Creole Nature Trail – Part 2

One of the most scenic drives in Louisiana is the Creole Nature Trail in the southwestern edge of the state. We did the western half of it in 2013, but decided to do the eastern portion of it a few weeks ago. It was Christmas Day so many of the stops were not open.

Abbeville, LA

As we left Lafayette, we headed south on Highway 167 to Abbeville, La – a small town in Vermillion parish. The main claim to fame is the Palmetto Island State Park, but we didn’t have time to visit. The highway led us through the town square and around the Vermillion Parish courthouse. It’s my favorite style of archictecture, much like the style of famed architect A. Hays Town. It was no suprise when I later learned that Mr. Town built the Greek-Revival building in 1953.

Vermillion Parish Courthouse

 

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The Louisiana State Bird (the Pelican) dressed as Santa across from the courthouse

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Abbeville had beautiful churches. This is 100 year-old St. Mary Magdeline Church.

Leaving Abbeville was a bit confusing. We saw a sign for a detour but didn’t realize it was meant for us. Sure enough – about three miles south of Abbeville, the bridge was closed and we had to turn back, go through Abbeville and go down the alternate route on the other side of the bayou for a few miles. Once, we were back on LA 82, we explored the eastern spur of the Creole Nature Trail.

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The first part of the route was pretty much like the picture above – flat. Without the electric wires, you would think you were on the edge of the earth. In reality – we were as the Gulf of Mexico was just a few miles south of us. We passed rice fields, as well as the Rockerfeller Wildlife Refuge – a 74,000 acre area devoted to alligator research. As we crossed into Cameron Parish, we looked at the Creole Nature Trail app and were able to listen to the audio guide explaining the sites we were passing. The area was flat, but then large groups of trees, called chenieres, started appearing. As we drove into the unincorporated community of Grand Cheniere, we learned that these are unique to the Cajun coast. The word comes from the Acadian word, Chene – meaning oak. And that’s what they were, groups of live oak trees that appeared sporadically along the highway.

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As we entered the community of Oak Grove, we could take the more popular route of the Creole Nature Trail north up to Lake Charles – passing the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, but we chose to hug the coast the entire way. The first stop was Rutherford Beach.

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The road to Rutherford Beach. A mile later, we saw a group of people fishing.

 

The Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana

The Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana – Rutherford Beach

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Hurray for portable bathrooms as there was not much in the way of facilities.

Hurray for portable bathrooms as there was not much in the way of facilities.

 

We stayed on the spur to go to the town of Cameron. I had always heard of this town and how it had been destroyed by Hurricane Audrey in the late 1950’s. Recently, both Hurrican Rita and Ike ravaged the town – the latter leveling 90% of the homes. Today, it has a population of only 406.

Cameron Parish Courthouse

Another view of the Cameron Parish Courthouse

Leaving Cameron, we realized that we had to cross the Calcasieu Ship Channel – and there was no bridge! Thankfully, ferry service ran every half hour even on holidays. For the small sum of $1 a car, we boarded the ferry. Unfortunately, passengers weren’t allowed out of the vehicles so we couldn’t get better pictures.

Crossing the Calcasieu Ship Channel

 

The channel connects Lake Charles to the Gulf of Mexico

The channel connects Lake Charles to the Gulf of Mexico

I can’t say it was the prettiest part of the trip, but it is Louisiana and most of the economy is due to oil. The ferry ride took no more than seven minutes and we were on our way. Once we got to Holly Beach, we saw the turn-off for the other part of the Creole Trail on La 27. Back in 2013, we had driven the western spur from Port Arthur, Tx to Holly Beach and then north on La 27 through the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge including the Wetlands Walkway, up through Hackberry and then to Lake Charles.

As we continued on the western spur towards Port Arthur, we agreed that the trail is extremely scenic. It’s a part of Louisiana I had never seen – expecially the cactus that appeard on the side of the road.

Cactus in Louisiana. Who knew?

Cactus in Louisiana. Who knew?

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Georgia Governor’s Mansion

“Are you sure we can do this?” my daughter asked. “I mean, doesn’t somebody live here?”

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We had just turned into the Governor’s Mansion in Atlanta. I presented my driver’s license and the guards at the gate told us where to park.Walking up to the orange brick building flanked with 30 white columns, we rang the front door bell where a white-haired, petite docentĀ greeted us on this rainy day and gave us the history of the mansion.

Built in 1965 during Lester Maddox’s tenure, it had formerly been property of a Robert Maddox. After his place burned, he donated the land to the state so that it wouldn’t be turned into a subdivision. Previous governor’s mansions were in Ansley park and Peachtree street in Midtown.

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A docent stationed at each room on the first floor gave a description of the function and history of the furnishings. My favorite was the library with its wood walls and fireplace made in England of Italian Carrera marble.”I could sit here by a warm fire and read a book with a cup of tea, ” I told my children.

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My favorite room

My least favorite room was the guest bedroom which is located to the left of the front door. It has a tiny alcove bed reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. It’s only used on rare occasions as there are 7 guest bedrooms on the 2nd floor.”One time an aide to President Clinton was staying here. He was very tall and said he was so uncomfortable, he got his pillow and slept on the floor.” Seeing the marble floor with only an oriental rug to cushion it didn’t look that appealing to me, but at least he could stretch out.

“If Ms. Deal was here today, she’d be greeting you right here,” a docent proudly informed us. She’s so down to earth and once a year invites us upstairs to see their suites. “Education is her big thing so she’s signed up to read at one of the schools, ” the docent continued.

Wouldn't it be fun to be invited to dinner here?

Wouldn’t it be fun to be invited to dinner here?

The main living room is large and supposedly so decorated during Christmas, you can hardly even see the furniture. Several different docents encouraged us to come back during the holidays when they have it decorated and serve cookies.

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The living room with a view of the informal sitting room through the opening.

 

The fireplace in the family sitting room

The fireplace in the family sitting room

The informal dining room has a mahogany table and red chairs purchased by Sonny S (from Midnight in the Garden of good and evil to pay for one of his trials). To the right, we could peer into the kitchen where staff were preparing lunch. Christmas ornaments of the mansion and the state seal are for sale for $20 while a cookbook is for sale for $10.

I loved peering in the kitchen to see a meal being prepared.

I loved peering in the kitchen to see a meal being prepared.

Outside, we wandered the gardens. Surprisingly there’s a swimming pool. Somehow I just don’t picture any governor and his wife swimming, but there it was. I loved the rocking chairs outside with the large columns. Despite the fact that the mansion resembles a Georgia state rest area, it is beautiful. A large fountain is at the front door, as well as two rockers – one says governor and the other first lady.DSC_0109

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