Wildflowers Along the Natchez Trace

CHARI’S BLOG 6/14-20/10  

Better late than never! This is my fourth attempt at getting this to come out the way I want. I’m not sure if all of a sudden I’m doing something different or if the site has changed things. It’s really frustrating! When I saved a draft or partially finished and published and come back to edit, I can’t get new pics uploaded to go anywhere but to the top of the page. I’m hoping that I can just write the whole thing through today. Maybe this is to keep me from being so gabby!       

We left Asheville with the trailer and headed for Nashville, Tennessee. Another couple at the RV park said when they came through from the West on I 40 there was a long back-up d/t only one lane. It’s been almost a year since the rock slide. The road was totally closed for about 6 months. They’re hoping for all lanes to be open by late summer. So we opted for a scenic detour on secondary roads through Newport, TN. This is not a hardship for us as we love to take back roads and scenic drives. I have a database of 120 scenic drives (and growing daily). So far we’ve done about 10 of them. If you’re looking for scenic drives on any of your travels Google the state and scenic drives or go to the National Scenic Byways website at http://www.byways.org/. The magazine American Backroads is a good resource as well.        

 Our reason for heading this way was to bring Steve’s Mom over to Hendersonville, TN to visit relatives. After a night of boondocking in the trailer, we left early in the morning to head South to Mississippi. Some of the Crow family did not make it to the wedding last year. This would be Steve’s first time meeting them. I 65 would have been the fastest route. Instead we chose to take the Natchez Trace Parkway http://www.nps.gov/natr/index.htm. The Natchez Trace is a 444 mile road without commercial traffic (yeah – no trucks) that goes from Nashville, TN to Natchez, MS. We drove about 100 miles of the northernmost segment this time. I hope we’ll get to do the rest some other time. It reminded me of parkways in New York that I had travelled as a child, just less congested. Yes, I’m old enough to remember life before Interstates! On this day, we found the traffic very light, skies blue and without the pressure of time, it made a lovely drive.       

 The Natchez Trace was formed from well-travelled footpaths of the early settlers. Sections of the original ‘road’ are still visible. This became the first federally recognized road in what was referred to as the Southwest in the late 1700’s. Andrew Jackson made it famous when he fought the British here in 1813. I never realized they came that far inland. I thought they just burned Washington! He also used it as his route to the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Steve and I love history so the numerous pull-offs and overlooks were right up our alley. The road winds through bucolic farmland and across small rivers. There are many hiking trails in the area. We pulled off for a short walk but didn’t change into hiking boots and we should have. That and the 90+ degree day didn’t make for a great combination. Here are just two of the scenery pics we took to give you an idea of the countryside.         

Rolling Tennessee Countryside from Parkway Overlook

Buffalo River View from the Natchez Trace Parkway

One of our favorite pull offs was called She-Boss Stand. In the early years, private homes or small inns were called Stands. They provided weary travellers with a place to spend the night. One such Stand was owned by a woman who had been widowed. She remarried an Indian. He did not speak much English. So when travellers would approach to inquire about lodging, he would point to his wife and say “She Boss” (smart guy!). The name stuck. So the next time you ask Steve a question and he says “She Boss” you’ll understand!       

Close to the end of the Tennessee segment is the gravesite of Merriweather Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame. Steve’s read a great deal about the 1803-06 expedition that opened up the West. If he could go back in history, I think he’d like to have been a member of that party. Lewis served as personal secretary to Thomas Jefferson and went on to be Governor of the Louisiana Territory. The circumstances of his death are still unknown, murder or suicide. He was known to have bouts of melancholy. We stopped at the park and toured a replica of the Stand where he was killed and the gravesite. In 1809, he was on his way to Washington to request payment from Congress for unreimbursed expenses incurred during the expedition. He had his original journals with him. Apparently he considered these journals so valuable that he opted to travel by horseback versus by ship thinking that risk of sinking and loosing the papers too risky. The fickle finger of fate awaits. Fortunately, someone travelling with him did get the journals to Washington. He was granted funds posthumously.       

