In the interest of semi-catching up I’m just going to do a high-level summary of the past few weeks…
I picked up my car in Naples and wandered around south Florida for a bit. Stopped at Ding Darling NWR on Sanibel and Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Lots of birds (and one iguana) at Ding Darling.
Drove across the Tamiami Trail, including a dusk drive on the loop road (snakes and frogs but no panthers), then down to Everglades NP. Stayed at a campground on the Tamiami next to a couple out biking around south Florida – the woman grew up in Monson and we chatted about the AT for a bit. Wandered around the Everglades a bit then headed into the Keys. Stopped at Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park for a walk in the rain (few birds, lots of lichen) then drove out to Key West. Driving around Key West was unpleasant. Lots of traffic; lots of people.
Spent a couple nights in the WMA KICCO area and picked up a few additional Florida Trail miles heading north from River Ranch. Met Nonsense for lunch in Oviedo then headed out of state.
Quick stops in Alabama (Gulf State Park) and Mississippi (MS Sandhill NWR), then on to Louisiana, my 13th state on this trip and 47th state overall. Spent a few hours at the Barataria Preserve at Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and stopped at the Port Orleans Brewing Company. Spent a day wandering around New Orleans: on my own through the Garden District then on a paid food tour through the French Quarter. There was a parade that evening but I didn’t feel like sticking it out through the crowds.
Next stop: Texas. “Officially” I’ve been to Texas before, but it was just flying into an airport when I was four, so it wasn’t really memorable. Entered the state on I-10 – there’s a nice welcome station with a boardwalk over a swamp. Surprisingly nice for a highway rest area.
Drove down Bolivar Peninsula looking at birds, then stopped at the Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR, also looking at birds (though sadly saw no prairie chickens). Drove through the Aransas NWR where I saw no whooping cranes then through Amistad NWR where I did see my first roadrunner. At Aransas a woman stopped me to chat – she was excited to see a solo female traveler out on the road.
Slept in my car at the Marfa Lughts Viewing Area (along with a dozen or so RVs) but didn’t see any lights. Spent a few days in Big Bend – no long hiking trips, just some short walks and more birding. Roadrunner, Phainopepla, Acorn Woodpecker, Say’s Phoebe, Crissal Thrasher, etc. Had to turn around and retreat on one road – the ranger said I should be fine as long as I went slow, but there were many sketchy spots. Other 2wd vehicles got through but I don’t think my car would have appreciated me putting her through that.
Next stop was Austin though other than a stop at Family Business Brewing this was mostly a chore stop. Laundry, grocery, planning the Ouachita hike.
Stopped at the Caddo National Grassland, which from the road was rather wooded. Got stuck in mud at the Gambill Wildlife Refuge outside Paris, Texas and had to call AAA to get me out.
Next, on to the Ouachita Trail (eventually).