Touring the Vicksburg Area

Saturday July 24th 2021

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky most of the day. The temperature climbed to the mid 90s with enough humidity to make it seem like 100 plus temperatures. Late in the day a haze moved into the area blocking some of the sun. I don’t know if the haze is associated with forest fires out west, or something closer. It made the sunset very interesting.

Today I explored the Vicksburg area. The town is located on the banks of the Mississippi River on high ground. It is very easy to see why the location played such a major role in the Civil War. Artillery on the high ground in and around Vicksburg could easily control traffic on the river. If you didn’t understand that before visiting the city, all of the old cannon around town aimed at the river would give you a clue.

Looking southwest at the Mississippi River

I stopped at the Mississippi visitors center just over the Interstate 20 bridge from Louisiana to get the lay of the area. The view of the bridges and river is impressive. From there, I drove into the historic old downtown area. I’m not sure how many of the buildings were around in the 1860s, but the many small brick buildings provided a throw back to another era. I avoided going to the National Battlefield park today. Now that I know were to find it, I’ll go on a less busy day than a Saturday.

Decorative cannon aimed at the Mississippi River at the Mississippi visitors center between the Interstate 20 bridge and the old railroad bridge on the right.

I found navigating the roads in the area difficult. Except on the interstate the road signs are poor to nonexistent. Nothing tells you which way to go at major intersections. If your lucky you can see a route marker in the distance on the intersecting road. Even the on ramp to the interstate only had a small route marker with an arrow right at the turn. I never had to turn around, but I did take a few roads that I hadn’t planned on following.

Sunset through the haze

A Slow Post Travel Day

Friday July 23rd 2021

Today was a lazy restful day. Yesterday’s move was a very tiring event. I went to bed early last night and slept through the night even with the AC cycling on the roof above my bed. Today’s temperature was in the low nineties with average humidity for the region. Unlike most of the cloudy, might rain any minute, days in Louisiana I needed to keep the AC on all day. While that keeps it comfortable inside, as soon as you step outside the heat really slaps you in the face.

Looking up the hill toward my RV home at the Rivertown Rose Campground.

Since I’ll be here for another four full days it wasn’t necessary that I start my touring today. The surprise of the head and my overall lack of energy kept me at home today. I finished the setup tasks and walked around the RV park. While it isn’t very photogenic, this is a nice campground. There are a little over one hundred sites in an open area on the west side of a gentle hill. The sites around the outside are back-ins occupied by long term residents. The sites along parallel cross roads are all pull through and are mostly for more transient visitors. All of the sites seem to have some slope, but not enough to prevent leveling your RV. My front wheels are off the ground an inch or two, but that isn’t unusual.

Looking west toward the road.

Yesterday the campground was pretty full when I arrived. Not to many RVs arrived later in the day. This morning many RVs departed and the park didn’t start to fill up until much later in the day. Judging by the license plates, most of the new arrivals are travelers. I’m not sure if they are here to visit the Vicksburg battlefield or are just passing through the area on Interstate 20.

Travel Day to Vicksburg MS

Thursday July 22nd 2021

I was up early, because it was a travel day. Breaking the pattern of many of the last few travel days, it was a nice clear day. The bright sunshine and the humidity made getting ready to travel a sweaty job. My plan was to get on the road around ten. I pulled out of the Fontainebleau State Park about 10:40AM. Most of the delay was at the dumping station. Its location and access isn’t the best.

Once I got on the road, the first order of business was filling the gas tank. Gas prices in Louisiana are thirty cents or more below the Florida prices at my last filling. Finding an accessible station wasn’t as easy. I finally settled on a station with slightly higher prices than was empty enough that I could get in and maneuver. I almost blocked the exit while I filled the tank.

The next issue was figuring out how to get to my destination in Vicksburg Mississippi. I hadn’t done my usual level of route planning. The interstate routes were easy, but following them all the way would add fifty miles or more to the days journey. My solution was to use my nemesis the GPS. It routed me on mostly US routes that turned out to be good roads. I need to look at a paper map to see where the GPS took me. The only issue was the turn into the campground. It wanted me to go another three hundred feet before turning right. One little U-turn and I was at my destination.

Site 107 at the River Town Rose Campground.

I’ll be at the Rivertown Rose Campground in Vicksburg MS for the next few days. My plan is to tour the historic Civil War Battlefield.

The Sun is Back

Wednesday July 21st 2021

It was cloudy and dull when I woke this morning followed shortly by more rain. I prepared myself for a repeat of yesterday’s dull and rainy conditions. Mother nature surprised me. By late morning the clouds were gone and the sun was shinning brightly. The temperature climbed into the low nineties. The humidity made it feel much warmer.

Sunny day on the side of Lake Pontchartrain.

It was a beautiful three walk day in the park. With each walk the standing water got lower, but it is still necessary to stay on the paved surfaces. Most people seem to be doing more driving than walking right now. Those drivers missed the deer I saw this evening.

An alligator on patrol.

Tomorrow is moving day. I’m have about two hundred miles to travel in a northerly direction. Hopefully the Gulf of Mexico won’t have as much influence on the weather. It will still be hot and humid, but the thunderstorms may be more predictable.

