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.

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!