Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Trail Guide to the Delta Country, bicycling, hiking and paddling trips in Southeast Louisiana, now on the internet.

        The southeastern Louisiana chapters of the Sierra Club have long been dedicated to spreading the news about the wonderful opportunities there are to bicycle, hike, backpack and paddle in the New Orleans area.
       Spreading the news about outdoor opportunities available to area self-propelled travelers began in the early 1970s with mimeographed single sheets, hand-drawn maps and typed directions to top attractions such as Clark Creek in Mississippi and the newly minted Tuxachanie Trail in the De Soto National Forest just north of Gulfport, MS. The effort climaxed with the "Trail Guide to the Delta Country" last updated in 1992 and including about 80 adventures for bikers, hikers and paddlers in Louisiana and Mississippi. most no more than one or two hours drive from New Orleans.  Many, such as Jean Lafitte National Park are within the metropolitan area
        Edited by John Seveniar and illustrated by the late Jeanne de la Houssaye,  the 150 page volume has been out of print for quite a while now. 
         Until an updated edition can be produced (don't hold your breath) the New Orleans Group of the Sierra Club has posted the 1992 edition at their website  At the site click on Publications then click on Trail Guide.  The entire volume is there, divided into two parts.  Part 1 contains maps and descriptions for canoeing the rivers, swamps and marshes and bicycling in the area.  Part 2 gives the same treatment to hiking and backpacking.
         It appears none of the entries have been up dated since that last major revision in 1992.  This is not a problem for every entry.  Many popular outings such as paddling the "whitewater" on the Okatoma Creek near Collins, MS or hiking the hills in Port Hudson, have not changed in the last nearly quarter century.
           But stuff happens and things do change.  The Pearl River Basin, almost ground zero for Hurricane Katrina in 2005, was hit hard by the storm's winds which knocked down trees, changing the course of many familiar passages in the featureless Honey Island Swamp.  The Tangipahoa River entry is an example of how out-of-date some of the entries have become.  A wonderful paddle when the Guide was last published the river is still a wonderful paddle but there is almost no public access  now to get on or off it and outfitters come and go.
         A short stretch of the Tammany Trace, a paved trail for walkers, runners roller skaters and, cyclists with a parallel equestrian trail had been completed and opened to the public when Trail Guide was last published.  But now, in 2016, about 28 miles has been finished with plans to finally complete it to Slidell (by a different route).  The Longleaf Trace, a similar idea running 40 miles northwest from Hattiesburg, MS, to Prentiss, MS, was not even thought of when the Trail Guide was last published.
          Do your homework before trying any of the trails detailed in Trail Guide.  Visit the internet and make phone calls to verify the details of the 26-year-old resource before launching yourself on any of the trips in the book.  Join activity clubs such as hiking and paddling clubs with active members who have first hand and up to date information about the condition of trails featured in Trail Guide.
        While the passage of time has eroded the accuracy of some of the entries, Trail Guides is a valuable first stop when checking out what the area has to offer the self-propelled adventurer in southeast Louisiana.