Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sabine Wildlife Refuge Wetlands Walkway

Moving out into the country did the opposite to us from what we thought it would do.  In our townhouse in 2007-2008 we were always busy.  Maxx was riding his skateboard on the ramp I bought him, Ashlyn was riding her scooter, and I was walking all over the complex and walking at the park in the mornings.  We thought the country would add to our activity.  We were wrong!

We turned into inside people.  Sometimes Maxx will ride his bike to a friend's house.  On rare occassions Ashlyn and I get out and walk.  Maxx does go out a lot with his friends to do physical activities and goes to school dances and plays a sport or two each year.   But overall, we became more sedentary.

Being a single mother, working full time, and going to school full time, we don't have a lot of time to plan long trips and even less money to do so.  But I decided to take this week with the kids home for spring break and myself out of work after the store closed and try to find something active that we could do.

Oh, did I neglect to mention my terror of bridges? And the fact that I live in a state that is mostly water? This prevents me from going a lot of places. But today I drove over 2 small drawbridges and one regular bridge, also fairly small, but this was a milestone for me!

I discovered a few places I had never been to in our part of the state and planned a day trip there.  I printed out a nine page trip guide and the day after my 37th birthday, we headed out. 

The place was Sabine Wildlife Refuge's Wetlands Walkway in Cameron Parish.  The refuge is comprised of about 125,000 acres of protected marshland, 61 miles of levees, and 8 major water-control structures.  It is the largest coastal mash refuge on the Gulf of Mexico.  The property was bought by the federal government and established as a refuge in 1937.

There is parking on either side of the shoulderless roadway that, if followed to its end, takes you to Cameron and to the beach.  We were lucky that we were the only people out on the walkway that day.  The Wetlands Walkway is developed with a nice restroom facility (because where else are you gonna go out there?) and water fountains near the parking area.  The walking trail is mostly sidewalk winding through 1.5 miles of marshland.  There is even a portion that is raised and walks you over the water.  On the raised track where Maxx is standing in the picture above we saw more than a dozen owl pellets, and for good reason.  The sounds of insect life out in the bambo were plentiful.

One section of the walkway juts out further into the marshes and ends in a lookout point with two telescopes.  At that point in the walk, it seems as if you are going down below the level of the surrounding land.  As you approach the lookout post, the land around you seems to rise until you are looking up at the level of the water while standing on the ground.  We saw at least 6 different types of birds close up and many groups of turtles throughout the walk.  We heard even more bird sounds than we saw birds, and a lot of beautiful insect noises as well.  We saw half a dozen alligators, some quite near us, and it was not even April, which is the best time to start going out to see alligators.  We even watched some crabs moving about in the shallow edge of the marsh.

The diversity of species in coastal wetlands is second in the world only to the rainforest! I felt this was an important opportunity for my children to see how magical the Louisiana wetlands can be before the wetlands disappear. 

There were covered benches, well maintained, throughout the walk.  During the summer, this would have been a scorching adventure.  It was late March and already we were getting hot from being right in the marshes, but the wind was perfect and kept us cool.

We've seen alligators before, but my children had never seen them in the wild.  We were amazed that as we stood on a platform, one came right near us as if wanting to check us out, and lingered in the water there watching us (and a red-eared slider) until we walked away.

We had had more mini-excursions planned for the day, but we were so pleased with this stop that we turned around and headed back home.  Even Ashlyn enjoyed herself and left us behind on the trail a time or two.  It's rare that goths get out in the daytime. ;-)

I got them out this time.  It wasn't a major vacation and it wasn't a carnival, but I think we all had a good time.  The testy moods in the car on the way down had disappeared completely by the time we left and headed back up north.  The kids were not fighting.  On the contrary, they were laughing and making jokes and talking to each other.  All in all, for a trio of movie and video game addicts, we impressed ourselves with this practically impromptu little hike.

We even made a decision to find little hiking trails and go on hikes at least once a month (until it gets too hot, we ~are~ in the deep south) and spend time together, get out and exercise, see nature up close, and as Maxx pointed out "be a healthy family".

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