On the way to our Memorial Day spot, we spent a few nights in the Caney Lake Recreation Area of the Kisatchie National Forest in northwest Louisiana, near the town of Minden.
We had originally planned a two-night stopover but were enjoying ourselves so much, we extended for an additional night. We had a great campsite in the Beaver Dam Campground with a peek-a-boo view of Upper Caney Lake and plenty of privacy, as campsites are widely spaced, and the campground wasn't close to being full.
We packed a lot of activity into just two full days. Although we ran into some aggressive loose dogs (pretty typical for the rural south, unfortunately) when riding our bicycles on the roads outside the park property, there is some good (dog-free) road cycling inside the Recreation Area with just the right number of rolling hills to get your heart pumping. And no traffic at the time we were there (mid-week). Score!
There's also a five-mile trail around Upper Caney Lake, the Sugar Cane Trail. This National Recreation Trail is named to commemorate the fact that sugar cane used to be grown and harvested in the area. It's an easy trail through the woods and alongside the lake. We hiked the entire trail one day and mountain biked part of it the next.
On the mountain bikes we couldn't make it all the way around due to swampy conditions and multiple large trees down, blocking the trail, but it was fun to do a little single track for the first time in two years. We are not technical mountain bikers so this "easy" trail was perfect for us. Barry is a lot braver about trying things than I am!
As we traveled through the south, we were excited to be able to bicycle on one of the premier rail-trails in the US, the Longleaf Trace in Mississippi. Here's a brief history of the trail:
A designated National Recreation Trail, it runs atop a stretch of Mississippi Central Railroad line that saw much activity as the region's timber industry flourished between the late 1800s and 1920s. As the industry began to fade, so too did the need for the rail service, and although the railroad struggled into the 1970s, it eventually ceased to be economically viable. Fortunately, a concerted effort by local groups and individuals preserved the corridor, and in 2000 it opened as a trail. (Source: http://www.traillink.com/trail/longleaf-trace.aspx.)
And here's a map of the trail (map source: http://www.longleaftrace.org/):
During my online research I located a campground near the northern end of the trail in Prentiss. This campground on Lake Jeff Davis was small but quiet and well-run. Catering mostly towards fishermen, we were the only cyclists staying there. Note that camping prices have increased from the price in the link. The current price to camp is $18/night.
There's a spur trail off the Trace that leads right to Lake Jeff Davis called Mayor Blount's Contrail. Unlike the Trace, which is near flat, the contrail is a roller coaster of short, steep grades, but it's less than two miles long.
We rode the Trace as far south as Sumrall, where there was supposed to be an ice cream place right along the trail, but it must have gone out of business (sigh). Still, the ride was gorgeous. And we even came upon a Little Free Library there at the trailhead! Too bad I didn't bring the paperbacks I'm finished with -- they could have used 'em. The ride ended up being 50 miles round-trip, so I didn't want to have to do it again the next day!
We were having so much fun, we extended our stay at Lake Jeff Davis for a third night so we could ride north the next day into Prentiss, where we had a donut shop on our radar. We continued down to Carson and back for a shorter ride than the day before.
If you're ever in the area, we can highly recommend a ride on the Trace!
Another activity we missed while spending most of the past year in Mexico was hiking. There are plenty of hikeable spots in the Mexican highlands, of course, but in flat Playa del Carmen, most of the "hiking" involved stepping up the sometimes substantial concrete street curbs. We longed for woodland hikes, and since starting our RV trek, we have taken some good ones.
It has been great lacing up our old hiking boots, pulling out our trusty trekking poles, and hearing, smelling, and seeing all that a lush, green forest has to offer. The birds, the streams, the sound of the wind in the leaves...ahhhh. Besides the ticks -- there have been plenty of those as well. This seems to be a banner year for them. And chiggers! I'd forgotten all about those little spawn of the devil, but I'm covered with welts and have been itching like crazy. I guess this is the price we pay for living in the woods this time of year. (Note: It's still worth it.)
So, as summer fast approaches and insects become even more numerous, our hiking days will be winding down for awhile, but we'll certainly get back to more of this in the fall.
I can't wait.
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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