Shepard State Park, Mississippi

Published: January 17th 2009
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HAPPY NEW YEAR! Traditionally, our family including me, ALWAYS has the Ham, Black Eyed Peas, Cabbage and Coleslaw for New Year's Day. This was the first New Year I deviated from the norm.

However, we were fortunate enough to be able to escape for 4 days over the New Year weekend. We packed up Woody, our dog, and left about 11:00 AM on New Year's Day and headed east toward Mississippi. Even though the Natchez Trace Parkway is one of our favorite trips in Mississippi, we rarely travel east on I-10 much anymore. Since we are in Louisiana, east only gets us to Mississippi, Alabama or Florida, unless of course we head north from either of those states.

We have done those states to death. However, Mississippi has the greatest State Parks so Randy was thrilled to find a new campground that we haven't visited yet so off we went!

Although we generally have rather mild winter weather here in Baton Rouge, we were forecasted to have several really mild days for this long weekend. That was also a huge determining factor in us being able to leave for 4 days. Having 6 cats at home, I do not like leaving our electric heaters running while unattended. But with temps in the 70's this weekend, my cats should be very comfy.

The ride east was uneventful and we were happy to cross the Pearl River into Mississippi. I can't tell you how long it has been since I have crossed that river and I use to cross it at least once or twice a year.

We exited in Waveland and went south to hit US Hwy. 90 which is the Beach Blvd. It travels through Ocean Springs, then Gulfport, then Biloxi and eventually into Gautier where Shepard State Park is located.

As we got about a mile from the coast road, we began to see the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina from August 2005. Katrina demolished the Mississippi Gulf Coast and now here we were, three years gone by and the damage was still unbelievable. Hundreds of large beautiful homes that once lined the north side of the highway were completely GONE. We both stared out in disbelief and continued on to our campground.

As we traveled down the boulevard, I was saddened by the large stately Live Oak trees that were almost
Condemmed housing in BiloxiCondemmed housing in BiloxiCondemmed housing in Biloxi

waiting to be demolished
naked from being battered by that hurricane. Despite three complete growing seasons since Katrina, these Oak trees have recovered very little. I wonder if they'll ever look the same. Such a tremendous loss...

One bright light along the boulevard, some of the dead trees in the middle of the boulevard, had been carved into dolphins, eagles and other shapes which gave me such hope that these wonderful people took the time to save some of these dead trees by turning them into art! I wish I had taken some pictures but we were just too shocked to even think about it. I did take some random photos on the way back.

We arrived at Shepard State Park around 4 PM which was check-in time. We easily found our campsite Number 5, and proceeded to hook up and set up the RV for 3 nights. Personally, I was somewhat dissapointed at the campsites due to the heavy brush that engulfed the area. Some seclusion is wonderful but I don't like having to "watch my back" as we sit around the nightly campfire.

After getting set up we decided to get a campfire started as it would be cool enough tonight and we love sitting outdoors and watching the stars. Soon we had a blazing fire and sat down to relax with a couple of Coors Lights. What a life!

We set up our portable grill and bar-b-qued some pork chops and cooked up some Mac and cheese to go along with the meat. It was most enjoyable. After clean up it was getting close to the 10 o'clock news so we moved indoors.

We turned in around 12 after watching David Letterman and Craig Ferguson.

We awoke Friday morning to sunny skies and baked some biscuits to get us going. After eating and enjoying several cups of coffee, we were ready to explore some of their many trails. We took about a 3 mile hike before returning to the RV mid afternoon for lunch. Not much wildlife along the trails but we did see loads of strange colored mushrooms and some odd sticky, prickly bushes. I took a picture of the orange sticky bush and if anyone recognizes this thing, please let me know what it is.

After lunch we enjoyed a couple more beers and relaxed until supper time. We walked the entire campground area to see the other numbered sites. If we ever come back here, site 12 looks the best and even has a waterfront. After arriving back from our afternoon walk, we started another campfire and sat around until the news. Sleep followed the news and we both slept well.