Sun setting as another thunderstorm moves in.

A Full Rainout Day

Tuesday July 20th 2021

Last night as I was going to sleep rain was falling on the roof of my RV home. It started very heavy then leveled out to at a moderate pace. According to the TV weather talkers it let up after a couple of hours. Around 7AM it resumed with a vengeance. The roar of falling rain on the roof woke me up. The good news is it was a good alarm clock so I could watch the Blue Origin rocket launch. The bad news is it continued steadily all morning. The sky brighten during the early afternoon, but another line of storms arrived around 4PM. The next lull is forecast to end around bedtime.

Flooded areas of the campground.

The TV weather talkers report that the storm dropped over 8 inches of rain on the town Fontaiunebleau State Park occupies. Based on the locations of the TV crews covering the story, the reports seem to be from the other side of town. This area got more than a few inches of rain, but I doubt it was 8 inches. The grass and woodland areas were already filled with water before last night. This morning it is deeper and the water is flowing over the roads in a few areas. My site is high and dry, but the site I was on last week is more than a little wet.

I managed to get two walks in during the breaks in the rain. My first walk was just as the rain was ending. I got a little damp from the last few drops or rain. My second walk was just before the late afternoon line of storms. I saw it approaching across Lake Pontchatrain and turned for home. The rain was just starting when I got to my RV home. I decided against testing my luck after supper.

The park staff seems to be concerned with the water levels. They were making more patrols of the park than normal and I saw one ranger stop to take pictures of the water level at a couple of the culverts under the road. Later a maintenance truck stopped and attempted to probe for debris needing to be cleared as the water passed under the road. I think the worst is over. The forecast calls for scattered showers the over the next thirty six hours or so.

Clouds over the lake this afternoon. The next storm was approaching from just out of the left of the frame.

A Grocery Run before the Daily Thunderstorm

Monday July 19th 2021

The forecast for today was for more than the normal amount of thunderstorms, but so far it has been about average around here. After a bright sunny morning, a thunderstorm moved through in the early afternoon. A cloudy sky filled the remainder of the day with more thunderstorms do overnight.

Whitecaps on Lake Pontchartrain from the wind this afternoon.

I got an early start this morning. The goal was to restock my food supply. My last major grocery shopping run was a month ago with one quick stop for meat, bread, milk and such almost three weeks ago. I was raiding the freezer, can goods and back of the shelf items for the last few days. The nearest Walmart was about eight miles away on the north side of Interstate 12. A Walmart Neighborhood Grocery store and a Winn Dixie were much closer, but I needed to pick up some hardware items as well. Getting stuck in traffic after days in a quiet country setting was my reward.

The store was busy with customers and Walmart employees. There were lots of employees in the aisles filling blue carts for customer pickup and others were restocking shelves. Navigating up and down the rows of food was difficult in the congestion. I got everything on my list, but didn’t refill all of the extra stock I went through in the last few days. Another week is probably all I can go before my next provisioning trip.

This guy is developing a good set of antlers.

Both of my daily walks around the state park were after the thunderstorms. I still needed to stay on the paved surfaces. The grass areas are all flooded and rapidly turning to mud. The camp hosts tried to stay with their lawn mowing schedule this morning. I think they spent more time getting the mower unstuck from the mud than actually cutting grass. The nice green grass was filled with black mud holes and muddy tire tracks when they got done.

Half a Rainout

Sunday July 18th 2021

Yesterday evening as the sunset the thunderstorms started. There were two lines of storms before midnight. The overnight hours were probably calm. At least I didn’t wake up to the sound of rain on the roof. This morning, as I was eating breakfast, the storms returned.

Example of the flooded grass areas in the campground.
Even roads and parking lots had standing water.

All of these storms dropped rain at a prodigious pace. The areas that had returned to a more or less dry state returned to a flood level greater than I’ve seen in the week plus I’ve been here. The ground is saturated preventing the new rain from sinking into the ground. Most of the tent campers and a few of the RV campers found they were setup in a mud puddle. One of my car camping neighbors left during the night, the other one left early before today’s second round of storms. The occupants of a bigger tent a few sites away abandoned it during the night. They came back in the early afternoon and slogged through ankle deep water to collect their gear. Even the Boy Scout troop camped in one of the group areas had to pack their week equipment in this mornings rain.

By noon today the sun was out. There was still the sound of thunder in the air for most of the afternoon. The area a little ways to the north was under a flash flood warning. I don’t know how to read the sky around here for weather threats. Storms seem to form overhead rather than move in from one direction or another. My concerns about the weather kept me at home today. My desire to go out didn’t out weigh my concern about traveling on unknown roads in low-lying areas with the potential of low visibility in high volume rainstorms.

I had to stay on the paved surfaces during my walks today. Even the deer I met on the road seemed to think the paved surface was better for walking than the boggy woodlands. The campground has transitioned back to midweek mode from the busy weekend activity.

