My friend Shannon who lives about an hour outside of New Orleans, invited me to come visit and see some different things outside of the good old French Quarter. Shannon is an excellent musician, concert photographer, street photographer, and artist. So when he said he had some interesting things to shoot, I didn’t hesitate to take him up on his offer even though it was the middle of Summer and would be extremely hot and humid.
We lucked out since a “cold front” had moved in on our first day, bringing a little bit of rain, but the heat and humidity weren’t too bad. Our first stop was Zeb’s Swamp Tours where ZZ would show us around his collection of reptiles and goats. It’s pretty scary the sound those alligators make, and just to be that close to them. I can’t imagine running into one of those in the wild, which we did while we were frogging later that day!
ZZ was quite a character, he’s also a WWE Wrestler and was on the show Swamp People. His father was also an interesting guy, he and his wife were on Wife Swap years ago. They run a cool swamp tour company, taking tourists around to see the gators and other sights in the area. We had a great time just hanging out and chatting with them, and seeing ZZ interact with the gators.
We then went for a great lunch at Truck Farm Tavern, Shannon had the gumbo and I had a delicious Chicken and Waffles, the waffles were Cinnabon flavored.
Our next stop was to meet Shannon’s 2nd cousin Dave who took us out on the Little Tensas Bayou. We toured around starting at 5pm so we still had daylight, then once it got dark we started our frog hunting. The way it works, we had bright lights on our heads, you look for the white glowing eyes on shore, those are the frogs. The red glowing eyes are gators, the further apart the eyes are, the larger the gator! We mostly saw small baby gators, but we did see a couple that were over six feet near the boat as we passed by.
It started off slow, Dave caught a few, but as it got darker, they started coming out more and more. Shannon missed his first attempt with the net, but got the next one. Then I tried and missed my first one, but redeemed myself on the next one too. There was also a different type of frog that was in the water near the lilypads, those you could just grab as the boat passed by. Dave did the first couple then Shannon took over and got 3 or 4 that way. We were running low on fuel about 10pm so started to head back, still catching more frogs along the way. We ended up with about 35 by 11pm and made it safely back to the boat launch. What a fun time, just riding around the bayou, hanging out with Dave and Shannon, and catching some frogs. Good times!
Our next outing was a couple days later, Shannon found an authentic Cajun restaurant in his hometown where he grew up about an hour outside of New Orleans. He explained that in New Orleans it’s not real Cajun food, you have to go towards Lafayette and Baton Rouge to get the real stuff. We went to Bayou Delight in Houma, not too far from Shannon’s home, but an hour from New Orleans.
Shannon said the place hasn’t changed since he was a kid, you can tell just by the sign out front. But the food was great, we ordered a large variety of fried meats and some sides so I could try as many things as possible. The frog legs were like chicken but a little fishy, the catfish was too fishy for me, only my second time eating fish ever. The gator tasted like duck, boudin was great, as was the onion rings, gumbo and red beans and rice. Excellent meal, we could barely even finish half of it all there was so much food.
We then went to Shannon’s favorite fishing area, The Isle de Jean Charles. For over 170 years, it has been the home of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians. In 1955, Isle de Jean Charles consisted of over 22,000 acres and has since lost about 98% of its land due to saltwater intrusion, and subsidence. There’s still some older tribe members living on the island, but eventually it will be uninhabitable.
I had an amazing two days exploring the Louisiana Bayou, thanks to Shannon for showing me things I’ve never seen, done or eaten before, he went way above and beyond my expectations when he suggested that I come visit to see some cool stuff outside of New Orleans.
Find Shannon’s work here: http://www.instagram.com/shannonatkinsonphoto