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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cajun Country Swamp Tours

Thursday March 20,2014 Room 208 Clarion Inn Lafayette, Louisiana 4:10 PM CST

After spending a wonderfully lazy Wednesday catching up on photos and blog, sitting in the sun on the deck and eating fried oysters for dinner, reading an interesting book about life in 19th C New Mexico, we felt we wanted to do something more active today. So yesterday afternoon I made a reservation for an 11 am tour of the Swamp of Lake Martin in Breaux Bridge.

Several Februarys back we’d gone out on Lake Martin with Butch Guchereau. It was just us and Butch which was really special. He is a very interesting and knowledgeable man, whose family has lived here for at least three generations. When I called for the reservation his daughter told me that Shawn, his son, is now also giving some of the tours and wondered if it mattered which one we went out with. Told her no, we’d give Shawn a shot and see how much he’s learned from his Dad. I would have gone out on the 9 o’clock but Bill, interestingly enough, preferred the 11. No matter. So up at 8, coffee, shower, washed hair etc, dressed and we were off.

If ever any of you are in this part of Louisiana and have any interest in a Swamp tour, I cannot recommend this outfit enough. Neither Butch nor Shawn beat you over the head with biological science but if asked they can answer you with accurate scientific information. They do both talk of the formation of Lake Martin, its age and how it has been set aside as a recreational area for fishing and hunting, Its care is based primarily on an honor system and, though there was not to be any building within the perimeter of the levee built to maintain the Lake, there have been some folks who have violated that understanding. I know that since we were here last there is a small snack bar/ drinks bar right on the Lakeshore. When we were here last the wharf had been built and is used by other swamp tour operators but Butch and Shawn will not build a wharf nor will they use the one there. They also urge people not to support the snack bar by our patronage. Primarily, because this will encourage more development.  Shawn also spoke of the feeding of alligators during the Fall when the gators have stopped eating naturally in preparation for winter rest. This he feels is dangerous for both the animals and people—they are eating when they should not and they are becoming less fearful of people, leading to attacks on children etc. I do wish to make sure you realize these are only a couple of comments made during a two hour tour—so again, not beating people over the head with environmental comments.

Because we took a later tour this time there were fewer birds in the trees—they had already eaten breakfast and were off in the rookery, as Shawn put it, building nests, dancing courtship dances and other domestic chores. It is the time of year when the alligators are coming out of their tunnels and holes and are trying to regain their strength and warm up. It is amusing to see three sharing a log—with the largest not getting much space. Once things get into swing that won’t be the case. The big one will drive the others off, if he doesn’t eat them. So, we cruised along getting our fill of alligators of all sizes and turtles who jump off the logs as we approached, only to resurface and resume sunning once we passed.

We enjoyed the cormorants though they are becoming as much a problem here as in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. Saw several snakes and lizards—snakes not of interest to me and lizards too swift to film. There were a couple of nutria; several great blue herons. We looked at the bald cypress, the Spanish moss, which is neither Spanish nor a moss, pink lichens, cypress knees and the various theories of their function as well as water hyacinthes and duckweed.

Got a close look at a few of the duck blinds, Shawn’s included. His looks like a huge trunk with a neat hinged door entrance. He took us into the boat garage of one so we could see the shooting porch on which the hunters sit. Having been on the tour before we knew that he was taking us to the location of an alligator tunnel—but this time there was no getting out and pushing an oar down the tunnel to show its depth under the ground. There is a video on the website that you can check out, as well as one showing a bull alligator bellowing. Today, the tunnel was quickly filled by a mother alligator who ducked into it as we approached, much like that newscaster in California dove under his desk when he felt the earth quake beneath him. She ran and hid but left her babies, who’d hatched last fall, in a cluster sunning themselves. Baby animals of all kinds are so cute. And then it was a slow drifting ride through the hanging moss and narrow paths through the swamp. Didn’t see Stumpy but Shawn says he’s still around and the lady missing half her jaw is now a Mother Gator in the backwater behind their Quonset hut, which was a relief to hear.  As we departed, Shawn was loading the boat for another tour—I could have re-upped and gone back out, but not Bill, so off we went to find Legnieux for some oysters.

Sad to say the restaurant was closed—lunch over, dinner not begun. So we went into the Market and bought some legit Andouille, some Steen Pure Cane Syrup made in Abbeville and some Cajun Power Garlic Sauce, also from Abbeville. Then we headed over to Logan’s Roadhouse. Bill had steak and I had a pork chop with applesauce, slaw and sweet patata fries. Our barmaid, Maggie, chatted with us about her school trip to Canada and loving Montreal. We also talked about Lake Martin and how Shawn said that Swamp People had caused an increase in their tour numbers. Still, he said, it is really awful to see alligators taken out of the water, made to lunge several times to tire them and then wrestled. Maggie said that she is amazed that people believed that the show really depicts how the people here live--she said it provides a good laugh to them. I said I won't watch the show, since I think it mocks the people who live in the area. We then talked about our friend Dynelle who’d given us local tips a month ago. She loved the places Dynelle had suggested and said that downtown Lafayette is such a hidden jewel. With which we concurred. She suggested French Press for breakfast –so maybe one morning before we leave we’ll have to try it. As we left she told us to have a good day and keep unearthing some more special gems. We laughed and said that’s the plan.

Then it was back to the motel to read some more and plan tomorrow.  The sun is shining on the deck and sitting out with a cold bottle of water sounds very pleasant. It is 74 degrees so it’s the deck for me. Until tomorrow and our next adventure—good afternoon, KandB


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