Natchez Trace Parkway Road Trip
By Mary Carton
I haven’t been south on the Natchez Trace Parkway past Tupelo Mississippi so I decided to get that off of my bucket list during the fall foliage season with a two-day trip down to Natchez. The Trace runs from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi. I had won a prize in the Natchez Trace Bed and Breakfast Association fall foliage contest last year and meant to use it during the azalea season, but a case of RMSF halted most activities. When I mentioned that I was planning a photography trip to my co-worker Grace, she said that I wasn’t going without her.
We started out at 6 a.m. on a Monday morning and pulled off of just about every pull off. We saw the sun come up over the Pharr Mounds, but the fog was so thick, I couldn’t get a good photograph.
One stop was along the part of the old Trace where we found the graves of 13 unknown Confederate soldiers who died while returning from the battle of Shiloh. They were buried along the Trace where they fell. Each has a marker with the name Unknown Confederate Soldier, a stark reminder of the suffering our nation went through.
The fog had lifted by the time we stopped at the Bynum Mounds. We stopped for lunch at French Camp, a step back into time when life was much simpler, but work was hard. The bread pudding with apples was fantastic. Only two sandwiches are available, a huge BLT and I think a ham sandwich. My next trip I’m skipping the sandwich and going straight for the pudding. The next stop at Pearl River had some sort yellow flower blooming and huge water lily pads in the water. A stop at a Tupelo-Bald cypress swamp and a couple of more mounds and a rather large reservoir rounded out the day.
We arrived after dark at Rosswood circa 1857 in Lorman. The owners Jean & Walt Hylander had a medical emergency, so their son let us in, showed us to our rooms and gave us the grand tour. The home is on listed on both the Mississippi Landmark and National Register of Historic Places listing. The next morning Grace and I had coffee on the veranda. While waiting on breakfast, I read some of the diary of the original owner, Doctor Walter Ross Wade. Penny served us an elegant breakfast in the formal dining room and told us the story of how she almost burned down the house trying to burn a pile of dried Christmas trees after it went from a tree farm to pasture 16 years earlier. This was my first time to stay at a bed and breakfast, and it will not be my last. So much fun.
After breakfast, we checked out and headed down to Natchez and check out some of the sights. We found out that Natchez cannot be seen in one afternoon, but we tried. We stopped in at the Nation Park Service Historical Park, which has the Melrose Mansion. It was being restored on the outside, but inside, oh my wow, much gold and fine woods. Over the dining table, it had the largest finely carved shoo fly I’ve ever seen. Another unusual item out in the yard was an exercise buggy board to get you in shape for a long buggy trip.
After leaving Melrose, we sought to find Longwood, a mansion started in 1861 and never finished on the inside. By this time it was getting close to 4 p.m. and I had to be at work at 6:30 a.m. We still had a seven-hour drive home. We were allowed to drive by it to get photographs and plan to take a longer visit in Natchez and see the inside. Just looking at the outside, one can imagine what it would have looked like on the interior. I would think it would have outdone Melrose.
Next to find the ruins of Windsor built by the same builder as Rosswood, and then get on the road home. Windsor was a very elegant mansion that was accidentally burned down at a party by a guest’s lost pipe tobacco. The guests and owners got out with their champagne glasses and watched it burned down to the ground. Only the crumbling columns remain. Somehow we missed the turnoff to the Trace and landed up in Port Gipson. There my pick for the most unusual thing we saw on the trip was the pink tint First Presbyterian Church, circa 1859, with a gold hand and finger pointed heaven ward instead of a cross topping the steeple.
We made two more stops, places we missed due to darkness the day before. One was Mount Locust, circa 1780, the only inn that remains along the Trace. Lastly Rocky Springs, a town that died due to yellow fever, boll weevils and poor land management and the Civil War. Only the church and cemetery remain today. We finally got home close to midnight much to the dismay of the Hooligans. I had made arrangements for them to be fed the first day we were gone but I thought we’d be home sooner to feed them on the return day. This night, we didn’t have to wait for Blackie to finish chasing mice in the barn. She was ready to eat.
Speaking of the Hooligans, here it is December and they haven’t taken their Christmas card picture nor written a letter to Santa yet.
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