A Hike to Cane Bayou

Saturday July 17th 2021

This morning before the expected afternoon thunderstorms, I set out on the Cane Bayou trail. The trail is labeled as a 4.8 mile hike from the park visitors center to the bayou. It is a wide fairly well cared for trail through the woods. Just like areas of the campground, the trail shows signs of all the rain that has fallen in the area of the last few weeks. There are many areas of standing water on the trail. It is necessary to hop, skip and jump across some of the streams and navigate through the vegetation to avoid some of the puddles. I only got in the water once and that wasn’t too bad.

Trail to Cane Bayou.

The hike was a little disappointing. There wasn’t a lot of scenery along the way. In some areas the swarming bugs were a real problem. Once I got sweaty the bugs thought I was a great place to land. None of them bit, but they were a big annoyance. All along the trail I was waving the bugs away, looking toward the sky to see if the rumbling thunder was approaching all while watching out for puddles to avoid. Somehow I did manage to see a deer in the woods and a snake on the trail in front of me.

The culmination of the hike was the biggest disappointment. The trail ended about thirty feet or so from the bayou. Between the end of the trail and the bayou was a wet marsh area filled with two foot high grass before the tree line along the bank. I couldn’t find a way through it or around it. The recent rain is probably to blame. All I could do was turn around and repeat the hop, skip and jump over the water hazards along the trail back to my RV home. I needed a nice hot shower after the hike.

Small gator in the pond near the beach.
Sailboats on Lake Pontchartrain.

The campground is busy for the weekend. It is filled with all kinds of campers. There are big diesel pusher moterhomes all the way down to tents and car sleepers. My neighbor on one side is sleeping in her car and the neighbor on the other side has hung a hammock bake in the woods a little ways. He is using his car to support an awning to cook under. MY guess is that he will be sleeping in his car tonight. It’s raining pretty hard right now.

Sun setting before it was obscured by a thunderstorm.

Visiting with a Great Blue Heron

Friday July 16th 2021

It rained lightly off and on overnight setting up a cascade of events that changed my plans for the day. The rain caused me to close the windows and turn on the AC to keep the inside temperature in the comfort zone. Getting used to the drone of the AC delayed getting to sleep a little, but I probably got a better nights sleep overall. The AC noise, the closed windows and being in a quieter part of the campground resulted in not waking up on the same schedule I’ve been on since I arrived here last week. There wasn’t much of the morning left when I got up.

Clouds returning to the area after a brief break in the gloomy day,

The morning weather didn’t help much. It was cloudy and dull most of the day. For a short period during the early afternoon the sun was out, but tall billowing clouds soon blocked the sun. Thunderstorms with accompanying flash flood warnings were in the area. The forecast was the tipping point that caused me mot to venture out today. Instead I continued to walk the trails in the state park.

Today I found a Great Blue Heron along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. The bird allowed me to get fairly close. It was almost like it knew I was taking pictures and decided to pose for me. First it faced right with a curved neck. The next pose was with an extended neck and finally facing left. This went on for about five minutes before it lost interest and flew away. In truth, I think the food in the water wasn’t sufficient to keep its interest.

The cloudy dull conditions continued into the evening. Only light rain showers have occurred overhead. The big storms have avoided the immediate area. The high temperature for the day was in the high eighties. I keep trying to understand the subtleties of the forecasts around here. Lake Pontchartrain seems to play a big role in the weather. The storms seem to flow north and south of the lake with a few forming over the lake. It’s all very confusing.

Moving Day

Thursday July 15th 2021

There was a higher chance of rain today than the last couple. As of the evening it hasn’t rained here. There have been thunderstorms in the area and a few dark clouds with a lot of rumbling nearby. The temperature reached the low nineties with the expected high level of humidity.

Site 103 in the South Campground at Fontainebleau State Park.

Today was a moving day, but not a travel day. My initial reservation at this state park concluded today. I booked this location without my usual level of research, so I only booked a week. The possibility of another tropical storm in the gulf added to my caution. This is a very nice campground with plenty of areas in the state park to explore. The Gulf of Mexico is also not breading any tropical systems at the moment. I decided early in the week to extend my stay here at Fontainebleau State Park for another week. The site I was on is not available over the weekend so I needed to change to another site for the second week.

Small alligator that still has its juvenile stripes.

This morning I got everything ready to move. It takes almost as long to prepare for a short move as a long travel day. I still have to load the bicycle on the car, but I don’t have to prepare the car to be towed. Inside I can leave a few things out, but most things still have to be stowed. Overall, I think it takes about a half an hour less to prepare for a move as opposed to traveling to a new location. That’s why under normal conditions, if I have to move to a new site I don’t extend my stay. This place is nice enough to make an exception. I may even go into New Orleans in the next week. I have been to the Crescent City a couple of times before, so the attraction value is slightly diminished by the difficulties of finding parking. This state park has a lot to offer on its own.

Adult surrounded by well camouflaged little ones.
Another young alligator.

My new site is in the older South Campground. In some ways the site is better than my last one. There isn’t any standing water on the site pad and it is in a quieter area of the park. The only negative is the proximity of the neighbors. The distance between sites is a little less. That will only matter during the busy weekend days.