Posted by: noadventure | July 27, 2014

Abandoned Power Plant

Editor’s note: Another killer post from NOadventure writer Whitney Mackman. 
For four years I’ve been teased by those ever-present twin stacks rising along the banks of the Mississippi, just behind the Crescent City Connection. But every time I drive by to find a way in, someone is filming a movie. This time, however, I had a plan. Terminator 5 just wrapped and abandoned the grounds. It was the 4th of July, so all the police were busy downtown.
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The Market Street Power Plant was built in 1905 and operated by New Orleans Public Service Inc. until 1973, when it shut down. Entergy sold it to Market Street Properties in 2007 and, as usual in New Orleans, there are plenty of plans for future development that have yet to take off.
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The inside was eerie. Every time the wind blew the storm-loosened metal sheets on the roof, we thought we had been caught. I could barely wrap my mind around how this power plant worked, as I’m sure all the pertinent machinery had been taken out. You can see where there was an intentional pool of water below a massive windowed room with lots of steel. We climbed shifty steel staircase after staircase, ducking in and out of doorways that led to more huge rooms, rusted machinery, gutted control pads, steel jungle gyms, and Dr. Seuss pipes.
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Posted by: noadventure | July 14, 2014

DEEP Westbank Adventure: Woodlands Trail and Park

Editor’s note: As I’ve been preoccupied, writer Whitney Mackman has still been out there adventuring with the best. Here’s another one of her posts.

Tucked between Planter’s Canal, Donner Canal, and the Mississippi River, this wide, lush roller coaster trail through a coastal forest ecosystem transports you to another world. Dodge raccoons and stare a little too long at trees engulfing other trees. And, if you look hard enough through the tangle of overgrowth at the end of the trail (5.5 miles), you will discover 10 WWII Ammunition Bunkers emerging from the wetlands. They are open and accessible, if you have a machete and don’t mind avoiding banana spiders at certain times of year.

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Best advice: Keep your head up! Most of the banana spiders were hanging just out of reach, but look for branches that stretch partway across the trail toward another – these seem to be their favorite. They are HUGE, yellow, and purple, you will see them. I biked holding a giant stick in front of me, but that felt a little extreme. When the trail seems too overgrown to continue and you see the frame of what used to be a trail sign, keep your eyes peeled for the concrete bunkers with large green doors on the very overgrown Naval Ammunition Depot Loop.

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It’s pretty easy to get to Woodlands Trail and Park from New Orleans: Cross over to the West Bank, exit and merge onto General de Gaulle. Take that for 4 miles and don’t panic when the street turns into a huge bridge that looks like the end of the world. Go over it (Intracoastal waterway) and once you get down, hang a left and then take your first sharp left (almost a u-turn) onto Herbert Blvd.

Once on F. Edward Herbert Blvd, you will pass an abandoned complex on your left (I explored one building of this government complex after my bike adventure, but it was getting dark and creepy). Then you will cross a small bridge (Planter’s Canal) and make an immediate left before the animal shelter to Woodland Trails (if you hit baseball fields, you missed it). Trailhead is at the end of the road. Very easy to follow and incredibly well marked, choose the equestrian or the hiking trail. It’s very overgrown in places but doable, since the bike elevates you a bit.

The address of Woodlands Trail and Park is 449 F. Edward Hebert Blvd, Belle Chasse Louisiana.

Posted by: noadventure | November 2, 2013

Blind River Paddle

Editor’s note: Whitney Mackman brings us to a far corner of the bayou in this next post. Enjoy.

Blind River Chapel Paddle

Nestled along the bank of the Blind River and accessible only by boat, Our Lady of Blind River Chapel welcomes all visitors. Built in 1983 by Martha Deroche, the daughter of a Cajun faith healer, this chapel is definitely an experience. Dated and typical pictures of Jesus in various scenes adorn every inch of wall space and numerous religious statues line the foot of the altar. The altar is a spectacular statue of the Virgin Mary housed in a huge, hollowed Cypress trunk – complimented by the simple Cypress pews and the flicker of candlelight.

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This was not a religious pilgrimage by any means, and please don’t think you must be Catholic to visit this chapel. No matter what you believe, Deroche “welcomes and offers her prayers and blessing to all who come.” Regardless, visiting a place a community volunteered to build out of love, faith, and friendship is kind of spiritual in its own way.

If that is not enough, the chapel is rumored to have performed miracles and there is a giant text Bible with PICTURES (!!), which is worth the trip if you’ve never seen one.

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This paddle is possible from the St. James Parish Boat Launch just off the 61 and the Blind River crossing. From there, the trip is approximately ten miles roundtrip. If you want a shorter, four-mile trip, there is a “secret” (to anyone without googlemaps maybe) and somewhat ridiculous launch off the I-10 where it crosses the Blind River. I put in under the I-10 after chatting with some animated locals.  We were the only kayaks in sight, dwarfed by the huge Cypress trees and passing motorboats. I didn’t see much wildlife besides a baby alligator next to the Chapel and some jumping fish, but it was getting stormy out. The fishing camps and hurricane damage along the banks provided enough intrigue and sometimes the trees and lily pads hinted of autumn.

