When Chris Arceneaux made an announcement at the Houston Canoe Club meeting that he was leading a weekend paddle trip to Deep South Louisiana the first weekend in May, I quickly signed up. Knowing Chris for some time and hearing him talk about his home state and the stories of growing up there, I knew this would not be a trip to miss.
The Bayou Fever house was not at all what I expected. It was a recently remodeled two story home right on the bayou. The house could double as a duplex as each floor was self-sufficient with its own kitchen, bedrooms and bathrooms. The main entry was shared but the ground floor entry door could be locked providing privacy for two separate families. A nice covered back patio, deck, dock, boat slip, roll away bar and fish cleaning station rounded out the amenities.
As I stood looking out at the water and taking in all the sights, I could picture Chris and his tales of being a kid and playing in the area before it was built up. My daydreams were quickly interrupted by a voice that said we had to go over to the houseboat, where the other half of our group was staying, for an evening paddle.
Upon arrival at the Gros Marina, a Cajun band greeted us and people were dancing to the sounds of Cajun music under large covered patio area while we were unloading our kayaks and preparing for a short evening paddle. Some of us commented on joining the festivities instead of paddling, but we refrained and stuck to the plan, which did not disappoint.
The freshwater was a soft green color, not the muddy bayou water I expected to see. The Cypress trees were tall and thick with Spanish moss and houses of all décor and construction lined the banks of the bayou. People were very friendly if you could understand what they were saying. I just smiled, waved and paddled on.
After the paddle and back at the house, we were treated to a fine meal of red beans and rice, pasta salad, green salad and lots of appetizers and spirits. The evening was spent visiting and co-mingling as everyone seemed to be relaxing and letting go of the city life, stresses and our problems left far behind. Chris made an announcement about the plan for the next day’s paddle and what to expect and it was back to gabbing again. The party dispersed about 9:30 or so as we said goodbye to our fellow paddlers until the next morning.
Saturday morning came way too early as we got up and headed over to the houseboat for a delicious breakfast of eggs, bacon and pancakes. We were greeted again by Cajun music at the marina (these people start early) and jet skis zipping up and down the bayou along with all kinds of power boats. This was one big free for all. A friend of Chris’ joined us in his boat, trolling along with us and fishing on occasion. I learned later that he and Chris had paddled this route many years before. How neat that must have been and to relive the event with a dear friend.
After paddling a while, we were able to get away from all the noise and chaos and enjoy the true sights and sounds that make Louisiana a special place. There were birds singing, baby alligators that would duck under water if you got too close, the foliage was pretty and green and lots and lots of moss. For lunch we stopped on a point that had an abandoned structure that appeared to be a small house, water tank and dog pens. There was a metal grating dock that provided a nice exit/entry point instead of getting our feet wet. We visited a little, walked around some and enjoyed standing upright, but didn’t waste any time getting back in our kayaks and moving on for the second half of our adventure which was more of the same beautiful scenery. The water was prettier and greener being away from the main portion of the bayou. At one point during the paddle Joe spotted two owls that flew out from the trees as they were being chased away by a red wing blackbird. One doubled back and perched on a branch but I could not locate it with my camera. All I got were pictures of tree branches.
Upon arrival back at the marina, the band was still going strong as we loaded up, got a cold beverage of choice and headed to the upper deck of the houseboat for some r&r, music and talk about what we saw on our paddle.
Later that evening we were treated to a fine crawfish boil back at the house by our host extraordinaire, Chris, with all the trimmings. It was fabulous as we were all stuffed to the gills and tired from a long day of paddling. It was a short evening as some of us were paddling Sunday and others were headed back home, sightseeing along the way.
Sunday we feasted on a hearty breakfast and said our goodbyes to those that were leaving early. We paddled up the bayou from the house and encountered more strange structures made into housing along the way. We saw the top half of a big boat that was possibly someone’s storage space or living quarters, we saw a school bus that had been a house but deteriorated over time, a big orange safety boat had been commandeered. These folks are very resourceful and take full advantage of anything they find. It reminded me of the pioneers coming over and crossing America and the ingenuity to use what they had, found, or make what they needed. I bet when these cajuns find something, they can’t wait to tell their neighbor and show off their good fortune. I’m sure there is some horse trading in the mix as well.
This was such a fun trip and exciting, as I never knew what we were going to see next. The weather was perfect, sunny and a breezy, but not too hot. It was nice to make new acquaintances and future paddle pals. And this grasshopper learned a few things as well; I need a longer skinnier boat for the flat water! Hence, sea kayak, duh. Saturday afternoon was pretty tough paddling for me toward the end. Now I understand. Ah soooo.
What a great trip and lots of wonderful memories. Hopefully a repeat next year.