Tag Archives: outdoors

A Louisiana Life: Shelby Stanga

Shelby Stanga might be a television personality, but you won’t find him living in luxury. The swamp logger prefers to sleep in a sleeping bag and hammock next to a boat launch on the Tangipahoa River.

Stanga has recently become a bit of a star thanks to the History Channel’s show Ax Men, which features him and four other logging companies around the country.

Stanga, as the show chronicles, pulls ancient sinker logs out of the Bedico Swamp in Tangipahoa Parish. Between 1850 and 1944, the swamp around Tangipahoa River and its creeks and bayous was milled extensively. The old-growth trees, most of which are cypress, were felled and floated down the creek to Lake Pontchartrain and used in home construction in New Orleans. Some of the logs sunk, and they’ve been sitting in the mud ever since — some for more than 100 years. The trees range in age from 2,000 years old to 5,000 years old.

Read the rest of the story online at Louisiana Life.

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Seattle sidetrip: Hiking in North Cascades National Park

I HEAR THEM as soon as I get out of the car. Waterfalls. Across the valley are 7000ft saw-toothed mountains, flecked with melting glaciers. The roar of those long streams of meltwater carries for miles.

After an hour of dodging potholes on a partially unimproved Forest Service road, I’m damn happy to be standing up straight, about to get my pack on my back and get up into the mountains.

Read the rest of the story online at Matador Trips.

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Tourist Season

Naples (Florida, not Italy) is ground-zero for the recession. I spent last week there, and driving past foreclosed homes, abandoned construction projects and half-empty strip malls. It’s clear this is one hard-hit city in a hard-hit state.

The other curious thing about Naples is that there’s something known as “season,” which is when the snow-birds come down from the Northern states in winter and Naples becomes overrun with old people. Entire traffic patterns change. Restaurants and beaches are more crowded. It’s apparently such a noticeable difference that several times people remarked, “Wow, this street is so empty when it’s not season” or “Man, it’s going to be busy here come season.”

So early September is apparently a  great time to hit up south Florida. My hotel at Cocoa Beach was mostly empty. The beaches on both coasts were also sparsely populated. It seems like just about everywhere has a down time, a period every year when only the locals are out and about and you don’t have to fight for a parking space. Now that’s my kind of trip.

Mostly-empty Cocoa Beach

Other than that, there’s really no reason to go Naples, Florida. Sure, the white sand beaches are nice, but there’s nothing at all unique there–just box stores and chain restaurants and subdivisions. For me, though, my best buddy showing me around was reason enough. Oh, and her stepdad cooks one helluva medium-rare steak.

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Best parks in Seattle

Seattle has some incredible parks, which is why I find it so hard to get any work when I’m visiting the Emerald City. If you have similar problems when you travel, consider meeting rooms for hire, to get your clients (and you!) away from distractions and to a quiet, conducive work space. In fact, the Warwick Hotel, just downtown, has meeting rooms available, putting you in easy reach of these parks by bus or car–or even on foot. This way, you can get your work done in a professional setting before venturing out to explore.

1. Washington Park and Arboretum

This park is expansive, covering 230 acres northeast of Downtown, so my favorite way to take it in is to combine cycling and walking. I love speeding down the Arboretum’s green hills and hiking the trails at the park’s northern end, which snake through forests and marshy islands.

There are a few hidden swimming and picnicking spots, but I also like having a snack while watching the kayakers on Lake Washington paddling through the lilypads around the I-5 overpasses.

Getting there: Rent a bike at Recycled Cycles, head across the Montlake Bridge and through the parking lot of the Museum of History and Industry. A trailhead starts here, but you’ll have to walk your bike through the marsh trails.

Avoid biking on Arboretum Drive, as you’ll snarl traffic and piss off a lot of drivers. Instead, there are paved roads throughout the park that are closed to vehicles.

Read the rest online at Matador Trips.

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A treeless future

Last night I attended an event to mark the bicentennial celebration of St. Tammany Parish. I contributed to a book on the parish’s history, which was unveiled last night. The huge piles of books made me think that maybe the event could have profited from using an outside document storage company!

The book and its photos are beautiful, and I noticed the predominant color is green. The front cover is a photo of the leafy St. Tammany Trace, my favorite spot to cycle in this part of Louisiana. There are incredible aerial shots of rivers and bayous lined with thick vegetation and of wetlands.

Trees are what I love most about visiting St. Tammany. The concrete of New Orleans wears on me, and when I visit my parents across the lake, I’m struck by how saturated the landscape is with green. It’s almost blinding. I’m always spotting turtles, hummingbirds, deer, rabbits, and possums when I drive around. I think the “natural”/country setting of the parish is what draws so many people to it.

On the way to the event, I passed a new shopping mall. A vast, clear-cut eyesore of parking lots and chain restaurants and offensively large box stores. I noticed numerous wooded lots for sale. Inevitably, when those are sold, all the trees will be cut down, because apparently you can’t build a damn house unless you clear-cut the entire property.

It depressed me that as we honored the history of this beautiful area, we ignored the rampant expansion that’s taking place, that’s degrading much more than just the atmosphere of these small towns. It seems like an incredible oversight on the part of the parish. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it’s hypocritical to honor the past while failing to protect the green spaces that make the parish special.

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Wildlife Surprises

It’s hard to believe anyone could mistake a chubby, gray, bewhiskered manatee for a mermaid, but it’s thought the so-called sea cows may have been the source of the mermaid myth.

These large mammals are sometimes spotted in Lake Pontchartrain and the freshwater rivers of the Northshore, although they stay close to the rivers’ mouths. They migrate to this area from Florida in the spring and leave before winter. If you spot one of these gentle herbivores, consider yourself lucky.

“There are maybe a dozen animals total in Lake Pontchartrain,” but probably fewer, says Gary Lester, biologist manager with the Wildlife and Fisheries’ Natural Heritage Program. “It’s hard to judge, because we’ll get 25 calls coming in for the same animal.”

Read the rest of the story online at Inside Northside magazine.

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Sunken treasure: Keith Dufour’s furniture

CONTACT KEITH: 504-908-6867

Keith Dufour is no stranger to media attention. The Covington furniture maker has appeared on three episodes of the History Channel’s Ax Men series, which feature his logger and four other logging companies around the country.

Dufour’s creations include tables, benches and mirrors made from either reclaimed wood he’s retrieved from old homes slated for demolition or ancient sinker logs pulled out of the Bedico swamp west of Madisonville.

Dufour makes his furniture in his free time from his day job as a territory manager for Cephalon, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company. About ten years ago he hired an acquaintance to teach him woodworking and began making mirrors from wood salvaged from old homes. “I was always fascinated with architectural salvage,” he says.

Read the rest of the story online at Inside Northside magazine.

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