August 4-8, 2014 – Pass Christian and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi
Monday morning we left Robertsdale and headed west into Mississippi. We are staying at TLC Wolf River Resort just outside Pass Christian, MS. This is a very nice resort and we have a nice long, wide site. Our site is just up the hill from the Fountain Bayou which connects to the Wolf River. We think this will be a great place to kayak.
Tuesday morning we drove south to Highway 90 which follows the coast from the Louisiana border to the Alabama border. We stopped a few miles down the road at Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library. The house was built by planter-entrepreneur James Brown in 1852. Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy, visited Beauvoir in 1875 and again in 1876. The owner at that time, Sarah Dorsey, who was a classmate of Varina Davis, invited Davis to write his memoirs at the estate. The Davis’s purchased Beauvoir in 1879 and lived here until he died of bronchitis in 1889.
We toured the house and our guide told us that about 75% of the furnishings belonged to the Davis’ while they lived here. This area was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina and the house had a foot of water in it and the roof was badly damaged. The house was closed for three years while the damage was repaired. The antiques had to be sent out for restoration and our guide was telling us how many thousands of dollars it cost. The wooden floors are three inches thick and even though they were under a foot of water for 36 hours they did not buckle anywhere. All they had to do to repair the floors was a light sanding and an application of oil.
In 1903 Varina sold the property to the Mississippi Division, United Sons of Confederate Veterans for a mere $10,000. The terms of the sale required the USCV to maintain the site as a memorial to Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy and required it be used as a home for Confederate veterans, their wives, widows, servants and orphans. The rapidly increasing population filled the original buildings to capacity, necessitating the construction of a dozen dormitories, two hospitals, a dining hall, an assembly hall, a chapel, and several support buildings. The original house was used for administrative offices. The Soldiers’ Home had a maximum capacity of 288 residents and during its 54-year existence, the facility cared for approximately 1,800 individuals. Almost half of those residents are buried in the cemetery on the property. After touring the house we took a mule-drawn wagon tour of the property and cemetery.
The Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier contains the remains of an unknown Southern soldier killed in battle. The tomb honors all unknown Southern dead from 1861 to 1865.
After lunch in Biloxi we boarded the “Mike Sekul”, a 68’ two masted gaff-rigged schooner. This is an authentic replica of the Biloxi oyster schooners that sailed the Mississippi Gulf Coast from the late 1800’s and into the early 1900’s.
At the beginning of our 2 ½ hour sail we got a great view of a few of the casinos in Biloxi.
We had a great day for our sail with a brisk breeze and lots of sun – although it did get very hot before we were done. This schooner is smaller than the one we sailed on in Charleston and was somewhat slower.
We enjoyed our first day touring on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, especially our cruise on the schooner.
Wednesday morning we went back into Biloxi to visit the Hurricane Camille and Hurricane Katrina memorials. The Hurricane Katrina Memorial is dedicated to the Mississippi Gulf Coast victims who perished during the worst natural disaster to hit the US on August 29, 2005. The Memorial stands 12 feet tall, about the height of the water during Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge at the Town Green. There is a beautiful tile inlay of a wave, a glass case containing various items from destroyed buildings. The names of the 170 Mississippi Gulf Coast victims that perished during the storm are inscribed on the black granite wall.
The Hurricane Camille Memorial is dedicated to the 172 dead or missing on the Mississippi Coast after the historic 1969 hurricane. This beautiful memorial has waterfalls cascading into a pool with a tile mosaic of the hurricane.
Camille is named after Hurricane Camille (and aptly so as she is a whirl wind) so we took her picture at the memorial.
These two memorials were beautiful and very moving and sobering to see.
The Biloxi Lighthouse which is now located in the middle of Highway 90 was constructed in 1848. This cast iron lighthouse has been the landmark for which Biloxi-bound vessels sail. The Younghans family, father, mother and daughter tended the lighthouse from late 1866 until 1929. The lighthouse was closed so we were not able to tour it.
After lunch we drove into Slidell, Louisiana where we found a Chase bank so we could cash a check that we had been holding for a while - there are no Chase banks along the east coast.
Thursday morning we decided to kayak on the Wolf River. We put the kayaks in on Fountain Bayou which is just down the hill from our site.
After paddling along the narrow bayou for a while we came to a really narrow space between the reeds which then opened up on the Wolf River. We paddled up river for a couple of hours and explored a couple of side channels. We kept an eye out for alligators but only saw a couple of turtles.
On our way back down river we ran across this beautiful Osprey. We ended up following it down river and it was very vocal the entire time - we figured it was trying to keep us away from its nest. We paddled past the entrance to Fountain Bayou where we entered Wolf River and entered the Bayou from the other end. We saw the Osprey nest in the top of a dead tree just as we entered the bayou. Once we were past the nest the Osprey settled down and we didn’t see it any more.
We enjoyed our paddle despite the heat – in the mid 90’s with a heat index of over 100. We were disappointed that we did not see much wildlife. We spoke with some of the resort staff and they said there are about eight alligators in this area and they have come on shore in the resort, but they haven’t seen any yet this year. We spent the afternoon cooling off and relaxing.
Friday we had beignets and café au lait at the Rusty Pelican Restaurant just down the road from the resort. They were very good but not as good as those we had at Café du Monde in New Orleans a few years ago. In the afternoon we drove to Bay Saint Louis where a number of oak trees that were killed in Hurricane Katrina have been carved into beautiful angels.
We drove about 10 miles inland to Kiln where we toured the lazy Magnolia Brewery. We learned about how the brewery started while tasting 6 different beers. The original brewery was very small and was mostly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. When the owners rebuilt they decided to expand and are still expanding. We enjoyed the tour and learning about the brewery. A school has been built just across the street from the back of the brewery so they are not allowed to sell beer at this location. We did stop at a grocery store on the way home and bought some Southern Pecan the world’s first roasted pecan ale and Jefferson Stout which is their original Sweet Potato Cream Stout.
We enjoyed visiting the Mississippi Gulf Coast despite the heat and humidity. It was very interesting to see the devastation that Hurricane Katrina did to this area. Everywhere we went on the coast we saw many vacant lots with only foundations on them. Also we realized that the big oak trees were not very tall and looked like the tops had been cut out – of course they were damaged in the hurricane.