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Small Stuff #68: Good Gator Friday April 2, 2010

Posted by dianehuhn in Louisiana Wildlife.
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2 comments

Small stuff that I am grateful for today: seeing a very playful (or a very hungry) young gator.

So Spring has sprung on the bayou and, as my good friend BW can tell you, the gators have been out in full force. BW and tour de force saw 18 gators (and numerous snakes) yesterday! Check out the most awesome pics here. Yikes on those snake pics! Termite–you got the gift, buddy! Just super!

Well, I don’t think I saw 18 gators today, but I definitely saw a few. Including this either very playful, or very hungry, tike.

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Small Stuff #66: Back to Reality March 26, 2010

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Louisiana Wildlife.
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4 comments

Geez…looks like I’ve been gone a while. All good stuff–Spring break volunteer season has kept me on the run and filled my heart with much joy, but it’s time to get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Small stuff that I am grateful for today…one adult bald eagle…

…one juvenile bald eagle…

…two juvenile bald eagles…

…and two angry alligators.

I love the bayou!

For Your Viewing Pleasure September 30, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Friends, Louisiana Wildlife, Photography.
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6 comments

Sorry y’all. Haven’t had much of anything interesting or funny to say lately, but a good friend was nice enough to take me on a swamp tour recently. So how about some pictures and I will save you from having to read my dribble?

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What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been September 20, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Friends.
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7 comments

Some day during the past week marked the one year anniversary of my arrival in Chauvin, LA. I can’t actually recall the specific date. According to my first blog post after arriving here, I said that I had arrived 11 days earlier. If the post on September 28th was correct, then I guess I arrived on the 17th since 28 minus 11 is 17. But since WordPress goes by Greenwich Mean Time for upload times, I might have actually made that post on the 27th, which would mean that I arrived on the 16th because 27 minus 11 is 16. But, then again, I stated that I only thought that I had arrived 11 days earlier.

You’d think I would have written this momentous occassion down somewhere. Oh wait, I did. I was keeping a journal of all the crazy things I experienced, like the giant pig running down the middle of the debris strewn highway straight at my car and almost hitting a downed telephone pole to avoid it. And seeing and smelling the dead pig in the bayou that didn’t survive the flood waters. And seeing televisions in trees. And the old Bayou People talking in Cajun French about the crazy Yankee girl unloading semi trucks of supplies. And shoveling seven inches of mud out of flooded homes.  And being scared that the alligator that people saw a few days earlier in the field behind where I was staying in a borrowed RV from Idaho or Texas or someplace would eat my dog. And driving across a road collapsing in the water in order to help tarp roofs and gut out homes damaged by wind and high water. And eating fried alligator for the first time and deciding that it was really, really good and hoping that maybe it was the gator that people saw in the field behind where I was staying in a borrowed RV from Idaho or Texas or someplace. And hundreds of other amazing, tragic, humorous, crazy things. But long story short, my laptop got completely wiped out about three weeks in to this adventure and I lost everything. Yes, I do know that I should have backed everything up, but I barely had time to sleep in those first few weeks following the devastation of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, let alone back up my computer.

So let’s just say I marked my first anniversary on the bayou somewhere between September 15th and September 18th. But I guess I can’t really say that I “marked” it if I don’t actually know when it was. Anyway, I thought I would spend some time sharing the wisdom I have gained during this past year (give or take a few days). But unfortunately, my brain is completely fried after helping with three Bayou Bash fundraising parties in two days for the local kids and I need to hit the shower so I can help out with two more today. So for now, let’s just say that I am probably the most blessed person I know to have had the opportunity to meet the most amazing people I have met and experience the most amazing experiences I have experienced. Wouldn’t have traded one minute for anything in the world . And here’s hoping for another amazing year, minus shoveling mud and tarping roofs and gutting homes and crying with people who no longer have homes.

