Team Charlie, made up of Josh Andreska and Mike Vasquez, began their hitch through the south at Wheeler NWR near Decatur, Alabama. The inventory there ended with a unique and impressive observation building that was equipped with stadium seating and looked out onto a marsh through 1 way glass. Team Charlie continued through northern Mississippi and spent the rest of the first week in western Tennessee. After completing the first week, Team Charlie spent the weekend camping at Mammoth Cave NP, taking a tour of the cave and enjoying the scenic beauty.
After a wonderful weekend spent in Kentucky, it was back to work, this time primarily in Arkansas. Josh and Mike were pleasantly surprised at the aesthetically pleasing surroundings as they winded their way down Highway 7 in their rugged Chevy Silverado extended cab, destination: Norfork National Fish Hatchery. Facing triple digit heat during the days, taking a dip in Norfork Lake during the evening was quite a relief. By midweek, Team Charlie had finished up inventorying trails at the remaining Arkansas destinations, including rustic trails at Holla Bend and Pond Creek National Wildlife Refuges. Having spent the first two weeks without one single gator spotting, Louisiana was a last hope.
The heat and humidity of the south was no match for Team Charlie. Trudging through the palmetto palms at Bayou Cocodrie, the team encountered numerous banana spiders and feral hogs. The team was also treated at Cat Island by the presence of the largest tree east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, an enormous Cypress. Louisiana provided a landscape unlike anything Josh or Mike had seen before. It was while staying at St. Catherine’s Creek NWR that Josh and Mike saw their first alligator of many alligators.
Strategically planning their route to wind up in New Orleans on the 4th of July paid off in the form of several memorable experiences for Charlie Team. Josh and Mike each got a taste of The Big Easy and were easily captivated by the city’s unique culture. Both agreed it is a city they’d like to return to and experience again. With the memories of a Nawlins 4th of July in the rearview mirror, Charlie Team rolled on to the southwestern portion of the state to inventory several more trails at the gorgeous new Southwestern Louisiana Refuge Complex.
At the end of a very long drive to their final destination, Mandalay Wildlife Refuge, awaited one last well maintained trail, as well as a little relief in the form of light rain. With their expectations of the region greatly surpassed, it was time for Josh and Mike to say “see you later, alligator” to the south.