The big sticky: Louisiana in the summer

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of July 11-18, 1996
Trekking in Idaho's Sawtooths
Paddling coastal New England
A short course in mountain sickness
Inns and trails on Vancouver Island
The big sticky: Louisiana in the summer

The big sticky: Louisiana in the summer
Question: I will be in New Orleans on business during the first week of August. After being in town for a week I'd like to spend a few days exploring Louisiana's wilder, er, I mean more natural side. Oh Adventure Adviser, any suggestions? Anything safe to do when it's 95 degrees and 97 percent humidity in southern Louisiana?

Tom Lockwood
Saint Charles, MI
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Let's face it, Tom: August is not an ideal time to be mucking about in the Louisiana backcountry. But if you're desperate to get away from the Bourbon Street mob scene for a little P&Q in the woods, consider renting a car and heading north to the Kisatchie National Forest near Alexandria. This way, you'll get the double thrill of touring the beautiful, albeit occasionally murky, central Louisiana countryside, plus getting a taste of some wild terrain.

But still, what could be better? The 31-mile Wild Azalea Trail makes a great there-and-back amble through bottom and upland hardwood forests, pine stands, and--bring the bug juice at all costs!--cypress bogs.

Pick up the gently graded trail at Valentine Lake and head nine miles in to Evangeline Camp. Pitch your tent anywhere as long as you're at least 30 feet from the trail. At mile 14.5 you'll hit Castor Creek Scenic Area, an untrammeled section of forest that's basically been untouched for more than 50 years. If you're short on time, plan on turning around here, or even earlier. Either way, you'll miss the azalea-laden two-mile stretch at the end of the trail near Woodworth; they only bloom in March and April.

Aside from the humidity, which you know will be cloying and nightmarish, be on the lookout for cottonmouth snakes.

You won't need a permit, but for pre-trip planning and maps, call Kisatchie National Forest at 318-473-7160. Their Recreation Opportunities in the Evangeline Recreation Complex, complete with topographic map and a rundown of park rules, is a bargain at a whopping $2. Pack and Paddle in Lafayette (800-458-4560) offers guided day hikes for $35 per person.

To find the trailhead, head north from Crescent City to Alexandria and then drive west on Louisiana 28 for 15 miles to Gardner. From there, head south on Louisiana 121 for half a mile, take a left on Forest Road 279, and drive five miles to the trailhead. For more details, check out the Louisiana write-up in "America the Hoofable" in the Destinations section of our April 1996 issue.

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