Monday, September 12, 2016

143: The Natchez Trace I came to see

I think I probably saw photos of the Natchez Trace when I was in junior high or high school. I always thought it was so odd that it was dug out - I didn't understand until later that the depressions were caused by so many wagon wheels, footprints and hooves traveling over the course of decades. Well, those parts - the parts that you see in photographs of the Trace - are not everywhere. Much of the old Trace is just like a fire road cut in the woods. It's level, and covered with leaves, and you wouldn't know it was a centuries-old road unless someone told you. Here and there the Parkway crosses the old road, and there are pullouts so that you can take a stroll - but that's not what I came to see.
Kathy finally gets to walk in the old, sunken trace!

We've been riding along the NT Parkway for nearly a week, and today, finally, I got to see the part of the Natchez Trace I have been looking for. I got to stand in the deep depression, and walk a few feet where thousands have trod, and look up at the roots of trees above my head. And so let me just say it - yeah - it was worth it! I mean, we were going to ride those 300 miles anyway, so I might as well fulfill a dream to see this old road in its most extravagantly featured way.
Roger says, "I am really gonna miss this road"!

If you travel the Natchez Trace Parkway, you will see Indian mounds, and river bends, and Tupelo swamps, and lovely, lovely woods. You will pass the sites where early entrepreneurs opened stands, or little outposts, to serve the travelers. You will see the evidence of the Native Americans retreat from their ancestral lands, through treaties and the Trail of Tears.
Hundreds of miles of lovely, cool forest to ride by

And if you keep an eye out for the sign at mile marker 41.5, you will also be able to stand, as I did, and experience a short walk through the very cool sunken Trace, and imagine being a traveler 200 years ago, doing the same thing.

We have landed at another lovely B and B inn, this one in Port Gibson - the Isabella B and B. It's named for the woman who lived here until her mid-nineties, the never-married daughter of the Persons family who built the home in the 1880s. As such, it's a relative newcomer in this town of antebellum homes and churches. But it's great! And the hosts are very accommodating to cyclists.
Very cozy, comfortable and accommodating Isabella B and B
Original floor - great detail

Nice blend of old and new  styles

Original stained glass

One other little thing that I wanted to mention: all morning we were riding along the Trace, and I kept seeing these fantastic spiderwebs off on the side of the road.  They would stretch from the tree limbs to the ground, and every now and then I could see the spider in the middle, big as my thumbnail. Tomorrow I will make Roger stop so I can photograph one - they were just incredible. Some of the guy lines that they used to construct their webs had to be 20 feet long.

And a fun little artifact of Southern life: these little makeup remover cloths, along with wash cloths in a dark color so that ladies' makeup doesn't ruin the nice towels!  While I do not wear any makeup when I am riding (and hardly ever, for that matter) I have taken a few of these packets when I find them to put in the bike bag - turns out they are excellent for cleaning off the bike grease if Roger has to make a repair on the road!
Cleans bike grease, also!

The day's report:  Clinton to Port Gibson, 52.3 miles/7040 to date! Passed another big milestone - 7000 miles

By the way, we had entertained the thought of trying to get all the way to Natchez today, and taking a rest day there. But that likely would have killed us. Roger was flagging, and I was so tired this afternoon I walked up the stairs to our room, tried to catch my breath, and thought, "how the hell did I just ride 50 miles?  I can't even climb a flight of stairs!"

Here's today's route


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