Monday, December 11, 2023

Cajun Country and Tabasco Factory

 Location: Palmetto Island State Park; Abbeville, Louisiana

It was another easy tow of about 120 miles with a Walmart stop along the way. Walmart stops are great when towing since you can stretch your legs and buy stuff to put directly in your refrigerator. 

Palmetto Island is not a real island. It is just an area that is a little higher than the surrounding area. Louisiana decided to build a state park on the island and I decided to give it a try. My campsite is nice with full hook-ups. I'll use it as a base camp to have a visit with my sister who lives near by and also to explore Avery Island, home of the Tabasco Factory. 

If you come here, you need to know two things and put them high on your list of priorities. There are two animals here that can not only kill you, but also eat you for their breakfast, lunch, supper and midnight snack. Be careful with the Black Bears and Alligators. Although I haven't seen either because I haven't purposely looked for them, the campground host says they get reports almost daily from other campers. Basically, they won't bother you if you don't bother them.

This is a crawfish pond. They average about 15 inches deep so the ground must be extremely level before flooding. Most of the ponds are still dry but some, like these have been flooded. For those who haven't had crawfish, well bless your heart.

Another industry in the part of Louisiana is sugar cane. Many fields are being harvested now. When I lived down here back in the late 70's/early 80's, they had to wait until the cane browned out so they could set the field on fire. The fire would burn away the leaves so the cane could then be picked up and hauled away. Now a days, it is harvested with a combine type machine. Man, the eco people would have fit now a days if the cane farmers went back to the old ways. 

This is the entrance to the campground. Just a subliminal reminder to be aware of your surroundings since they are still laying around while sunning themselves to stay warm.

Snuggled into my campsite. 

I keep my eye out the back window for the Rougarou,,,,,that would be werewolf to those not in the know. So far, so good.

These are the palmetto plants which grow a lot on this island. 

This is what surrounds the island. I took this picture from the road as I was coming to the campsites.

There is a nice little pond in the middle of the campground. Notice the red warning sign

This is the bathroom, made up like an old Acadian style house. Lots of spanish moss.

This is part of the Vermilion Bayou that runs along the edge of the island

Another picture of the Vermilion Bayou

This area is the heart of Cajun Country. The area includes about a 70 mile radius around Lafayette, Louisiana. Lafayette is about 20 miles north of me. By the way, it is usually pronounced, Laugh-e-yet. The area is generally bounded by the Atchafalaya Swamp to the east, Lake Charles to the west, the Gulf of Mexico to the south and the city of Ville Platte to the north. 

Cajun Country is also called Acadiana. The Acadians were French people who were living in eastern Canada back in the early to mid 1700's. In 1755 the British King required them to swear allegiance to the British Crown. The Acadians said, "no thanks, we are independent and swear allegiance to no crown, that is why we left France" (I paraphrased that, but when you read it again, do so in a French accent). So the British, being British, kicked them out of Canada. The Acadians call it the Great Expulsion. There were about 11,500 Acadians deported and about 5,000 died during the deportation. Well, lots of the Acadians were deported to New Orleans which was under French control. When they got there, they weren't welcomed by the Creoles who had been there for a while. So, the Acadians said, "ok, you Creoles can have the big city, we will head west and settle out there in the country.". They settled in what is now Cajun Country which also has the fancy name of Acadiana. But how did they end up being called Cajun? Well, after a few generations, their French language had changed some due to being so isolated that when people asked them who they were, their answer was "a-cajun-ian". Due to their accent, most people only heard Cajun, so that is what they became know as. Most people think of Creole and Cajun as being the same thing. They aren't. Creole are city folks with fancy ways and fancy foods while the Cajuns were country folks with country ways and foods. Eventually, some of the Cajuns wanted to be a little more fancy, so they called themselves Acadians. Both cultures, while different, have great people, food and music.

