Hiking safety on Rail Trails and isolated areas

For a New Orleans-based conference, I stayed in Gretna, LA, which was 10-20 minutes by ride-sharing car to the New Orleans Convention Center. Central Gretna is a somewhat walkable neighborhood, close to the Mississippi River Trail and historic Old Gretna on the West Bank of the Mississippi River. I walked along the Mississippi River Trail south to where it shifts to public streets. The Trail resumes after you pass the industrial area in Harvey, LA.

Isolated trail concerns

I walked north from Gretna’s McDonoghville neighborhood into a transitional neighborhood under the Crescent City Connection bridge. As I came into southern McDonogh on the Mississippi River Trail atop the levee, I was isolated by the river on the west and the rail yard on the east. I came to realize that there were two guys who seemed to stop when I would stop, and start walking again when I did. They were about 300 feet ahead, also going north, while I was 34 of a mile from the nearest southern Trail exit. Then they stopped completely about 200 feet south of the nearest Trail exit in front of me to the north.

I took an alternative exit through the end of the rail yard through an opening in the fence. As soon as I left the Trail, they started walking diagonally toward me, so I power-walked across the railroad tracks, east to Franklin Ave, which is the nearest major street west of the Fischer Development Project. Then I followed Franklin Ave the quarter-mile or so south on till I was back in Gretna.

Mitigation

When traveling to an unfamiliar area without car or public transit, consider factors like ride-sharing availability at your event/outing day and time. Many ridesharing apps allow previewing other cities–before you go, check on the same day of week and time to see if typically there are cars available in your planned area. Whatever city or area you’re in, going down a mile-long isolated stretch may not be the best idea.