Merriweather Lewis Gravesite

Steve at Merriweather Lewis gravesite on the Natchez Trace

 Back on the road and heading to J P Coleman State Park in Iuka, MS http://www.stateparks.com/j_p_coleman.html. We had booked a trailer site online at this park as it was only 30 minutes from Corinth, MS where my relatives live. This is a very popular park on Pickwick Lake. Pickwick Lake is part of the TVA project and borders TN, MS and AL. The description was for a 35′ RV (ours is 26′) and a moderate grade. Since we had lingered along the Parkway we didn’t arrive until 5pm which was the same time as the thunderstorm! What we found at site 69 was a steep incline and banked both front to back and side to side! When we booked our site, there were only 2 sites left. It didn’t take a genius to figure out why. After four tries and many words I can’t use here, we gave up. I have a passion for collecting brochures wherever we go and had done so at the Park office. Through them, we found a private campground that caters to seasonal renters but did have one spot for daily use. This also was on Pickwick Lake. Finally after settling in, we met up with family and had a spaghetti dinner at the trailer. All 8 of us huddling under the awning to stay dry. It’s a good thing it did rain that night (and most every night) to cool things down because we found the AC had stopped working too! Repeat after me… I LOVE CAMPING, I LOVE MY RV… I LOVE CAMPING ……The next few days were spent kayaking on Pickwick Lake and touring the area. We did return to JP Coleman and were given a voucher for 4 nights. We’ll use this on our retirement trip this Fall but it won’t be for site 69! The park itself is beautiful and wild hydrangea were in bloom.        

Oakleaf Hydrangeas at Pickwick Lake

Wild Hydrangea Close-up

Hydrangea Paniculata

   We also watched a goose family on the lake teaching the goslings how to swim. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my big lens with me for a real good shot.  Steve and I kayaked a section of Pickwick Lake in the AM. We found a nice beach to land the kayaks. A refreshing swim felt so good in the 90/90 temp and humidity.       

Teaching the 'Kids" to Swim

Then we spent time at Shiloh National Military Park  http://www.nps.gov/shil/index.htm  with my sister-in-law, brother-in-law and niece from Corinth. The 95+ degree weather and matching humidity made for a short visit. We hope to return in better weather. I didn’t know much about this pivotal battle so we took a ranger led walk to the site of General Johnson’s (Confederate) last stand. Initially the South had the North on the run and decided to stop fighting for the night thinking they’d be able to finish in the early morning. That night Union reinforcements arrived at Pickwick Landing and turned the tables. General Johnson died from a gunshot to his leg because no one knew how to apply a tourniquet. Sherman’s forces were able to begin their push East from here. And Ulysess S. Grant, previously a failure at most things he’d attempted, became a rising star here at Shiloh. A quick walk through the graveyard is sobering when you realize that 80% of those killed were buried as ‘unknown’ soldiers. Steve made a comment that due to DNA testing there never will be another unknown soldier. I caught a glimpse of a small stone close to the front which simply said 1862 Drummer Boy, age 12. Can you imagine that? Since touring this site we have rented the classic Ken Burns series “The Civil War” done in 1990. Disc 1 addresses Shiloh. We’re on Disc 4 now. It just means so much more when you’ve visited these places. Unfortunately, the movie at the Visitor Center was made in 1956 and doesn’t do the information justice. The opening seems like a combination of the Lone Ranger and Bonanza. Yes, I am that old!!           

Canons at Shiloh

Shiloh Gravesite



 Following Shiloh we met my sister-in-law from Memphis and went to dinner at a great restaurant called the Catfish Hotel. I’d never eaten catfish so I tried it here. Yum! One of my favorites now. For our last day in Corinth we toured the town museum at the depot, the Contraband Camp Park, had lunch at the oldest drugstore in Mississippi  (hand made milk shakes too) and went to the adjunct Shiloh site called the Civil War Interpretive Center http://www.nps.gov/shil/historyculture/corinth.htm. The Center is about 5 years old and is very interesting. As you walk up to the Center, there are bronze casts of items found around the area. Wonderful explanations of the different phases of the conflict as well as dioramas. The movie is much better too!       

Memories in Bronze at the Civil War Interpretive Center

Somehow my textbooks never mentioned the Battle of Corinth which followed Shiloh by about a month. This was also very critical as this was a major railroad crossing that supplied the Confederate troops.         

An Information Display at the Civil War Interpretive Center




The part I liked the best though was the sculpture at the back of the Center. The varying size blocks are placed according to when each battle occurred during the Civil War and their size relates to the number of casualties incurred.       

Battle Casualties Sculpture

We retraced our steps back along the Natchez Trace, I40 and along some more scenic back roads stopping at a riverside park for lunch on Sunday. Our detour took much longer than anticipated as we rolled into Charlotte about 11 PM. Oh, not to have to go to work the next day! Soon, very, very soon….


About vagabondpress

Recently retired and "hitting the road". Hobbies include travel, nature photography, kayaking, hiking, good food and good friends.
This entry was posted in History, Mississippi, nature, photography, Tennessee, Travel USA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Pingback: 2010 in review | The Vagabond Press Blog

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