A Celebratory Week Ahead

We (myself, hubby and Deuce the pup) are spending this week at Dauphin Island Alabama.  We have spent two previous Thanksgiving weeks here pre-Katrina and it feels really wonderful to return.    For those who are not aware of this jewel in the Gulf of Mexico, Dauphin Island is a barrier island off the coast of Alabama by Mobile.  This eden was ravaged two years in a row by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and then Katrina in 2005.  But she’s rebounded as only those who live on the Gulf Coast rebound.

This is also what I hope to become as an annual celebration of my birthday kind of thing. As a child growing up on the coast of Massachusetts I’ve always been called by the smell and sound of the surf.  While not as prevelant as the New England Seaboard, Dauphin Island is one of those well preserved places that has been unspoiled by chain restaurants and supermarkets.  In fact, Walmart is at least an hour away and I like it like that.

Here are photos taken tonite (11/19/2011) shortly after our arrival.  We’re sitting here in the living room with the windows open to the quiet sounds of the night talking about how we can retire here.  This is heaven, y’all!!!

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“The Big Fix” Premieres Friday Hosted by The New Orleans Film Festival

The Big Fix premieres this Friday as part of the New Orleans Film Festival. This documentary film details the massive government cover-up which has taken place in the wake of the BP oil spill.  There will be a press conference at 2 pm at the Contemporary Arts Center before the film is shown. The entire schedule for the festival can be found on their website.

Natural and Political History

Less than a mile down the road from Fountainbleu State Park toward Mandeville is the Northlake Nature Center , a four-hundred acre park that is absolutely beautiful.

(click on the pictures below to see the full sized version)


This park offers the opportunity to witness four different ecosystems AND a first hand look at an historic example of crooked Louisiana politicians. A recent archaeological survey revealed the Center site as home to ancient peoples more than 500 years ago.

At the end of the initial boardwalk, you will come to an unfinished “hideaway” club house

As stated in the photo below, this exclusive hideaway golf course initially was the idea of Louisiana Governor Leche in the late 1930’s for his political cronies. This governor has the unique distinction of being the first Louisiana governor sentenced to prison.


Leche and several of his political pasls were indicted in what were termed the “Louisiana Scandals”

The hideaway was destroyed by fire in March 2010 and is not accessible. However, hubby and I took a trip into the park before the fire and got some of the following shots.


Beyond this piece of history is lush, serene swampland and forest.


There are several trails to choose from, all of them pretty primitive, so be prepared to watch where you step!



The boardwalk crosses what is purported to be an active beaver pond

But on this day we only spotted friendly turtles


Lots of turtles!

There are several benches along the boardwalks and paths through the woods.


This area seems to be where they hold nature seminars and is probably used for the annual Great Louisiana Birdfest that happens here.

We spotted this cypress at the edge of the pond.


Notice how the lower branches are bent down as a result of Katrina’s winds.


There are several overlooks constructed throughout the park where you can take in all that this little environmental gem has to offer.

These pictures were taken in February of this year, thus the reason that everything looks muted. If August weren’t so darned steamy, I’d love to be out there right now with my camera.


This photo whispers about the circle of life to me. You can see the victims of Katrina being used to nourish the new growth.


Amidst all that gray stood this proud little tree, all decked out in new green leaves.


Throughout the park are bridges which cross Bayou Castine

I’m not an avid hiker, but I managed to walk around the park for several hours and didn’t feel the least bit tired (with the exception of my bursitis, but that’s a sign of my age 🙂 ).

If you ever want to get away from it all and just listen to the sounds of the woods and waterways, make your way to the Nothlake Nature Center to unwind.

Up, up and away!

This blog post will be short on words and long on pictures to show what a wonderful experience attending a hot air balloon festival is.

I treated my hubby to a get-away weekend in Foley Alabama at the 7th Annual Hot Air Balloon Fest. Both the “glow” event and the flight of the balloons were equally exciting.