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More info on Blind River Chapel: http://www.cajunimages.com/Pages/blind%20river%20chapel.htm

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A. Our Lady of Blind River Chapel

B. St. James Parish Boat Launch

Posted by: noadventure | September 12, 2013

The Closest Mountain Biking to New Orleans

Editor’s note: Yet another killer post from the talented Whitney Mackman. Cool weather means less spiders. Check out this trail.
Bonnet Carre Spillway Trail
If you’re like me, you’re not from around here. And if you aren’t from around here, you know that this country is riddled with rolling hills and towering mountain peaks you can barely see through the clouds. I moved here from Seattle, a place that signifies a beautiful day with “the mountain is out” rather than “the sun is out.” Needless to say, I miss my mountains and I especially miss my mountain biking. Thankfully, there are a few trails (read: 4) in Louisiana that help me reconnect with my love. Granted, this is not “mountain” biking per say, but the Bonnet Carre Spillway Trail in Norco, LA fills the void for those who live in New Orleans and can’t make the trip to Baton Rouge.
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New Orleans Metro Area Mountain Bike Organization, known as NOMAMBO (http://www.nomambo.net/), does an excellent job maintaining and running events on the Bonnet Carre Spillway Trail. The trail runs in the lush area between the Lower Guide Levee Road and a canal, from the 61 to the 10/Lake Ponchartrain. The trail is a long and meandering single track with twists and turns and built-in jumps and berms for the adventurous. There are even some tree stump speed humps. You can run this trail alone if you must, as it circles back to itself and is only between 5-6 miles, so if you get a flat tire or a bloody body part, you could walk out if you leave yourself enough daylight. The trail is well marked, but it does cross itself many times, so stay to the left and look for the caution tape leading you in the proper direction.
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This trail is an absolutely gorgeous trek through dense trees (ironically, since the area is surrounded by gas pipelines and oil refineries). With the canal to my left, I saw birds taking flight and nutria scavenging out of the corner of my eye. On the trail, I dodged a plague of humongous black grasshoppers. I tried to avoid them, but after a while it became impossible, as they do not move an inch, even when I came right at them. I hit several trees trying to respect them, but in the end I ran over a few. And let me tell you, you will know when you hit one. It sounds like running over an entire bag of Captain Crunch cereal. I spent half my time flying down this trail yelling “sorry grasshopper!” over my shoulder. In the end, I killed 3 but got hit in the eye, the nose, and the boob by huge retaliators, so I think Mother Nature and I are even. Honestly, the grasshoppers add an extra, more difficult element to this trail, as it is tight single track and they are everywhere. Use them as a natural obstacle.
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The trail starts with a wooden bridge and then a meander through the greens. They have recently added some jumps that look like bridges until there is a huge gap (1stjump of trail, in open meadow section, pic below), so just make sure to scout it out or make sure to jump it instead of panic, hit the brakes, and drop the front tire down (I will get to that later). Each section of the trail is labeled with creative names like Seinfeld, South African Headhunter, Up-Chuck, 5 Minutes Alone (one of my favorites), Rat Tail, Chu-Chut, The Hammer, and South Canada. There is a super fun smaller jump in Seinfeld and a larger launch in S. Canada.
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The jump in S. Canada comes after a tight uphill turn, but I discovered that I don’t need speed to land it. While scouting the jump, I noticed the last plank of the jump is gouged by chain rings because some people panic, brake, and let their front tire drop over the ledge instead of jumping the bike – most likely flipping themselves over their handlebars. You only have to make this mistake once to realize you must pop the jumps! Don’t brake! Don’t panic! Right when the front tire hits the edge, pull the handlebars up and “jump” your bike. This will keep both tires parallel to the ground (and in the air) until you land. The rest of the landing is up to your balance, speed, control and belief in your abilities. A friend warned me about this jump, so I ran off it once on my feet, then biked up the launch (it’s a bit curved) to get a feel for it, and then I just hit it on my bike and landed it on first try. You can do it! There is a berm at the bottom to catch your speed if you hit the jump fast!
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The trail ends at what used to be some great jumps, but I don’t know what is happening to them now. They are overgrown and some of them are too vertical to jump on a bike, but it wasn’t always like that. I still pushed my bike up the levee and turned around and ran the jumps. The trail doesn’t quite end where it starts, so once you hit the jumps, you need to push your bike up the levee and turn right on the graveled Lower Guide Levee Road for a few hundred feet back to the park entrance.
I ran the trail once and emerged to thunder and lightning, so I ate a banana and watched the storm pass for 30 minutes, then ran the trail again as the sun set and tiny frogs appeared. At a pretty steady pace, I can run this trail in about 30-45 minutes, depending on stops, scouting jumps/re-doing jumps, nature encounters, etc. I’ve seen people post 25-minute laps of this trail during timed races but I’ve never done it faster than 35 minutes. I’m also in it for the love, not for the speed – this isn’t downhill biking after all.
(Need to hit the trails? Check out Norco, 3 others in LA and 1 more in MS on Baton Rouge Area Mountain Bike Association’s website: http://www.bramba.org/trails.php. I hear there are also good trails in Mobile at Chickasabogue Park and on the University of Southern Alabama’s campus. Posts on Hooper & Comite Trails in Baton Rouge and The Beast in St. Francisville are coming soon!)
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Posted by: noadventure | September 5, 2013

