alabama.
the truck, and headed through the rain across Alabama, through Mississippi, and into Louisiana.
We arrived at the Louisiana state park named St. Bernard about 16 miles to the southeast of the city after an eight hour drive in bright, late-day sunshine. Wonderfully un-crowded and loaded with birds, we decided that this park was the true beginning of our trip. A little birding the next morning revealed over 50 species including winter birds like yellow-rumped warblers, American Goldfinch, Eastern Phoebes, Hermit Thrush, and Red-winged Blackbirds. Local species like Cardinals, Carolina Wrens and Carolina chickadees, and red-shoulder hawks were actively setting up breeding territories. Early in the morning, we observed large groups of white ibis flying from roosts out to wetland feeding area. Later, large flocks of turkey and black vultures were observed doing the same. We found that turkey vultures out-numbered black vultures about ten to one.
Later in the day, we left St. Bernard State Park and made the short trip to French Quarter RV Resort located in the center of New Orleans, just off of interstate 10 and adjacent to the famous French Quarter. The park is luxurious and urban. It is walled and gated with
Sunset on the Coosa River
This river joins the Alabama River and enters the Gulf of Mexico at Mobile.
tastefully arranged razor wire topping the walls. We have found the combination of living in our old familiar trailer in the middle of a bustling city strangely attractive, at least for a few days, and this has been our third visit. The French Quarter begins one block away and the Mississippi River is a short walk from the park. We had a great “city day”, walking around town, having a wonderful buffet of Cajun delicacies and live jazz at the Court of Two Sisters on Royal Street, and buying some “dumb” souvenirs for certain people. Tomorrow we head west to Lake Charles, Louisiana (almost in Texas) to spend two nights at Sam Houston Jones State Park.
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