Changes, changes

I’m not good with changes to be honest. Not fast ones anyway. My personality requires me to take an idea and play with it. Give me time, some internet, coffee, and good music and I’ll probably be willing to hop on board with whatever comes my way. But when changes start shooting at me with records speeds, my brain goes into overdrive, then shutdown mode.

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My personality dislikes chaos and untimely changes

I was just informed I have to be gone for a month for training starting way too soon. I thought I wasn’t going to go to this school so it was quite the surprise when I got the message. My brain starts to immediately make lists upon lists to try to drain all the traffic going on inside . One list for what I need to do at home before I leave, one list to prep for the course, one list for packing, etc. Then I start to think about how this is going to work with my job, and the fact that I’d just put out some job feelers. I guess those prospects are probably gone if they try to communicate with me in the next few weeks.

I’m trying to reprogram my brain to stay calm with these quick changes. It’s part of being in the military family, whether part-time or full, you have to expect short notice. I wrote down a couple of my lists with plenty of room to add more, and stepped away from my work desk for a while. I made a couple of phone calls to let people know what was going on, then went back to working like nothing had changed. I needed some normalcy mixed in with the crazy. So far it seems to be working. Stay calm, work it out, it’ll be fine. *Breathe*. Embrace the change, embrace the suck. You help steer the outcome and your attitude.

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it- Chuck Swindoll (2)

Like Chucky boy says, some things I can’t change, but I can change how I react. I took some aspirin, downed some iced green tea, I’m writing in WordPress, then I’m on to the next box to check off. One at a time.

Five years overdue

Time gets away from us so easily. Four years ago, Dylan and I moved to Texas, a move that I would never have imagined I would do years and years ago. Texas had never been a thought, but jobs and opportunities came through, and we did it. Two years ago, we bought a house. In Austin. Another feat in this town, where houses go on the market and come off in the same day, where prices are gouged and there’s a competition on even the shack-house in the neighborhood. We’ve had our trials and our triumphs, we’ve made a few friends and explored a lot of country.

But often, we miss out or can’t do all the things we want to do in time. We’d spent four years in Texas and our friends, who moved to Phoenix had been there five, and we had never visited them. Reasons ranged from time, to money, to schedules. It doesn’t matter. We just hadn’t visited them. So we finally picked dates, bought tickets and flew out to Phoenix to visit.

We ate some great food at Bobby Que’s, The Yard,  Matt’s Big Breakfast, Joyride Tacos, among others. We climbed a modest mountain called Squaw Peak and visited the zoo, all over an extended weekend. Always, these trips are too short, but always, they’re invigorating and fun and remind you to take time away from everything to see the people you care about, because this is what really matters.

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Churn Ice Cream – delicious ice cream and awesome service
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Matt’s Big Breakfast – tasty and kept me full even after climbing a mountain
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The Yard- good food and great atmosphere for some games and drinks

Encouragement & a Hedgehog

This last week or so has been trying. It seems like everyone has been on edge and people have had a problem with just about everything I did at work. Well last week, I said Enough! And I still believe that now. The week ended badly but the weekend was good and I intend for this week to go well too. Besides getting outside in the beautiful Texas weather, we got the house cleaned up, I sold a couple of items hanging around the house, we worked out, tried a new restaurant, and I applied for a job, and am 90% done with another application (I forgot how time consuming they were). It’s going to be a short week in the office (which is always a good thing), and then we fly out to see some friends in Phoenix!

But until then, I have to go to work, be productive, deal with some nasty attitudes, and work on the final stages of my guard training. Fortunately, no more tests, I’ve passed them all, but now I have writing to do. Not fun writing, like, If You Could Be Any Animal in the World, What Would You Be? (An Eagle or a Hawk), but more like, Write your Biography and Talk about Yourself. Ugh.

But I can make it through this week. I won’t let negative people affect me with their cancerous attitudes and I’ll press on with this writing so I have the free time while I’m on vacation. For some encouragement, I found this great picture.

Enjoy!