I’ve had the opportunity to photograph some unbelievably beautiful and amazing things during the past year, but this is my favorite. Most people probably wouldn’t give this photograph a second glance. Technically, it’s not a particularly great picture. The lighting isn’t too good. It’s not framed well. One of the subjects has her eyes closed. But to me, this photo is priceless. And every time I look at it, tears of joy and sadness stream down my face.

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Time Flies June 28, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Big Fun on the Bayou, Fishing, Friends, Louisiana Wildlife, Ramblings, Relief Work.
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3 comments

So I can see from the date of my last post that I have been a bad blogger once again. It’s been a fun-filled week of new friends, volunteers (who are now new friends), relief work, paper work, good food, too much sun, gator spotting, eagle spotting, and fishing. And oh boy, did we fish!

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And fished some more…

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and a little more for good measure.

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Oh yeah, and a little more fishing just to be sure.

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And since a limit a day keeps the psychiatrist away…

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And although it looks like I spent every waking moment fishing, I actually did engage in a few other activities. Like chasing what I thought was an eagle around the rec center for 2 hours in the 104 degree heat trying to get a good pic, but not being too successful…no matter since it wasn’t a real eagle…DSC_4437

and trying to get a good picture of a gator at night…

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and trying to keep a safe distance, but still get a good pic of some honey bees…

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and trying to get just a little better close up…

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and carting around tools and supplies for a great bunch of guys from Tennessee (the Volunteer State I might add)…

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and becoming the incredibly proud owner of a GJ original (although I was so excited I forgot to turn it the right way for the camera).

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And now it’s time to pack a bag for a few adventures of the Michigan variety and get a little bit of this action going on.

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My Adventure With The Swamp Dwellers, Part 3.14159265… June 20, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Big Fun on the Bayou, Friends.
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18 comments

OK, so we rounded a bend in the canal and I caught sight of a dock and what looked the outline of two bayou beings of the human variety.

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The two bayou beings are first cousins, separated by 30 years, but joined by their deep love and respect for the enchanting south Louisiana landscape.

I learned that the older cousin is 84 years old, but I honestly wouldn’t have pegged him for more than 72 or 73. It might sound odd to describe the movement of such a man as graceful, but he just seemed to spring lightly about the dock. I could immediately picture him moving swiftly across the flottant while his younger cousin, nearly double in stature, would most likely be lumbering well behind on the verge of breaking through any second on his way to China.

As we chatted about the fish that had gotten away, I could not stop looking out on this view. Unfortunately, my photos just don’t seem to do it justice.

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I sat entranced by the wealth of history carried by this older cousin. He was born out here. Grew up hunting and fishing and trapping. Living off the land. Crossing the canal by pole. It felt odd to realize that this man and my father were born in the same year. Not that my father was a city boy. He did his fair share of hunting and fishing and exploring along the banks of the Grand River. But I got the sense that their lives were vastly different, but both much more tied to nature than their succeeding generations.

As the older cousin explained how, at 84, he still works trapping nuisance alligators (seriously, how cool is that???), an occassional bass would splash about toying with us and all of us would momentarily pause the conversation looking at each other to determine who would grab the fishing pole next to try our luck. First the younger cousin…

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then BW…

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then the older cousin…

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and I certainly couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try my hand. (Thanks for the pic, BW!)

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But alas there would be no bass upon our plates so we settled instead for a most delicious, old-fashioned, camp meal of boiled steak and potatoes prepared perfectly by the younger cousin.

Before we knew it, the day had gotten away from us and it was time for BW and I to bid adieu to my new friends…

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and book it on home while the sun took it’s leave at our backs.

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If you’re ever down the south Loozy way, I would highly suggest you arrange a tour with BW and make it a point to drink in this magnificent jewel for yourself. But, sadly, you’d better not wait too long. If we can’t get some real action moving soon to restore and protect the Louisiana coast, this treaure will be lost like so many before and a whole way of life washed away with it.

Alright BW…when are we going back?

For more scenes from this most amazing day, click here.

