New Nature Trail Features South Mississippi Beauty

A new trail near Vancleave highlights the natural beauty of South Mississippi. It's located in the Ward Bayou Wildlife Management Area.

"We're going to walk up the hill about 50 yards or so here and get on the trail," said Charlie Brenke, as he led a group of visitors up the hill.

Brenke is the perfect trail guide for an educational walk through the woods.

"Here's the first ravine that we encounter here," he said.

The president of the Coast Audubon Society knows his biology and botany. And the new trail provides plenty of lessons in both.

"Here's Caesar's Amanita. Amanita Caesari right here. Isn't that a beautiful mushroom?"

Caesar may have served the mushrooms to his closest enemies. It's beautiful but poisonous.

Brenke knows all the sights and sounds and smells.

"This plant right here, the leaf is very fragrant. Smell it," he directed.

"That's Florida anise", Brenke explained, as his companion sensed the herb like aroma.

"And what we're doing here is trying to celebrate opening up a wonderful site that is unique sort of to coastal Mississippi in terms of its habitat quality as part of the greater Pascagoula River," said extension specialist, Mark LaSalle, during the dedication ceremony.

Spiders are abundant along the trail. Those who take a wrong step, could be easily surprised by a face to face encounter with a banana spider.

Bigger still was the surprised look on Judith Toups face when the well known birder learned this trail will bear her name. She promised supporters she'll live up to the honor.

Friends like Charlie Brenke will gladly help.

"We're going to swing right right here," said Brenke, as he directed another group of visitors down the trail.

The new "Judith Toups Nature Trail" at Ward Bayou is one of 42 sites on the recently completed Mississippi Coastal Birding Trail. The trail is open to the public for self guided tours.