Actually, I say that jokingly, as I already knew that I fall into the ‘tree-hugger’ category, and have for many years. What makes it so evident to me is that while visiting the Big Easy, the place I chose to visit FIRST under my limited amount of time to sight-see, was in fact… the Swamp. I have to say that it was about three or four hours well spent, and I loved almost everything about it. So, let me tell you a bit about this incredible nature walk far different from my home in the desert of west Texas.
First, we rode on a bus, and our very knowledgeable driver shared with us a bit about the local history and recent events. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and I recall vividly when that devastating event took place. The mix between the newly rebuilt portions and the gutted structures that have yet to be restored is astounding. The destructive forces of nature are beyond words, but in the end, it was our (man’s) failed attempt at controlling it that led to the flooding there. If the levee had held, Katrina would have been just another storm; and oh, how things have changed because of it.
I found the bus ride to be particularly exciting, and in a way comforting, in light of my recent releases in the Irrevocable Series. I included many references and aspects in that story that were driven home for me on the tour, seeing it all first hand. On that note, I will say that I stand behind everything I said in my ‘fictitious’ story, which is as real as it gets without ever actually happening (yet), and the tour felt very reaffirming in that respect.
On we go – and the second thing that happened on the tour was our arrival at the small tour center, where literally hundreds of people are bused in and dropped off each day to take part in the tour. I had experienced this type of setup last year while vising Las Vegas and taking a bus tour to the Grande Canyon. Here I want to insert some praise, because this is a fabulous way to enable MANY people to go and experience what could be a once in a lifetime activity. The outhouses / bathrooms were hot and muggy, and the store small and quaint for such a large number of customers, but they were well organized and I applaud them at the over all ease and convenience of the entire experience – loved it!
Now for the exciting part – Johnny took us out in a large flat-bottomed boat and the first thing we saw was a HUGE grasshopper that had landed on our canopy. No, it was really called something else, but like I’m going to remember what. He caught it for us and passed it around. Then, a few minutes later, we were farther back into the marsh, and ALLIGATORS started coming right up to the boat. Our guide had joked earlier about having marshmallows and hotdogs in the back, and at this point he pulled them out and began spearing pieces with a long stick. I was flabbergasted, and in my best My Cousin Vinny voice, I could hear myself say, “You were serious about that?”
Oh, he was very serious, and used his treats to lure numerous animals up for us to see (pics posted at the bottom), including raccoons and wild pigs. The snake we picked up from another boat, and also passed it around. Believe me, these animals are well trained, and react to the sound of the boat, and many even come when called (yup, they even have names). It was an amazing experience, as he slowed down and stopped often to share and show, including a few awesome giant spiders that use their legs to fish for minnows (holy crap!). Over all, I loved the tour and would not trade the chance to see those huge old trees and all the wildlife for anything.
But, there is a catch. I really hated to see them using Marshmallows for this, and felt a little sad at the whole circus feel of how things went. Sugar isn’t good for us, and it’s certainly not good for animals, and they have introduced it into their diet. I found it amusing to see that some of the gators liked the hot dogs, while others preferred the white sugary goodness, but again, it really shouldn’t be done, and I would have felt better if all their offerings had been more ‘natural’. I can see why they did it, and appreciate that we were able to enjoy the experience, even with this one dark blot upon it.
Overall, a fantastic adventure. I learned so many things and was thrilled to be there. I love the world, love seeing new and wondrous places, and can’t wait to visit my next destination that will be new and exciting – I am taking my son to Washington, DC, before we hit the signing in Pittsburgh, PA next March, and I cannot wait to get there!