We left the Lake Charles area and headed east on I-10. The most beautiful part of the trip took us through the Atchafalaya swamp. The swamp has a lot of open water … … and is navigable in many places. Most of the area is boggy and filled with cypress and other native trees. This was about 18 miles of elevated roadway, and we could have done another 18 miles without getting bored. What a beautiful place! Soon, though, we started seeing signs for our destination. New Orleans? Nope … Hammond, Louisiana! Our route took us through Baton Rouge and across the Mississippi. We arrived at our Louisiana destination after looking forward to this stop for about six months! Why? This is where our friends Robert and Kathy live during the winter, and this park has been the goal during our entire trip. We've spent two summers camping with them in Washington, and coming to Louisiana for a visit is a treat! It's a beautiful park. We're just across from the lake, with nice big pine trees behind us. Of course the pine trees are in bloom right now. This is how much pollen is on our car! And here's the culprit! Our first field trip with Robert and Kathy was to Tickfaw State Park. We walked through the park on an elevated boardwalk and enjoyed the sights and sounds of a Louisiana swamp up close and personal. Those bits that are sticking up out of the bog are cypress knees. They're part of the root system, and nobody is really sure what they're for. Scientists have several theories, but for now their purpose remains an interesting and lovely mystery. Note to Trent: No alligators so far! On another day out we went to visit Robert's brother and sister-in-law. That's Robert on the right and his brother, Mayson, on the left. Mayson has a boat, and he was kind enough to take us for a spin on the Tickfaw River! The weather was perfect, the river is beautiful, and we had a fun day. We saw fishing camps tucked into the edge of the river. This one is on stilts and has a dock. Here's another style. This is a houseboat along the edge of the river. Just look at that cypress tree! Loaded with Spanish moss, surrounded by its mysterious knees, thriving with its feet in the river. Spring seems to happen in leaps and bounds here. One day the trees are bare, and the next they're in leaf. This one is just beginning to pop out. Bill thought Tara looked like a 1930's classic hood ornament. Tara thought Bill looked like a ship's figurehead. Here's Bill, relaxing and enjoying the river. And Robert, telling a story. He and Mayson grew up in this area, and this river seemed to be their natural environment. Bill grew up on Long Island, Tara grew up on Puget Sound, so between the three of us we had all the coasts covered! There are a lot of nice homes on the river, and most of them have boat sheds. Everyone seems to have a powered lift on which to store their boats. The third picture shows a lift out of the water, but with no boat. Check out the bottom of the boat in the last shot. See how dark and discolored it is? That's what happens if you leave the boat floating in the river for too long, and that's why they have the lifts! There's a place on the Tickfaw called Tin Lizzie's. It's a restaurant and bar that's open on weekends through the summer, and you can get there by car or by boat. We didn't see it from the water, but we drove around on another day and enjoyed exploring this iconic river establishment from the land side. We also visited the town of Hammond, Louisiana, where Robert and Mayson grew up. Hammond is a well-kept, nicely busy town of more than 20,000 people. If you look up the Wiki on Hammond, you'll find a lot of interesting information about the area. And by the way, the mayor's name is Mayson. Coincidence? Ummm … no. :)We've been keeping busy while we've been here, and as we have time, we'll tell you all about our trip into New Orleans and to a couple of the famous Mississippi River plantation houses.