Day 92 – Natchez Trace Parkway through Mississippi Part 2

I awoke to freezing rain.  Frozen trickles of water stuck to VANilla’s doors!  Luckily the temperature was forecasted to warm to 40 degrees, so with a slightly delayed start, Scout, Petey, and I headed out.  Yesterday, we sped through Tupelo without touring the town, so we returned north to visit the Tupelo National Battlefield and the Elvis Presley Park, but not before I went on a caching expedition around MSU.  My ex-coworker Mary and I attempted to find a handful of caches in the rain while waiting for a meeting one time.  Needless to say, we weren’t really dressed for the occasion, it was cold, and we had a limited amount of time, so we finally had to give up…SO ANNOYING when that happens.  I’m pleased to announce, that while it was colder and again raining, I found the magnetic cache under the bleachers at the soccer field and the tube hanging off the bridge by our hotel…YEAH!

On my way to the Elvis Presley Park, I passed by the Tupelo Hardware Co. where Elvis purchased his first guitar.  Having only heard of Graceland (though yet to visit), I was tentative to see what this park would offer.  Much to my surprise, it was very nice.  The park featured a museum, Elvis’ boyhood home built by his father, and the First Assembly of God church previously located a block away where the Presley family attended service. In addition, the park includes a bronze statue of Elvis at the age of 13, walls etched with quotes about him, fountains, and a stone marker for each year of his life placed in a semi-circle around his home.  Adjacent to the yearly marker, visitors may find a blank place holder or a historic fact of his life similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  I suspect each year when funds become available, a new fact is filled in. Currently, the stones provide visitors with a tidbit of information from his birth on January 8, 1935 to his move to Memphis in 1948.  In between years describe family hardships including his father’s imprisonment, music that influenced Elvis, as well as early performances before he was a teen.  While I knew Elvis revolutionized music, I didn’t know much else about him, thus I found the park quite interesting.

After worshipping Elvis (not really, but I know some people do), we visited the Tupelo National Battlefield, the site of the last major Civil War battle in Mississippi.  The battlefield, complete with a canon, some flags and monument, sat adjacent a busy highway.  For some reason, I expected the area to be much larger…oh well, it was large enough to find another cache in the nearby trees, so it suited me!  Though I suspect if there were any observers, they were probably wondering why I was circling around trees at the back of the park instead of looking at the monument.

After roving around the battlefield, we proceeded to the Natchez Trace where we stopped at several pullouts and attractions along the way. First, we inspected the ground at a place called Witch Dance.  Local legend maintains that witches once danced here, and wherever their feet touched the ground the grass died never to grow again.  We didn’t stay long…the trail was extremely muddy…maybe the legend is true – haha!

Our next quick visit was to Pigeon Roost an area where millions of migrating passenger pigeons used to rest.  Thought to be an abundant species as flocks filled the skies, the birds were recklessly hunted for food and sport during colonial times which ultimately lead to the pigeons’ extinction in 1914.

The next stop on the Trace that we ambled through was the French Camp.  A French Canadian, Louis LeFleur, married to a Choctaw woman, established a stand here to serve travelers along the Trace in 1812.  The camp includes a log cabin, a sorghum mill, a carriage, farm tools, gravestones, a post office and a nano cache.  Current travelers may also browse the gift shop and enjoy a hot lunch at the café.

We continued south to Cypress Swamp where a nature trail circles around tupelos and bald cypresses rising from the abandoned river channel.  As dusk neared, we strolled along the path keeping an eye out for wildlife: alligators, turtles, bobcats and a variety of birds.  They must have found a better place for the evening, as all was quiet in swampland.

It was time to join our next set of gracious hosts (a former client Mike and his wife Deb) in Madison, Mississippi.  What a marvelous time we had!  Mike and Deb treated me to a superb dinner at The Strawberry Café.  The grouper topped with artichokes, mushrooms, and lump crab meat was out of this world.  It didn’t even taste like fish.  Maybe that’s why I liked it!  It’s tough to eat fish when it tastes like it smells.  The grouper, rich with flavor, flaked apart with every bite…simply succulent!

After dinner, we bee lined toward a street of homes known for their Christmas decorations.  The first home could have passed for Clark Griswald’s home in Christmas Vacation.  I’m surprised the entire City of Madison wasn’t blacked out with all the wattage used for this house.  The roof, the bushes, the doors, the trees, and the yard ornaments illuminated the night sky.  But then, we turned into the cul-de-sac, set the radio station on 96.7, and watched the lights on three different houses blink to the music in the car!!!  What a riot!  Actually, I don’t know what channel the station had to be set to, but different sets of lights on each house flashed in sync to the chimes, bells, symbols, horns, and the like heard in familiar Christmas tunes broadcasted over the car’s speakers.  The block is well worth a visit in December! ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

5 thoughts on “Day 92 – Natchez Trace Parkway through Mississippi Part 2

  1. sure would like a copy of the Cypress Swamp photo. In Tucson we have a place called “Winterhaven” with blocks and blocks of Christmas lights it is beautiful….

  2. I miss driving around Highland Park during the holidays, it used to be so much fun looking at all of the lights!

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