Natchez Trace Parkway – part 1
I have been looking forward to this part of the country for a long time. And the timing was perfect, after a tough final week in Louisiana for me. A slight back-track and a hop to the North put us right at Natchez, Mississippi and the the town of Natchez, Mississippi. The historic Melrose plantation of the Natchez National Historical Park became my 82nd National Park visited. Beyond a Ranger led tour, there is little to do here, but the views of the 80-acre plantation were amazing. Kerri and I walked around the entire area soaking it in.
Once we had our fill we left to find our first night’s camp location along the Natchez Trace Parkway (#83). The Parkway travels more than 400 miles North, generally following the Mississippi River to Nashville, Tennessee. It is a very well maintained two lane highway with mild speeds through beautiful Mississippi Delta and thick forest. Although the Parkway cuts right through some well populated areas, the National Park Service did a great job keeping the Parkway separated from the civilized world. Along the 400+ miles of the Parkway is only 50 entry or exit points, and all commercial traffic is prohibited. Thick trees box your view to anything outside the black ribbon of asphalt winding through the green landscape. Pullouts and exhibits about the “Trace” are sprinkled every few miles for when a stretch (or a dog run) is needed.
The Trace is an old trail that the Parkway closely follows. It dates back well before we began to colonize this land. Originally used by the Native American’s, we began using it as an Interstate travel path between the Gulf of Mexico and Tennessee. Stories are told on many placards of folks taking man-made rafts down the Mississippi with there wares to sell in New Orleans, then walk – or if they were lucky they rode a horse – the Trace back up river. The image to the right is of the old Trace trail sunken many feet into the land by the amount of traffic that once passed over it. I spent more then a few hours daydreaming of how cool that must have been to walk the Trace.
There are three free campgrounds along the Parkway and we had plans for them all. The southern most campground is the Rocky Springs Campground where we shared the place with only a few other campers. The evening was already upon us, so a meal and some cuddling rounded out a great evening. I woke early to watch the sun rise in the trees before snatching Kerri out of bed to go for a morning hike with the dogs. From the campground a trail brought us to the site of the old Rocky Springs ghost town. Not much exists here anymore but for a few old relics; bank safes. Nevertheless, the dogs seriously enjoyed getting back into the woods after the week long inner-city RV park stay.