We started our hike today at six o’clock in the morning to try to avoid the oppressive heat that had engulfed South Mississippi. There was to be no shade along our path, and what little breeze we could expect of the warm gulf was not going to help much to cool us down. It was going to be a hot hike.
The first three miles over the Bay Bridge from Henderson Point in Pass Christian to the quaint city of Bay Saint Louis was enjoyable for Gail, Sue, Charlie, Marcia, and I. We were also joined today by our son Andrew, who walks a pace none of us can keep up with. In Bay Saint Louis, we passed a historical marker indicating that just offshore, on December 14, 1814, five U.S. gunboats fired on the British fleet entering Lake Borgne. This was to be the last naval battle of the War of 1812, just a few weeks before General Jackson kicked some British butt in Chalmette, on the banks of the Mississippi River.
In keeping with our new routine, we stopped for breakfast. This time we found a cute little coffeehouse called the Mockingbird Café where the biscuits were flaky and fresh, and the coffee was rich and hot. It was probably not a good idea to fill up with a heavy breakfast at the beginning of a long hike on such a steamy day, but we did – it is hard to pass up a good Southern breakfast.
On a side street in Bay Saint Louis, we stumbled upon Ruth’s Roots, a community garden set up on the foundation of a building destroyed by Katrina. There was a lot of life in this small parcel of land – painted murals decorated the concrete slab; colorful raised planters were scattered about full of tomatoes, peppers, and herbs; and on the back lawn was a mobile chicken coop which could be moved about amongst statues, sitting benches, and water fountains. Near the street, there was a lending library and even a food pantry with a sign that read, “Give what you can, take what you need.” Ruth’s Roots seems to embody the spirit of this small coastal town. A hamlet that was literally wiped off the map by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and has since been rebuilt to its original splendor.
Our hike continued, in the growing heat, down the seawall past Waveland and Buccaneer State Park. The coastline drops in this area to just a few feet above sea level, causing the coastal road to often flood in high tide. For a few miles, we had only warm gulf water, sand, salt marsh, sun, and a thin hot ribbon of black asphalt for scenery. Fortunately, we eventually came to our destination, the Silver Slipper Hotel and Casino, at a point as far west as one could travel by foot on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Surprisingly, the casino security let us in dressed as we were, dripping with sweat and smelling like we had just walked from Pass Christian, which we had. Refreshing drinks and air conditioning revived our spirits and our core temperature.
Now we have hiked along the coast of Mississippi for a total of 78 miles but are still a few miles short of actually reaching the Louisiana state line. To do so will require that we head inland to the old logging town of Pearlington, the first place we can cross the Pearl River, the border between Mississippi and Louisiana, and once the United States border with Spanish West Florida until 1810. We all agreed that this last segment of the hike will have to wait for cooler weather. Stay tuned.
Total distance: 12 miles.