On this section of our journey…
Being able to see America’s industrial past at Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, Alabama, the only preserved blast furnace open to the public. Serving as a reminder of the haunting sacrifices many Americans made in order to make the United States an industrial powerhouse.
Acknowledging the continued struggle of rebuilding New Orleans, specifically in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Bywater and making the short drive from New Orleans into the Bayou to explore Jean Laffite National Historic Park and Preserve.
Wild pig hunting along the Lumber River in North Carolina with the help of the land and wildlife conservationists from Lumber River Outdoors.
We continued south to Birmingham, Alabama for an opportunity to take a glimpse into the dangerous past of iron working at a blast furnace. Sloss Furnace had been producing iron since the late 19th century up until 1970 and is a National Historic Landmark.
Sloss is the only blast furnace of this scale preserved as a historical site. Iron production of this scale is part of what drove the United States toward industrial dominance and ultimately global dominance, something that deserves appreciation and should not be lost.
There were many lethal dangers in this line of work leading to many casualties. Naturally this leads to many supernatural stories. None more infamous than the stories surrounding James “Slag” Wormwood, a foreman at Sloss during the “graveyard shift” from sunset to sunrise, who did not seem to have employee well-being as a high priority. The furnace burned 24/7, but with fewer workers during the night. This obviously made the work harder for the few who worked that shift and in turn made it more dangerous. Many died during these overnight shifts.
We visited the site during the week, so we basically had the place to ourselves with near free-reign. The structures of the complex are massive, towering above you as you stroll the grounds in complete silence. This definitely creates an eerie feeling, but also a feeling of appreciation for the hard work and sacrifices made by those who toiled to power America’s rise to industrial supremacy.
New Orleans, Louisiana
We continued on to our southern-most destination. The historical mystique of New Orleans is well known, but many do not realize that the struggle to rebuild and preserve New Orleans is still on going, especially in the neighborhoods farther from Downtown and the French Quarter. We stayed in Bywater, a mostly residential neighborhood, experiencing an urban renewal seeing the opening of many new shops, art galleries and restaurants. You can still see the effects of Katrina in Bywater, but there is definitely more cash coming in whether it be through these new attractions or from the growing Airbnb community that offers the opportunity to stay in classic New Orleans housing at a very affordable price. The newly renovated houses and shops of Bywater are works of art.
We also checked out some of New Orleans’ more traditional attractions. Of course Bourbon Street and the French Quarter are on the top of that list with various historical structures housing clubs, bars, restaurants and museums.
However, nearby Frenchman Street in the Marigny neighborhood provides live music in an assortment of jazz clubs, bars and in the street with a more local feel.
…And you can’t forget the cemeteries…
We also walked the field of one of the more unique battles in US history. The Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812 pitted the British Army against an odd assortment of allies led by Andrew Jackson including militias from Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky and Louisiana, Native Americans from the Choctaw tribe, slaves, free African Americans, and pirates loyal to Jean Laffite.
A portion of the Louisiana Bayou just outside of New Orleans is protected and made accessible to the public as Jean Lafitte National Wildlife Preserve. Certain areas within the park provide an opportunity for undeveloped bayou experience as minimally maintained trails lead you along various channels, making it easy to come face to face with some of the bayous residents. If you would like a slightly more safe experience, there is also a series of boardwalks that give you an opportunity to explore the bayou from an elevated position.
On our way back into the city we checked out NOLA Brewing Company, which brews and serves beer out of a converted warehouse in the industrial neighborhood of Irish Channel.
Columbus County, North Carolina
You could spend weeks in New Orleans with new experiences everyday, but for us it came time to move on. We headed north toward home, but not before stopping in North Carolina to meet our new friends at Lumber River Outdoors.
The plans for habitat construction at Lumber River Outdoors are ambitious. We met Derek and Ricky, two of the men behind Lumber River Outdoors, they toured us around the Co-op of private land and let us stay at their cabin they call “The Roost.”
Lumber River is a Co-op of private landowners with a common goal of improving the land for wildlife development. Enhancing quail habitat is the primary goal, but the Co-op also holds land in swamps along the Lumber River and farmland that offer prime habitat for wildlife including deer, turkey, and the reason in which we made our stop… feral pigs.
The feral pig population is exploding across the south as the invasive species continues to devastate the ecosystem, reproducing at an exponential rate. We thought we’d try to do our part to help stem the pig population and of course earn ourselves a delicious reward.
Unfortunately, the near 100-degree weather made hunting very difficult and no pigs were to be found. However, we would love to return to see Lumber River Outdoors’ progress in forestry and habitat development and of course make another try at pig hunting in the swamp.
The Southern Excursion ended with the long drive north on I-95.
If you missed the first part of our excursion down south check it out here!