Hermitage to Hohenwald, TN

Seven Points Campground to Meriwether Lewis Campground, Natchez Trace, TN

Thursday, June 15, 2006 … 91 Camper Miles – Total 1,794

Bright sunshine this morning, high 80s

We left camp at 8:30, headed for the Natchez Trace, another National Parkway, that runs from Nashville to Natchez. Winding our way around the south side of Nashville in late rush-hour traffic, we stumbled upon the Loveless Café right at the entrance to the Trace. We’d read about this place that started selling fried chicken to travelers and developed into a legendary back-country diner. We stopped to see the place and have a small bite to eat. Good food and plentiful with a very friendly staff. They smoke and pull pork here in large quantities and we bought some for Bill.

Entering Natchez Trace

As we entered the Trace, we saw a family of wild turkeys almost immediately. We stopped at Jackson Falls, a small cascade, really. We walked down the paved path with some kids who were carrying knee boards. Their intention was to “surf” the cascade. There really wasn’t enough water to do much and falling would have been really treacherous ‘cause it’s just a bare rock surface … kids!

Surfing Cascade … Dicey Stuff!

We also stopped at the Gordon house. The home belonged to a friend of Andrew Jackson who ran a ferry near the site. The house is one of the few remaining structures associated with the old Natchez Trace. I should say, here, that the Parkway runs near but not necessarily right on the old path of the trace. The path of the old trace can be seen from time-to-time and you can walk portions of it. Of course, the trace was relocated as time went on to avoid muddy spots and find better places to cross rivers and streams.

We looked around the tiny town of Hohenwald. Bill is trying to figure out how to make a grill that will store compactly and fit on our one-burner stove. Hohenwald had a couple of small stores that might have had the makings but he didn’t fine anything.

Odd Monument to Meriwether

We set up camp at Meriwether Lewis Campground, a facility off the Parkway. It is a very basic campground but did the job. The park is named in honor of the Lewis and Clark Expedition senior commander who died here, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. There’s a monument, of course, that covers his remains and is supposed to represent a broken arrow.

Dinner was leftovers and Bill had some of the pork from Loveless Café … mmmmmm!

Meriwether Lewis Campground to Tishomingo State Park, Tishomingo, MS

Friday, June 16, 2006 … 88 Camper Miles – Total 1,882

Hot! mid 90s

We left camp at 9:00 after breakfast and promptly saw more wild turkeys. However, these were toms, unencumbered by young and were not inclined to pose for pictures. It did make us begin to wonder, though, might the turkey be the state bird of Tennessee?

We got off the Parkway to visit a small state park honoring local hero, David (Davey) Crockett. The park was cute but not really worth the relatively long detour we had to make to see it.

Our drive was pleasant enough today but there really doesn’t seem to be much to do along the Trace. Almost all the hikes parallel the road so that they don’t work well if you’re driving the Trace and don’t have a second vehicle or someone willing to not hike who can move the car. Also, most of the trails don’t have a particular destination or feature they emphasize. If you’re a Civil War buff, there’s pretty much to see along the way but we’re really not fans.

Overhang Along Trail

We decided to camp at Tshomingo State Park. This is a nice place and we had a pretty campsite along the park’s lake. We hiked the park’s Bear Creek Outcrop Trail and liked it a lot. It passed lots of cool rock overhangs and huge masses of huge oak leaf hydrangea that were in bloom. These were as thick and plentiful as stands of rhododendron or laurel might be in parts of Pennsylvania.

Dinner was another stir-fry with sausage and red cabbage.

Tishomingo State Park

Saturday, June 17, 2006 … 0 Camper Miles – Total 1,882

Overcast to partly sunny, few showers, high 80s

Sandy did a walk first thing while Bill planned a small maintenance job. We’ve been having problems keeping the camper battery charged when we don’t have electricity at a camp site. The battery is supposed to recharge while we are towing the camper. However, the wiring that the RV dealer installed in the car to go to the camper is too light. It can’t carry enough current to recharge the battery and run the refrigerator on 12 volts. Bill purchased heavy wire on the way out of Knoxville and finally chose today to crawl under the car and replace wiring. There were a couple of hiccups and some confusion about how the wiring should be connected but in the end, everything seemed to work OK.

The wiring job was finally complete about 1:30 and we took off to explore a nearby section of the Tenn Tom waterway below Big Springs Lake. This waterway connects the Tennessee and the Tom Bigbee Rivers to form a commercial waterway from this area to the Gulf of Mexico. It has some huge locks including one, here, that lifts more than 80 feet in a single lock. We also toured the towns of Tuscumbia, Sheffield, Muscle Shoals and Florence. We drove across Wilson Dam to see its 100 foot lift lock, one of the largest single lift locks in the world. It was HUGE!

Pleasure Boat Dwarfed By 80 Foot Lock

While in the area, we had dinner at Rosie’s Cantina in Florence, near the University of Northern Alabama. We highly recommend the place.

We didn’t get back to the campsite until after dark … rare for us! As we arrived, folks who owned an Aliner similar to ours and who were camped a few sites away, brought us a huge slice of watermelon. It was delicious!

It was a hot, humid night and we were thankful for our air conditioning!

Tishomingo State Park to Village Creek State Park, Wynne, AR

Sunday, June 18, 2006 … 244 Camper Miles – Total 2,126

Partly sunny to overcast, showers & rain, low 90s

We got an early start, departing at 7:45. After a stop for coffee, we continued down the Trace for a few miles, stopping to look at the Pharr Mounds, from quite a distance. They were used by native Americans as ceremonial burial sites and look like, well, mounds.

Pharr Mounds a Disappointment

It was here that we left the Trace. We were bored. As stated earlier, we weren’t finding much of interest to us. Like the Blue Ridge, it’s a nice road with no signs and little traffic. But we needed something to do along the way and we weren’t finding it. We had intended to follow it all the way to Natchez but decided to head west from here and avoid some of the heat that we’d encounter farther south.

We spent a little time in Oxford, MS. This town is charming with big, beautiful homes on shaded streets and is the home of Ole Miss.

As the miles rolled by the land got flatter and flatter. We were soon crossing the flats of Mississippi with massive fields of soy, cotton and rice. We saw flood control levees everywhere. As we got near the Mississippi River, the two-lane highway got pretty bumpy, reminding us of the road we used to drive to the New Jersey shore in our younger days. We stopped at the Visitor Centers on both sides of the river, collecting too many brochures and lots of good advice.

We were headed to Village Creek State Park on Crowley Ridge. This ridge was pushed up by a predecessor to the Mississippi River and provides an unusually hilly and wooded habitat for this area. It also provided some welcome relief from the unrelenting flatness of this area.

We drove through a steady rain much of the way to the park. Happily, it stopped about the time we needed to set up camp. When we opened the door, however, we noticed some muddy water on the floor. Some investigation revealed that it came from the area of the wheel well on the right side of the trailer. A small hole had been worn by the perimeter of the tire rubbing inside of the wheel well! A look at the wheel revealed an alarmingly small clearance between tire and wheel well. Bill applied some tape as a temporary fix and pondered his next move.

Meanwhile, we walked some short, 3 mile, hiking loops in the vicinity of the campground. Dinner was pasta dressed with some leftover stir fry.