One of the things made in Cajun Country is Tabasco Sauce. There is a lot of history behind it but I'll try to make short and sweet with my fingers crossed that I don't screw it up. A lawyer with the back name of McIlhenny lived in New Orleans and married a country girl who was raised on Avery Island in the heart of Cajun Country. The War for Southern Independence was about to break out so the couple fled the big city and took refuge at Avery Island with her family. While there McIlhenny planted some pepper seeds he got from someone (not sure who) and when he got back from the The War of Northern Aggression the pepper plants were doing great. (Notice how I used two of the three Southern names for the Civil War??) Ole Mc decided to make some sauce from the pepper plants and the original tabasco sauce was born. Lots of people liked it so the sold it and it became a big business, even today. I'll say more about it in the captions of some of the pictures. 

Tabasco museum on the left and the Tabasco General store on the right. Out of the picture and to the right is their restaurant which I didn't try.

This is part of one of several very large warehouses. It is the pepper mash aging in oak barrels with a salt top sealing it off. They will age like this for about 3 years. The warehouses are open to the weather and not climate controlled.

This is the blending stage. The pepper mash from the oak barrels come here after their 3 years of aging. Here it is mixed with vinegar and some salt. It rests here for about 3 weeks with occasional stirring. The stirring is done by that blue thing on top with a timer. 

This is the bottling factory. You can see inside but it is hard to get a good picture. 

The two big bottles are my purchases from the General Store. You can taste all of their different products put they even had tabasco flavored ice creme. The one on the left is a new flavor for me and is called, Rasberry Chipolte. The one on the right is an old favorite named Sweet and Spicy. The miniature bottles were gifts with the one on the left having a Navy label.

Also on Avery Island are the 170 acres of Jungle Gardens. It is a botanical garden created by Old Man Mcllhenny's son. It includes a bird sanctuary and a Budda from the 1100's. You can drive through the Gardens in about an hour or two depending on how often you stop. It is a nice place and I enjoyed the peace and tranquility of the place. Although I had been to the Tabasco Factory before, this was the first time to see the Gardens. They would be even better in the spring time. 

Some nice live oaks with spanish moss.

Another tree with some spanish moss

A little grove of cypress trees with lots of cypress knees. They like water so it is rare to see them dry like this.

I found a bench

Another bench. This one is made out of bamboo since they have large stands of them growing in the gardens. It is looking at the back side of the Buddha.

The Buddha sitting in his enclosed glass cage.

Buddha's view.

Tomorrow is moving day and I'll be headed east towards New Orleans, but plan to stay on the west side of the river.

This is a longer than normal post and I do feel like proofreading it before posting. If there are any major errors I'll fix them some other time.

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road.


  1. Now you are in the area of my mothers relatives especially down near Avery Island. Thanks for the report. Looks like a few things have changed in the last fifty or so years.

    1. You're welcome Barney. Hope I brought up some good memories for you.

  2. Great post. Nice to read the history of the area.

    1. I like the history too. It's fun looking it up as well as seeing it.

  3. Can you smell the peppers on Avery Island?

    1. The only place I smelled peppers was in the barrel warehouse. The salt caps allow fumes and gases to escape. It wasn't overpowering and was a pleasant smell.

  4. I've been to Avery Island myself Darrell probably 20 years ago. Those are pretty pictures, and reminds me a lot of northern Florida around the Suwanee River area. But when I see those scenes of water, cypress trees, and Spanish moss hanging in the trees all I can think of is 20 or 30 mosquitoes humming in my ears as I run to the shelter of my truck.

    But I enjoyed the pictures anyway.... Keepum coming.


    1. Storms and a cold front blew through the area the night before so there weren't any skeeters around while I was exploring Avery Island. I felt very lucky.

  5. Nice write up and pictures. Gives me the history and flavor of the area. Putting it on my go to list.

    1. It's an interesting place to explore and Palmetto Island SP is a good base camp. If you're over 62 years of age, the campsite is 1/2 price. Good deal.

  6. Thanks for sharing Darrell! I put it on my list to visit, it looks like an interesting place.