The natural travel and trade corridor leads from the lower Mississippi River to the southern Appalachian foothills. This 444 mile long trace, now a road, meanders between Natchez MS to Nashville TN. It became a major route for travel and trade in the late 1700's into the early 1800's. The Trace, meaning trail, bisected the traditional homelands of the Natchez, Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations. The Natchez Trace Parkway is a National Park and is flanked by one mile of natural lands, on both sides to preserve the area's history. The original trail is still used today by adventurers who want to add the trace to their list of completed American hiking trails.
The speed limit of 50 miles per hour sets the pace and mood for a visit along the Natchez Trace. The road is a balance of forests and agricultural lands, acres of grain and grazing cattle interspersed with gorgeous treed woodlands. We drove through an eight mile stretch of the route where destruction was evident of a tornado passing through in 2011. The barren ground, twisted and broken trees stand as in a horror film, a frightening depiction of nature's power.
There are three visitor centres within the park which provide maps, exhibits of artefacts found on the old trace, interactive nature displays as well as books and souvenirs. We watched an excellent film depicting the history of the trace. Special places such as bridges, cemeteries, old schools and Indian mounds are well marked along the highway. Many pull outs and picnic areas are provided and campgrounds are available free of charge. We set up in Jeff Busby Park for our first night where we enjoyed great hiking and met an amazing neighbour.
Margaret is an eighty five year old woman who RVs on her own. Every winter, she drives from her home in Ohio to a campground in Texas. She not only drives, but can repair mechanical problems, winterize and maintain her Class C Chinook RV. She told us about her years of Airstream Rving around the world with her husband. Before he died eight years ago, he taught her all the basics about their RV. She has had a stroke, has a bad back, both knees give her problems and she walks with a cane but nothing holds her back. How inspiring!!
Over the next three days we explored more of the Natchez sites. Spent some time at the impressive Cypress Swamp where huge, elegant cypress trees reflected in a silent pond. Amazing groups of "knees" which spread out and provide support for the submerged tree trunks, look like a fellowship of hooded monks standing ankle deep in the water.