Saturday, April 28, 2012

From Tupelo to Meriwether Lewis

It is only 120 miles from Tupelo< MS to Meriwether Lewis Campground and Monument along the Natchez Trace in Tennessee.  We drove the 2 1/2 hours straight almost without stopping.  We traveled along 3 states, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee before arriving.  We decided as we passed interesting pull outs where we would return after getting a good spot at the campground.

The one place we did stop was Cave Spring as it was so close to Tupelo that returning the 100 or so miles did not make good ‘diesel’ sense.  This was one of those limestone geologic areas that over time water dissolving the rock, creating rooms or corridors, and then those roofs collapse forming these caves.  The Indians used to find water here, but the water is not safe to drink and the caves are very dangerous, though beautiful.



We had our light lunch of crackers & smoked oysters for Tom, and crackers and cheese for me.  On our way north we crossed over the very very wide Tennessee River on a high two lane bridge. I must admit the Nick Russell phobia of driving on bridges sort of entered my mind as I saw how far across we had to go.  This is much wider than the Mississippi and there were no big enclosed super structures protecting us from going over the edge if we had a blow out or some kind of accident.  (Note to readers: I have just finished 2 very scary mystery books so my imagination leans toward the dark side).


As we crossed into Tennessee I thought it only appropriate to switch to Country-Western music.


We passed some very happy cows in lush wildflower covered pasture.


We found this nice spot and called it a day. The evening was spent reading.  We have a little internet, very little phone service, but with full water, propane, and diesel tanks, and empty gray and black water tanks we are happy here for 3 days.


Next morning we got up – I lie because it was not exactly morning; we did not even get out of bed until almost 10. Tom served me my morning coffee and biscotti in bed and he read the Fresno Bee on line and all the blogs, Facebook and emails. We finally got on the road by about 12:30.  We packed crackers and water for the road and set out exploring.  We went first to the Meriwether Lewis Memorial and Grave Site.  He was shot twice at Grinder Station on the Trace in 1809 and mystery still surrounds his death.  It was ruled suicide, but that has later come under much suspicion.  We think it was the proprietor of Grinders Station that did it.  Remember I am quite the sleuth when it comes to figuring ‘Who Done It?’ because I am reading lots of mystery books and almost always have it figured out before the last page.Laughing out loud


The Monument is a half staff because his was a life half lived.


The rebuilt Grinders Station is about 230 yards from the monument.


There are many places to pull into to learn about life for people who traveled the Natchez Trace.  These were our favorites from Tupelo to Meriwether Lewis.


The beautiful campground, Jack’s Branch, along a babbling brook, with lots of barbeques, picnic tables and wild turkeys at play was our suggestion for the Annual Clayton Reunion that always takes place in Fresno in June.  Would someone in our family please win the lottery?

We next took the Old Trace Drive, a 2 mile, no RV’s, high profile vehicles only dirt road. There were lots of downed trees here, too.

There was one station, Sheboss Place, that was run by the Widow Cranfield, the wife of her second husband, a Cherokee Indian who spoke little English.  Indians were allowed to operate stands.  When anyone asked him a question, he would only point to his wife and say, “She Boss”.  Tom has been considering this response thoughtfully. I like it!


We loved the Napier Mine location, mostly because of our cousin Katie Napier.  Her husband, Scott’s, family came over from Scotland and settled in Tennessee and Kentucky.  Katie reports the sign is undoubtedly new as she has one in her garage that Scott and his dad snitched years ago. That’s OK Katie – statues of limitations. you know.  We walked around that site.


We took a long walk at the Metal Ford.  This is where the Trace was forded across a shallow creek on a rock bottom that the travelers thought looked like metal.



We were sitting right where this picture above was taken when I noticed a tick crawling up Tom’s leg.  He brushed it off, and all the rest day and evening I kept thinking there was something crawling on me. (Too many mysteries).  We heard only 2 nights ago while in Tupelo that tick related diseases in Mississippi and Tennessee had gone up 540% since last year because of the mild winter.

