Trip on a tank: Kisatchie National Forest

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
The view of a perfect swim hole we took advantage of just minutes away from our campsite.

I have a cousin who moved to Colorado in his late teens to work on a ski lift. Growing up a city boy between New Orleans and Houston I used to always think that must have been breathtaking, until one day when he told me that after he moved back to Louisiana he realized the natural beauty of our state is even greater.

That's as good a segue as any I suppose to my recent trip "up north" to the Kisatchie National Forest, right here in Louisiana. What spawned this trip was that my new girlfriend and I had quickly discovered that we both like to camp, and neither of us had ever been to Kisatchie. My friends and I have been more privy to camping at Fontainebleau State Park or Homochitto National Forest in Mississippi in recent years. Because of the proximity, if nothing else.

However, we did some research and made a phone call or two. The only thing we found to be caution-worthy is that some areas of the forest allow hunting. Please be sure to do your own research. We didn't find that fact to be a major deterrent. Off we went for the weekend before Thanksgiving.

The nights got pretty chilly in late November. And I don't think I ever remember seeing more stars in the sky. We made burritos, bundled up tightly to play with our glow bocce ball set, and then snuggled in front of our campfire for some guitar playing and to read "To Kill A Mockingbird."

But remarkably, the days were warm. We spent plenty time just sitting down on the white sands that lined the crisp, clear creek and relaxing. Tell me, who can't use more of just that?

In fact, Kisatchie offers a pretty astounding number of campgrounds to choose from for primitive camping. Now if I counted right from the website, the total number of "camps" is 37. Since the national forest is comprised of 944 square miles of space spanning seven Louisiana Parishes, as one might imagine there are endless nooks to explore.

Since they don't let me out of my office too often, my trip on a tank only lasted for two nights. So, for this inaugural run we settled on the Kisatchie Bayou campground. This campground runs parallel to Kisatchie Bayou. A couple campsites were absolutely choice! While I must admit that we never really achieved 100 percent seclusion (there were plenty kiddos running around, having a grand ole time), at night it was quiet enough to hear a pin drop. Plus, we were never encroached upon. The nearest campsite in use from us was three or four down the line.

Moreover, don't forget that as you move north in Louisiana the state actually has hills. One of the most remarkable things is that when we arrived, we noticed that in some places we could see the horizon above the treeline. Since Ascension Parish is flat, even though it wasn't quite what you would call mountainous, it was beautiful and refreshing.

The hardest sell I can think of to Louisianans for this trip is that most of you already have a rural home or some sort of fishing camp you like to get away to. But if you live in the cities, then this option works just fine for a getaway.

All-in-all it's about a three-hour drive away. Unless you drive a tank, it shouldn't take more than a tank to get there (and possibly even to get back). Once there, it only costs $2 a night to camp. That's no typo. So prep some food and water, pack a hammock (with new cordage), firewood, a tent, a good book, a frisbee and a constellation guide. Bring your family or just a loved one, or just yourself if you need some timeout.

Explore the Kisatchie National Forest. It's one of Louisiana's treasures. By the way, someone let me know if it's pronounced kiss-a-chee or ki-s@-chee. Or don't. We're kind of partial to the first one.