Swamp Tours!

I got up late this morning, and Randy was already outside, fishing in the lake behind our RV. 
But the only thing he caught was little Julienne, when she came up to say "good morning'.
Today we were scheduled to go out with Champagne's Cajun Swamp tours. Our guide, Mason, loaded us up in a boat with 14 other people and headed out into the swamp. The water here is surprisingly shallow, except in the center of the lake. For all the swampiness of it, when we got clear of the surface weeds, the water was quite clear. I could see down a foot or two to the thick undergrowth. Mason said this was a false bottom and if someone stepped out of the boat, they would sink another 2-3 feet. I didn't try. Early in the tour our boat got hung up on a log. This has happened in the past because Mason already had a long bar in the boat, for just this sort of thing. It took him about 5 minutes of prying and pushing to get off the log so we could continue.

We saw a lot of cormorants, blue herons and white herons. If we had been here last week, we could have gone right into the area where they congregate. But nesting season is officially open and the area is restricted now. 

Mason kept pointing out wildlife to us. He even found some snakes. There are cottonmouth snakes in the swamp, and he found a couple of them coiled up in the sun on barely-visible logs. 

But you go on a swamp tour to see alligators. And the very first alligator we sighted was a really big one. We couldn't get very close but his head was huge. Mason knows this one, and told us he's about 14 feet long.
And he's not the biggest one; there is one out here a little bigger. We didn't find him today, but we found a lot other gators sunning themselves. There are supposed to be almost 2,000 alligators in this lake, and our guide was really good at spotting them. Some of them, of course, are little guys that hide in the grass and moss. 
Many are medium-sized. I was surprised how big their tails get. Mason assured us that the whole alligator is good to eat, not just the tail.
And a lot of alligators we saw are big enough to be a threat to anything else on the lake.
We got really close to a  big guy who was very relaxed. He didn't move when the boat got close; obviously he knows we won't bother him.
The funny part was that he was parked right under the spot where, a year ago, some kids put up a rope ladder so they could swing out over the water and drop in. They still swim in the lake but they moved their spot. When he catches on, he'll probably move there.  
Bald cypress trees are perfect for swamps. They are as much a part of the swamp as the alligators - maybe more, because they create the look.
Spanish Moss uses the trees at a home, but doesn't hurt them. Right now the trees are bare from winter. They will green up in summer but will never lose that spooky look. 
There are a few other trees here, too. There are a few Tupalo Gum trees which apparently keep mosquitos away. When I have a house in the south, I probably want to plant one.

There are even more turtles here than alligators. They love to sun themselves on logs, too, and when they find a good one, everyone climbs aboard. 
The locals around here love turtles - as food. Mason told us that this big guy would make a great turtle stew. 
In one area, little green leaves carpet the water, making it look like solid ground. This is slavonia, and it's invasive. 
How good of a guide was Mason? So good that, right before our tour ended, he scouted up a double-dose of gator for us!
It was mid-afternoon by then, so we went looking for lunch. Cafe Des Amis was open and we'd heard it was good, so that's where we went. We ordered a crawfish poboy with sweet potato fries, and an appetizer of fried eggplant with crawfish étouffée sauce and crawfish au gratin sauce. 
It was good, but not as good as we were expecting. For one thing, their bread was wimpy. They could improve their meal a lot just by baking (or even buying) a better bread. 

As we walked back to where we parked the car, we saw the tall double spires we noticed yesterday. I love to check out a pretty cathedral, so we walked over to the St. Bernard De Clairvaux Catholic Church. 
Usually Catholic churches have beautiful stained glass windows, and this one was no exception. Love this!
We went back to our RV for the night, where the sunset across the lake was simply gorgeous.

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