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Push through

I hate constant complainers. People who just want to complain about anything to be heard. I deal with that a lot where I work, and I hope I’m not becoming one and I’m sorry to even write this down. But holy crap, I’m about done with it. I’ve been trying to do a simple, and what should be fun, job of coordinating a holiday party for work. Somehow, it’s turned into a big mess, with people complaining about everything, and no communication going between the few that were supposed to be helping me. I think this is why I like to do this kind of stuff on my own. I thought maybe if I enlisted some help on this, it’d make things run more smoothly. Not at all. I am supposed to be the main go-to for coordination, and yet at least twice I’ve gotten information way later than anyone else, with the follow up of, “I thought you already knew that” or “I thought someone already talked to you about that”. Those sentences will drive me up the wall faster than any. I’d rather hear something twice, than someone assume I’ve already heard it. You know what assuming does right? It makes an ass….out of yourself. (Check out the movie Slammin’ Salmon if you liked that).

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This drama all happened yesterday afternoon, so after I left work, I drove to my husband’s work and we had coffee and talked and I was ever so grateful for him letting me talk and complain his ear off. Then I went home and got in a good run to get the good vibes flowing. Then complained a little more to my roommate. Now it’s time to push through it, find the good that can come out of it, and let it go. Like I said, I really don’t like constant complainers (especially if you have no solution and you just feel like voicing your annoying opinion), but today I felt like writing it down. It’s the final piece of me letting this all go.

As far as the good coming out of it, this has motivated me to revamp my resume, and start the look for a position elsewhere. It reminded me that you don’t have to settle in your job if you don’t like it, especially if you’re relatively young. I don’t want my job to become my life, but it certainly doesn’t mean I have to stay somewhere with people who have lost all motivation to try hard, succeed or innovate. Where I’m at now is at a small office with people who have given up on life and have settled into their job, knowing they won’t lose it, even if they do sub par work everyday. It’s not an environment of care, or innovation or excitement, or even happiness. People seem to be miserable, and I think they take their misery out on anyone who has a smile on their face.

So for now, my irritations are sliding off my back, and I’m using this as motivation for improvement and something better.

It’s a new year. Time to make it the best yet.

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Courage

I have this feeling that there’s going to be a lot of change in 2016. I have a lot of training to go through, certifications to attain, and we may possibly be moving to another state.

Change is curious to me. I can handle change at work just fine, but change in the home life is stressful. Fear overtakes me and every worst case scenario comes crashing down.

I don’t do resolutions, but I do want to change the way approach….change.

Instead of intense fear of something unknown, I want to change it into excitement for something new.

Instead of thinking about everything that could go wrong, I want to think about what could go right.

Instead of cowering and feeling timid, I want to reach out with courage.

Maybe it’s naive to think this way, but sitting in the dark puddle of cynicism and self-doubt doesn’t really come with any benefits, so why not try the high road for once?

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Importance

The holidays always pose as a time of reflection and solitude, although sometimes the solitude part can be difficult in the mad rush of gift getting and travel plans. We decided to surprise the family with a trip up north. This included a lot of sneaking around questions, pretending the presents were on their way, and a 20 hour road trip with two dogs. We got Dylan’s brother in the loop so he could help us plan where to be. The look on my mom and his parent’s faces were priceless, and the feeling of being home during Christmas-time, was a feeling I haven’t felt in a long time. A feeling of warmth and contentment, even after an exhaustive trip. We realized again how important being near old friends and family is, and although it’ll be sad to leave Austin, with it’s nearly unlimited supply of restaurants, things to do and things to see, and usually great weather, but if you can learn to be content in any situation, decisions like these aren’t as difficult.

We decided to make the slow move to Omaha. Omaha, you say? Why you ask? I know I wrote a little before about Omaha, but expanding on it won’t hurt. I’m sure there’s a lot of people laughing or wondering why you’d move to a “flyover state”.

