Natchez Trace Parkway

Trip Start Mar 01, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Mississippi
Sunday, April 5, 2009

We departed a still dark and very chilly Nashville early on the morning of April 1st, and drove the better part of the spectacular Natchez Trace Parkway, a beautifully maintained, two-lane, scenic highway.  Billboard and traffic free, the experience was nothing short of otherworldly.  The landscape transitioned from green rolling hills, lavender and dogwood blossoms in Southern Tennessee and Northwestern Alabama to flatter, open meadows carpeted with yellow and red flowers, pine forests and boggier land in Mississippi.  We spotted many wild turkeys, cardinals, and, most exciting, two doe crossed the parkway directly in front of us.  We glimpsed distant movement from left to right across the road ahead and as we slowed, a second doe standing just left of the road ran both gracefully and awkwardly, right in front of us, across the road to the other side and into the woods.  Wow!

Many historic sites dot the Trace, and we stopped at several: Meriwether Lewis' grave, the Pharr Indian Mounds (burial mounds dating from 1-200 A.D.), and the old French Camp.  While the Trace passes through or near cities like Tupelo and Jackson, MS, you have to pull off the Trail in order to enter towns or cities of any size.  Clinton, located just off the Trace and 10 to 15 miles west of Jackson, MS is home to a very small college and Petra Cafe, a good little Lebanese restaurant where we picked up dinner before continuing on the Trace. 

We camped at Rocky Springs, one of two campgrounds located directly on Natchez Trace Parkway.  We arrived around 5:30pm and were surprised to find only one or two pads available.  Most of the occupants were French Canadian snowbirds, and all were in RVs.  We were able to set-up our humble 2-person tent and even fit in a walk before dark.  Rocky Springs is heavily forested and connects to the Old Trace (the original path formed by migrating buffalo herds and Native Americans before U.S. postal carriers and traders utilized it in the early 1800s).

The night sounds at Rocky Springs were amazing.  We heard packs of coyotes howling, which sounded more like whining and painful cries than the more common wolf howl.  Two owls repeatedly called back and forth to one another throughout the night, and some kind of deeply mournful grunting was heard occassionally; we think it might have been a cow? 

While I've not yet been west of Chicago, thus far, the Natchez Trace Parkway is by far the most aesthetically pleasing, pristine landscape I have ever seen.  Truely amazing.  Maybe we'll return to walk the Old Trace at some point.  But for now, we continue moving south to New Orleans, and exit Natchez Trace Parkway at Utica, MS (southwest of Jackson) to merge onto I-55.  The weather along the Parkway is already warming and sunning up, which, despite my desire to be unpredjudiced, and Emerson's insistance that the first lesson of travel is "the indifference of places", can only cheer a Florida girl.
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