I feel like this picture of Meredith accurate represents how our lives have been as of late: a bit chaotic. I’ve been keeping busy between sampling, preparing for a conference presentation in a month, and drafting a grant proposal to help fund my research. I also aced my first official graduate school exam. Meredith on the other hand started her new job this week at North Oaks Hospital and has begun training for a half marathon she wants to run a few months from now. But within all of this chaos, we’ve made it an effort to squeeze in time to indulge in our love for the outdoors.
Our fist outdoor trip was about an hour west to the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge, 15,000 acres of bottomland forest, wetland, and bayou managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Since the refuge is composed primarily of a braided stream network with wetlands, much of the refuge is only accessible by boat but we were able to find a few hiking trails. Several locals were out fishing and even some frog hunting (frog legs are supposedly a delicacy down here). There were also numerous houses and cabins located in the basin. I can certainly appreciate the desire to live in such a remote location, but I don’t think I would feel safe living in a “swamp” known for it’s very flashy water levels.
A few weeks later we decided to check out a boardwalk hike through swamps located in the outskirts of Baton Rouge. This park is managed by BREC, East Baton Rouge Parish’s local form of a parks department. It’s the beginning of herptile (reptile and amphibian) mating season, so we saw numerous frogs, turtles and snakes. I’ve honestly never seen more than a handful of snakes in the wild in my life, so to see so many was actually really exciting. Didn’t see any gators but I’ve heard that there is another BREC park that you are guaranteed to see some. Definitely will be checking that out soon.
This past weekend we drove out to Tangipahoa Parish, LA to forage for Louisiana’s state fruit: strawberries. It’s actually still about a month early for strawberry season in the south however crops have popped up a bit early due to the mild winter we’ve had here. Strawberries are the leading fruit-crop for Louisiana, bringing in over 11.5 million dollars in sales within Tangipahoa Parish alone. But the real money-makers for Louisiana are sugar cane and rice, are crops unique to the south. I admit driving out to the rural part of the state gave me a slight sense of nostalgia, missing those rows and rows of corn and soybeans back in the midwest, but it was also nice to see some crops with some color other than green!