Beach to Bayou - October 2020
- Story by Dena Temple, photos by Dena and John Temple
NOTE: This trail is closed November-February for hunting season. If you’d like to enjoy this experience – do so without delay.
It’s been more than six months since our happy existence of restaurants, festivals and parades screeched to a halt. While some restrictions have been lifted, the nation’s top scientists recommend that we continue to distance ourselves from others, wear masks and avoid indoor social settings.
I don’t know about you, but this writer has a raging case of cabin fever.
Beach to Bayou
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This cannot continue. Isolation and lack of exercise is not only bad for your health, it’s awful for the psyche and the soul. But fear not, there is a solution, and it’s right under your nose: Get out and walk. Or more specifically, hike.
The benefits of wandering in nature are many. First, hiking a trail offers fitness while social distancing. And whether you’re walking fast or slow, getting outside and moving those atrophying limbs releases endorphins that make the world feel all right again, especially when the weather turns from broil to crisp and cooler.
Hiking a trail is also a great way to get to know more about the area. What is the soil like here? What type of plants and animals live here with us? What flowers bloom here in the fall?
Communing with nature also engenders a sense of peace, and while the solitude of hiking is also pleasurable, hiking with a friend offers a safe way to enjoy a little much-needed camaraderie.
We have some wonderful areas for hiking here in Hancock County, and a great start is the Possum Walk Heritage Trail.
A little history
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Logtown was one of the largest lumbering centers in the United States. The sawmill employed 1,200 men, and at its peak, Logtown had approximately 3,000 residents, most associated with the lumber business.
By 1930 most of the lumber supply had been exhausted. The town began a long decline once the mills closed, and by the early 1960s, only 250 residents remained.
In 1961 NASA chose Hancock County for its new Stennis Space Center. Several small villages, including Logtown, existed inside the necessary acoustical buffer zone for the engine testing facility. The structures inside the buffer zone were relocated by NASA, and Logtown now exists only in history books.
To read more about this fascinating chapter of Hancock County history, visit the NASA Cultural Resources website.
The 3.7-mile Possum Walk Trail begins at the Logtown Cemetery and ends at INFINITY Science Center. Interpretive signage at the trail head explains not only the history of Logtown, but also how the trail got its name (it was named for an African-American settlement across the Pearl River from Logtown). The still-active cemetery includes marked graves that date back to 1853 and unmarked graves that may be even older.
Since the trail does not loop, we opted to walk half the trail from each end over two days. Day One was sunny and hot, but the sun kept the skeeters at bay, and a light breeze made the walk quite comfortable.
As you enter the first section of trail from Logtown Road, you find a sturdy, ADA-compliant boardwalk over marshy terrain. The lush vegetation immediately calms and silences any inner voices. After a short distance, there is a ramp to the left that leads down to an ADA-accessible kayak launch.
This is the Bogue Homa Bayou Trail, part of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Blueways trail system for paddlers. The easy 2.25-mile kayak trail traverses through freshwater swamp, offering great opportunities for wildlife-watching. The kayak trail is very popular and often busy on summer days.
On this fall day, however, we have the Possum Walk trail to ourselves. After the kayak launch the boardwalk crosses over an iron bridge, offering camera-worthy views of the creek below. Pause a moment to watch for fish jumping, or maybe a gator lazily floating by.
Past the bridge the boardwalk continues. Take your time and look for small animals like skinks, snakes and frogs. We found all three and also spotted a young raccoon. Periodically stop and listen: sometimes, finding wildlife is easier by ear than by eye.
Fall is also a great time to find birds and butterflies. While our visit revealed very few birds, every day on a trail is different; that’s what makes every trip interesting. Butterflies, on the other hand, were plentiful, attracted to the wide variety of wildflowers blooming along the trail. We also found spiders asleep in the center of their webs, waiting for an unsuspecting fly to stumble into their trap. Many are quite beautiful.
Eventually the boardwalk reaches more upland habitat, and the trail becomes a wide, flat gravel path. As the habitat changes, interpretive signs along the trail highlight some of the native plants and animals that call this region home.
We reached the Mile 2.0 trail marker and decided this would be a good halfway point. Tomorrow is another day.
Hiking the Trail, Day 2
We got off to a false start on Day 2. Upon arriving at Infinity Science Center to access the northern half of the trail we found the gates closed. New hours of operation for the facility limit access to the trail to Thursday through Sunday between the hours of 9 am and 4 pm.
The following weekend we made good on our promise to finish the trail and made our way to INFINITY. We parked near the trail head and noticed the marked difference in the trail on this end. Where the trail blazed through mixed wetland vegetation near Logtown, on the north end the wide trail looked more like Highway 607, a stick-straight gravel path with wide grassy edges through pine woods. For the first 1/2-mile section there was little of interest, to us - or to any wildlife.
After the trail jogged 90 degrees to the left, however, it began to look more like the trail we’d walked the weekend before. While we were still walking through pine forest, understory plants took their rightful place in the habitat. After another turn in the trail we crossed a powerline cut, which provided just the change of habitat that birds like. Here we noted several hawks (they like to perch in the trees along powerline cuts and watch for prey), sparrows, and an Indigo Bunting passing through.
Wildflowers and butterflies were still in abundance, offering plenty of opportunities for photography practice. While we didn’t enjoy anywhere near the diversity of wildlife we had seen the week before, an influx of birds kept us looking for something new.
Once again we tapped the Mile 2.0 trail marker signaling our completion of the entire length of the trail, then headed back the way we came. Although we did not enjoy the northern half of the trail as much as the section that traversed through more wetlands habitat, we felt a sense of accomplishment in completing the entire 7.4 mile walk and vowed to visit again. We left on both days with a renewed energy and a glow in our cheeks.
- The Logtown section of the Possum Walk Trail is more diverse. If you plan to walk only part of the trail, I would recommend starting at Logtown Road and traveling north.
- Keep in mind that INFINITY Science Center hours of operation are Thursday through Sunday, 9 am – 4 pm, and that they lock the gates at closing time. If you park at INFINITY and don’t finish by 4 pm your car will be locked inside.
- Be sure to bring water, and wear sunglasses and a hat.
- Don’t forget to bring binoculars and/or a camera! We returned with over 200 photos over our two-day walk. They may not all be magazine-quality shots, but practice makes perfect!
- Take your time. I cannot emphasize enough how much more you see if you slow your roll and look around while you walk. The trail is wide and even, allowing you to concentrate less on your gait and more on your surroundings.
- INFINITY Science Center was offering narrated tram tours of the trail, offering insights on its history and wildlife, but those tours are temporarily suspended.
- The trail is closed November-February for hunting season.
- Visit again and again. A trail is a different experience with every season – and every day!