Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Natchez Trace Part 1

When planning this trip, I honestly didn't make too many plans.  I kind of had a rough outline of the things I wanted to do, but I didn't really know what to expect.  All I knew was that it was time to get away for a bit and hit the road!  

Day 1 started early; 4am to be exact.  I hopped in the shower and got clean for one last time, threw everything into my truck, cranked it up, hit play on the ipod, and hit the road!  The weather was a little ominous that first morning, but after seeing the forecast I felt like I would go through it all before I got to Natchez and my trip should be fine.  I was feeling good hitting the road.  I made one more pass down our little beach then turned it north.  

The music was loud and I made it to Hattiesburg before I knew it.  The weather was BAD at this point so I decided to swing into my favorite breakfast spot Wards.  I took a few minutes to look over the map on my phone and decide on my best plan of action.  I pointed my truck east and headed out on this journey.  Before too long I had successfully made it clear of the weather and the skies opened up into a beautiful blue for a bit.  It didn't last long enough before it was overcast again.  

The only thing that I HAD to do before getting on the trace in Natchez was to go see the Mississippi river.  I'm sure anyone that's been on trip with me that get anywhere close to the river aren't far from being sick of hearing me talk about it.  There is just something about it that connects me.  So much history on that river.  I can see why Mark Twain was so inspired every time i'm close to it.  When I finally made it there I had to spend some time just hanging out.  I sat on my tailgate and did a little writing as I soaked it all in.

My view over the big river.

When I was finally satisfied with the amount of soaking it in I had done it was time to locate the trace.  This turned into quite the task.  I felt like I drove around in circles for hours and just kept missing it.  In reality it really didn't take very long, but needless to say when I finally found it I felt accomplished.

And it begins!

I was finally on the trace.  Here goes nothing right?  444 miles at 50mph is exactly what I needed. I learned quickly that you can really spend a lot of time out there and not make it very far at all.  It took me well over 3 hours to make it past mile marker 17, but there is just SO much to see in that first stretch.  I stopped at the 2nd largest Indian mound in the United States, Emerald mound. I visited the restored Inn that was the first stopping point for travels on the trace 200 years ago, Mount Locust.  Then I got to do what I was really interested in doing and that's some hiking!  I spent some time talking to one of the park rangers at Mount Locust about access to the original trace sections.  He made it a point to let me know that this is no Appalachian Trail.  Most of the original trace is long overgrown, part of the current trace, and just gone with time, BUT there quite a few sections of the original trace still remain.  Along the parkway there were numerous signs pointing to sections of the original trace.

Me near the top of Emerald Mound
(Note: Emerald Mound was a ceremonial mound, not a 
burial mound.  Therefore you were allowed to visit the top.  
The burial mounds along the trace were viewing only.)

Mount Locust.
Had a great tour from a volunteer named Mike.  Thanks again!

My highlight of day 1 came between mile 16 and 17.  The ranger directed me to a 3 mile stretch of the trace off the beaten path.  He explained that it wasn't very well marked, so not many people use it.  There was no sign to it off of the parkway, but once you got off the road signs did direct you there, but it definitely didn't look like it was used much.  That is right up my alley!  After following a small path you emerge on the original Natchez Trace.  It was amazing.  I could really feel the history in there.  How many people had walked over this same spot in the last couple hundred years?  Which important historical figures have been right here?  This is what I needed!  I felt completely connected to the history and was completely taken in by it.  One of the fantastic features of this area is the soil.  It's a very light soil that is quite easily eroded.  This, coupled with the foot traffic over several hundred years, has left the trace sunken pretty deeply in places.  It was kind of eerie walking through the trace when you couldn't see what was above you.  I felt like this would've been a pretty great ambush place for the trail robber's of the past.  I plan on coming back and I plan on spending much more time on the trail systems of the trace.

Me on a sunken section of the Trace.

Why is this always an unavoidable aspect of such 
greatness?  I did my part to leave no trace and picked
up several items during my hike.

After my time on the original trace I headed back to the road and pushed on.  The drive was amazing at this time of year.  Everything was in bloom, the temperature was nice, so it all made for a very enjoyable drive.  I don't know that I ever rolled my windows back up.

The next point of interest I came to was the ghost town of Rocky Springs.  This was also the first campground on the trace.  It was somewhere around mile marker 58.  This is one of the great aspects of the trace.  The three campgrounds along the way were all no fee, no reservation campgrounds.  Everything was very clean and accommodating.  All of the campgrounds were also at places of historical importance.  This ghost town was once home to over 2,600 people, but now all that remains is a church and a couple of rusting safes.  There was a great little trail winding through the former town site and plenty of informative plaques to explain everything you could want to know about Rocky Springs.  The really great thing about this town is that the church is still maintained to this day.  It was built in 1837.  The doors are always open, so I stopped in for a visit.  It was very nice and quiet considering I was the only person there.  I took a couple of minutes to sit down and hang out in there.  It gave me the perfect opportunity to do some thinking and reflect on different aspects of life.  

The Rocky Springs Methodist Church

I pressed on over another 100 miles from Rocky Springs this first day, but I think this is a good spot to cut this post off for today.  I don't want to make these posts too long and unbearable.  After all, even I don't like reading posts that are too long!  There is much more to come!  Check back often.  As soon as I finish my full albums I will be posting links to them on here.

Until Next Time,

The entire album!  Enjoy!

1 comment:

Misti said...

Wow that is really cool! I thought the NT would be a great place to hike until I found out it was a mostly driving journey. But seeing old roads/trails---that is awesome. We walked a little bit of an old road on the Florida is a bit surreal thinking wagons and horses came down it.