Natchez Trace Parkway

After traveling to Mississippi for work for a few years, I had been advised to check out the Natchez Trace Parkway no less than 4,287 times. Perhaps a very slight exaggeration, but not by much, and the advice was worthy.

In classic style, I decided that if I was going to drive the Natchez Trace, then I was going to drive pretty much all of it. In one day. I mean, if you have only one day and there's always a chance you may not be in this part of the country again for a long time, then you kind of have to just do it, right?

Right. Well, it's gorgeous. If I had been smart and planned ahead, I would have spent the night in one of the many campgrounds along the Trace, because absorbing all of that beauty in one day was just not possible. I whipped out of the car and down a couple of short walks and stopped at a couple of scenic views, but it felt just like it was: too much to see in too little time. The road winds and rolls through woodland and along ridges above farmland valleys for 444 miles, from Nashville, TN to Natchez, MS via a small corner of northern Alabama.

The road was practically deserted for the entire time I was on it. There were a few other travelers who were taking their time and a couple of cyclists, but other than that, I had the road to myself, not unwelcome after a couple of days of navigating Nashville traffic. I love cities, but I am a country girl through and through, traffic included.

Standing up on one of the bluffs in Tennessee, I saw my first real foliage since that one crazy tree in Atlanta. Looking out over the undulating colors made me long for home a bit. I think the longing for home is about it being the last place I had structure and a very intense job. My head is absolutely in the right place for this trip now, but I've come full circle to the "what am I doing?" question again. This time it's about figuring out a purpose, a direction, a way to be useful, to contribute. That's right, I have been getting bored. I'm relaxed, more than I have been in years, and I am tired of it. I need stuff to do, I need to feel as though I have work to accomplish.

I walked down to what was supposed to be a waterfall with a pool, but which turned out to be a trickle with a mud puddle, I'm assuming because of the drought. It was beautiful down among the tall, skinny trees. The rock walls soared away so high above me that I couldn't get the whole place in one photograph. The walkway, which dropped 900 feet precipitously, brought me close to the tops of many of the trees on the way back up. I could see a river valley full of cows out beyond them, baking in the late morning sun.

There were a bunch of places where you can park and walk the original Trace, which I really wanted to do, but had no time. I'll be back to do that at some point, for sure. I think that's my next push overall - moving, finding a way to get out and feel a place beneath my feet, learn it in a more physical way than I have been doing regularly. Let's not talk about what driving and road food, even good road food, does for your pant size. Granola is easy, but it's not the greatest over the long haul.

Google Maps pulled me off the Trace much earlier than it needed to, but it turned out to be a blessing because there were no gas stations for miles and I ended up limping into the first one I found running on fumes. After giving myself a stern talking to about never letting the tank get lower than half, I pulled my act together and headed for Jackson and the home of my dear friend.