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. 2: Natchez State Park

We slept well in our first night in the trailer. The dogs acted as local heaters and kept us warm throughout the night. We were recommended to bring a mattress pad if we had one to compliment the one already in the trailer, but we didn’t have one, and have slept on dirt floors enough on camping trips that we figured we would be fine with the luxury of a trailer. So far, so good.

One of my favorite parts of camping is eating. I guess one of my favorite things is eating, but combine it with camping, the outdoors, hiking, smells of burning logs, cool and crisp air…it just makes food taste so good. With the built in cooler in the trailer, this made the food options expand from the usual camping food for the whole week. We started the morning with bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast tacos (a staple in TX) and hot coffee. (Did I mention this thing comes with a 4-cup coffee pot too?). Breakfast was glorious. We prepped for the drive and took off to our next stop: Natchez State Park, our last stop before starting the Parkway.

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This state park was well run, clean, and the bathrooms were warm, so I was happy. There was a cool breeze in the air but it wasn’t too cold, and wood was burning in the air so the smell was reminiscent of an October afternoon in the Minnesota countryside.

We took a hike before dinner, catching glimpses of chipmunks skirting about and seeing the boggy marshes, a precursor to our tour for the next week.

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One of our best “investments” was long chains and an anchor for the dogs. Before we only had their leashes, which meant they didn’t have much for room to roam. These chains let them explore their new surroundings each night, keeping us sane so we could prep the trailer and make dinner each night.

Next up…the actual Natchez Trace Parkway….

 

 

Natchez Trace Parkway (a series of photos)

We finally took a legitimate vacation that didn’t involve going home for a wedding. And it was good. And it involved staying places that didn’t have any cell phone service. Which was also good. But, of course, life doesn’t stop for me, so now I have a little catching up to do. I was going to write about my trip through the Natchez Trace Parkway in one big long blog post, but if any of you are like me, ain’t nobody got time for that. I’m busy, you’re busy…and that’s not really what I want to do. I don’t think one blog post will do. There were so many things to see in the week we were on the road that I’d have to cut out so much to make it into one post.

If you’re not familiar with the Natchez Trace Parkway, like I wasn’t about a month ago, check this site out to start. The road is 444 miles and stretches from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN. Along the way, there are a multitude of stops, clearly marked, with history and nature. Each stop tells you a little about the area, what went on here 200 years ago and how it evolved. Even if you’re not a history fan (my worst subject in school), you’ll enjoy this. It’s bits and pieces of information you’d never learn in a book, with all the fresh air, scenery, and walking paths you’ll ever need.

We rented a teardrop trailer and camped each night in a different state park. I highly recommend this if you want to take this trip nice and slowly. We are normally primitive campers, meaning, we pack a bag, hike into the woods and camp with what we have on our backs, but knowing this would be a week on the road with two dogs, we wanted to try something different. The trailer is small so almost any vehicle can haul it, is basically a queen bed with storage on the inside and as a kitchenette in the back with a battery-powered cooler that is programmable, so we would cool it down to near freezing overnight, unplug and go all day. By the time we stopped for the night, everything was still nice and cold. The dogs kept us warm on the cool nights, and we woke up each morning to the sun in our little windows.

I hope you like the photos I’ll be sharing. I took around 500, and so many didn’t capture the beauty that surrounded. I recommend this trip to anyone looking to explore this country and reinvigorate a love of it. There’s so much beauty in our own backyards and it can be easy to forget it when we commute everyday and see the same things day in and day out.

Our first night was at Atlanta State Park, in (crazy enough), Atlanta, TX, which is on the northeast side of the state, near Texarkana. We camped right by the water and got in a small hike before heading in for the night to start our vacation. Overall it was a great park, with good amenities and beautiful scenery.

More pictures and state park talk to come!