Our next walk was down to the Phosphate Mine.  There were lots of pieces of beautiful gray-blue state covering the walkway that had broken off from the ledges above.  Also we were taken with the beautiful tiny flowers that grew next to the path. Notice the cream colored flower grows on top of the leaf – very unusual.


We drove along another 2 1/2 mile stretch of Original Trace by the Tobacco Farm.  We opened the sun roof, and windows to ‘drink’ in the heavy aroma of blooming Honeysuckle. and other sweet smelling bushes.  We couldn’t take deep enough breaths, it was so heavenly.


It was not planned but we walked, then drove, then walked again.  Tom thinks we need pedometers. We took a long steep walk down to the Gordon House Ferry Crossing. Again, the Honeysuckle was intoxicating. 

We had one last stop on our way back to camp, a display of farming along the Trace.  This was one of my favorite pictures of the day, fields of mustard, farm and silo in the distance.


We were pooped when we got home, but there is always more to see tomorrow as we are On The Road Again, HOPEFULLY Caching Again, soon.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tupelo and the Trace

We stayed 3 nights in Tupelo at the Tombigbee State Park and drove both north and south along the Natchez Trace from there.  We also spent some time at the local CVS Pharmacy trying to get Tom’s Meds straightened out.  This was the first time we have ordered the prescriptions from CVS.  I can tell you it is a PAIN dealing with drugs, doctors and pharmacies.  We have had 3 – count them – 3 insurance companies in less than 1 year to cover our medications, PrimeMail, Medco, and now CVS. I sure hope we are done with switching companies. DO YOU HEAR ME CAL-PERS!

Other than that frustration, we really did have a good time in Tupelo.  We ate out twice, Outback and then Mt. Fuji, one of the best Sushi restaurants we have eaten in.  My Tempura Shrimp, Cream Cheese, Avocado Sushi was not only delicious, but a work of art.  All the chefs are from New York and really know their business. Our waiter, Don, made our experience perfect.  I know, why Sushi in Tupelo? We Sushi Lovers say, “Why not?”


We went to the Visitor Center for the Natchez Trace and saw a movie on the history of this path that had been used by wildlife, Indians, Traders, and then Boatmen.  I bought a book on the Underground Railroad put out by the US National Parks.  Since reading the books, Redfield Farms and Harriet Tubman, both on our Kindle, I wanted to learn more about the Railroad and our Quaker History.  We left as they were closing and the Ranger was lowering the flag. 


There was still lots of daylight left and our friendly Ranger had suggested driving a little north on the Trace to see the graves of the Unknown Confederates.  This was a short five minute walk on the Trace and well worth the stop.  We started on pavement, but it soon was just dirt like the original Trace. 


One of the things we had noticed, is the large numbers of fallen trees that remain to decay. We are reminded of the movie, “Life in a Log”, that I used to show many years ago in my former life as Humane Education Director.


We found the 13 graves of the Unknown Confederate Soldiers.  It is a mystery who they were or when they died; Shiloh’s wounded in 1862, or perhaps they served under General Nathan Forest in 1864, maybe they were guarding the Tupelo Headquarters of the Army of Tennessee near the end of the War.


Their markers face the Natchez Trace so all that pass by will read and remember.

We drove back to the park just about sunset.  There is a beautiful big lake in Tombigbee Park and we drove over the dam to enter the park, Tom noticed the sun just about to go down.


We pulled into a driveway just beyond the dock you see in the picture above at the right.


Tom always says, “I love our camera”.

There is a 18-hole Frisbee (or disc) golf course at the park and they sell some amazing discs. They are rated just like golf clubs and they use different ones for different distances.  The course even has Par ratings~!


These are some the the beautiful discs.


