GAUTIER, Miss. (WGNO) - Need to plan some spring cleaning for your soul? News with a Twist's Travel Girl, Stephanie Oswald, spent some time exploring in Gautier, Mississippi. She teamed up with the folks at Eco-Tours of South Mississippi and came up with 10 reasons why an adventure like this one should be on your bucket list.
1. You'll travel on one really special river
This eco-tour starts out on a branch of the Pascagoula River -- part of the longest unimpeded river system in the lower 48 states. That means it's free-flowing and you won't see any man-made water control, such as damns. But you will pass under Interstate 10, and on a blue-sky day you'll find a unique (you might even say pretty!) perspective of the busy highway.
2. Enjoy something rare: such as white pelicans in the marsh
White pelicans are larger than brown ones, and instead of diving for their dinner, they float and simply dip their heads in the water to scoop up a meal when they're hungry. They are migratory, and Kathy says she usually sees them arrive in this region a week or so before Thanksgiving.
3. Hang with the herons in the swamp
The swamp is much denser than the marsh, but both are filled with bird sightings, such as this blue heron we surprised as we turned a corner. You might see an alligator, but it's rare. The hunting lodge that the Wilkinsons turned into a guesthouse is located in the Pascagoula Swamp. Fall, winter and early spring are popular times to visit the swamp, to avoid the heat of summer.
4. Listen to the sounds of silence
When you stay at the guesthouse, you have access to an outdoor deck, the yard and of course, the dock where the boat pulls up. Bring a favorite book, a journal or maybe a yoga mat. This is an ideal place to hit the 'pause' button on life.
5. Relax, reflect and restore your soul
For $500, you get the informational eco-tour, rustic-but-charming overnight accommodations, meals and activities at the camp. The chance to meet wildlife and remember what silence sounds like are also included.
6. This is paradise for birders
Kathy says some of the most rewarding bird-watching happens at the overnight camp, when special feathered friends nest in the area. Bring your own binoculars and guidebooks, or you can borrow some from the Wilkinsons.
7. The overnight stay includes meals
A few hours after leaving this dock at Gautier City Park, you'll feel as if you've entered a foreign land.
Kathy and Jeff accompany guests during the overnight adventure. They have a separate bedroom inside the cabin, but be aware that it's pretty cozy and everyone shares a bathroom. "It's not luxurious, but it's comfortable," says Kathy.
They will prepare meals and take care of clean-up; guests can pitch in as little or as much as they would like. Boiled shrimp and gumbo are popular menu items. Meals can be tailored to specific dietary needs, but give the Wilkinsons plenty of time to plan -- because there's no such thing as a quick trip to the store. (See No. 8!)
8. Remember: the only way to get there is by boat
It's a beautiful journey to the guesthouse! We enjoyed a mini-tour with Captain Kathy and learned all kinds of facts about the birds and the balance of nature. She is like a walking encyclopedia filled facts about the local ecosystems.
9. Kathy and Jeff welcome you to their rustic but comfortable camp
The Wilkinsons are seasoned captains and naturalists. Jeff is also a photographer. You'll see some of his older work on display at the camp, and he shares current work on his Facebook page. In the guest bedroom there are 2 sets of bunk beds and a queen bed. Watch the video above for a more complete view inside the camp.
10. Adventures can be as short as 2 hours or as long as 2 days
The hunting lodge that the Wilkinsons turned into a guesthouse is located in the Pascagoula Swamp. Fall, winter and early spring are popular times to visit the swamp, to avoid the heat of summer.
For more about Eco-Tours of South Mississippi, click here.