Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Natchez Trace Part 3

Yes, i'm finally continuing on with this little trip.  If you are new to this site I suggest you catch up with Part 1 and Part 2 before continuing on.  Or, if you don't really care about the earlier parts just press on!  

Here's the deal with the procrastination.  I haven't been too overly ambitious in continuing the writing about this trip because I was really going through a lot at this point.  I was an emotional wreck and I really didn't want to be quite that open with everyone, but such is life and here it is.  

When I woke up that second morning at Jeff Busby State Park I truly wasn't feeling in the best of spirits.  I had been eaten alive by mosquitoes earlier and then spent the remainder of the night restlessly in the cab of my truck.  I was sore and grumpy.  I didn't bother with trying to make any breakfast.  I didn't even really bother packing anything back up.  I just stuffed all my wet gear in the cab of my truck and took off.  

The weather that morning really wasn't helping me out at all.  It was miserably dreary.  It wasn't quite raining, but it wasn't dry enough for the windows to be down either.  It was that intolerable heavy mist that has a way of soaking you all the way to the bone without notice.  I guess the good thing was that, even though there was very little traffic to begin with, this little bit of weather kept even more motorist off the road.  I had the road to myself and my thoughts.  My iPod was even against me that morning playing all the wrong song.  I was finding myself digging deeper and deeper into self loathing so, rain or shine, I pulled over at the first hiking spot I came upon to get back out of the truck and into the woods.  

The old Trace and the dreary weather.  At least it wasn't hot.

I continued on this way for nearly 100 miles before the sun started to burn off the mist and burn off my gloom in the process.  By the time I had reached Tupelo I was feeling 100% better.  I laughed to myself about how much the weather can affect my mood.  I pulled over at one of the big visitors centers in the area, watched a film on the trace with an 86 year old man named Eugene.  Eugene was on a cross country RV trip with his wife and was also visiting the trace for the first time.  We exchanged pleasantries and went on our separate ways.

Before heading back down the trace I swung down into downtown Tupelo to grab some lunch and visit the Tupelo National Battlefield.  Let me go ahead and tell you this if you're planning a trip.  Just take the time to read about this "battlefield."  It was basically a small lot sized piece of land right off the main highway.  There was no parking to even get out and read the plaques.  It's really not worth the trip off the trace.  Sorry Tupelo.

The next great stop, not too far north is the Pharr Mounds.  It's a nine acre group of Indian burial mounds.  Because these are burial mound, it is a view site only unlike the Emerald Mound that you could climb to the top of.  These mounds were excavated some time back and numerous amazing artifacts were recovered.  I personally don't feel like these kinds of things should be removed from burial sites, but for history's sake it's an amazing archaeological find.  There is plenty of interesting information around the site and it's definitely worth a visit.  

The Pharr Mound site and the clearing weather.

There was a group of cyclist taking a rest here and since I was in a MUCH better mood I decided to have a little chat with them.  They were part of a large group that was biking the entire trace.  They were south bound from Nashville and told me that they still over a hundred miles ahead of them on this day.  As amazing as that trip sounds, I could never keep up with a group like that.  Maybe i'll just do it on a scooter one day! haha.  I wish I had gotten their names and info to find out how their trip turned out, but I just wasn't quite on top of my game at this point yet.  

This day quickly went from gloomy to great for me.  The stops just became better and better as I went and actually lifted me to a level of optimism that I didn't think was possible with the way the morning started.  I pulled over at the Tennessee- Tombigbee Waterway for another little break.  I don't remember if it was part 1 or 2 in which I talked about my connection with water, but that's beyond the point.  Water has always made me feel connected and this canal was no different.  It's an 80 mile man made canal connecting the Tennessee and Tombigbee rivers and it was beautiful.  The water was a crystal clear bluish-green.  I even tested it for a potential swim spot, but it was intensely frigid!  I just found me a nice little spot to lay out in the grass and soak up some sun while watching a tug make it's way through the lock.

Tug on the Ten-Tom Waterway.

The section of trace between the waterway and Meriwether Lewis state park was exactly what I needed on a day like this.  It's the perfect afternoon drive for a beautiful day.  As you make your way further up north the terrain becomes more rocky and lends to very interesting landscapes for a boy from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi.  Trust me I stopped at every cave between there and Nashville.

Farewell Mississippi, I shall return soon.

I'm just going to let the pictures do most of the talking for Alabama.  You really aren't in that state for long, but it's surprisingly scenic with some interesting historical sites. 

The Tennessee River was beautiful.  Would you believe
that I spent some time hanging out here as well?

Worth a quick read to set up the next picture.  (It gets 
bigger if you click on it)

The actual site of Colbert's stand.  All that remains is the 
clearing and that piece of pipe sticking out of the group.
Amazing view over the TN river as well.

Another one of my feeble attempts at self timer photography.
One day i'm sure to master this!

Heading into TN!  You would've laughed if you had seen
me playing the hop back and forth across the state line
game like I was 12 years old.  You've got to enjoy the small

I made a couple of the usual stops between the Tennessee state line and Meriwether Lewis to visit sites of the old trace and other former stands.  You can see my full album to see all the photos I took of these different spots.  I will recommend, if you're on the trace, taking the "old trace drive" detour.  I liked it simply because it was borderline sketchy.  It's a one way winding road that follows some of the old trace.  It's too small for any RV's so don't even attempt it!  The crumbling road winds along a few steep drop offs that makes for some tense moments of driving.  It's worth the excursion if you enjoy tense moments as much as I do.  

As I was making my way along the trace I learned something that i'm surprised I honestly had no idea about.  The great explorer Meriwether Lewis died along the trace in 1809 to a mysterious ailment.  The last campground on the northbound trace is at this site.  There is a large memorial erected at the site.  When I showed up there I was the only person there, so I was really able to take my time soaking it all in.  M. Lewis died at the age of 35.  In 35 years he commanded the expedition to Oregon, was an officer of the regular Army, became private secretary to President Jefferson, and was elected governor of the Louisiana Territory.  We learn about him throughout grade school 200 years after his death.  It amazed me what one man could accomplish in such a short amount of time.  It really made me think about the legacy i'll leave behind in the future.  35 years.  Wow.  

The grave site. 

The words of President Jefferson

Following my visit to the grave, I decided to go find a campsite.  Driving around I couldn't believe how nice this place was.  It was amazingly clean and well kept, especially for a free campground.  When I finally reached the camping area I was very happy about what I found before me.  There were a lot of campsites and very few campers.  I was able to get down in a corner a good way away from everyone else.  It was very quiet and the perfect place to spend the night. After the mayhem of the night before it was no doubt that I was going to set up my tent this night.  I pushed a nice pile of leaves together and built camp right on top of the soft mound.  It truly made for a nice nights sleep.

One thing did make me angry about the site though.  Although there was a trashcan on the site, it was still littered with the previous tenants garbage.  How hard is it just to put your stuff in the can?  Anyone that knows me borderline well knows that i'm an advocate of leave no trace, so I spent a few minutes picking up what I could find and grumbling to myself about the fools that left it behind. 

My awesome campsite for the night.

My continuing attempts at self time photography.

Enjoying the sunset.

Following the amazing sunset that night I crawled up into my tent and called it a day.  For a day that started out so poorly for me in general it really turned into an amazing experience.  I was riding high when I finally fell asleep.  This felt like a big turning point for me and although I have had a few down days since things have really seemed to turn around for me.  

To be continued...

As always, check out the full album!

Until Next Time,

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