Exploring At Home: Bayou Style

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 Between back and forth emails setting up the outing I imagined a grizzled, slightly overweight Cajun with outdated gear.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.

Bayou Cane Outing Adventure Storytelling Map

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.


Beers of Summer

It’s 100-degrees outside and already a nap sounds tempting. It would be wrong to waste such a beautiful day, but biking or paddling or even walking outside sounds grueling and unappealing. So, like everyone who needs encouragement to get up and get moving you promise yourself a summer treat. Not a child’s sno-ball or sweet tea, but an ice cold beer.

Drinking beer in the summer has taken on a form of finesse. With the rise of so many beers and breweries you label yourself automatically whenever you hold a can or bottle. For the adventurous kind we tend to lean towards cans because they are more environmentally-friendly and won’t break in our backpack or dry bag. For those who are more leisurely with their activities the options become almost limitless.

So, what are the beers for this summer? Keep it low in alcohol since the heat already is a burden. Make it crisp and refreshing, and yes, extremely cold. Do not waste your time sipping the beers you hate no matter how cool the can looks.

Let’s not forget about the holy invention of the mini-can. Of course, these beers are mainly from macro-breweries so tiny soldiers from Corona, Michelob Ultra, and Coors Light will grace your cooler this season. Do not let anyone give you heat for this. They are informing you that they are inexperienced drinkers. Chances are they have not lasted hours on hot sandy beaches, mosquito-infested kayak trips, or simply live in the South.

I compiled a list of my favorites summer sippers, but then asked Lauren McCurdy, Marketing Manager for Good People Brewery in Birmingham, AL, to let us in on her seasonal specials. Below is a great starter package for summertime. (My sole recommendations are listed with a ** while her input is in quotations.)


  • Good People Bearded Lady (American wheat) and Good People Pale Ale— “Even if I didn’t work at the brewery, I seriously would make these two brews my top two choices for summer drinking. Since Good People people are huge fans of hops, this American Wheat ale is light, bright, with a slight bite of citrusy hops at the end. Good People Pale is my ride or die. It’s what I choose to drink no matter what mood I’m in or what the weather is like.”

    • ABV: 4.2%/5.8%

    • Activity pairing:  Festivals, BBQ contests, rock climbing


  • Anchor Lager— “This is what made me love lagers. The can is super sharp looking (the California flag), but the beer is so easy to drink that you don’t even realize that you’ve had the whole six pack.”

    • ABV: 4.9%

    • Activity pairing:  Camping, BBQ, mountain biking


  • Westbrook Gose— “This was my go-to when I first started working at [Good People Brewery]. No A/C in Alabama during the summer and a million people to pour beer for? You’re going to need something to satisfy your thirst, but maybe also get you buzzed after that crazy shift you just had!” (Writer’s note: this is also my go-to beer when I want something to sip on, but don’t want to feel like I’m gearing up for a Saturday crawfish boil.)

    • ABV: 4%

    • Activity pairing: festivals, Sunday Funday


  • Shiner Ruby Redbird— “Really refreshing and easy to drink with a nice kiss of ginger.”

    • ABV: 4.01%

    • Activity pairing: crawfish boils, kayaking, running


  • Sierra Nevada Otra Vez— “I may just really love goses, but Sierra Nevada really hit it out of the park with this one. There’s nothing overly salty/tart/cactusy/etc about this beer, but it’s really well balanced.” (Keep goses away from saltwater activities as they are already quite salty tasting.)

    • ABV: 4.5%

    • Activity pairing: mountain biking, rock climbing, trail running


  • Carton Boat Beer— “Shoutout to NJ! Grab some tall boys, get on the boat, and you’ve got a pretty perfect day in my mind.”

    • ABV: 4.2%

    • Activity pairing:  fishing, skiing, kiteboarding, sailing


  • Bells Oberon— “My mom is not a huge beer drinker, but she LOVES Bells Oberon. It’s a beer that we can both enjoy.” (This is a beer anyone can find refreshing. Michigan takes on Canadian beer.)

    • ABV: mixed

    • Activity pairing: camping, hiking, boating, canoeing


  • Oskar Blues Pinner— “I actually got to try this for the first time at the Oskar facility in Brevard, NC. I had a great experience there and this beer was definitely one of the highlights.”

    • ABV: 4.9%

    • Activity pairing:  kayaking, SUP, biking, camping, hiking, just about anything


  • **Big Wave Golden Ale—A great way to get the saltwater out of your mouth after water sports.

    • ABV: 4.4%

    • Activity pairing: SUP, surf, beach day, hiking


  • **Endless River: It is bright, crisp, and everything you need in a summer beer. Drink it ice, ice cold for ultimate refreshment.

    • ABV: 5.0%

    • Activity pairing: any damn day


Now pack up the dry bag, backpack, overly-expensive Yeti, and head out! Have you completed the “New Orleans 52” bike ride yet?

Originally written for Where Y'at.