Three Days in Bayou Country
by Chris Arceneaux
Introduction by Honey Leveen:
I’d never thought about going out with HASK before. I actually thought Sea Paddlers meant they only paddled in the sea, i.e.: Gulf of Mexico, so I thought it wasn’t the right group for me. I’ve now learned that HASK members do their fair share of flat water paddling, too!
Chris Arceneaux of HASK visited our April meeting and described a fantastic sounding trip, which Chris reports on, below. Terri Morgan from HCC was already registered, but Chris’s HCC visit is how Cindy Bartos, Joe Coker, my husband Jim and I wound up going. The trip sounded too good to pass up. Once we got there, we couldn’t have been more warmly welcomed by the HASK folks. HASK folks made it clear to us they were very glad we came. The trip is as Chris describes below; every moment was fun. I hope you enjoy this report and take a moment to click on the picture links, as well.
"Somebody stole my monkey - my monkey - my monkey, stole my monkey from me!"
OK, so you kinda had to be there. The live band at Gros Marina on 4-Mile Bayou in heart of Bayou Country were playing a decent rendition of Zachary Richard's 1990 hit as we were winding down with friends on the "Summer Time" houseboat. You have to know Zachary Richard a bit too. Download some of his songs - he's a global star with more than just Cajun music in his repertoire.
Anyway, I like the way everything just clicked this past weekend. The weather was the star of the show! The eagles, ospreys, owls, pileated woodpeckers, prothonotary warblers, and the list goes on and on made it all magical. Cindy Bartos. was our queen birder on this trip and the birds did not disappoint us. Neither did the curious little alligators that were lurking everywhere. This area just north of Morgan City has had a long history of cypress logging, moss collecting (i.e. 19th century upholstery), subsistence fishing and all around good fun. Families in the area have bayou-side camps or houseboats to enjoy all this fresh water paradise has to offer.
Most of our group from the Houston area went for a short 5-mile paddle out to Lake Verret from the houseboat at the Marina on Friday afternoon after settling in. Leroy Gros at the marina was giving us the evil-eye as we were taking up most the available parking until I mentioned my cousin Dirk, then suddenly we were all "OK". We paddled amongst the cypress trees in dark waters that held garfish, catfish and bass. The cypress knees buttressed the trees at the lake's edge. There was every design of camp and houseboat scattered about, most built by hand on weekends. Dinner Friday night was started with chicken curry soup followed by red beans and rice spiced with TX smoked sausage. Saturday's paddle was in the opposite direction down to Grassy Lake and back up through some tree lined canals and Bayou Felix to our take-out at the marina. We were escorted on part of our route with my longtime friend Keith Dupre who was my paddling companion 40 years ago on the same waters in a shop-made, fully loaded pirogue. The band was revved up as we enjoyed the still cool afternoon with some cold ones, ice cream and just slightly stiff shoulders. The marina owner's 7 year-old son Logan helped a lot at the take-out on both trips.
There are few other things to see in the area if not paddling every day. Jim G, biked and made his own driving tour in Morgan City.
Dinner Saturday was fresh harvested Atchafalaya Basin crawfish, shrimp, new potatoes, and corn enjoyed at the edge of Bayou Long at the "Bayou Fever" camp house. There was just enough time to squeeze in one more 4-mile paddle Sunday morning by half of our contingent. A few of you found side trips in South Louisiana to enjoy on the way home. Please note this is the Inaugural Trip to Bayou Country. The Kuhnens spent some time at the famous New Orleans Jazzfest before driving "down da bayou" and urged that all future trips include an opportunity for a diversion to the New Orleans Fairgrounds for great music and outstanding food.
You all had such nice things to say as were loading up this time yesterday and in emails last night. It was a pleasure to organize this trip and you all helped in ways that made all the logistics, put-ins, and clean-up seem transparent. I want to especially thank Becky Claytor for organizing 4 meals for 19 Texans. Now that's a job! "So if you find my monkey, send her on home to me." -ZR