Sunday, November 2, 2014

Day Trippin' on Natchez Trace Parkway

Adaptation is a key to life.  Along with nature, we have to adapt to the weather at times.  Over the weekend, Aurora and I experienced a lesson or two of such.  We had planned a few months back to drive halfway down the Natchez Trace Parkway on Halloween for a day-trip nature outing.  For years, I've wanted to make the drive while the Fall colors were setting in.  Due to some nasty weather, we decided to take the less scenic route down to Tupelo, MS Friday and hoped for some sunshine to drive back in on the Trace Saturday.  The shift in plans paid off well.  The Universe rewarded us with a reaping of nature which encompassed a full spectrum of fall colors and experiences!  We saw it all from areas completely bare of leaves, areas where the colors were peaked and areas where everything was still green and thriving.  It was a weekend of lessons counting our blessings when our plans didn't turn out as we envisioned.

On the much quicker I-40 route to Mississippi, we arrived at the Natchez Trace State Park Friday afternoon after a few hours of grey and desolate weather.  As soon as we hit the park, the sky began to break open for us to expose some delightful scenery full of lookouts, changing colors, vortexes of swirling leaves and mushrooms.

The sun finally began to sneak through to us!

As we were walking toward one of the lookouts over a gorge, we spotted a mushroom... then many many more!  The unseasonably wet October brought us some surprises!

After trippin' out and playing with the mushrooms for a couple of hours, Aurora and I headed on to Tupelo where we had a room booked for the night.  Pictures couldn't do the lavender and pink sunset justice which filled the horizon as we entered the city!

Hotel Room dOOdle
 We hit the Parkway early Saturday morning after visiting the Natchez Trace Headquarters which marks the halfway point of the entirety of the trace.  The Parkway is unique in that it is a park in itself throughout the entire length of the road which runs 444 miles from just south of Nashville all the way to Natchez, MS.  One day, we'll have to drive the other half south from Tupelo.  For this weekend, we traveled the 200+ miles back home and took our time for all the stops along the way!  Much of the bad weather the past few weeks left areas completely decimated with no color to contrast all the thick evergreen.  As we traveled north, things got brighter and brighter as we drove through a full spectrum of the Fall change...

Naturally, many Native American Indian Mounds are scattered along Natchez Trace as the original trace ran through many of the developed villages in the south.  These mounds were used for religious and ceremonial purposes as well as to place the dwellings of those in power over the tribe.

Irony Pic

Pharr  Mounds

View from Jamie L Whitten Bridge over the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway

View of the Dam and Barges from the Jamie L Whitten Bridge

Selfie Under the Bridge
There were several cotton fields on the drive through Mississippi


Bear Creek Mound, another historical Native American site
Unfortunately, a small part of the Natchez Trace Parkway was closed and under construction.  Despite being forced off the set path, we followed the network of roads along the detour through several miles of farmland.  Along the Detour, many of the drivers found a treat when then ran up on this sign at a local farm- FREE TURNIPS!  Aurora and I stopped and got a couple of bags of mostly greens.  We dropped a batch off with her sister when we hit Nashville on the way home that night!

Colbert Ferry Park was the destination for our lunch break. Aurora packed us up some of her world-famous chicken salad for a short picnic in the park next to the bridge.  What a view!  While I'm not into architecture much, I've found a love for bridges over the past several years.  They're symbolic of many of man's achievements and I find them inspiring.  Fittingly, this bridge was named after George Colbert, who had an inn and ferry which he used to house and help traveler's along the Old Trace.

After lunch, one of our first stops was a part of the Sunken Trace.  The original Trace was a trade route for Native Americans which was later adopted by settlers as a path of travel.  From years of foot traffic, parts of the Trace are sunk into the ground from the soil eroding.  We walked for a bit along the original path and took the opportunity to get some pictures of the color...

After walking some of the traditional path, we soon also took a chance to drive part as well.  Along the way north to Nashville, there are just a couple of motor routes were you can actually drive on the Old Trace.  These one-way roads are pretty narrow and get a little hairy in spots.  The colors and scenery were breathtaking though...

Back on the Parkway from the Path Less Taken
At the Meriwether Lewis Memorial, we found another portion of the Old Trace Path to hike which led to some of the best pictures of the weekend...

Meriwether Lewis Monument

Old Trace Pathway

Next we stopped for a second a Fall Hollow.  This very neat spot has a small trail which walks around the top of a waterfall.  As you walk, you cross a series of bridges which cover three streams.  As the streams converge below, a small waterfall forms which can be viewed from a platform on the trail...

The second portion of the Old Trace which is designated for driving begins at an old Tobacco Barn.  Once you circle the barn, there is a very nice lookout before a gravel road takes you winding though miles of woods...

Tobacco Barn

Old Trace Lookout
 Another spot one could gaze out from for hours is Baker Bluff Overlook.  This pull-over spot looks out over miles and miles of farmland...

Perhaps one of the most popular spots for pictures along the Parkway is the Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge just a few miles from the northern terminus near Nashville.  This bridge and Birdsong Hollow are famous spots for birdwatching.

Aurora and I at the end of our Drive!

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