Day 91 – Natchez Trace Parkway through Mississippi

Day 91 of a Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways

As I mentioned in my previous post, I never made it to a Walmart parking lot last night.  Instead, I camped 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 after a three dog night in VANilla. Brrr!

The Loveless Cafe in Nashville

The Loveless Café is a local landmark and world renowned. Over its 50 years of operation, it has 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 store offers a variety of gifts including the café’s famous biscuit mix and preserves.  For more history, see the following link.

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 located only a few hundred yards from the café. Thus even a better place for overnight camping! Unfortunately, the entrance was closed due to poor road conditions! 

David Crockett State Park

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 freezing weather!  After consulting the map and the Reader’s Digest book, I left Nashville and headed farther south to Lawrenceburg to see Crockett Falls at David Crockett State Park.

Given David Crockett’s celebrated past, I expected some imposing cascades.  While operating my geocache 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 spotted the two foot tumbler.  I’d almost classify it as a large rapid rather than a waterfall.  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.  It was new type of find 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!

geocache in david crockett state park
Cache is in plain view…can you find it?

The Natchez Trace

Despite some ice at the park, the roads were clear Lawrenceburg. Consequently, I joined the Natchez Trace Parkway at this location, farther north than the advised intersection with Tennessee River in Alabama.  A good choice as there was no icy 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.

Sunken Trace 

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.

sunken trace on the natchez trace

Pickwick Lake, John Coffee Memorial Bridge and Colbert’s Stand

Further south on the Natchez Trace, we reached Pickwick Lake. After crossing the 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 song 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”.

Colbert's stand ferry crossing on pickwick lake on the natchez trace
Ferry Crossed Here

Freedom Hills Overlook

Further along the Natchez Trace, we made our final stop in Alabama before crossing into Mississippi at Freedom Hills Overlook.  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!

freedom hills overlook on the natchez trace

Tishomingo State Park

Before making our way to Wayne and Debby’s in Starkville for the evening, we visited 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.  Additionally we 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!

On the Way to Starkville

Looking forward to 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 captured a brilliant orange, pink, purple and yellow sky.  Simply glorious! 

sunset on the natchez trace

Wayne and Debby’s

My hosts had dinner waiting for me when I arrived. I had two helpings of the angel hair pasta topped with a savory homemade meat sauce. Delicious! I intend to add a meat sauce recipe to my catalog.

After a quick dinner, we zipped off to the Hump to catch the Mississippi State University basketball game. While Alabama State University put up a fight in the first half, Mississippi State University came to life and blew them away in the second, even with their star player benched.  While it wasn’t their best game, it was still a W in the win/loss column. Better than I can say for my favorite sports team, the Dallas Cowboys!

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

5 thoughts on “Day 91 – Natchez Trace Parkway through Mississippi

  1. Incredible sunset photos! And the bridge — creaky and swinging at the same time would be TOO much for me! xxoo’s

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