We arrived on Friday night to experience the “Glow Event”. This begins with watching teams inflate their huge balloons and then light them up with the propane feed that eventually helps them fly. It was our first experience and I must say that I was as excited as a kid at Christmas watching all of the balloons come to life.


The “glow” happens as the balloonists open up their their propane valves to inflate the balloons. It’s best seen right at sunset and it’s an impressive sight.


This balloon is glowing!

Some of the balloons took off that night and it was an awesome sight.

Saturday morning was to start right at sunrise and we made sure we’d be there to watch the balloons arrive at the festival grounds.

We arrived by 6AM and the moon was still up. There were rain clouds present, which made the arrival of the balloons run a little late. Balloons will not fly if there is a chance of high winds or lightening for obvious reasons.


So we bided our time taking pictures of the early morning light

The late running balloons made up for it with their beauty. Behold

I think I may have found a new passion. It’s a fantastic sport and one I can appreciate from the ground!!!
For anyone anywhere interested in attending a festival, here is a website for all hot air balloon fests. Enjoy!

Lake Catherine’s Rebirth

About 15 minutes from downtown New Orleans lies the little slip of land known as Lake Catherine.

Highway 90 is the road that traverses through Lake Catherine and Venetian Isles. For the past month I’ve been using this route to travel to work due to the heavy road construction taking place on Highway 11 and the twin spans. The commute is a little bit longer, but it allows me to relax while driving rather than dodge those huge deadly dump trucks.

Lake Catherine was literally flattened by Katrina. Before the storm this little community consisted of camps and small waterfront homes for fishermen weekend getaways for people living in the city. In the last three years Lake Catherine has seen a building boom of new camps and huge homes. Click here for a sampling of the various homes in the area.

What I enjoy the most about travelling through Lake Catherine are the signs the residents create for their homes/camps. You can see how people feel about their abodes by their signs. One Saturday hubby and I drove through Lake Catherine and took pictures of most of the signs and here they are. Enjoy!

Click on the photos for larger versions.

Here’s another reason I enjoy riding through Lake Catherine

Thousands of Gulf Coast Residents Sickened by Effects of Oil Spill

The following post was originally published April 12 on local blog American Zombie.

More Cries for Help

Last Saturday I spent the day at Dr. Michael Robichaux’s farm in Raceland talking with well over 60 offshore workers, fisherman, and family members who are experiencing extreme health effects from the BP oil spill.  Many of the workers who came into direct contact with the oil and the dispersant, Corexit, are experiencing similar health problems ranging from mild sypmptoms to life threatening conditions.  It’s not only the men who were out on the Gulf during the spill that are sick, family members are experiencing health problems as well.  Even people who swam in the ocean are stricken.

While I can’t confirm this number, I am told by folks monitoring the issues that they estimate thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people along the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida are suffering.   Some are experiencing mild symptoms such as asthma, nausea, and headaches, while others are suffering extreme health issues such as internal bleeding, paralysis and even death….yes death.

The following video is a testimonial from Louisiana charter boat captain, Louis Bayhi.  It’s 6 minutes long and I implore you to watch the entire thing:

Capt. Louis Bayhi – Charter boat captain and BP clean up worker experiencing severe health problems from Blackbird Media on Vimeo.

Louis was one of over 40 fisherman I spoke with on Saturday who is gravely ill.  All of these fisherman confirmed to me that the Gulf is still full of oil and dispersant is continually being deployed….including areas which have been deemed safe for seafood harvesting.

There are more testimonials coming….please help spread this message…please help spread the truth.  The nightmare BP left us with is not over, in fact it may just be starting.  The MSM is not going to report what’s happening, but I implore you to dig deeper and don’t trust what you are being spoon-fed.

I fully expect to get attacked on the seafood issue but my response is fire away…I just spoke with over 40 guys who are out there every day and their concerns have now become mine.  I will take their word over anyone.

Check out the LEAN – Louisiana Environmental Action Network website for more information.

