Saturday, May 20, 2017

Traveling the Trace May 1-May 2

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444 mile long recreational road, similar to the Blue Ridge Parkway, that is restricted to non-commercial vehicles and part of the National Park Service. It travels through three states and follows a historic travel route used for hundreds of years by American Indians, settlers, and soldiers.  Today it is popular with bicyclists, motorcyclists, and anyone wanting a scenic route through some very pretty areas of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. There are multiple hiking opportunities along the way also. If you travel the entire route you will find areas that are remote with no cell coverage and also  larger cities with all the modern conveniences. There are three NPS campgrounds on the route that will accommodate any size camper.  We camped at all three! 

We were glad we waited to begin this part of our journey until the storms had passed as we saw many areas where tornadoes or strong winds had downed trees and power lines.  The first visitor center was closed probably for that reason.  There are many pullouts along the road where you can actually see what is left of the original road and the cuts through the earth and trees.  Some pullouts were not big rig rv friendly however.  Our advice  is to watch closely and don't pull in unless you are sure you can pull out!

After a leisurely drive on Monday we made an early stop for the night at Rocky Springs Campground at milepost 54.  Of the three campgrounds, we found this to be in the worst condition.  There were several pull through sites and a few that would fit a rig as big as ours.  The sites are paved but the pavement is in bad condition. However there looks to be some attempt at repairs.  Of course there are no services here (electricity, water or sewers) but the price ($0 !!) is right. The restroom was clean and in good shape but there are no showers and the second restroom was closed and in need of demolition. Of course we are all self contained and capable of a several nights of "boondocking". 

There is a short trail that begins near the campground that follows the original trace somewhat.  It takes you to the site of the town of Rocky Springs.  There isn't much there but some interpretive signs describing where some of the buildings once stood. However there is an old Methodist Church and an interesting cemetery.  They still hold church services once a month and we signed he guest book we found inside the open doors.  After a quiet night we headed out the next morning for a short side trip to Vicksburg National Military Park.

The park features a road that winds through the hills where civil war battles took place and the monuments and memorials dedicated to those who fought here.  The lady at the front gate thought we could maneuver safely through the park with the RV, but we had briefly driven through here a few years ago on the motorcycle and weren't really sure if that was true.  We probably should have disconnected the Jeep and taken it on the drive, but decided to just go to the Visitor Center and watch the informative movie and get our NPS passport book stamped. 

We headed back onto the Natchez Trace and a calmer, scenic route.  A nice stop along the way is at MM 122 and the Cypress Swamp where there is a self-guided tour among the cypress and tupelo trees on the boardwalk.  We finished the day as we pulled into our next campground, the Jeff Busby Campground at Milepost 193.  This campground was in much better condition than the last having freshly paved roads.  However, we found it very confusing as the sites aren't clearly marked and are just pull offs that don't necessarily feel like they were properly placed.  But, like the others, the price is right and we managed to find a fairly level site amongst the tall trees.  It's a pretty park and we had an evening hike up another nice trail to an overlook.

Our travel continued the next morning as we headed off the Trace again toward Florence, Alabama where we spent several days.  More about that area and the rest of our trip in my next post.  Thanks for following along!

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