The shape of the Gulf coastline between Florida and Texas looks like somebody threw a wad of overcooked spaghetti noodles against a cold refrigerator door, and kept the ones that stuck. The twisting, convoluted transition from land to sea creates innumerable bays, inlets and swamps that give the area a very unique ecology. I spent the morning running across a massive bridge spanning the Bay St. Louis; for whatever reason, I’ve always really enjoyed running over bridges, suspended by a relatively thin slab of metal and concrete above the frothing ocean waves. My first stop was near a science center in western Mississippi, where I had organized to plant fifty Longleaf Pines. The sun beat down in the sticky, humid coastal forest, sweat pouring off my head as I plugged holes for the pine seedlings; a far cry from the cold, snowy weather indicative of late-winter-early-spring in many other areas of the country. I loved it. Although it was an awesome experience, my December up in the Dakotas and Minnesota had been enough winter to last me at least the next few years.
Following highway 10, Turtle and I sputtered into one of the most iconic cities in the US, one I had been bidden to visit with nearly everyone I’ve encountered on my trip thus far: New Orleans. Rich with history, the Big Easy also represents the fragility of our mighty technological prowess against the primal forces of nature. The city for the most part has bounced back from the devastation from hurricane Katrina back in 2005, but there are many surrounding areas that may never see a full recovery. Unfortunately, given that the entire area is only about a foot above sea level, the next few decades and centuries will likely see it consumed by the rising ocean levels. That morning I met with Mrs. Sullivan’s Environmental Science classes at the Lusher School, where we planted citrus trees as well as a number of vegetables including peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, okra and cucumbers. The students even had scheduled a field trip out to the coast to plant Spartina dune grasses to reintroduce native species and hopefully strengthen the dunes that are quickly eroding under the pressure of development. Great job to Mrs. Sullivan and her students for being so environmentally active!
Of course, I had to check out the obligatory local attractions, so I spent an afternoon ambling around the French Quarter and roasting the inside of my mouth on some delicious Cajun crawfish. On some of my runs I zipped around through Audubon Park, the massive City Park, and zig-zagged through narrow streets lined with endless plots of above-ground mausoleums. It was a cool experience, but the city had a gritty, hurried feel to it that some people love, but I have never been able to quite get used to. I was a little relieved to be back among southern forests when I rolled out a couple days later on my way west.
As the weather gets warmer with the onset of spring, this week’s Green Footprints challenge is to start a garden in your yard! Whether you’re a green-thumbed pro or have never dug a hole in your life, anyone can set aside a small plot in their yard or balcony and start growing some of their own fruits and vegetables. Some of the easiest ones to start with include lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, many of which can be grown from kitchen scraps! Cut off the base of a head of lettuce and plant it along with a few leaves; cut and plant the base of a bunch of celery; save potatoes that have begun growing eyes, cut away the portion with the eyes and plant it in the soil. Just make sure to plant your crops in good soil and to regularly water them, and in no time you’ll be growing your own salads!