Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #184 – Travel Has Taught Me

“To Travel is to Live” – Hans Christian Andersen

Travel has taught me that there is beauty everywhere you go if you just take the time to look around. When we were traveling by RV, we always had several major destinations for each trip. At first we just drove between destinations without taking much time to enjoy the places in between.

The more trips we took, the more we enjoyed the out of way places that are often overlooked by travelers. Lake Bistineau State Park, Louisiana was one of those places.

Cypress Trees in Lake Bistineau State Park

I’ve learned that traveling opens up opportunities to try new things, even things that terrify me. Our hike to Delicate Arch at Arches National Park is a perfect example of this. I’m scared of heights and almost didn’t make the hike when I read I would have to walk along a narrow ledge with a shear drop off. With Henry’s help and encouragement, I made it. The payoff was this fantastic view.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah

I learned that asking a local is the best way to find out about the area, the history, and the out of the way places to visit that don’t show up in tour guides. One year we spent about two months wandering around Texas when the bluebonnets were blooming. A ranger I met in one of the state parks gave us directions to a scenic drive on a dirt road that we would have never discovered if we hadn’t asked.

Texas Bluebonnets

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.” -James Michener

Travel has taught me I can learn more about a lot about a place by having conversations with people who live there. At the beautiful Russian Orthodox Church in Ninilchik, Alaska we met two women who manage the gift shop and maintain all the graves. They grew up in Ninilchik together and lived with relatives in Anchorage to attend high school because at the time there was no high school in Ninilchik (there is one today). They graduated together in 1950.

Gift Shop for the Russian Orthadox Church in Ninilchik, Alaska

Travel has taught me to try the local foods. We have enjoyed barbecue beef brisket in Texas, pasties in Michigan, Indian Tacos in South Dakota and Arizona, New Mexico cuisine, local seafood in Florida, Washington and Oregon, pork tenderloin sandwiches in Missouri, Dungeness Crab straight off the boat in Alaska, and so many other delicious things we can’t get at home.

Dungeness Crab, Haines, Alaska

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”― Mark Twain

Mark Twain’s quote describes exactly why Henry and I chose to go on our cruise in January. I’ve learned that every day is a gift. None of us know what tomorrow will bring. A single phone call, doctor’s visit, or an unexpected event can change your life in an instant.

St. Kitts

“Life is either a great adventure or nothing: – Helen Keller

Many thanks for Amy’s challenge Lens’Artists #184: Travel has taught me

Wandering Around America One State at a Time – Louisiana

State 16:

Welcome to the next post in my series highlighting states we have visited throughout the years. I hope you will enjoy coming along for the ride!

I will be featuring the states alphabetically. The next state is


Louisiana became the 18th state on April 30, 1812  and the capital is Baton Rouge.

Ever since I started working on this post about Louisiana the following lyrics from the Hank Williams song “Jambalaya (on the Bayou)” have been going through my head.

Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and fillet gumbo
‘Cause tonight I’m gonna see my ma cher amio
Pick guitar, fill fruit jar and be gay-o
Son of a gun we’ll have big fun on the bayou

Each time we visited Louisiana we tried as much of the delicious local food as we could get. We sampled everything – boudin, crawfish etoufee, gumbo, dirty rice, cracklins, shrimp po’ boys and more! Chef Paul Prudhomme’s K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen  in New Orleans served up one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had. Is your mouth watering yet?

We’ve visited New Orleans three times – twice to watch our Georgia Bulldogs play in the Sugar Bowl and once to take our children when they were young. We wandered around the French Quarter, attended a performance of New Orleans Jazz at Preservation Hall, rode a streetcar to the Garden District, took a riverboat ride on the Mississippi River, chowed down on amazing Cajun food, and of course had coffee and beignets at Cafe Du Monde.

New Orleans Jackson Square
New Orleans Jackson Square

Cafe du Monde
Cafe du Monde

Calle D Borbon
Calle D Borbon

There is so much more to Louisiana than food and music. Our lake front campsite at Lake Bistineau State Park was perfect for watching the wading birds search for food among the huge cypress trees on the banks of the lake.

Great Blue Heron at Lake Bistineau
Great Blue Heron at Lake Bistineau

Great Egret in Lake Bistineau
Great Egret in Lake Bistineau

Lake Bistineau
Lake Bistineau

The rain didn’t stop us from enjoying our campsite on one of the ponds at Poche’s Fish N Camp. After a delicious meal at Poche’s Meat Market and Smokehouse I stocked up on Cajun goodies like homemade boudin, Andouille sausage and tasso ham to take home.

Pavilion at Poche's Fish N Camp
Poche’s Fish N Camp

We are one of the families who always has a bottle of Tabasco sauce on the table along with the salt and pepper. A visit to the Tabasco Factory on Avery Island was a must for us.

The world's best known hot sauce
The world’s best known hot sauce

We even took a tour of the Duck Commander headquarters in West Monroe.

