OCEAN SPRINGS -- For those who are looking for a local hiking adventure, you need to go no further than the Davis Bayou area of Gulf Islands National Seashore in Ocean Springs.
Gulf Islands National Seashore stretches east from Fort Barrancas in Pensacola westward to Cat Island and Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island.
The Davis Bayou portion of the park is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Drivers can reach the park by heading east on U.S. 90 in Ocean Springs, then south at the signs for the park entrance. From Interstate 10, take exit 50 or 57 and head south.
Starting from the William M. Colmer Visitor Center, hikers can navigate a 1-mile trail that ends at the picnic grounds. A trail guide is available at the visitor center.
If you prefer something shorter, you can walk the half-mile circular nature walk inside the park that will take you through woods that border the bayou.
First, though, a walk south from the visitor center will take you to the pier that goes out into the Mississippi Sound.
On Thursday afternoon, Kelli Turner and her family were fishing and crabbing off the pier, with some success, before they headed back to Gautier.
Be advised when walking around Davis Bayou the roads are a favorite area for cyclists.
Returning to the visitor center, you can begin your walk through the woods and along the byways. You can opt at one point to take a left and go down the CCC spur trail, which was built in the 1930s by men of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
If you head up the road, you will get to the half-mile circular nature walk, which begins just east of the boardwalk over the marsh of Davis Bayou. There is a parking bay near the entrance to the nature walk, and it gives you a base of operations across the boardwalk.
If you walk the boardwalk first, you can check out the crabs, fish and alligators that inhabit the bayou waters. However, the alligators prefer cooler temperatures -- early in the morning or as evening begins to fall -- so you can consider it a plus if they venture out to be seen.
Entering the nature walk is a totally different take.
You begin by ascending the hill, which may be surprising to some who think of the Coast as completely flat. Again, you may see raccoons, opossums and armadillos but the heat of the day seems to keep them from the trail.
The silence can be eerie as you walk, considering how close you are to the major metropolitan area of Ocean Springs. In addition to the buzz of insects, the occasional horsefly drops in for a visit and a swat of the hand. Fallen trees dot the trail, some of them victims of Hurricane Katrina. Halfway through, the half-mile walk opens onto another scenic overlook of the marsh.
The trees provide a lot of shade, which makes it seem cooler than 90 degrees.
The various marks on the trail keep you abreast of where you are, and there is a point where you can head back toward the visitor center or out to the entrance of the trail.
Even though the walk is not long by some hiking standards, be sure to wear light clothing and bring along water and insect repellent.
Entry to the park is free.