Well…Omaha is a good size city. Around a half million people and under a million with metro. The city did a good job prepping for growth, so the roads aren’t packed and traffic jams are rare. Here in Austin, they’re an everyday occurrence and something to be expected.

Omaha is 6 hours to home in Minnesota so getting to visit will be much easier and we won’t need to use so much vacation each time. It’s also 9 hours to Denver for rock climbing and hiking, 9 hours to Little Rock, where some friends of ours lives, and hours away to the badlands of South Dakota. Overall, being in the center of the country gives us a wider berth for more diverse travel. Yeah, we won’t be near a beach, but I think we can handle that.

Omaha’s cost of living is good. Housing costs are much lower in Omaha than Austin and overall prices of a night out on the town is lower as well. Getting to a nice restaurant (which there are many), is much easier and less stressful. In Austin, there are hundreds of great restaurants, but there’s usually a line, or it will take you an hour to get to it due to the terrible traffic. I’d miss the beer and bar scene here in Austin, but Omaha’s scene is starting to grow. There are a few good breweries there, as well as one of the nation’s top pubs in the nation. The job market is good and the pay for our lines of work is good, and actually a little better than here in Austin.

So there’s a few points in a nutshell. I’m excited, but nervous and scared. Big change is always nerve wracking for me, especially after spending four years in a new place. The thought of uprooting again feels exhausting, but if I think about what it will mean for us financially, personally, and even professionally, I think it will be a great thing. Fear will always be there. I just have to make sure it doesn’t control my decisions.

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Natchez Trace Parkway Pt.6: To the End

Our last stretch of the Trace was from David Crockett State Park to the terminus at mile marker 444. David Crocker State Park is a great park for the hike-lovers. There were multiple different hiking routes you could take with trees marked with a designated color dot to help you navigate your way. Even with the color-dotted trees unfortunately, we zigged instead of zagged and took a much longer route than we had originally inteded. We planned on being on a trail for about 30 minutes, but ended up walking for around an hour and a half, and hiked around three and a half miles. Ah well; it was well worth it. We saw some very beautiful Tennessee country and the weather was good, although it did start to chill down once the sun went down.

It’s easy to start imagining yourself in a wooden cabin on a hill, surrounded by thick woods, cup of coffee in hand, and warm fire in the fireplace when hiking through the parks of Tennessee. I don’t know if I could become a complete recluse but if any place makes me want to become a hermit, it’s this area of the country.

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I love some of these photos, but even the photos don’t do the scenery real justice. Sometimes I want to take a snapshot in my mind and keep it there for when I need to get away. I want to crawl inside this memory, feeling, seeing, and smelling all that was, but the colors and the smells and the cool breeze on my face can never truly be replicated.

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We realized how far we’d gotten off the path when we ended up on a paved road near the Trail of Tears. I’m glad we did though. We found an informational section about the Trail of Tears, and saw this beautiful site of cows grazing on their evening meal during the sunset (below). There was an artist’s rendition of the Trail of Tears and the people who walked among the worn down path. It invoked one imagining the stark quiet among the trees, even with hundreds crossing this path at one time, only the sounds of shuffling feet in the dried, dead fallen leaves. The absent look in these people’s eyes as they were forced to move from their homes to another part of their country. Everything they knew, changing, and not knowing who these people were, why they were doing this, and if they were capable of other things.

History is sometimes hard to look back on, knowing the harm we caused, but if we don’t look back and learn what we did wrong, and what we can do to never do it again, we will never grow and change. DSC00891.JPG

The next day we took off for our last bit of site seeing on the Trace. We stopped off  at the Meriwether Lewis grave site. There was a tall stone grave with a post explaining Lewis’s death, or the lack of information thereof. A couple of interesting items I discovered while at this site: The first was that Mr. Lewis was very young when he died, around 34 years old. This also meant that this guy was discovering new lands in new parts of the world in his 20s. That’s quite the ambitious guy. What is also interesting about him is that, to this day, his death is considered mysterious. DSC00907.JPG

The grave itself is a depiction of a broken column, a life ended tragically and too soon.  According to the Smithsonian Magazine, he was passing through this area, on his way to Washington D.C. to settle some financial matters, but was found by his traveling companion with a gunshot wound to his head and abdomen. His companions assumed suicide because he had been known to suffer “depressions of the mind”. Perhaps he had some sort of bipolar disorder? Apparently Lewis, a young, innovative explorer, with all of his explorations and discoveries, felt like a failure, as he hadn’t fulfilled his initial goal of creating a successful system of trading posts. These trading posts had started to fail once he’d gotten back home, and he fell into depression and drunkenness.