Duck Commander Headquarters, about 3 blocks south of I-20 in West Monroe, LA
Duck Commander Headquarters, about 3 blocks south of I-20 in West Monroe, LA

I started writing this post right before Mardi Gras and have been hungry for Cajun food ever since. On Fat Tuesday I made a big pot of Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo using Alton Brown’s recipe (I added okra ). Yesterday I made Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Jambalaya (I left out the oysters). Now if I could just find some crawfish tails I’ll make that crawfish pie.!

To read previous posts about the states featured in this series just click on the state name: Alabama      Alaska      Arizona      Arkansas      California      Colorado     Florida      Georgia      Hawaii        Idaho  Illinois      Indiana      Iowa     Kansas     Kentucky

Best Campgrounds of the year – 2015

Our 2015 wandering took us on a long a spring trip from Georgia to Texas and a short fall trip to South Carolina, Virginia, and North Carolina.

During our 2015 travels we camped in  7  states and stayed in a total of 21 different parks: 11 state parks, 6 private RV parks,  3  COE parks, and 1 county park. While we enjoyed them all, a few stand out.

So here it is, the second annual “Wandering Dawgs best campgrounds of the year” list.

Number 3: Lake Bistineau State Park, Doyline, Louisiana

Waterfront Camping at Lake Bistineau State Park, Doyline, Louisiana
Waterfront Camping at Lake Bistineau State Park, Doyline, Louisiana

Cypress Trees dripping with Spanish Moss at Lake Bistineau
Cypress Trees dripping with Spanish Moss at Lake Bistineau

We first discovered this beautiful state park when we were traveling west in 2011. The park ranger was one of the nicest and most helpful rangers I have ever met. I have such fond memories of sitting on our own private deck watching the lake that I had been trying to figure out when we would have an opportunity to return.

It was a no-brainer to stop here as we headed home toward Georgia on our return trip from Texas. The same great ranger was there and he is still one of the most friendly and most helpful rangers of any place we have been.

Lake Bistineau State Park is located a short drive south of I-20 near Doyline, Louisiana. The sites have paved parking pads with water and electric hook ups, a picnic table, and fire pit. We had a premium site with a wooden deck overlooking the lake.There are several fishing docks located in the campground and one was right in front of our site. The bath house was spotless and there is a small free laundry. The park also has a boat launch. WiFi is available at the office.

We camped at Lake Bistineau in April, 2015.

Number 2: Inks Lake State Park, Burnet, Texas

Relaxing behind our campsite at Inks Lake State Park, Burnet, Texas
Relaxing behind our campsite at Inks Lake State Park, Burnet, Texas

We traveled through Texas in the spring when the Texas Bluebonnets were blooming. After researching where the best place to see them would be, the area in the Texas Hill Country around Inks Lake sounded perfect. When my friend Tim from Arlingon recommended it we knew we had to stay there.

We made reservations just a few days before our arrival and were fortunate to get a waterfront site the week before Easter. We had plenty of space behind our back in site to set up our chairs an enjoy the lake. We would have stayed longer but the park was full for Easter weekend and we had to leave on Good Friday.

Our site was a waterfront, back-in site with a beautiful view of the lake behind the campsite. We enjoyed beautiful sunsets every day.

Sunset at Ink's Lake
Sunset at Ink’s Lake

There are hiking trails, a fishing pier, boat launch, marina, and gift shop. Longhorn Caverns State Park is just down the road and there are many scenic drives through the Texas Hill Country.

We camped at Inks Lake State Park in April, 2015.

Number 1: Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

Our own private picnic area behind our campsite
Our own private picnic area behind our campsite

Our campsite in Palo Duro Canyon
Our campsite in Palo Duro Canyon

When we made a day trip to Palo Duro Canyon from Amarillo several years ago we talked about returning one day to camp in the canyon. Camping there was high on our must do list when we traveled around Texas in the spring.

There are several campgrounds in Palo Duro Canyon State Park with backpacking, equestrian sites, tent sites, and RV sites with water and electricity. Our site in the Sagebrush Campground had large private sitting area with a covered shelter over the picnic table and a fire ring. There are hiking, biking and equestrian trails. There are also several day use picnic areas, cabins, stables with guided horseback rides, an interpretive center, and the Trading Post Restaurant and Park store.

Leigh over at Campendium asked me to submit a post for my favorite State Park Campground for their May, 2015 Campendium Blog post featuring Best State Park Campgrounds. To read my contribution to the post click here.

We camped at Palo Duro Canyon in April, 2015.

Honorable Mention:

  • Cranes Mill Park COE, Canyon Lake, Texas
  • Goose Island State Park, Rockport, Texas
  • Poche’s Fish N Camp, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana
  • Claytor Lake State Park, Dublin, Virginia (2nd year on our list)

Where do you think we will wander next year? Stay tuned…

Happy New Year!!