Spring has arrived

This is probably the best time to live in the Gulf Coast area. The overwhelming heat and humidity have not yet taken over, the nights are still cool and we aren’t on the lookout for tropical disturbances. Everything is awakening from a long (well, long by Southeasteners’ standards) cold winter and looking very nice.

I had a gut feeling this morning about visiting the The Crosby Arboretum in Picayune, Mississippiand I’m glad we followed through. Although it is situated along side Interstate 59, the Crosby Arboretum is a world apart from everything. I believe that all of us need to get back to nature every once in a while. If you haven’t done it lately give it a try. You won’t believe how exhilarating it can be.

From the website, here is a brief description of Crosby:

The Crosby Arboretum is dedicated to educating the public about their environment. This mission is carried out by preserving, protecting, and displaying plants native to the Pearl River Drainage Basin ecosystem, providing environmental and botanical research opportunities, and offering cultural, scientific, and recreational programs. The Arboretum displays three basic habitats found in this ecosystem. They are a Savanna exhibit, a Woodland exhibit, and an Aquatic exhibit. Both drastic and subtle changes in landscape patterns can be observed within each exhibit. In addition to the 104-acre interpretive site, the Arboretum also collectively maintains 700 acres of off-site natural areas that are preserved for scientific study.

The most stunning part of Crosby is the Pinecote Pavillion. It is located on the pond in the Aquatic exhibit. Its design fits into the surrounding landscape as if it grew there. Check it out for yourself.

Click on pictures for larger versions

After you check in and pay the $5 admission fee, you’re given a baggie of fish/turtle food. Walk out to the end of the pavillion and start tossing the food into the pond.

The turtles living in the pond will soon welcome you. The fish are also ready to welcome human visitors who have food.

Here are more photos of the aquatic exhibit

Just outside the aquatic exhibit is the Pitcher Plant Bog. Pitcher plants may be related to venus fly traps. Check out the following signs.

The following series of photos are random shots we took as we walked around the Crosby Arboretum. I highly recommend a visit if you enjoy a few hours away from the craziness that is our every day lives.


find the dragon fly


We discovered the Damsel Fly here. It appears to be a cross between a dragonfly and a butterfly. Beautiful creature!



These trees intrigued me. They look like they withstood the winds of Katrina


The place is rife with wild azaleas.

If you are hungry after touring all of the different parts of Crosby I highly recommend the the Kobe Grill less than 1/2 mile from the Crosby Arboretum. Great service, great Japanese food and sushi.

The Perfect Daytrip

If you are ever in the mood for a day trip away from New Orleans, I highly recommend the laid back, scenic road trip to Gulfport-Biloxi via Highway 90.

Destroyed by Katrina’s storm surge,. Highway 90 is back in business and looking pretty good, although it still has a long way to go in some places.

For 30 miles along the coast local artists Marlin Miller and Dayton Scoggins have made lemonade from the lemons handed to them in 2005. I am referring the sculptures created from live oaks that were destroyed by the storm’s waters.

Here are a few examples


click on pictures for larger versions
parrot

heron

rebirth

hawk

seahorse

fishes

Not all live oaks were killed in the storm. There are places that are still beautiful, such as this picture

hwy90

Here is a link to a map of each of the sculptures along the coast.

In Bay St. Louis,
Dayle Lewis,
a professional chain-saw artist from Richmond, Indiana gave an old oak tree wings when he carved a pair of angels into a tree near the beach in Bay St. Louis.

“It became the Guardian Angel Tree,” said Lewis.

The story goes that 100 years ago a member of the DeMontluzin family kept the tree from being cut when the road was built, said Douglas Niolet.

“I guess she saved it for us,” Niolet said, because he and two others found their way to the oak and hung onto it for more than three hours during Hurricane Katrina. The tree died after the storm and the survivors asked Lewis to carve it into the angels that watched over them.

