The destination for my adventure was an off-the-grid (to remain unnamed) hunting camp deep in the Atchafalaya River Basin. (When I first showed up in these parts I mistakenly thought it was pronounced ATCH-afalaya. I was quickly corrected that the pronunciation is At-CHAF-alaya. My confusion I guess is because we pronounce the Mississippi River MISS-issippi and not MissISSippi.) The funny name "Atchafalaya" comes from two Choctaw Indian words: "hatcha" meaning "river" and "falaya" meaning "long." I like to joke that "Atchafalaya catfish" sounds a lot like "watch you filet a catfish!"
What does this have to do with the hunting camp trip? The entire Atchafalaya River basin is basically a spillway because in the circumstance of major flooding on the Mississippi River, the Old River Control Structure can be opened entirely, flooding the valley to the south and alleviating the water levels in the Mississippi. Jonathan's camp lies right smack dab in the middle of that flood zone. The result is that per the US Army Corps of Engineers, no permanent structures can be built in that area (except for grandfathered structures). The result is PRIME hunting country.
I arrived late Friday night and spent two nights. I enjoyed getting to know all the guys who hunt there and hearing their stories. I think its always important to remember -as a person who loves nature - that the people are a result of the land - and all customs and culture inherent to a group of people are born from a way of life which came from - you guessed it - the land. South Louisiana, if you have never been, is colorful. The way people talk is inherently entertaining. Combine that with fishing, hunting, and all the various traditions and you get a wildly fascinating culture. This was highlighted the second night I was there when a cajun named Kearney LeFleur cooked up a pot of something called "Catfish Coubion" (pronounced "koo-bee-AH") in a pot that he made with is own two hands. Coubion is basically stew and simmers and warms until it's ready. The best part was the catfish in the catfish coubion came from the Kearney's other camp - a fishing camp. It is a sight to behold, if you ever get the chance: A group of cajun's sitting under the stars deep in the Atchafalaya Basin gathered around a fire, swapping stories, swatting mosquitoes, and chowing down on a pot of catfish coubion.
My stay at the camp was short - too short - but I did get a chance to explore a little bit. I took Hart and we meandered through the woods and explored Bayou Cortableau which bisects the camp. Sadly, I still have yet to see an alligator in the wild in Lousiana, which frustrates me immensely. Although, Jonathan assured me there were some in Bayou Cortableau. The temperatures were warm during the day and the mosquitoes were vicious. But it's Louisiana. And in Louisiana, mosquitoes are part of the deal.
Sunday morning, I rolled back to Shreveport. I fully intend to return to the camp as I have already been invited back by Jonathan. As a momento of my visit, Kearney gave me some red squirrel tails. I have one on my hat (which you can see on the title page of my blog) and one hanging from my rearview mirror in my car. The tails are a fun reminder of my Atchafalaya adventure!
|Hart guarding the camp|
|This cabin is called The "Hilton"|
|Hart still guarding the camp|
|He finally gave up on guarding the camp|
|An unnamed native, who informed me that he couldn't |
face the camera because it would steal his soul
Until the next adventure...