Running For My Life in Gulf Islands National Seashore, Mississippi

by Stephanie Withers
Ford Focus parked at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Mississippi

I’ve heard the jokes about Mississippi being the mosquito capital of the world. Why I didn’t put two and two together and realize that camping in the bayou at Gulf Islands National Seashore in the middle of August might be a bad idea, I’ll never know.

Riding on the high of New Orleans, my sister and I vowed to return one day as we piled back into the Ford Focus and started the drive toward Mississippi. It wasn’t a long drive, but we wanted to make sure we got to our campsite before nightfall.

The Gulf Islands National Seashore looked gorgeous online. We knew we wanted to hike there and our next stop was too far away to drive straight through. In an effort to save some money, we figured we’d just camp in the park- easy peasy.

OH. MY. GOD.

Hiking in Gulf Islands National Seashore in Mississippi on a Southern USA road trip. #exploreusa #usatravel #usroadtrip #nationalparks #mississippi #gulfcoast
Hiking in Gulf Islands National Seashore in Mississippi on a Southern USA road trip. #exploreusa #usatravel #usroadtrip

Arriving in Gulf Islands National Seashore, Mississippi

Gulf Islands National Seashore is a U.S. National Park that is divided between Mississippi and the Florida panhandle. We traveled to the section of the park located in Ocean Springs, MS just east of Biloxi.

Ocean Springs, MS is a really cute town. By the time we reached it (probably around 4 or 5), most of the small shops were closed for the day. Darn! We took some time to grab a bite to eat and get some souvenirs at one of the local shops that were still open before driving into the park itself.

The lush greenery of the Mississippi Bayou was absolutely breathtaking. I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

The Davis Bayou section of the park was empty. There were a few RVs at the campground, but no tents. We only encountered maybe two other hikers on the trail. Of course, it was just before nightfall and I’m face-palming right now knowing that’s prime mosquito time…even 6 years later I’m so embarrassed that we weren’t better prepared.

We first parked at a little clearing with a dock, just to take in some nature. It was surprisingly nice to detox from our hectic 24 hours in New Orleans.

After about a half hour of relaxing and stretching our legs, we decided to take a hike. We got our sneakers on and smothered ourselves in Off bug repellent.

And then we ventured into the lush green landscape…

Hiking in Davis Bayou, Gulf Islands National Seashore

First of all, the Davis Bayou Trail is gorgeous. It’s dense and lush and green and looks like a jungle paradise. What I’m about to say is NOT A reflection on the park itself, but our experience – the park is beautiful and very well kept, but…

Here are things you should take on a hike with you on this trail in August – a full-body bee suit, a flame thrower, and a fly swatter. I wish I were exaggerating.

I got a thousand bites despite my bath in repellent. Bugs were literally flying full force into my face and assaulting my ears and mouth.

At first, it was just annoying. The beauty of the landscape more than made up for the bugs.

As the sun continued to set, it got so much worse.

The second half of our hike was my little sister and I power walking (sometimes jogging) with our arms flailing wildly, swatting at the bugs that were full-on assaulting us. We were sweating like crazy in the southern heat and humidity.

Even then, we were laughing hysterically because we knew what a sight it was! Ugh, we must have looked like a bunch of lunatics.

By the time we made it back to the car, we were drenched in sweat and covered with bug bites. We turned on the car, blasted the air conditioning, and one of us screamed, “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT”.

And then we laughed. Hysterically. Because it was the only way to process what had just happened.

Hindsight sure is 20/20. Believe it or not, I actually would love to return some day to see more of this park. It was just so beautiful.

But this time, we just couldn’t stay.

We knew that we would be miserable camping in that heat and humidity with the constant assault of bugs, so we left.

We stopped at the closest rest stop to clean ourselves up, wiping off the mascara that had run down our faces and the sweat and dirt that caked our skin, and then drove into the night. We made it to the Florida panhandle before getting a hotel and napping for a few hours.

The next morning we would rise early and make our way into the beautiful city of Savannah, Georgia.

What started as a beautiful day in Mississippi ended with us running for our lives through Gulf Islands National Seashore on our Southern U.S. road trip. #usroadtrip #usatravel #exploreusa

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