“OHMYGOD IT’S JUMPING OUT OF THE WATER!!” my friend says, shrieking and jumping and spinning in a burst, “OHMYGOD IT’S THE SEVENTH GATOR!!!!”
On a sultry summer Southern Memorial Day, a friend and I decide to pay homage to our swampy New Orleans home by going to Jean Lafitte National Park, aka The Swamp.
To give you some context, Jean Lafitte (pronounced here in Southeastern Louisiana as “jeen lah-feet”) was a swashbuckling pirate who came to Louisiana way-back when as one of the founding Cajun settlers.
So it’s fitting, in a lot of ways, that one of the only remaining unfettered swamplands is named after him and his swamp-adventuring escapades. And also fitting that we decide to hike through the park on a 90 degree day.
“Let’s go to the West Bank!” was how it all started. And also, if we’re being transparent, an insatiable craving for Vietnamese po’boys (banh mi) and boba tea.
So off we went across the bridge for a day on the West Bank.
We arrived at Jean Lafitte around 1 pm– “peak gator siting time!”
Prior to this adventure, I had seen a grand total of two wild alligators— once while kayaking through Bayou St. John and another time while running through City Park’s Scout Island. My friend promised we would see at least 5 at Jean Lafitte. Naturally I was skeptical–
“I’ve been here two other times and haven’t seen so much as a snake.”
“You’ll see! We are coming at the perfect time. We’re pretty much going to stumble across a mountain of gators.”
So we set off on our hike around the Bayou Coquille Trail, and low and behold, almost trip across an 8-foot alligator taking a nap on the side of the trail.
“AH! IT LOOKS LIKE A DINOSAUR!” I yelp.
And we keep walking. Almost trip across five more gators snoozing in the water or lying by the ground. And then, just when we think we have seen them all, an entire alligator leaps out of the water and splashes back beneath its depths.
“HOLY SHIT WE’RE GOING TO GET EATEN BY A GATOR!” we yell.
And sprint back to the car and speed to Hong Kong Market to feast on banh mi and coffee-flavored boba tea.