Happy Happy Happy in Louisiana

“Happy, Happy, Happy” – Phil Robertson

After almost six weeks exploring the great state of Texas it was time to head east toward home. We were sad to leave Texas but happy knowing we would soon be home. Our first stop in Louisiana was a place where we had camped on another trip four years ago. I had such fond memories of our first visit there I’ve been looking for an excuse to go back. I even made reservations for site 12, the same one we had camped in before.  With a deck and a fishing dock right in front of the site, it was a perfect place to chill for a couple of days.

Lake Bistineau State Park is located about 20 miles from Bossier City. I remembered how friendly one of the rangers at the park was when we first visited and I was happy to see the same ranger greeted us at the office and checked us in. I have to say he is one of the nicest, friendliest, and most helpful park staff member we have ever met. We had a beautiful view of the lake from our deck and spent a lot of time just chillin’ and watching the herons and egrets fishing in the shallow water along the banks of the lake.

Great Egret in Lake Bistineau
Great Egret in Lake Bistineau

Great Blue Heron at Lake Bistineau
Great Blue Heron at Lake Bistineau

I was way behind on doing laundry and was happy to find a small laundry right there in the park. And it was free! There was also WiFi at the park office and I could do a little catching up on the blog while we were there. We did a little shopping in Bossier City and got our fix of more Cajun Food at Shane’s Restaurant. Crawfish Etouffee and some Boudin to go and we were happy!

But it wasn’t all work, shopping and eating. We’re pretty good at sitting and chillin’.

Lake Bistineau
Lake Bistineau

Turtles at Lake Bistineau
Turtles at Lake Bistineau

Did I mention we had the campground almost all to ourselves? There were only two other campers there the first night, and the next two nights there was only one other camper in the park. Perfect!

But eventually we had to move on. When we made the decision to go home via I-20 we could not miss a stop in West Monroe, Louisiana to see the headquarters of Duck Commander.

Duck Commander was established in 1972 by Phil Robertson. After an outstanding football career in college Phil had an opportunity to play professional football in the NFL. He turned down the offer because he didn’t love football. He loved hunting and fishing and wanted to make a living doing what he loved. He was unhappy with the duck calls that were available at the time and in 1972 started selling his own design.

Phil is now retired and his son Willie Robertson is now the CEO of the family run company and Duck Commander products are sold worldwide. Members of the Robertson family star in the popular A&E reality show “Duck Dynasty.”

Lake Bistineau State Park is located near Doyline, Louisiana. The sites have paved water and electric hook ups, pads, picnic table, and fire pit. We had a premium site with a wooden deck overlooking the lake. There are several fishing docks located in the campground. The park also has a boat launch.

To visit Duck Commander we stayed at Ouachita RV Park in Monroe, Louisiana. The full hookup park had gravel pull through sites with free WiFi that actually worked, a nice laundry room, a meeting room, and a small pond.

Good Eats, Hot Sauce, and rain in Cajun Country

After a rough ride traveling west in Louisiana on the worst section of I-10 in the United States we arrived at Poche’s Fish N Camp in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana for a couple of days. The campsites are arranged around a large fishing pond lined with Cypres trees. Most of the sites have a paved pad, full hookups, and WiFi. There are several ponds for fishing, a clubhouse, swimming pool, and laundry. The staff was great. Many thanks to them for recommending Fun in the Sun RV Repair to repair our heater and many thanks to the repairman who came out in the rain the same day we called him and got it fixed.

It rained off and on the whole time we were there so we couldn’t do too much exploring in the area. I had to do my bird watching at the campground. A Snowy Egret walked along the pond right behind our campsite in the afternoons and Cormorants and ducks were in the water every day. A Great Blue Heron even made an appearance.

The rain couldn’t stop us from enjoying some amazing Cajun feasts! Crawfish etoufee, rice dressing (dirty rice), slaw, fried catfish, fried shrimp, chicken and sausage gumbo, Boudin, Andouille sausage and more! We ate several delicious meals at Poche’s Market and Restaurant. Their market has a large selection of sausages, meats and seasonings so I filled the freezer with Andouille sausage and Boudin to take with us and now my pantry has some of their seasoning mix and File powder.

A visit to the Tabasco Factory on Avery Island was a must see on this trip. Henry is a hot sauce aficionado and Tabasco is a staple on our table along with the salt and pepper. We visited the factory 30 years ago when our kids were young and we both have memories of walking into the aging room with the aroma of the sauce so strong that most of the other people in the tour got out of there as fast as they could. Not Henry! He loved it! Unfortunately, they no longer take the tours through that room.

The sauce is aged in barrels that were first used to age Jack Daniels Whiskey. We watched a short video and then watched original Tabasco sauce being bottled and labeled before browsing in the museum. We had our first taste of Boudin sausage (yummy and spicy) from a food truck and spent a few dollars in the gift shop before heading back to Breaux Bridge. A stop at Walmart for some necessities and we were back at camp in time to watch the rain come down the rest of the day.