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Posts Tagged ‘initial walk-through’

I continued north from the administration office along the loop road.  [The office is located along the road east of the lake and at the western edge of a large rectangular field].  A little more than a mile northwest of the Office, the roadway descended, and I caught my first glimpse of the lake.  [For a quicker view of the lake, I would recommend starting the loop road by veering straight/left just after the entrance booth].  From here the road travels along an earthen dam, and offers a beautiful view of the 225 acre lake, back to the south and east.  The pine-covered hills visible from this point undoubtedly hold in part of the special sense of place that has drawn visitors to this landscape for decades.  The earthen dam here holds back one (here, the White House Branch) of two small drainage ways that creates the lake around which this park is centered.

According to a history report written by Park Manager Kim Kelly (cited from hodgesgardens.net), the lake water is supplied by three (3) naturally flowing artesian springs and many other smaller springs.  These water sources certainly help keep the lake water relatively clear, and make this water body an attractive distant background, and sometimes focal point, from much of the northern and western designed areas of the park.

I drove over to the visitor center parking area, which is located on a high point on a broad peninsula above the northwestern shores of the lake.  Gathering my walnut halves and cheddar cheese, water bottle, notepad, and camera, I left the van to begin my pedestrian adventure.

While my primary goal was just to get an on-the-ground experience of the main gardens area, I went ahead and took several photographs with my camera—no shots in particular, but photos of things that simply interested me or seemed potentially useful with the documentation process.

As mentioned previously, scope and logistics of landscape documentation projects really help guide goals for site visits.  Though usually not ideal, sometimes a single site visit is all that is feasible for a documentation project.  Other times, many visits will be necessary.  The time frame and logistics of this summer project puts me somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.  Although I intend to be as sensible as possible with my resources at hand, I envision visiting Hodges Gardens at least a handful of times this summer.

Documentation Photography:  If you are working on a project where few site visits are possible, make the most efficient use out of your visit(s).   Photograph more than you think you will need.  Capture views; capture landscape features (buildings, structures, small elements); capture significant vegetation; capture major lines (hardscape or softscape) that create spatial organization; capture circulation (pedestrian and vehicular) routes.  The guide that accompanies this blog will expand on these points in more detail.  For now, check out the images that follow this post for a few examples of images I captured at Hodges Gardens.

Planning the Walk-through:  If the landscape of interest is large, you may want to roughly follow a map (if one doesn’t exist, see if any aerial imagery on Google or Bing Maps is helpful) to make sure high points are visited.  If you feel like the site is pretty easy to navigate, just start walking—and photographing, if that fits your plan/scope.

As the thermometer approached 100 degrees Fahrenheit near 1pm, my pedestrian excursion came to a close.  Starting field work early on days like this certainly pays.  I finished my visit with a drive back around the loop road, and checked out a trail head that lay down a sinuous side-road.

I had some good corn tortilla fajitas at a Mexican restaurant just up the road in Many, Louisiana.  Many is a roughly a halfway landmark between Hodges Gardens and the office back in Natchitoches.  Many is the parish seat and largest city in Sabine Parish—the home parish of Hodges Gardens.

Slowing to at least 5mph below the speed limit in Robeline, LA (hint), I arrived with a couple of work hours left for the day at NCPTT.  This provided a great time for me to glance over my small stack of Park literature I had gathered earlier in the day.  After a site visit, maps and other related information are more easily interpreted.

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The days have been flying by, and I am new to blogging.  Here are some updates on project happenings thus far.

DAY 1, ARRIVING AT HODGES GARDENS:  The first day of this landscape documentation/blogging project began with a site visit to Hodges Gardens State Park.  I spent about 3.5 hours onsite.  My goal was to become roughly acquainted with the area of focus (for this documentation project, the focus is the designed landscape area).  Although time involved and recommended method of orientation differs by site and project focus, a quick walk-through is generally recommended, if possible.

[As discussed in the ‘About’ page of this site, the goal of this summer project is not to complete a thorough documentation of the Hodges Gardens landscape.  Rather, I am highlighting significant, feasible points from the documentation process during a 10 week assignment.  The goal is to outline friendly, concise guidelines that are formed from real-world high (or low) points of this case study.  The backbone of these guidelines will be produced through this blog].

Again, this was a quick walk-through day.. more detail-focused visits would follow.

Since I wanted to be aware of how this designed portion fit into the larger, comprehensive landscape (900+ acres), I planned to begin with a quick drive around the loop road that travels some of the middle-outer regions of the state park landscape.  Consulting aerial images and any available maps certainly help with this larger scale orientation, too.

A few miles south of Florien, Louisiana I found the entry to Hodges Gardens State Park on my left—just a few yards after I passed the entrance.  The staff at Hodges (and the landscape character off the wide shoulders of U.S. 171) tell me that this road was expanded into a 4-lane, divided highway within the last 12 or so years.  Sparing you my opinion of this highway project, I will simply say that Park visitors should be on the alert for the entrance after passing the community of Florien…Or after passing Hornbeck, LA, if traveling north on 171.

After briefly viewing Texas Overlook—an outlook to the north and west at approximately 430ft above sea level—I was courteously greeted at the front entrance gate.  Following a brief ‘good morning’ and name exchange, the entrance gate staff member contacted a Kim Kelly.   Lacking much administration knowledge of the Park at this time, I stood at the entrance booth not realizing Kelley was park manager at Hodges.  Verifying that my professionalism hat was on for whatever lay ahead, I proceeded over to the administration office, and was kindly greeted by Kim just inside the door.  I quickly read her nametag, which indeed identified her as park manager.  This was a pleasant, awesome surprise!  After a warm welcome, brief orientation of the park, and sneak peek into a few samples from the Park archives, I began my tour of the Gardens.

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