What to do if your kayak encounters alligators… June 25, 2008

Posted by dianehuhn in Paddling.
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3 comments

Took a paddle along Sampson State Park on Seneca Lake tonight. It was beautiful! Saw more fish than I’ve seen in a long time. More birds than I can name. Even saw a snake twisting it’s way across the surface, which I admit scared the heck out of me. It was huge. OK, well maybe it wasn’t that big. Well, actually it was just a baby snake. But it was still a snake and it was heading right for me! Well, I thought it was. Alright…I admit it. I’m a wimp.

Anyway, I can’t wait to paddle the bayous, but the snake incident got me to thinking. So, what am I going to do if I come across a gator??? Well, I decided to do a little research and share my findings with you in the event that you are ever in this situation. Here are some tips I found, but I’ve added a few of my own thoughts in boldface.

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR KAYAK ENCOUNTERS ALLIGATORS:

When you happen on a gator, it will almost certainly run right into the water (and at that point I will undoubtedly be crying and sitting in a puddle of something other than water) . Although it appears to be charging, it is just trying to get into the water where it feels safest (are they completely sure about this? I mean if I’m scared of something, I tend to run away from it, not charge towards it.). Pay attention to the following in planning a paddle adventure in alligator territory:

1. Contact your local Fish & Game Dept for trends in predator activities such as mating and nesting season for alligators, seasonal behavior patterns and times of day of increased predator activity or recent attacks (yep, I’m scared). This is usually dusk & dawn, as darkness gives any predator an advantage (OK, no dusk or dawn paddles. Not a problem.); but don’t just rely on that (oh great!).

2. It is always smart to keep your wits about you (easy for you to say!), so stay sober (alright, but if I’m going to get eaten by a gator, do I really want to be sober?), and in the warm months do not cut around creek bends too closely, as these are the strategic spots where alligators like to lay hidden and keep an eye out for prey (ie. me). Shallow waterways in the south (ie. the bayou) are favorite places for alligators to nestle down. Avoid the chance you may unsettle them (yes, yes, no unsettling). Although alligators are shy, they don’t like being surprised (well, sure, neither do I, but I don’t have jaws capable of delivering a bite with 1800 pounds of pressure), and paddling in ditches about 5-10 feet wide when alligators can leap 5 feet from water’s edge is asking for trouble (OMG, they fly too???), especially in the warmer months in the evening when they are on the prowl, and during nesting season which is roughly the entire summer (note to self–no summer paddling trips).

3. If you want to explore shallow narrow areas where alligators frequent, do it when temperatures fall below 70 degrees, when alligators basically become inactive (but it’s Southern Louisiana, so how often does this happen?). Put as much as 100 feet distance between them and your kayak (You got it!).

4. Although a gator that slips off a bank on your approach is somewhere underneath you (ahhhhh!), and may even follow you a little (oh boy, maybe this isn’t such a good idea), stay calm (um..sure) and know that it will not “thump” you from underneath (that’s what she said) or lunge out of the water at you. Keep paddling (very, very quickly), be wary, and if you are a little spooked (a little?), a group of South Carolina kayakers familiar with alligators advise that you bang your paddle on your kayak a few times to intimidate it (ok, banging paddle good). Some however believe this may sound like wounded prey thrashing about in the mud peaking its interest (whoa, so am I supposed to bang my paddle of not??? Come on people, this is serious, make up your mind!). Because their hearing is sensitive I would remove all doubt and use my PFD whistle (I think I’ll be investing in a nice large air horn).

5. Signs an alligator is near (oh good, they post signs): A wallow where they like to roll and cool down in the mud; a slide where they slip into the water; a nest (so will there be signs posted or not?). If you ever come across small alligators with, depending on the species, yellow stripes, you have found juveniles, which means the mother is somewhere nearby. Baby alligators stay with mom for up to a year. If you remember anything, don’t ever stop to observe them or try to touch or catch one (seriously, there’s no need to worry about that happening!). The protectiveness of mother alligators can not be overstated. Certainly do not hunt, harass, or feed them (certainly!).

Alrighty then…anyone interested in a cheap used kayak???