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But a lot of people don’t believe this story and believe there’s more to be told. One of the biggest question marks, is why did he shoot himself twice? He was an expert marksman, very familiar with guns. Why would he need to shoot himself twice? People that question his suicide have come up with a multitude of theories, anything from an assassination plot, to the innkeeper finding his wife in bed with Lewis. Currently the Smithsonian is working on developing more facts with DNA. Who knows if we’ll ever know the full and true story about him, but any clarification always helps.

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Our next stop was an old tobacco farm, donated to the trace by an old farming family. There was a display of an old barn with real tobacco leaves drying. The tobacco process was much more time consuming than many other farming ventures, as the labor of hanging the tobacco, and the time it took to dry it all took up valuable resources, but it must have paid off because the industry remains today.

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We took a nice hike at the Duck River Overlook, to catch some great views. We’d planned on going down the Jackson Falls route as well, but the dogs were wearing out so we headed out to the next spot instead.

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The Gordon House was our next stop. It’s one of the few houses left standing from that day and just shy of 200 years old, so understandably, you were not allowed into the home. What’s neat about this home is that its owner, John Gordon, worked closely with General Andrew Jackson. He was away from the home much of the time due to this, so his wife overlooked and supervised much of the construction. Possibly the first woman foreman? Pretty sweet.

You go girl.

She also outlived her husband by about 40 years. DSC00947.JPG

We stopped at a small place to rest, and I was able to capture some wonderful scenery at the bottom of the hill. This is probably one of my favorite photos. I felt transported in time, and placed right into a painting of Courier & Ives.

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Our last “stop” on the trip before its end was the Birdsong Hollow, which is a beautiful double-arched bridge, that actually won a national design award in 1995. We approached the lookout and I noticed a woman with her back to us. She looked serene, like this was a place she came to often, to gain a sense of peace and quiet. Unfortunately, as we were quietly making our way up to observe the bridge, my dog sneezed loudly and scared her. She jumped and looked back, but just laughed and went back to her relaxation.

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Once we crossed the bridge, we had a handful of miles to go until the end of the Trace. I was really hoping for a photo op right at the end, like on roller coasters, when they take a snapshot of you screaming as you’re catapulted down at 60 mph+. No such luck unfortunately. That was just the end.

Our last couple of days on the road were much less eventful We stayed at Meeman-Shelby State park, on the north side of Memphis, but we got there late at night, and left early, so no pictures were taken or hikes walked, so I couldn’t give you much of a review.

We stopped in Little Rock to visit some friends who lived there and ate at a dog-friendly hamburger place called the Purple Cow. The food was good, and it was kind of nice to be able to just order food and eat it, instead of having to cook and clean up on a make-shift kitchen.

We then trekked to White Oak State Park, our last park of the trip. This park was loaded with people, and the vast majority were hunters.

We got some great pictures of fall colors, cranes, and other wildlife, and the camp was full of friendly people, so overall the quick stay was pleasant. This park definitely felt like one that was mostly made for hunters just needing a place to stay, instead of something like Tishomingo, which was made more for recreation and hiking. The bathrooms here were very nice, most likely built within the last 5-10 years, and were heated well (which was good as this was our coldest night of the week).

 

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We got the trailer back to the owner around noon, and were back in Austin by 4pm. We napped in our own bed, which felt amazing, then heading to a concert that evening.

