En Route to New Orleans

She sat beside me, silent, as we rode on and on until we’d passed the gas-lit gates of the few country houses, and the shell road narrowed and became rutted, the swamp rising on either side of us, a great wall of seemingly impenetrable cypress and vine. I could smell the stench of the muck, hear the rustling of the animals.
— Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire

In our big transition into the city, from Grand Isle to New Orleans, our Bookpacking group stopped into the Barataria Preserve Trails, and to be honest, with the greatest intent being to spot ourselves an alligator. Extremely excited for this endeavor, I did research all the differences of alligators and crocodiles while we were en route, just to make sure I knew what I was talking about when that ever popular question came up, "Do they have alligators or crocodiles in Louisiana?" To be ever prepared yourself, I suggest you do your own research.

Beyond our obvious and ecstatic fascination with 'gators,' we had already begun to read Anne Rice's novel, Interview with the Vampire, which very immediately, engages your interest in swamps, bogs, bayous, what-have-you. I was eager to explore a difficult terrain with marvelously perfect attributes for a vampire to hide its victims. Anne Rice writes of Louis, a struggling, righteous, moral vampire, who becomes the immortal companion of sadistic, cruel, immoral vampire, Lestat. The two peruse the bayou, whether it be to hide the body of a recently drained slave, or in the various attempts Louis decides to reinvent his vampiric-self by trying an animal blood diet. And while Louis' diets never last very long, we can't really blame him. None of us can do it here in Louisiana either, Lou.


We hopped out of the van, the humidity thicker near the stagnant water of the bayou, the shade darker under the supposedly only fledgling cypress trees, all with our hearts set on finding that illusive gator. Sadly, you will have to be disappointed, as we all were, to learn that we did not spot our alligator beauty in the murky waters of the swamp that day. We are all dealing with this in our own ways; Morgan is still encouraging the group with her Steve Irwin impressions.

We walked down the boardwalk of the Barataria Trails, inter-webbed over the low-lying water and between the cypress trees. We looked high --but mostly low for that gator-- up into the canopy where the cypress were engulfed in Spanish moss and thick vines. We enjoyed dragon fly after dragon fly, and surprisingly, squirrel after squirrel, as we made our way through the bayou.

With Rice's words from Interview with the Vampire in our hands and in our minds, we all imagined Louis and Lestat meandering the swamps. And with a story with such contrast and change from Kate Chopin's softer and critical novella, The Awakening, we were challenged to redirect our thoughts. In a few short moments we had travelled from the soft sandy beaches of Grand Isle into the muck of the swamps. As we continued our journey into the city of New Orleans, the realization that this region, that Louisiana, was such an elaborate ecosystem of both nature and culture, became the marker of the breadth of Bookpacking.