Saturday, November 18, 2017

Visiting the Bay St. Louis Train Depot, 11/15/2017

Lots of people in Biloxi had told us that a visit to Bay St. Louis was worth the trip (about 30 miles west on Highway 90). We packed a picnic lunch and headed out to see the sights there.

Our first stop was the historic L&N Train Depot. It has had a complete exterior and interior renovation since Hurricane Katrina. Built in 1926 in the Mission architectural style, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places

It is home to the Hancock County Tourism Development Bureau and hosts the Visitor Center. We spent some time learning more about the area including the many blues musicians from Mississippi. We also picked up a map for a walking tour of the small coastal town of Bay St. Louis.

There is currently no train service here, but the community is hoping that Amtrak will re-establish the route between Mobile and New Orleans that would run through here. 

Also on the first floor is the Mardi Gras Museum that features a dozen or so elaborate Mardi Gras costumes. They were amazing!!

I particularly liked these two: one with a music theme and the other a rainbow concept. 

On the second floor of the train depot is the Alice Moseley Folk Art & Antique Museum ( 


Alice Latimer Moseley (1909-2004) is a nationally-acclaimed folk artist. She was self-taught and began painting at age 60 to reduce stress while she was caring for her mother (suffering from Alzheimer's). After her mother died (1960s) Miss Alice (as she was called by everyone) began taking her paintings to flea markets and local shows where they became very popular. 

Her paintings are whimsical and always tell a story. She painted this one after her beloved dog died and named it Until Today I Thought I Was Folks. The second one is entitled Life Has So Many Angles

A local artist painted this likeness of Miss Alice's dog on a rock

She frequently painted herself into her paintings either as a young girl or an adult woman ... always dressed in red. See if you can find her in these.

Giovanni's Grocery

 Three Sheet n the Wind  

When Miss Alice began painting, her husband, William "Mose" Moseley, supported her artistic endeavors and made rustic frames for her paintings. She and Mose lived near Elvis Presley in TN.  She painted a variety of paintings about him. 

Mose died in 1978 of a heart attack and Miss Alice continued to pursue her artistic interests. In 1988, she attended the Beach Front Festival in Bay St. Louis and fell in love with the lovely coastal town. At age 79, she moved here and lived in the town until her death in  2004. This painting, The Pot of Gold's at the End of the Rainbow in Bay St. Louis, is a great summary of how she felt about the place.

Below is the desk, lamp and painting entitled The House is Blue But She Ain't. The next painting shown is Great Oaks from Little Acorns Grow.

Framed reproductions and matted prints at cam be purchased at the museum. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing her work. The experience was significantly enhanced by the information shared with us by the docent. She was awesome!

As we left the depot, we stopped to snap a photo of Miss Alice's house (still blue) that is located nearby.

We loved learning about the history of Bay St. Louis and really enjoyed the 
Alice Mosley Museum. What a character!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Tree Sculptures and a Sunset, 11/12/2017

When Hurricane Katrina caused massive destruction ($125B damages; 286 dead/81 missing), dozens of mature oak trees (some hundreds of years old) in the median along Ocean Boulevard (Highway 90) were also destroyed. In 2007, the city of Biloxi commissioned "chainsaw artist" Dayton Scoggins to create five marine-related figures from oaks that were victims of a saltwater storm surge

When artist Marlin Miller visited Biloxi, he approached the city about donating his time and talent to sculpting more trees (15 more). Today there are about 50 tree sculptures the Mississippi Gulf Coast by multiple artists. 

We parked on the south side of Ocean Boulevard (west of the Biloxi Lighthouse) and walked along the median to see the sculptures up close. Here are some photos of them.  

Because it had been a cloudy day, we were drawn to the lovely sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.

Many more tree sculptures were within walking distance. 

And as the sun sank below the horizon, the colors became so vibrant. It was gorgeous!

For additional information about the tree sculptures, go to

A Visit to Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR, 11/20/2017

Visiting National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) is both fun and educational. We have been to many of them throughout the country. There are more than 550 refuges situated along the North American flyways to ensure local and migrating birds have habitats to feed and nest. 

The Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR is 19,300+ acres on three plots of land in southwestern Mississippi. It provides protection and management of one of the rarest bird populations, a sandhill crane subspecies that does not migrate

Our first stop was, as always, the Visitor Center. Very informative exhibits about the Mississippi Sandhill Crane and their habitat can be found here. The three species of Sandhills vary in size but look very similar. The Lesser Sandhills are 3 to 3.5' tall; the Mississippi Sandhills are 4-4.5'; and the Great Sandhills are 4.5-5' tall. Also, the Mississippi Sandhills a darker shade of grey and have brighter red head feathers. 

Their habitat is wet pine savanna (meadows on acidic, water-logged soil) that were once prevalent in the South. Commercial development by timber companies, road construction, urban growth, and invasive plant species dramatically reduced the savannas. By the 1960s, only 30-35 Mississippi Sandhills remained with only 5 breeding pairs (they mate for life). It was one of the first species classified as "endangered" in 1973

Habitat and crane management began when the Refuge was established in 1975. Both are long term programs that are proving to be successful. Because Mississippi Sandhills do not produce many chicks (1-2 eggs every 1-2 years), increasing the population is a very slow process. Also, juveniles are at risk due to predators. Today there are 125-130 cranes with about 25 breeding pairs

The cranes nest from March to May on the ground or in shallow water (elevated) and have an incubation period of 30-31 days. Both parents help with the young, although the males predominantly protect the territory around the nest.

The wingspan of the Sandhills is about 6', but they only weigh about 10 pounds (bones are hollow). A fossil of a bird dated to 10 millions years ago is almost identical to the Sandhill Crane, making it the oldest surviving bird on earth. Wow!

Other birds live on the refuge, both migrating ones and others that remain year round. Below is a Great Blue Heron and a Loggerhead Shrike. We see many herons, but the loggerhead shrike has been nicknamed the "butcherbird." These small birds carry their prey (smaller birds, insects, and other small animals) to a briar bush and impale it on thorns for a tasty meal when hungry. Yikes!

After speaking with a volunteer at the Refuge, we decided to hike two of the four trails. This time of year it is very rare to see an Sandhill cranes except in the early morning hours. Nature tours are offered from the Visitor Center (free of charge) most mornings at 8 am, but reservations are required as space is limited.

Near the Visitor Center is CL. Dees Trail. The land in this part of the refuge was previously owned by Dees. 

The trail winds through wet pine savannapiney woods, and near Bayou Castille

Saw palmettos and some oak trees could also be seen along the trail.

Thirty-five to fifty different plant species can be found within just one square meter of land in the savanna. 

Ten species of carnivorous plants also live in the wet pine savanna including sundews, butterworts, pitcher plants and more. We saw two types of pitcher plants: parrot pitcher plant and yellow trumpet pitcher plant. Attracted by sweet nectar, Insects crawl into the vase-shaped leaf where they become trapped. Eventually they fall to the bottom of the leaf to die in a mixture of water and digestive enzymes. 

Bayou Castille was a busy waterway with boats transporting timberturpentine i barrels, charcoal and other necessities in the 1800sPond cypress (much smaller than bald cypress) thrive here because they are both flood tolerant and rot resistant.  

Next we drove to another part of the refuge (to the south near Hanshaw) to check out the Fontainebleau Walking Trail. We had picked up a map at the Visitor Center but some are available at the trailhead as well. 

Through the mixed forest here much of the trail is covered with pine needles this time of year. Boardwalks provide easy access through the marshy areas and overlooks provide views of the areas where Sandhills nest.

We crossed streams, passed through both forest and savanna habitats, as well as the bayou.

Always curious, our sweet doggie, Sadie, walked right into this muddy area next to the trail. At first we thought she was laying down to cool off, but quickly realized she was stuck! Unable to escape the mud on her own, John had to pull her out by her front legs. It was like quicksand!

We hiked a total of about 4 miles and thoroughly enjoyed learning about the elusive and rare Mississippi Sandhill Cranes. For additional information about this National Wildlife Refuge, go to

When we were in TombstoneAZ, we had the good fortune to see thousands of migrating Sandhills cranes in a wildlife area south of town  ( 

 I am so grateful for the foresight of those before us to preserve these habitats so these bird species can survive and thrive. I am hopeful that future generations will do the same.