If you are looking for a great, easy going road trip, to reinvigorate your love of the country, I highly recommend it. You can take it slowly, like we did, averaging around 80-100 miles a day, or you can go quicker if you want, but with all the stops and the history, I definitely recommend a nice slow trip through this historic area.

 

Natchez Trace Parkway Pt. 5: Tishomingo to David Crockett SP

On Wednesday, we only put about 65 miles behind us, but there was plenty to see. Tishomingo State Park was my favorite of all the parks we stayed at. The only real downfall was that our site was so far away from the bathroom/shower area, but only because one was closed for renovations. But, the bathroom that was open was great. It was heated well, which was good because this was the first night that reached into the 30s, and the showers and overall quality of this bathroom was the nicest along our stops. Tishomingo would be a great place to bring a group of people camping. Among other things I’m sure I missed, was a pool, a suspension bridge, volleyball court, lots of hiking trails, and cabins. It was one of those parks you could spend days at and not get bored. DSC00706.JPG

When we initially arrived, there were a few birds hanging out at the lake, which was directly behind us. I noticed right away something odd. There was a Canadian Goose, a Chinese Goose (aka Swan Goose) and a domesticated white duck, all hanging out with each other. Now I’m no bird expert, but I didn’t think these breeds hung out with each other. These three stuck together all evening, until I couldn’t see them anymore. I was compelled to keep taking pictures of them, just because it was something I felt was a rare sight.

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I also spotted a heron, but they’re much shier than geese, so this one took off before I could change my camera to a sport mode/faster shutter speed and capture it taking off.

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In the morning when I woke, a fog had laid itself over the calm water of the lake. The scenery was wonderful and I was surprise with a whole gaggle of geese wandering the lake. The Chinese Goose and the duck were also included in this gang.

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I observed later, when they had come up on land to eat, that it seemed the Chinese Goose was the leader. He/she would honk a few times, and the others would get to eating. It almost seemed as if the Chinese Goose was keeping watch while the others ate, which is interesting because, after doing  a little research, it seems to me this kind of goose is actually domesticated, much like the white duck. I’m guessing he/she must have been abandoned and luckily got picked up by this gaggle, and amazingly rose the ranks.

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I spotted the heron again, but he/she was on the far side of the lake. Luckily I had my bigger lens on me and switched it up quickly. I love the silhouette I got from this shot.

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Once the fog burned off, we took a hike around the lake. The colors here were slightly past prime, but still beautiful.

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There’s something romantic about a suspension bridge like the one at Tishomingo. The bridge somehow is warm and inviting, and yet invokes recollections of childhood innocence lost over years. It reminds me of coming of age movies, the kind you can relate to in some way, whether it be from loves lost, or lessons learned.

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Our first stop of the day, and most disastrous, or embarrassing anyways, was at Cave Spring. It was a small cave that was believed to have once been used by Native Americans as a watering hole.

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The embarrassing part was when I walked down to get a better look at the cave. I was walking down holding the pups, trying to gracefully walk down the path, but with the dogs pulling, and slippery leaves below me, it was more of a half-stumble-but-never-fall walk and was not so graceful. As fortunate as it was that I didn’t fall down the stairs, it was an unfortunate event that the end cap to the dog’s poo bag did fall off without my knowledge and his newly inserted bag roll unfurled down the stairs. I didn’t realize this until Dylan noticed and alerted me. I looked back and saw a bright blue streak of plastic behind me. To add insult to injury, there was a man at the top of the cave, watching every move. Thanks for the heads up, buddy! I stupidly gathered up the bags as best I could and marched back to the car. Dylan found the cap near the entrance and we headed out.

Our next stop was much less embarrassing and actually quite enlightening. We stopped off at the Freedom Hills Overlook. It was a great spot to take a great shot of my dog Arthur. Isn’t he handsome?

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When we first reached the top of the overlook area, which is Alabama’s highest peak at 800 feet, we were a bit underwhelmed. The view wasn’t all the great, mainly because the trees had grown up past our view.

