|Sign for the Old Trace Walk along the Natchez Trace|
The Natchez Trace Parkway
Ready for yet another adventure my husband, Donald, and I scoured Google Maps looking for the perfect place. Just Southeast of Nashville, Tennessee Donald found David Crockett State Park and as it turns out, if routed correctly we could travel part of The Natchez Trace Parkway. Alright a great scenic drive on our way down to hike in David Crockett I thought.
Honestly my back and hips had been killing me lately, I wasn't sure if I was up for several hours in the car, let alone hiking. Lots of icing and hot baths over several days and I finally felt like I could manage, although how much remained to be seen. I was feeling reluctant to make the trip but had already committed and I'm a woman of my word, come hell or high water.
Feeling better I finally started researching The Natchez Trace and stumble upon an amazing site, Natchez Trace Travel. Clicking around through the site one can plan their entire trip, from traveling the entire 444 miles from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee or by traveling sections at a time which we did. An interactive map highlights points of interests and "hot spots" or places of high interest along the way. History and nature collide on this National Scenic Byway which is maintained by the National Park System.
I was finally excited about our trip and quickly began using the interactive map on Natchez Trace Travel to learn about the history and discern which stops were in the portion we were traveling as well as which stops we wanted to make. Spreadsheet, I had to have a spreadsheet! There were so many and all carefully detailed, even the mile marker noted!
American History has always been one of my favorite subjects, since grade school I devoured anything under the subject and my interest has only grown with my age. Nature, of course, has always been a big part of my life, ever growing from family requirement to an interest and place of solace to a passion and devotion. Being able to combine the two is an awesome adventure to me.
Early, I mean EARLY, on a Saturday morning we headed South leaving the state of Kentucky and making our way down to Tennessee. It was dark; so dark there was no horizon, it was cold, and everyone was tired except for Kennedy, our Jack Russell Terrier mix. Donald and I both couldn't wait for the Sun to come up so we could see something other than what the car headlights would allow.
When the Sun finally did come up it was blinding as we traveled toward it and Nashville but I at least felt like I wasn't traveling on the Moon any longer. The terrain was much hillier, almost mountainous as we closed in our target. We picked up The Natchez Trace Parkway near an area called Kinderhook, south of Leiper's Fork and around mile post 410. The Natchez Trace actually starts in Natchez, Mississippi so the miles go up as you head toward Nashville or down for vice versa.
The first stop on our list was Water Valley Overlook, a scenic overlook with a picnic area. We reach our target around 9 a.m., there was still a heavy chill in the air, and patchy fog slowly lifting from the low lying areas. Foliage forecast had predicated that we would be arriving during peak colors for the northern section.
|View from Water Valley Overlook|
We couldn't have scripted better weather or colors for our day on The Natchez Trace. The Sun was shining, there was a bit of a cool breeze, and the colors were magnificent. Water Valley Overlook was stunning, the hills of the countryside laid out before us, green and brown fields border with rows of trees made a patchwork of the valley floor. Ponds with wisps of fog rising from their waters sat nestled among the steep forested hillsides of greens, reds, oranges, and rust colored hues. Thick patches of fog hovered above the trees in the recesses of the hilly terrain. Farmhouses, barns, and livestock completed the picturesque scene.
After stretching our legs a bit and taking the beauty of the first stop we made our way down to Baker's Bluff Overlook. Another stunning scene as described above was laid before our eyes.
|View from Baker's Bluff Overlook|
Jackson Falls provided a bit of an overlook, most of the view being blocked by trees and foliage. There was another picnic area and another trail head down to Jackson Falls as I had suspected. We trekked our way down a concrete sidewalk along the steep hillside. Navigating over a small wash with a wooden bridge and further down too the foot of Jackson Falls. Unfortunately much of Tennessee is experiencing the same drought conditions that Kentucky is and there was very little water flowing over the falls.
