Attitude Adjustment on the Old Trace

I apologize for my grumpiness back at Muscle Shoals. Seems like everywhere I go lately all I see is misery that privileged white people (me) have inflicted. I needed a reset, and a forest in Mississippi did the trick.

The Difference a Campsite Vibe Makes

When we left Alabama, we got back on the Natchez Trace Parkway heading south, looking for a campsite where we can relax before the upcoming errand run in Texas. It’s a tricky time of year to camp here, because

  • some campgrounds are closed for the winter,
  • the open ones are booked up (foliage), and
  • what we prefer, first-come-first-served sites (FCFS), are a crapshoot for quality.

We spent one night in a campground mid way along the parkway that was laughably different than the reviews we’d read. Its few campsites were hard to distinguish because of all the leaves on the road and no markers, but also because they shared space in ways we’ve never seen before. Is this a campsite? Is that another campsite just a few feet from it? Hard to tell. The clincher was feral cats everywhere. Banjo would have had a field day had we stayed there longer.

Here’s where FCFS sites treat us well: we’d planned on staying for a while, but we simply took off after the first night. Where to, though? We had a plan for another campground like this one farther down the Parkway, but after this mess we didn’t want to risk it there.

While Tracy’s driving, I’m trying to announce historic landmarks as we get to them using the paper map (seeing stuff being the point of driving the Parkway), I’m making a list of possible campgrounds in finding online, and I’m trying to rank them. Will there be availability? How about crowding? Hiking or kayaking nearby? One campground looked promising directly on the Mississippi, but it’s an historic military park, and with Veteran’s Day coming up, the old white dudes would probably be pouring in. Another: too close to hunting. Another: reviews said lots of yelling children.

I eventually plotted our route by the three least-offensive-sounding ones, but, turns out, all we needed to do was drive to the spot we’d originally had on the itinerary, and we knew we’d found campsite gold.

This official parkway campground on the southern end of the drive has one glorious spot away from the other campsites—with a nothing but forest behind it.

Oh my goodness how good it feels to look out into the woods and not see a danged soul.

Well, we saw lots of these souls, but they’re very quiet. And the loud ones—owls and woodpeckers—are okay by us, as well. Tracy is out there birding as I type.

The Old Trace

Right behind us is the mostly dry bed of Little Sand Creek.

I would be gaga over this long, wide creek bed as a pleasant way to walk in the woods, if right next to it weren’t one of the oldest walking trails in the U.S.

We saw parts of the Old Trace in the northern section, but here we’ve been able to walk along the Trace itself, exactly where bison travelled thousands of years ago and in the footsteps of several tribes of people who used it after them.

A lot of the soil here is loess (wind-blown sediment), which erodes easily and creates the illusion that the trail is sunken in places.

Tree roots can be ten feet above you as you’re walking. It feels quite different than any walk in the woods I’ve ever taken. Older. Primal.

Turns out that time by myself in the woods—where I can connect to the Earth—adjusts my attitude just right.

P.S.: We’re seeing our first signs of the real South here! Spanish moss, live oaks, palmettos, armadillos.

A note about this website:

I’m having trouble with the dimensions of some images; they default to a custom size that doesn’t fit my layout, so they look squished. The site is also down intermittently these days—another mystery. I’m aware of both problems and looking for solutions, but this stuff is way above my pay grade (which is volunteer!). Thanks for your patience.

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