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But as we were standing there, trying to get a couple of shots, we heard a voice behind us. A man called out to us and said, “The view is actually better up here.” So we hiked up through some brush and up a slight hill to what was actually probably the highest peak. The man introduced himself as Dan, a recent transplant to the Muscle Shoals area from Nashville. He was a wandering musician that decided to make his home in Muscle Shoals. We got on the topic of music almost instantly. We talked about great artists that visited this area to record, like Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, B.B. King, and The Black Keys. The sound that was created in this small town was unlike anything that had ever been played before and it was the start to popularizing that deep down, dirty bluesy southern sound we all can recognize He mentioned a documentary about Muscle Shoals, so I made a note to jot it down so I could see it when I got home. (It was a great documentary by the way – I didn’t realize that if it wasn’t for Muscle Shoals and Fame Studio, Aretha Franklin probably wouldn’t have existed. I recommend it).muscleshoals

We also started to talk about Canadian bands like The Band (almost completely Canadian anyway), and Gordon Lightfoot. Now you’re probably thinking, “Oh come on. Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald??” But think about this. How many times have you listened to an artist on the radio and thought, “there are so many better songs on that album”. Apparently this is the case with Mr. Lightfoot and many of his songs on popular albums never got the recognition they deserved but encompassed the scale of his talents to a much higher degree. He recommended listening to an entire album while smoking pot (he was definitely of the hippy variety), and although I may try it out listing a full album, I’ll abstain from the pot smoking.  Thanks mister hippie man.

We thanked him for the advice, said our goodbyes, and headed on our way to our last stop for the day, which was the John Coffee Memorial Bridge. It’s the Parkway’s longest bridge and crosses the Tennessee River.

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We stayed the night at the David Crockett State Park in Lawerenceburg, Tennessee, which was off the trail about seven or eight miles, but easy to navigate to. Although it was my first time in Tennessee, there was something so reminiscent and connected about Tennessee that I loved, not to mention all the beautiful scenery. It felt like a place I’d want to keep coming back to.

But until then. More of Tennessee and the end of the Trace on the next post…

Natchez Trace Parkway Pt. 4: Hurricane Creek to Tishomingo

In the last post, I’d mentioned that we stayed at Holmes County State Park in Mississippi, and that it definitely gave off creep vibes. When I walked into the bathroom to shower, it sounded like there was someone sweeping the central part of the building, but when I opened the door to leave, no one was there. Dylan mentioned to me as well that when he went into the bathroom, a toilet fully flushed on it’s own. Creepsville. Add on to the fact that the only other signs of life at this park were two trailers parked nearby but both looked abandoned. More creepsville. Needless to say, we left quickly.

Our first stop was Hurricane Creek. It was a nice educational trail that had posts every 20 feet or so, explaining the different types of vegetation and how even small levels of elevation or water levels change what trees and vegetation grow where.

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What’s great about this trip is that, along the 444 mile path, you don’t just drive from one destination to the other. There is so much to see in between the stops. I took time to think about what this would have looked like as the first explorers, or what it was like even 50 years ago. I imagined this would have been a great destination for families to load up the Buick and spend a week on.

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I loved how descriptive the signs were. They didn’t just tell you what was ahead, but offered up excitement. “Whole new worlds unfold…” and sentences like this were inscribed in so many of these placards.

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The Jeff Busby site was also a popular one. It’s one of Mississippi’s highest points at a staggering…..603 feet. But it still boasted a great overlook.DSC00653.JPG

I was excited to see another stop called Pigeon Roost, because, who doesn’t like Pigeons. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a let down, although I did learn something so I can’t completely discount it. The site was home to a man named Folsom. From the signage, I thought maybe he owned a bunch of Passenger Pigeons (this sounds like the start of a poem; There Once Was a Man Named Folsom, Who Found Pigeons to be Wholesome). I’d assumed this collection of Passenger Pigeons was for a business he had in the area, and obviously enough, all the Pigeons are now dead and the business shut down (stupid telephones).