|View from the bench at Jackson Falls|
|The not so steep section down to Jackson Falls|
|Sign at the trail head|
Here we strolled down the sunken path worn by many before us hundreds of years before. The Autumn colors abounded as the Sun peered through the forest canopy at us. Leaves crunched under our feet as we retraced the steps of so many along The Natchez Trace. On our way back we came to a spot where the birds were chirping loudly and squirrels were milling about the branches. We stopped a moment, took a seat upon a downed tree and just took in the forests sounds. Suddenly a Chipmunk jumped out just 20 feet down the path and darted across the forest floor. We watched for a few minutes as he darted in and out of the downed leaves on the forest floor before taking our leave.
|Section of Old Trace Walk|
|Fall Hollow Falls|
The Natchez Trace Parkway is like any other road, requiring maintenance and upkeep. Current maintenance meant that a portion of the parkway was closed. We had hoped it had been completed prior to our arrival but we hadn't been so lucky. There was a marked detour and I did print off the map so there was no issue getting around the closure.
Highway 20 intersects with The Natchez Trace and here you will find the death and burial site of Meriwether Lewis. A pioneer cemetery with a monument of a lone broken shaft reaching toward the sky to commemorate the historic figure. An old pioneer log cabin sits, abandoned, a shuttered site for information. More portions of the Old Trace can be walked here as well as the site of the homestead where Lewis met his demise.
The final item on our list was Old Trace Drive, where one can drive a 2.5 mile portion of the original route. I was a little nervous about taking my Malibu down this drive but after talking to a few others who had driven it on motorcycles I had little worry. It wound it's way through the woods, brilliant from Autumn's brush. There were several spots providing scenic views to the surrounding hills full of yet more Fall splendor. It's certainly a must if you ever find yourself along the Natchez Trace.
|Old Trace Drive|
Back out on The Natchez Trace the remaining five miles we soaked in the beauty every second we could. Donald nor I wanted to leave it behind us but a new adventure laid ahead in David Crockett State Park. We arrived to find a 5K race going on and people everywhere. Navigating back through the park was difficult, with runners, hikers and other traffic dotting the way like an obstacle course. It was quickly decided to abandon our original plan to hike to the falls and instead we drove up and parked nearby. Parking wasn't easy either, the circular lot was full of cars and people. I managed to find an empty slot and parked.
It was a simple stroll to David Crockett Falls, several people were playing and wading in the stream. I hurried down to the shoreline, snapped several pictures and then dashed back to the car eager to get away from the onslaught of humans after a tranquil morning of virtual solitude.
It was time to start making our way back toward the hotel we had reserved a room at. I had chosen a different route to return along, Highway 13. As it turns out, it was a Scenic byway through mountainous terrain with winding curves and steep hills. It was a beautiful drive through the scenic Tennessee countryside.
By the time we made it to our hotel we had been on and off the road for 10 hours and I couldn't tell you how many miles we had logged. Everyone was definitely ready to be out of the car for more than a few minutes at time. Our hiking plans for the day had been thwarted so we sat down and did a little more research for where we could hike that was en-route home.
We quickly found Big Sandy Wildlife Refuge, it was still open for another couple weeks and had a trail that interested us. Plans were made to be up early again the following morning and with Daylight Savings Time ending, we got plenty of rest.
Another couple hours of driving had us landing in the Big Sandy Refuge where we made use of Bennett's Observation deck on our way back towards the trail head. Ducks, geese and even American Pelicans could be spied along the shores of the Tennessee River.
Gingerly driving down dusty gravel roads we pulled into the trail head parking only to find that the trail was closed for hunting season. Disappointing to say the least, we had saw no notice on the website but definitely didn't want to be accidentally shot by someone game hunting. I turned the car around and we drove the remaining distance back home.
|Bennett's Observation Deck|
It's important not to let little setbacks and disappointments overshadow something that was so spectacular. In today's world it's easier to look towards the negatives but I choose to dwell in the light of the positives and revel in my experiences, good or bad.