Explore Holt Cemetery

Editor’s note: Guest writer Whitney Mackman is on a roll with this incredible find. I had no idea this existed.

The Last of its Kind in New Orleans: Holt Cemetery

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Off the beaten path and almost impossible to see from City Park Ave, Holt Cemetery offers an afternoon of exploration and relaxation.  Tucked away on what looks like Delgado’s campus (or what Delgado hoped would becomes its campus), this cemetery is unmanned, unkempt, and totally awesome (It might be manned during the week. We went on Sunday and the sign read “closed Sunday,” but the gate was open.) Every cemetery I’ve seen in this city uses above-ground burial except Holt. You won’t find elaborate and ornate tombs here. This is more of a graveyard – a graveyard with homemade headstones strewn amongst dramatic oaks wearing cloaks of Spanish moss. My friend and I explored for more than an hour as the Sunday thunder cracked and a random whistle echoed from a Delgado sports game.  We apologized to the spirits as we leapt between graves, even though it was nearly impossible to miss one.

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Established in 1879, Holt is quite possibly the only cemetery left in New Orleans that is 99% in-ground burial (the 1% is one tomb). Historically it’s a graveyard for the less fortunate, which might explain the vast array of homemade grave markers. Some graves are marked with just a wooden crucifix or a rectangular border of 2x4s; others with teddy bears or beer bottles or firecracker shells. In certain places, it’s hard to tell where one grave ends and another begins. The ground is uneven, there are large mounds of freshly placed dirt, and I read a Times Picayune article that claims bones sometimes stick out of the ground. While some might find this unorganized or ugly, I think it adds a personal touch unachievable within row after uniform row of stone tombs. It’s unachievable in any cemetery I’ve seen throughout the world. I want to come back here with a book and a blanket and spend all day immersed in this magical place.
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Posted by: noadventure | September 1, 2013

Glow Bike Social?

Editor’s note: Another fantastic guest post by Whitney Mackman. Email me your NOadventures!

Happy Thursday! NOLA Social Ride

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Need help making it to the weekend? Well, join Nola Social Ride on Thursdays for bikes, lights, beer, music, new friends, and fun. Each time, I’ve biked by something I’ve wanted to see or do in this town. Each time, one more person recognizes me and says hi. Each time, I realize how all my stress is gone after just ten minutes of riding. Depending on the week, the ride is a slow meander through the CBD/French Quarter/Bywater, or Mid-City/ Bayou St. John, or Uptown, or Lakeview. There is something for everyone on this ride. Recent ride themes include:  Caped Crusader, Star Wars, Face Paint, Beach Wear, Light Up the Night, etc.

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So far I’ve discovered the swinging benches under the Crescent City Connection, biked directly into the Blaine Kerns Warehouse after dark (who left that open?) for my own private tour, discovered hidden pathways in Mid-City, circled the Super Dome, and explored the golf courses after dark. Above all, my favorite is seeing people’s faces when a giant group of costumed bikers pass them, wishing them a “Happy Thursday!”

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If you are looking for laid back adventure right in the city, NOLA Social Ride is it. The group meets at a bar/restaurant in the designated neighborhood for that week around 7pm and roll out at 7:45. Arrive early if you wish to order food, get a beer, and introduce yourself to others. They hit different areas each week, so join when you can! Keep up with the schedule or friend them for weekly invites. http://nolasocialride.org/ All are welcome no matter the gender, age, or style of bike. Just come ride and wish everyone and yourself a Happy Thursday as you bike by. There are ride leaders and people who stop traffic so all you have to do is bike safely and have fun!

https://www.facebook.com/NolaSocialRide

Posted by: noadventure | August 20, 2013

Snorkel Lake Pontchartrain

I’ve had the unique pleasure of snorkeling the Mississippi River. Today, we had to do a salvage dive in the Pontch to recover some lost treasure.

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Posted by: noadventure | August 15, 2013

Worst Skateboard Race in History

I know it’s been a minute, but NOadventure has stuff on the burner. In the meantime, everyone should go to this to see Bennet get wrecked.

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Summer is almost done. Make it count. Have you even been submerged underwater at all? If not, get wet.

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