*I decided to do some research before posting this and I was a bit off. Here’s what Natchez Trace Travel’s site says:

Pigeon Roost Creek is a reminder of the millions of migrating passenger pigeons that once roosted in trees in this area. The species has been completely destroyed. One mile east where the Natchez Trace crossed the creek Nathaniel Folsom of New England and his Choctaw wife had a trading post before 1790. Their son, David, later operated it and accommodated travelers. When the Reverend Thomas Nixon stopped here in 1815, David’s wife prepared suitable nourishment and would have no pay. David Folsom, strong supporter of Christianity and Indian education, was elected chief of the northeast district of the Choctaw Nation in 1826.

So, it looks like it was just a places that Passenger Pigeons liked to hang out, which is too bad because in my head, I had a vision of this man with a booming Passenger Pigeon business. My story is so much cooler.

The next stop was Bynum Mounds. These were mounds created by Native Americans. I don’t really recall a whole lot, because instead of learning about the mounds, we encountered three dogs that took a liking to our car. They seemed harmless; I think they were locals that wandered around looking for tourists to hand out scraps, but since we had our dogs out, I took them over to the displays. I didn’t want them to see the other dogs and get overly excited, so I distracted them by teaching them the differences between summer and winter housing units that were constructed by the Natives, while Dylan hustled the locals out of the area.

We left soon after, and headed to Witches Dance just up the road for some lunch. According to local lore, and Legends of America, Hopewell Indians escaped oppressive Mexico and came up to the Natchez Trace area, carrying bones of their ancestors (these bones supposedly became parts of the Bynum Mounds – maybe that’s why the dogs stick around). During their journey, their leader followed the path of a medicine stick he carried and was led by a white dog along the way. During this same time, after the people settled in to their new found home, witches would gather for nighttime ceremonies and dances, and wherever they danced, grass would die and never regrow. There is a lot of mystery rooted in these stories, but they were believable enough at the time that Andrew Jackson, who traveled the Trace frequently, kept the stories in his journal.

Next stop was the Tupelo National Battlefield. This site is actually in downtown Tupelo, not off the highway like the pamphlet said. We decided to skip this due to the fact it would take us so far off the path.

At a little over the halfway point is the Natchez Trace Visitor Center. It’s the only place on the whole path that has any sort of souvenirs, which is refreshing. We stopped for a bathroom break and Dylan went in to check it out. There were more displays and a few trinkets you could purchase if need be.

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One of my favorite stops was the Confederate grave sites that marked 13 unidentified Confederate soldiers. You walk up a short winding path that leads you up a small hill, where 13 unidentified Confederate soldiers lay. No one really knows the complete story behind the 13 soldiers, but it serves as a reminder to one of the most deadly wars in American history. This area is also one of the few spots where you can walk the original Old Trace. I put myself back in time, in the shoes of soldiers and young explorers, thinking back to the conditions during the Civil War and what it would have been like during those times, walking this quiet, lonely path during a violent and changing time.

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We made a couple more small stops, at the Dogwood Valley site to see Dogwood trees, and the Donivan Slough (pronounced “slew”), before heading to the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.

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The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway & Jamie L. Whitten Bridge is a waterway that opens a navigable route between the Gulf of Mexico and the Tennessee River, and boasts some great scenery and picture taking opportunities to boot.

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We finished our day, heading about seven miles up the road to Tishomingo State Park. This was a winding, beautiful park that I would love to come back to and spend more time at. This was a big, sprawling park loaded with activities, a pool, hiking trails, a suspension bridge, pioneer house, and more. It was all nicely taken care of, and had some of the nicest bathrooms that we stayed at during our whole trip (something you remember while camping for a week).

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More pictures of Tishomingo to come during the next segment. Until then…

 

Natchez Trace Parkway pt. 3: The Actual Natchez Trace Parkway

We began our journey on day three of our vacation, better known as Monday.

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Sorry for the blurriness. It was taken in a moving car (no I wasn’t driving).