Our last day in Tupelo we drove north to the Brices Crossroads National Battlefield Site.  It was another one of the major battles in Mississippi.  We were surprised as we drove over 5 miles that the lines of the Confederates stretched opposite the 5 miles of lines of Union soldiers fought back and forth sometimes in hand to hand combat.  In the end the Confederates prevailed losing only 495 to the Union’s losses of 2,610, but in the final end… they lost the War.  We study history so we won’t repeat the same mistakes.  Right?Confused smile

As we were getting DA PAD ready to leave Tupelo the next morning, Tom called me to see a strange event occurring in front of the Jeep.  There was a beautiful red Cardinal jumping from the edge of the passenger side of the Jeep, looking in the right rearview mirror, fluttering its wings, then flying to the mirror on DA PAD, fluttering its wings, then on to the driver’s rearview mirror of the Jeep and again fluttering its wings.  It did this dance routine 6 or 7 times.  I tried to get a picture through the sun screen on the front window, but it just didn’t show this narcissistic bird very well. Tom pulled back the shade and I sort of got this picture, but then he got embarrassed and flew away.  Tina the Turtle, watching from the dash, was awestruck by the entire display.


So we also left our $14/night, full hook-up site and flew off down the road again.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Natchez Trace-1/3 down

Our second overnight stop on the Trace was at Jeff Busby Campground. This is the smallest campground on the Trace with only 18 sites.  We got in about 2 p.m. and had no trouble finding a long pull-through.  We did get pretty close to a big tree (3 inches), but Tom took it real slow and I made sure the front wheels did not go off the bank.  He pulled through that spot into the next one and we had a nice frozen Chinese dinner and a quiet evening of reading. We did enjoy the soft background music of Sirius radio’s Blue Grass Music.  Banjos seems appropriate.

The next morning began a day of adventures. We pulled into a couple of pull-outs, Old Trace and Witch Dance to read the history so well displayed at each of these stops.


At Witch Dance instead of driving into the regular pull-out, we drove into the back side, horse trailer parking area.  It looked like we would have to unhook the Jeep and make a 3-point turnaround.  We decided to have lunch and think this thing out.  Sardines, crackers, potato salad, carrots, pineapple cream cheese and jell-o.  After lunch I took the walkie-talkie walked up the road to see where it led; and I wanted to walk off lunch.  Lucky us, there was a big turnaround.  So I called Tom and he came to pick me up.  First “Adventure” avoided.


So we were back on the Trace and the scenery started to look a little different. We started in heavy woods, then open meadows, a large reservoir, and Black Belt soil. We traveled through 5-7 miles of tornado ravaged forest.


We had decided to camp in Tupelo for a couple of days. I looked up camping options and we decided on Tombigbee State Park, $14/night for seniors, 50 amp, water and dump.  What more could we ask for after 3 days dry camping? One little detail that I failed to notice was the directions on the GPS’s were a little fuzzy.   Neither the Garmin nor the Navigation on the the Zoom showed the exact location of the campground.  When we approached the gate to Tombigbee Park there was not a campground sign, the kind that shows a tent glyph or a trailer glyph, so we continued on State Park Road.  When we came to the ‘T’ in the road, we turned right on Rd 1279 to continue around the lake.  We later learned the “Dead End” road sign had been stolen.  When we arrived at the end of the road where if we continued we would be on a private, very narrow dirt road.  That sign said, “No Trespassing”. We unhooked the Jeep and I drove down the road to the left which our Garmin said to continue on.  This was also a dirt road with trees on each side and low branches that would have seriously scratched Da Pad. I found the previous rain had left a wide bog that even the Jeep would have gone up to the undercarriage if I had continued.  So I lowered both rear view mirrors and backed up the road.  After sizing up the situation which entailed my driving back up Rd 1279 to the first turn around option, about .2 of a mile, we decided that Tom would lower both rear view mirrors on Da Pad and back up the road, around 2 tight curves, up a hill, into a driveway, also uphill, and make the turn around.  This is what we call a Big Adventure!  No scratches or dents, just high blood pressure, and even a little laughter.  Tom was such a good sport. Unfortunately, we were so engaged in trying to get out of this predicament we did not get any pictures.

We drove back to the entrance to Tombigbee Park and found the perfect spot to park, the nicest most helpful Ranger, and even enough time to drive into Tupelo to one of my favorite restaurants, Outback. We had a $50 gift card so dinner didn’t cost us a thing.

All’s well that ends well as we are On the Road Again.