As I mentioned in the previous post, I never made it to a Walmart parking lot. I ended up camping out right next to the Loveless Café across from a Shell gas station. I entered the restaurant just after opening at 7 am. I wasn’t that hungry, but coffee and heat lured me to a table quickly. The Loveless Café, operating for over 50 years, is a local landmark and world renowned having been featured in Bon Appétit, People Magazine, U.S. News and World Report and more. The café is frequented by celebrities as evidenced by the walls covered with autographed pictures. In addition to serving meals, its smoke house next door sells Bar-B-Q and its Hams and Jams offers a variety of gifts including the café’s famous biscuit mix and preserves. For more history, see the following link: http://lovelesscafe.com/lovelesshistory.html
After an extremely filling breakfast, I headed for the Natchez Trace where I planned to spend the next four days. Unbeknownst to me, the northernmost entrance to the Trace was only a few hundred yards from the café, thus even a better place to camp for the night…until I found out the entrance was closed due to poor road conditions! I called the Natchez Trace visitor center in Tupelo, MS and was advised to avoid the Trace until I crossed the Tennessee River in Alabama. So much for driving south to escape the Kentucky weather! After consulting the map and the Reader’s Digest book, I decided to stop at David Crockett State Park, a suggested stop just east of the Trace, to see Crockett Falls.
Given David Crockett’s celebrated past, I expected some imposing falls. As I was operating my geocaching app on my iPhone, walking the dogs, and trying to stay warm, I walked right by them! Upon my return from dropping the geocoin in the Stairway to Heaven cache, I saw the two foot tumbler. I’d almost classify it as a rapid. With icicles formed on
the river’s rocky edge, it was picturesque none the less. Before leaving the park, I grabbed another cache hidden by a nearby pond. A new type of hide for me…not the typical ammo can, Tupperware, film canister, or bison tube. Thankfully the rocks weren’t covered in snow or I may not have noticed it!
In Lawrenceburg, north of the Tennessee River, the roads appeared clear, thus I chanced driving south via the Natchez Trace Parkway. A good choice…no danger to report. With countless pullouts, mile markers, historical signposts, nature trails, picnic areas, and a handful of entry/exit points, the Natchez Trace reminded me of the Blue Ridge Parkway only flat, swampy lands peppered with cypress trees replaced the mountainous valley overlooks. My first stop on the parkway, just north of the Tennessee border, was at Sunken Trace. Sunken Trace is a spot on the 8,000 year old pathway where early travelers cut additional paths due to boggy terrain. Three distinct routes can be seen at this location.
After crossing Pickwick Lake via the mile-long John Coffee Memorial Bridge, I briefly paused at Colbert’s Stand and ferry crossing. George Colbert operated a ferry, transporting mail, militia, settlers, Indians, and renegades over what many considered the worst natural obstacle of the Trace, the Tennessee River. It is said, that Colbert ferried Andrew Jackson and his troops across the river after the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 for $75,000. Knowing that, I think Chris De Burg’s Don’t Pay The Ferryman chorus makes a good point: “Don’t pay the ferryman, don’t even fix a price, don’t pay the ferryman, until he gets you to the other side”.
We continued further south to Freedom Hills Overlook, our last stop in Alabama before crossing into Mississippi. A steep path led us to the top of a small hill for an anticlimactic view of the Cumberland Plateau. At least the dogs got to go for a short walk!
Before making our way to Wayne and Debby’s for the evening, we made a visit to Tishomingo State Park. We strolled along a short trail that passed an old pioneer cabin and looped around a pond constructed by the CCC during the Great Depression. The path is also home to a cache. We crossed the street and took a longer walk along Bear Creek Trail through the forest. Before leaving the area, I carefully crossed a swinging bridge built of wood and cable in 1939. It was a little too creaky for me!
Knowing I was getting fed a home cooked meal, I hurried on, excited to see my evening hosts, a former client Wayne and his wife Debby. As I sped down the highway, I couldn’t take my eyes off one of the most magnificent sunsets I have seen on my travels. Only locating paved shoulders just before and after short bridges, my opportunities to snap a photo safely seemed fruitless. Not to mention, I found out I could accompany Wayne to a Mississippi State basketball game if I arrived in enough time. After what seemed like twenty minutes of admiring the sky, I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I spotted a cross street, hung a quick right, jumped out of VANilla and caught the tail end of the sunset on film or I guess on pixels. Simply glorious! And I was fortunate enough to enjoy tender, angel hair pasta topped with a savory, homemade meat sauce. I had two helpings and intend to add a meat sauce recipe to my catalog.
While Alabama State University put up a fight in the first half, as expected, Mississippi State University blew them away in the second half, even with their star player benched. Having said that, I think MSU fans would agree with me that it wasn’t the team’s best game. Regardless, it’s still a W in the win/loss column…better than the Cowboys!