For me, getting a closeup of a bird is usually a real challenge. Most of the time, the bird is too far away or it flies away if I get too close. Occasionally, I’ll luck out and come across a bird who is not interested in me and I can get the shot I want.
The Bald Eagle in the above photo was sitting in a low branch of a tree in Chilcoot Lake State Park in Haines, Alaska. As I set up my tripod and aimed the camera at him I kept my fingers crossed that he wouldn’t fly off. He ignored me and I was a happy photographer.
Most Great Blue Herons I have seen are spooked by humans and will not let me get too near them. This one was hanging around the fishing pier at Ft. Pickens National Seashore in Florida. He was much more interested in getting an easy meal than he was in me.
This Anhinga was right beside the path in Shark Valley in Everglades National Park. We watched for a while as he struggled to swallow his fish. We didn’t stay around long enough to see if he succeeded in eating it.
This Cormorant was next the trail and didn’t move when I stopped to take his picture.
Our week at Fort Pickens Campground in the Gulf Islands National Seashore sped by. When we weren’t walking on the pure white sand at the beach, exploring Fort Pickens and the batteries, or visiting the National Naval Aviation Museum we were wandering around the Florida Gulf Coast.
One day we took Blondie outside of the National Seashore to go to the Pensacola Beach Dog Beach. A small section of beach has been set aside to allow dogs on a leash to enjoy the beach.
A Legendary Beach Bar
One day we took a drive along the Gulf to the Florida-Alabama state line to visit the famous Flora-Bama Bar. The bar has been called the “Last Great American Roadhouse” and ranks among the “Best Beach Bars” in the world. The wooden building is located on the beach between high rises and we almost missed it as we drove along the Gulf road. Originally built in 1964, it has survived fires and hurricanes. After suffering a direct hit from Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the building was restored.
It was quiet the day we went. Their busy season starts with spring break. Their “Interstate Mullet Toss and Gulf Coast’s Greatest Beach Party” brings huge crowds in April.
Besides the famous beach bar, there are two restaurants, a liquor store, a marina, and plenty of parking across the road on the bay. We enjoyed a lunch of shrimp po’boys at their Old River Bar and Grill overlooking the bay before heading back to our campground.
Gulf Coast Good Eats
For us, no trip to the Gulf Coast would be complete without a trip to a seafood market. In our quest for Stone Crab Claws we stopped at Joe Patti’s Seafood Market in Pensacola. The huge seafood market has been in business in Pensacola for many years and sells every kind of fresh seafood and related items you can imagine. Iced down in the display cases were fresh grouper, redfish, snapper, other fish, gulf shrimp, scallops, stone crab claws, oysters, and seafood of every kind. Also available are made in house shrimp and other salads, smoked mullet dip, seafood spreads, seafood chowder and other specialty items. Then there were smoked sausages and other specialty meats along with many Cajun specialties. In another room were sauces, condiments, and kitchen items to help prepare and eat the seafood.
The place was packed but we were served quickly and left happy with Jumbo Stone Crab Claws, shrimp salad and smoked mullet dip for dinner. Best meal we had on the entire trip.
Located just a short drive from the entrance to the Gulf Islands National Seashore, Peg Leg Pete’s in Pensacola Beach was recommended to us by several of our friends so of course we had to give it a try. Our friends didn’t steer us wrong. The Cajun fried shrimp appetizer and Grouper Sandwiches were excellent.
Wildlife and Sunset Vewing
Even sitting in our own campsite we were entertained. One day an armidillo walked into our campsite driving Blondie wild.
We walked out on the fishing pier at Fort Pickens to see what the fishermen were catching. One fisherman was reeling in a stingray as we arrived and we saw another catching Drum in a cast net. As we walked along the pier a Great Blue Heron walked right in front of me before hopping up on the railing to put on a show. There were actually two herons on the pier and when the first one flew off, another took his place on the railing.
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
We enjoyed more beautiful sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico.
Evacuating the Campground
As the week went on the winds picked up and the waves got bigger.
When you check into the campground at Fort Pickens, you are taking a chance that you may have to leave early because of the road flooding. There is a low section of the road between the campground and the entrance to the park that is subject to flooding. During big storms, the campground has been known to flood. The winds had been picking up all week and storms were forecast starting on Thursday, March 10, our departure date.
On Wednesday afternoon we returned from our wanderings to find a notice on the door to our RV that the campground was closing at noon on Thursday. Several campers left that afternoon while everyone else (like us) started packing up and getting ready for an early morning departure. The luck of the Irish was with us since we were scheduled to leave anyway.
After leaving the campground we drove through a section of the Fort Pickens Road that was underwater.
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.
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’.
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.”
Happy Happy Happy – a favorite Phil Robertson quote
World’s Largest Duck Call celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Duck Commander
Carving of Phil Robertson, founder of Duck Commander
The Duck Commander Bus
Duck Commander Headquarters, about 3 blocks south of I-20 in West Monroe, LA
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.
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.
Office at Poche’s Fish N Camp
Clubhouse at Poche’s Fish N Camp
Our site from across the pond
Campground at Poche’s Fish N Camp
Ducks on the pond
Picture taken through our back window of Snowy Egret behind the camper
Great Blue Heron
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.
It’s so good we had three meals here!
Poche’s Cajun Cuisine
Our meal at Poche’s – Crawfish Etoufee, Dirty Rice and Slaw – Sooooo good!
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.
Avery Island, Louisiana
Visitor’s Center at the Tabasco Factory
Can we take this bottle home?
The world’s best known hot sauce
Even Queen Elizabeth uses Tabasco Sauce
Waiting for the tour to begin
The sauce is aged in barrels that were used to make Jack Daniels Whiskey
Original Tabasco sauce going down the assembly line
The peppers are made into a mash
Lunch was delicious Boudin from the Tabasco food truck
Sometimes we like to take the RV and wander around Florida in January and February. Three years ago our wandering took us to the Midway Campground in the Big Cypress National Preserve. One day we drove to the Shark Valley Visitor’s Center in Everglades National Park to take the guided Tram tour on the 15 mile paved path through Shark Valley. The path is a popular place for bicycling and walking.
There is an abundance of wildlife to be seen there in the heart of the Everglades. We had a couple of up close and personal encounters with the wildlife that really stand out.
First was the alligator right in front of us that crossed from one side of the path to other. He didn’t care that there were tourists all around. Then there was the Great Blue Heron strutting across the road like he was king of the world.