As we started our trip, we decided to hit up one of the first stops, to get us going. It was titled “Old Trace”, and explained what the Natchez Trace Parkway was. The Natchez Trace Parkway doesn’t follow the actual Trace exactly, so there are portions of the drive you can get out and see where the original is/was. History says the deep crevices you find among the Trace were created by all the people who traversed this path over many years. It was walked on so much it created it’s own cavernous path.

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A frequent stop along the entire Trace were old mounds created by Native Americans. These Emerald Mounds were slightly different than just burial grounds, as they were used as sacred ground for ceremonies as well as burials. DSC00507.JPG

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As we were contemplating the sheer work involved in creating these mounds, and the ceremonies that took place hundreds of years ago, my dog decided to desecrate the area by using it as his own personal bathroom. We did what we could to rectify the situation, picked it up, said a prayer of forgiveness and went on our way.

Another stop for the day was Mount Locust. It was an old inn used to house people as they made their way through the Trace. The history is rich here and I can only imagine the array of people who came through this inn, stayed the night to rest, and told stories over the fire place. Who knows what great adventures these people experienced, exploring new lands, people and animals and experiencing the harshness of nature without any of our conveniences of today.

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The Sunken Trace was our next stop and it is one of the most visited and photographed exhibits on the Trace. It’s a live example of the path that thousands of people took, to seek out new opportunities and a new life in an unexplored world.

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The old town of Rocky Springs was our next stop. The town no longer exists, as a combination of Civil War, bad crops and yellow fever eventually wiped out the town. Before this though, it was a thriving town with over 2000 residents. According to the Parks Services, the town included three merchants, four physicians, four teachers, three clergy and 13 artisans, all while being surrounded by farmers. All that’s left now is remnants of the Trace and a church.

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I started walking the path up to the church when an older man started making conversation with me. Normally this would make me very uncomfortable, as I’m an introvert that likes to be left alone, but he was harmless, and started talking about the area and his life. His name was James and he had lived in Jackson most of his life, which was nearby. He came here to go walking and play on the piano inside the church. He said he didn’t believe some of the information the books had on Rocky Springs, that he’d grown up in this area most of his life, and there was no way you could grow cotton here (there was an artist’s painting of Rocky Springs where they were growing fields of cotton.) He had his opinions on this and I let him speak. He could definitely be correct.

I really wanted to head up to the church but he had stopped me at the bottom of the hill, and I didn’t want to be rude and wander off, so I slowly edged toward the hill and he got the idea that I wanted to see the church, so he walked with me to the church and opened the door and showed me inside. I would never have even thought to try to open it, as most old buildings are cordoned off.

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James volunteered to take my picture for me in front of the church
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James playing the piano for the church

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James reminded me to not be so afraid to talk to people. A lot of people are lonely and have stories to tell, and will tell them to anyone who will listen.

We made a few more stops on the way but the last major stop we made was the Cypress Swamp. Cypress trees and the swamps they inhabit are a subject the hubs and I are both fascinated by. They’re beautiful, haunting, mysterious and romantic, all at once. To me, they’re the epitome of Deep South Romanticism.

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We made our way to the next campsite, Holmes County State Park, in the dark unfortunately. It was a creepy setting to say the least and the hubs and I only stayed there long enough to eat, sleep, shower and head out the next morning. I don’t know if you believe in ghosts but I’ve had experiences in my life that would lead to believe there could be a possibility of them among us. This campground was just another tack on the wall. It was a small campground. Besides us, there were only two camper trailers there, but both were tired looking, covered in leaves and green mold, like they’d been there for some time. There was no one around to check us in (we paid online so we already had reservations), so we set up our trailer for the night. When I went into the bathroom, it sounded as if there was someone outside, maybe sweeping up the floors outside the bathroom doors. When I opened the bathroom door, there was no one there. This happened almost every time I went there. For my husband, the story gets even weirder. When he went into the bathroom, the toilet flushed itself. Full on flush, not draining, like there’s a leaky gasket, but full on flush.

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Possible haunted bathroom?

Either way, we slept we left.

Onto the next day’s adventures.