Lewis said many people have told him how much joy and spirit the tree has brought to Bay St. Louis.

angel

Right around the corner from the angel tree is the Mockingbird Cafe where you will find a menu that should suit anyone’s appetite.

the bird

The Mockingbird is located in a very old structure that has been restored beautifully inside and it is home to The Serious Bakery and all of their sandwiches are made with the bread from this bakery. The best bread I’ve ever eaten.

If you ate too much at “The Bird”, you can take a walk over the Bay Bridge and check out the awesome artwork along the bridge’s
walkway. Click on the link below for the slideshow.
http://wmg.photobucket.com/pbwidget.swf?pbwurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwmg.photobucket.com%2Falbums%2Fv217%2Fjudyb54%2FBSL_BRIDGE%2Faf9a8b24.pbw

Each piece of artwork on the bridge was cast in bronze that was recovered from the Bay St. Louis Bridge that was destroyed by that biatch Katrina. The roundtrip hike over the bridge is about 4 miles. Bring a camera along because the scenes from up high into the Bay can be stunning. If you’d like a closer look at the artwork on the Bridge, I have a picture of each piece at this website.

bslbridge

If you’re not too tired after the trek over the Bridge, Bay St. Louis offers several dozens of shops in the area of the Mockingbird. Or you can continue your route towards Gulfport – Biloxi and check out the additional tree sculptures along the coast. All in all, I consider this to be the perfect daytrip on a warm day.

Save Our Marshes, Save Our Oyster Reefs

We think of fish as living throughout the oceans, but most of the action happens close to shore where the food is. Indeed, 97 percent of the commercial catch of fish species in the gulf depends on its estuaries and their nursery habitats for survival. To take just one example, the gulf’s famous shrimp — which account for 73 percent of the nation’s total harvest and hundreds of millions of dollars in dockside revenue alone — lay their eggs in the open gulf, but then their hatched larvae head for the estuaries, where they live in salt marshes until they are ready to return to the open water as adults. No salt marshes, no shrimp. No estuaries, no fish.

The animal most responsible for maintaining the integrity of these estuaries is the oyster, which provides much more than New Orleans’s most delectable appetizer. Oysters occur in great abundance in the gulf’s shallow coastal waters. By gluing themselves to each other’s shells, they create reefs — much like coral reefs — that literally hold the coastal ecosystem together.

Oyster reefs form a living breakwater that protects the soft marsh shorelines from erosion and storm damage. They also serve as the condominiums of the sea, providing intricate habitats and hiding places for many small and juvenile creatures at the foundation of the gulf food web. Studies show that the commercial value of the gulf’s oysters (more than $60 million dollars per year, about 67 percent of the nation’s total) is easily surpassed by the commercial value of the fish that need these reefs.

There are few other places on earth still like this. Worldwide, 85 percent of oyster reefs have been lost. They are the single most imperiled marine habitat. The oyster reefs of the gulf are not merely the best in the nation; they are the best in the world, a global treasure. Yet some 50 percent to 90 percent of the gulf’s oyster reefs have been lost, and that was before BP’s oil spill.

Are you hooked? Read the rest of this stunning article by Rowan Jacobsen, author of “The Living Shore: Rediscovering a Lost World” in today’s New York Times. I learned a lot from this article and “The Living Shore” is going on my to-read list immediately.

Photo by Editor B.

BP & NOAA Coving Up Magnitude of Wildlife Deaths?

Update: I wrote this post last night. The video I talk about is now up on YouTube – here it is:

I just watched this story on Countdown with Keith Olbermann and I am incensed. Marine toxocologist Rikki Ott tells of eyewitnesses who claim people are “appearing” in the dark of night taking away carcasses of various sea life washing on shore.  She claims there are way more wildlife casualties than we are being told. and says “I’ve been able to get pictures of BP raking up bird carcasses and separating heads from bodies.” Allegedly cameras and cell phones are banned by BP representatives (who are implementing metal detectors) even though these are public beaches. In addition, oil spill workers and residents are reporting increasingly more health affects attributed to the oil such as skin rashes, burning throats and watering eyes.

Click here to hear this appalling report.