We arose Saturday morning to the threat of severe thunderstorms. We had a small amount of rain overnight but nothing too much to harm our hiking. We decided to hike the opposite side of the park trails which can be up to a 3 mile hike or longer. After walking down the road that leads to our trailhead, we started to hear some thunder off in the distance. We had checked the local weather before leaving the RV and brought along some ponchos in case of light rain before we make it back. Should the storms speed up and hit sooner, we will hike back as quickly as possible. Once the front pushes through, our temperatures that are currently in the 70's, will quickly drop into the 50's and with rain, that is cold to us.

We hiked along much like the previous day, seeing mushrooms and funny, crooked pine trees along the trail. After a half hour or so of undisturbed hiking, we encountered two kids on a four wheeler and they appeared to be collecting something. We exchanged greetings and both continued on our ways. We heard them again a couple of times over the next mile or so.

After lucking out on a couple of questionable turns, we were certain we were once again back on the marked trail. We periodically drank water we brought along and enjoyed the afternoon. Somewhere maybe around 2:30 we started noticing the sky getting darker, and the thunder getting closer. The light mist that had started to fall a mile or so before, suddenly got a little harder. I put the hood of my jacket on my head to keep my hair dry but waited on the poncho. As we walked, we were somewhat shielded by the tree canopies and really didn't get wet.

As we made one turn on the trail, the thunder roared directly overhead so we started moving faster and soon found the start of the trailhead where we had started a couple of hours before. We crossed the bridge and stayed just off
Sticky, prickly bushSticky, prickly bushSticky, prickly bush

the road but not under the row of Pine trees that line the road. I didn't want to be the tallest things on a long gravel road in case the lightening came our way. We took a shortcut across the disc golf course because there was no one around that part of the course except us. We did see one couple with a small baby in a chest carrier that were heading off into the woods on the disc golf course. I told Randy that I could not imagine bringing a baby out in that weather with the storm so close. I guess it is one thing to risk our lives, but certainly another to risk the life of a small child who has no say in the matter.

We made it back to our campsite in the nick of time. We pulled in our lights and chairs and prepared for the storm. Indoors, we watched as it rained and rained, however we were snug as could be. We ate supper, watched TV and were glad we got in as much hiking as we did.

Later in the evening we snacked and got ready to turn in so we could get up in the morning and prepare to head home, but before going to bed, we sat and watched out the window as the rain fell on the campground. Everything seems so peaceful when a light rain is falling at night.

Sunday morning we awoke to clearer skies and after our morning coffee started to process of putting up, unhooking, and bringing all of stuff to check out before 1 PM. We had no problems getting out on time and soon were heading back west. I told Randy I really wanted to stop somewhere along Beach Blvd. and just walk along the coast for a while. The temperatures was warming up significantly and the water looked so nice.

We drove along until we came to a mall and thought we'd stop in, eat a quick snack, walk our dog, and then walk along the water for a little bit. Woody the dog, has congestive heart failure and is unable to join us on hikes or long walks anymore. It is really sad because he use to enjoy it so. I am sure he knows we still go, and is sad because he cannot.

We wandered
Along one of the trailsAlong one of the trailsAlong one of the trails

Shepard State Park
through the mall watching the people looking for sales. There were a fair amount of people around, but we found most of them in the food court. Nothing in their food court appealed to us so we decided to go to Annie's Pretzels and have a snack there. I saw a Claire's while we were walking back and couldn't resist the Christmas earrings, headbands, and misc. stuff women and girls like, so I bought a few things that I'll put away until next year and give Kim, my daughter, a couple of things she will like.

Made it back to the RV to grab the camera and then to make our way across the busy gulf coast boulevard, over to the beach. We walked a few hundred yards both ways and then back toward the RV. We both found a small shell we liked and saved them for soueveniers. Mine was eventually crushed in the pocket of my jeans :-(
They say the memory is the first thing to go...

We traveled along the coast for a few more miles and then headed north to get on I-12 west. Our drive home was uneventful and we made it home in about 3 hours.

Shepard State Park is really a nice laid back place if you like to hike or play disc golf, but Mississippi truely has a lot of nicer state parks.

Additional photos below
Photos: 14, Displayed: 14


Mall in Biloxi, MSMall in Biloxi, MS
Mall in Biloxi, MS

We parked here and went in to enjoy a snack. After our hot pretzel and coke, we walked along the coast that is across the street from the mall.

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