I was 16 miles from the Louisiana state line when I woke up on December 7th. It was a chilly 39 degrees outside as I packed up my gear. The woman camping “next door” brought me a cup of piping hot coffee, which helped warm me up. I walked back to the highway and said goodbye to the Gulf of Mexico around 8 AM. I had enjoyed walking next to its beautiful waters for a few days.
The last 16 miles in Mississippi were incredibly peaceful. I walked a few back roads that had next to no traffic. I remembered my friend Wanda I had met a few days before, who loves walking without her phone or music. She inspired me to stash my phone inside PJ and walk in silence for the first four hours of the day. I cherished my quiet surroundings and got “lost” in the beautiful forests I walked through.
After 12 miles, I hit the wide shoulder of Highway 90 and closed in on Louisiana. I crossed a bridge that spanned the White River and officially hit the fourth state of my journey. As you’ll see in coming days, walking across bridges will become part of my normal routine!
I walked across a total of five bridges in the first four miles of the Pelican State. Although none of them had a shoulder, traffic levels were low, which made crossing them much easier.
I reached the outskirts of Slidell near dark. Louisiana came across as sinister and unwelcoming initially. Most of the land directly off the road was fenced. Private property/no trespassing signs were hung on trees every 30 feet. The forests were thick, dark, and brambly.
I reminded myself not to worry about where I would sleep. A solution would present itself. It always does. “Keep the faith.” A few miles later I passed a fishing shop that had a Coke sign hanging in the window. I noticed a nice grassy spot under a massive live oak tree on the property. That looked like a great to sleep, I told PJ. I went inside. The smell of gutted fish hit me as soon as I walked in. Six men were sitting around a table, drinking beer. This place was half fishing shop, half bar. All their eyes fixated on me. I said hello with a big smile. I bought a Coke and some snacks and introduced myself.
The owner of Jes Tackle is an older man named Richard. He was skeptical at first….about me, about my walk, and about my sleeping there for the night.
He must have picked up on some desperation in my eyes. I didn’t want to face the shoulderless highway to the west of me at dark and at the peak of rush hour. “I’m not saying you can camp there, but I’m not saying you can’t either. Catch my drift? If something happens to you, I’m not responsible. And don’t break into my shop overnight,” Richard said, only half kidding.
It wasn’t a ringing endorsement, but was good enough for me. I talked with the beer-sipping Louisianans for a bit before heading outside and setting up camp. Right before dark, one of the men from the “bar” came over to my tent and gave me a box of brownies, a half dozen oatmeal cream pies, and a full box of nutty butty bars. I was set on the junk food front for weeks. Best of all, nobody messed with me overnight. After all, I’m the crazy guy in the tent pushing the jogging stroller across America.
I made my way through Slidell in the morning and began a 31 mile walk down the Tammany Trace. “The Trace,” as the locals call it, is a paved recreational path that runs from Slidell to Covington. I spent a blissful day-and-a-half on the trail free from vehicle noise and narrow bridges. It was heavenly. I cowboy camped on a horse path right off The Trace near Convington on my second night in Louisiana.
It was back to reality after making it through Covington. I was three hard days from Baton Rouge and I had some tough walking on Highway 190 ahead of me. My biggest obstacles so far in Louisiana have been bridges. On the walk from Covington to Hammond, I crossed 11 of them. From Hammond to Walker, there were 10 PJ and I clumsily jogged across. Most of them were 20 or 30 yards long. Four were about a quarter of a mile. In the case of the longer bridges, PJ and I actually walk with traffic. None of the bridges had shoulders, so by walking with traffic, we force cars to slow down and scoot over for us if they can’t safely get around. I literally put my life in the hands of motorists. There is nowhere to bail if a driver isn’t paying attention (though I do wait for a sizeable gap in traffic before crossing a bridge).
After a few crossings, we got the hang of it! After a 27 mile walk from Covington, I camped outside a gas station in Hammond. I reached Walker (appropriately named, I’d say) the following night. We hit town at rush hour and came to a bridge that was way too dangerous to cross given the traffic levels. Fortunately, there was a nice level spot under the bridge where I camped for the night.
I pushed PJ across the tricky bridge that led into downtown Walker early the following morning when traffic was at a minimum. From downtown Walker, the walk into Baton Rouge was a narrow, high trafficked, difficult 24 mile walk. Without a wide shoulder, I pushed PJ through the roadside grass, mud, and on some uneven slopes. But we made it to the Mighty Mississippi in one piece.
After 31 days and 720 miles of walking, PJ and I reached the quarter-pole on our third walk across America in Louisiana’s capital city.
I’m taking the weekend off and staying with Terry Jones. I met Terry on my first walk at a gas station in Central Wyoming. He was helping his daughter, Robyn, move to Washington State. Terry reached out to me a few weeks ago and invited me to stay with him when I hit town.
Terry and his girlfriend, Insa, have spoiled me rotten with some amazing meals at Mike Andersons (a staple for seafood in the Baton Rouge area), and at Houmas Plantation. I have gotten my fill of oysters, shrimp, crawfish, crab, and catfish – all delicious! I hadn’t eaten any seafood on my journey before reaching Baton Rouge (packaged tuna fish doesn’t count). Terry and Insa are very generous, kind, thoughtful, and fun people. I couldn’t ask for better hosts – thank you both!
I’ll be leaving Baton Rouge Monday, December 14th. My original plan was to walk Highway 190 through the rest of Louisiana, but after getting some local advice from Terry, I will be following a few smaller highways up to Alexandria and then continue west from there. 190 has a few mile long causeways without shoulders that would be dangerous to walk. Heading to Alexandria will add a few miles, but it will be worth it to walk a quieter, safer road – in theory!
Favorite Three Pictures
33 days, 720 miles walked
24 jars of peanut butter consumed
Roadside change count – $2.65
Favorite roadside find – A pair of brand new, high visibility, cool weather gloves. I found them while I was searching for a camping spot outside of Walker.
Bridges crossed in Louisiana – 30
Encounters with law enforcement – 0
Miles per shower in Louisiana – 37.66
Until next time, walk on!