Natchez Trace Parkway – part 2
With the Rocky Springs Campground being only a single night stay, we had nearly 200 miles of driving before we made it to our destination to spend the work week. The Jeff Busby Campground sits at roughly the halfway point of the parkway, and within reach of a few places worthy of exploration. Even though we would stay here all week, we really only had a day to do the seeing of the sights as Kerri’s Pacific Coast work hours would keep her locked in at the computer until well after dark each night. Once again, Kerri gets the credit for finding many of these off-the-beaten-path places.
Rodney Ghost Town was our first stop. So close to coming the state capitol back in the day, Rodney died due to natural causes. Quite literally, the Mississippi River naturally changed course and left the town of Rodney behind. Rodney did not survive that split up. One interesting thing we found out was that the Rodney First Presbyterian Church has a cannon ball lodged in it’s front wall, above the top-center window from a civil war battle. I did not notice it while we were there, but upon Kerri reading more about the town, we found that we both took pictures of the church and can easily see that cannon ball.
Our next stop, and one we almost decided to pass on, was the Windsor Ruins. Constructed between 1859 and 1861 the Windsor mansion was finished just in time for the owner, Smith Coffee Daniell II, to promptly drop dead. The mansion survived without him, eventually housing troops during the civil war. In 1890, the embers from a cigarette are rumored to have started the fire that would completely destroy the mansion, leaving only the columns we see today.
Not wanting to pass up yet another National Park, Kerri and I ventured well off the Trace – to Vicksburg – and visited the Vicksburg National Military Park (#84) and was completely surprised by just how busy it was. A line of cars to get in, a full parking lot, and a full herd of people inside the Visitor’s Center. After purchasing my obligatory NPS lapel pin, we started the 17 mile auto-tour that winds through the old civil war battlefield where hundreds upon hundreds of stone memorials are erected to commemorate military leaders and their soldiers.
I must say, while the memorials themselves were nothing to me, the view across the battlefield was amazing. These poor guys fought and died in such a small area. They could have just as easily stopped firing at each other and shared a cup of coffee with little walking.
Hidden smack in the middle of the auto-tour was the very cool The U.S.S. Cairo, was one of seven ironclad gunboats used in the war at the time. It was sunk back during the war, and recovered only in the 1960’s. It came to the NPS back in the 70’s where it has been stored since. Not only is it much larger than I could have imagined, the enormous feat it must have taken to move it (steam powered) just blew my mind. It was not much more than a huge steam powered paddle boat with cannons facing all directions and metal plating weighing it down. Needless to say, I was quite pleased we got to drop in to see this old fella.
After spending out work week at the campground we continued north up the parkway, stopping in and visiting any of the sights we wanted. I have to say, it was not all that easy to do as the paper map and the actual road-signs gave two completely different names on the signage… or no sign at all. Trying to stop the more than 50 feet of total length of the truck and trailer in short distances just isn’t going to happen. We missed a few this way.
The few stops we did get to drop in on were great, and the dogs seriously enjoyed the extra running around. We spent a single night at the Meriwether Lewis Campground, not far from the northern boundary of the parkway, before heading into Nashville, TN for the next work week.