In April, we drove the final 74 miles of the 444 mile-long Natchez Trace Parkway to Pasquo, near Nashville. But the scenic road begins in Natchez, Mississippi, and that’s where we went after New Orleans.
Natchez was the second largest center of the slave trade. Now it’s a jumping-off point for tours of old plantation houses. It has its own double-decker hop-on, hop-off bus.
The visitor center is impressive. It has parking just for RVs with electrical hookups and even a free dump station. (RVers take heed: All the rest stops we saw in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi had free dump stations). So we spent the night in the lot.
We took the van to a car wash where we could have access to a vacuum. We vacuumed all the carpets, the seats, and bunk area (the “upstairs”), where our sandy feet go sometimes.
Then we stocked up at my favorite store ever, Cash Saver’s. Their produce is cheap and and they have the best deals on wine (a 4 liter boxed wine can be a whole $6.00 less than at Publix). Although some strange foods pop up from time to time.
We traveled north on the Natchez Trace in the afternoon. We had saved the map from before with all the historic landmarks. Our first stop was an old inn/plantation called Mount Locust which served travelers on the original Natchez Trace trail (the “Old Trace”). There is a slave cemetery in the back, although only one headstone remains. Without much fanfare, it felt eerily representative of life and death.
We took the small detour to the ruins of the Winsor mansion, of which only the giant pillars still stand, including their cast iron copulas and balcony railings. Originally, the house had three cast iron staircases too, but two “disappeared” (the “how” remains a mystery). The surviving one has been given to the chapel at the nearby Alcorn College. After the civil war, education was still segregated in many places, and this was the first black land grant college in the US. We went to see that, too.
We also stopped at the section of the Old Trace which has been eroded by foot traffic. Edd says it reminds him of old Saxon droves in England.
There are three free campgrounds on the Natchez Trace. We had stayed at Meriwether Lewis in Tennessee and loved it. The campground at Rocky Springs was our destination this time. It had slightly more wear and tear, but the sites were spacious and private. The first night, the rain came down hard.
In the morning, we rode our bikes to Owen’s Falls, just a few miles away. Apparently, due to low water tables, the falls are merely a trickle of their former selves.
Rocky Springs was originally the site of a town dependent upon slavery, or as some explanations hilariously call it, “the plantation system”. There were 2000 slaves to 616 free people in the town which, when a boll weevil destroyed their cotton crop, ceased to exist. Only a church, a cemetery, and some safes are left. Edd and I explored and tried to imagine the town with the help of the signs.
Inside the church, I played the piano for a while, which was a nice treat for me and Edd listened patiently.
Edd did a good job of building a fire from damp wood. He also deserves credit for the short wave radio he bought before the trip. When we got sick of hearing about Trump’s budget plans, we scanned the different bands and heard broadcasts from Havana, Japan, and we think China.
We’re both going to miss this familiar old road. But I have a big crush on the National Parks Service now, so we’re not done with you yet! We’ll see you out west!