As we drive up to the boat launch grounds Kate's eyes widen, "We have to ride in a canoe together?" She says this as if we have done this before (we have) and then argued (we did) like all couples.
See, I lured Kate away from a morning of sleeping in late by promising adventure - and personal kayaks. Now, we see an afternoon of couples counseling that - as a self-proclaimed natural writer - I can only describe as "Ikea-esque".
Today, Chad Almquist, owner and guide for Canoe and Trail Adventures, has graciously let us tag along with the New Orleans chapter of the Sierra Club on their Cane Bayou excursion. Between back and forth emails setting up the outing I imagined a grizzled, slightly overweight Cajun with outdated gear. However, I was pleasantly proved incorrect when I met Chad. He has a smile that is instantly inviting, a quick wit, and a very relaxed demeanor. Some people are made to take strangers out into new environments for a day and bring them back safely. Chad is definitely the guide you want at your disposal.
At times hilarious, at other times very informational, the 70 year-old outdoor nuts, Chad, Kate and I begin cruising down the current-less waterway. "Bayou" defines a body of slow moving, almost still, waterway. Typically it does not have a defined inlet or source which differentiates it from creeks. Bayous also are not technically brackish although many people mislabel them as estuaries..
An afternoon spent two inches above water that contains snakes, alligators, gar, and numerous insects may seem odd to some, but for people looking for an escape from conrete New Orleans or a quick adventure to be back in time for a milk punch, this is it.
Kate, my forever trusting, lovely partner, and I made a day out of it even though we prefer different speeds to life. I have included a video of her longest consecutive paddling session below as proof to her sense of adventure.
On one turn of the bayou route we are told to steer clear to the left bank because Big Joe, the 12-foot alligator with one eye, is on the right bank. The description of Big Joe is enough to conjure up Cajun tales and folklore, but mostly alligators stay to themselves and Big Joe has clearly let more than his fair share of boaters pass by unscathed. It is a rush to be down on the same level as an alligator. They are massive, magical creatures. They have fought for millennia to stay on this Earth and definitely need to be protected.
By looking at the map above I will write more stories about our adventure in our backyard. From the illicit house one of Huey P. Long's administrators built from stolen goods and workers to the precious mussels the Sierra Club fought to prevent being dredged up in Lake Pontchartrain, there are numerous tales tucked inside the bayou.
It's always important to remember that although the sexy version of "exploring" is to traipse across the globe, hike up mountains, swim to the depths of the oceans, there is still so much to learn at home.
My goal for 2017 is not to neglect what is right in front of me as I look to explore more. I will focus on learning more details about history, ecology, and culture in and around New Orleans, my forever home.