We have camped two weeks at Fountainbleu State Park in Mandeville, Louisiana. This park has hundreds of ancient live oaks covered in Spanish moss, access to Lake Ponchartrain, fishing piers, and the magnificient Tammany Trace.
The Trace is a 30 mile stretch of paved Rails to Trails bike path. It starts in old Covington, runs through Abita Springs and Mandeville concluding in Slidell. Each crossing street has crosswalk paint on either the bicycle or car routes; some expect the auto to yield to the bike. Natives of Louisiana know not to rely on other natives’ observing traffic laws, but this is possibly the safest bicycle route we’ve ever seen. To make it even better the trees are mostly hardwoods. In winter they have no leaves and you get sun, while in summer they provide shade. The top half of the route is mostly north to south meaning if it’s hot you can rely on shade for all but a couple of hours around noon. The bottom half is east to west which means you will usually ride in full sun: very nice on cooler days.
There’s so much nature to see here. On most spring to mid-fall rides you can spot a dozen species of wildflowers, including spectacular midnight blue morning glories in August, Carolina jasmine in March, trumpet vines all summer, and in late April a big white flower with a gold center growing in carpets of vines above the swamp. (If you know its name please enlighten me.)
You will see raccoons, possums, jackrabbits, turtles and tortoises, all kinds of birds, and the occasional snake. Swamp People notwithstanding, we have never seen a gator, which could be a good thing.
Kat’s favorite ride starts in Mandeville and goes to Bayou Lacombe and back. The Lacombe bridge is a fine spot to replenish electrolytes and get off that little seat a minute or two before the nine mile return trip. My favorite ride begins at the Abita Springs roundabout and goes west toward Covington. Do this around 1:30 on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday afternoon (or anytime between 11:00 and 2:00 on Saturday). Turn off the Trace onto Plantation Street going north, hit the two-lane road known as Highway 36 and go a couple hundred yards west. Then enjoy a tour of the Abita Brewery with generous samples in the Tasting Room. Wear closed-toe shoes … safety or something? The round trip is 7 miles, one for each brew you’ll taste. Be sure to try Purple Haze and TurboDog. Haze is a raspberry infused wheat beer. T-Dog is rich and dark, almost a stout.
If you don’t bike, or if it’s rainy, Abita Brewing has parking for your toad or TV. When you camp at Fountainbleu or Fairview/Riverside in Madisonville, the Brewery tour is a trip well worth taking.