Thursday, January 21th

Today marks one full week since I left Morgantown. Originally I had planned to be in Texas by now. But, Bob had made fell so welcome, I was reluctant to rush off. So, I stay, and I stayed and I stayed... and now here it is Thursday!! Yikes, wasn't I going to leave on Monday? Poor, Bob.

Now I really am leaving. I spent the morning webulizing then started packing

up all my stuff so I could have Bob's place apple pie order when he got off work.

There was a steady rain at 7am when I was ready to start loading the Barge. I dashed out and then pulled it under the covered entry way for loading. The Towers had grocery carts and I used one of these to haul my stuff down to the car. It was nice to not have load up in the pouring rain.

When Bob got home we had out last breakfast together, said our farewells and I then at 9:00 I headed down Rt 100 towards the Natchez Trace in a steady downpour.

Click on the photos below for a larger image.

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First stop. Bob took me here for breakfast in 2005 so I decided to stop at the Loveless for a postcard before heading down the Trace.

The Loveless Cafe is in southwest Nashville, Tennessee on Highway 100, just east of the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway. It is known for its Southern cooking, especially for its biscuits, country ham, and red-eye gravy. The establishment has received acclaim from USA Today, Southern Living, Frommer's, and a number of other prominent national publications. The walls of the cafe are lined with the endorsements and signed pictures of country stars, many of whom are associated with the Nashville music industry.

Source: WikiPedia

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Before 2005 I had heard of the Natchez Trace Parkway, but I really didn't know what it was.

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444 mile (715 km) long parkway, in the form of a limited-access two-lane road, in the southeastern United States. The southern end of the route is in Natchez, Mississippi, at an intersection with Liberty Road; the northern end is northeast of Fairview, Tennessee, in the suburban community of Pasquo, Tennessee, at an intersection with Tennessee 100. The road links the cities of Natchez, Mississippi, and Nashville, Tennessee, via Jackson and Tupelo, Mississippi, and Florence in northwestern Alabama.

Construction was begun by the federal government in the 1930s. For many years in the later twentieth century, most of the trace had been complete, but owing to a lack of funds, two gaps remained, especially one, a several miles long bypass of Jackson, Mississippi. These final two segments, between Interstate 55 and Interstate 20 (in Ridgeland and Clinton, Mississippi, respectively); and between Liberty Road in the city of Natchez, Mississippi and U.S. Highway 61 near Washington, Mississippi, were finally completed and opened to the public on May 21, 2005. The road is maintained by the National Park Service, and has been designated an All-American Road. The purpose of the road is to commemorate the original route of the Natchez Trace.

Source: WikiPedia

I mosied down the road at the posted 40 MPH speed limit and when I saw a road sign with the hiking symbol, I decided to stop and have a look.

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The "comfort station" and trail head at Garrison Creek. It is about 12 miles south of the northern terminus and is named for a nearby 1801-02 US Army Post.

Both the equestrian and foot trails start behind the building. There was no trail info posted. No map, mileage or descriptions of any kind. I chose the right fork of the trail which was signed only with "Overlook 1/2 mile".

The trail followed a small wet weather stream up the hollow and then cut across it and up the slope. The trail started out wet and mucky and stayed that way the entire hike.

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This is the overlook mentioned on the trail sign. It was still drizzling and a bit overcast as you can see. The Summer view must be fast disappearing as can be seen from all the tree saplings which are not being kept cleared. An obvious sign of neglect I was to see on both of my hikes today.

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There are many miles of this old style zig-zag stacked split rail fence in the park. It reminded me of the farm we lived on in Greenbank WV in 1972. The farmer there was still using this style of fence to keep his cattle in.

Red cedar stack fence, developed by early American pioneers, has also commonly been referred to as Battlefield fence, Worm fence, Snake fence, and ZigZag fence.Cedar stack fence offers both natural beauty and rustic charm. Installation is easy and because no fence post hole drilling are typically required, this stack style of fence is especially popular in difficult soils and rocky terrain. Further, when installed properly, the entire fence is above the ground level which eliminates ground contact and is practically entirely rot free.

Source: Hoover Fence Company

The rain was letting up and the trail continued on out across the ridge top so I decided to walk a bit further.

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There were many American Beech Trees in this woods. Here is one with "legs" like the one Bob and I saw in Percy Warner Park.

I had missed my hikes the last two days and I was glad to be back out in the woods.

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The first of many interesting fungi, lichens and moss I saw on my hikes this day.

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Wood pecker feeding station, or just a hungry possum?

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A look down this ridge top trail. The recent heavy rains made for some soggy hiking.

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Here, young beeches, of which there were thousands, form a leafy canopy over the trail.

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This dead snag is completely covered with Turkey Tail Fungus, or at least it was something similar. I am certainly no mushroom expert.

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Closer looks at the Turkey Tail.

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Beautiful!

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Still more. I saw many different varieties and/or forms.

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After about a mile and half the trail became even soggier and softer. And since I had no idea where the trail went, I decided to do an about face and head back down the hill to the trail head.

When I got back to the car I removed my muddy boots and stripped of my socks to facilitate drying. The cuffs of my pants were muddy and wet as well so I zipped them off and they stayed off as it was now warm enough to hike in shorts.

I started back down the trace, enjoying the views and absence of other cars. When I saw another hiking symbol at the Meriwether Lewis Monument area I decided to check it out. I followed the signs down to the pic-nic area, parked and got my pack out and loaded it with water, tripod, rain gear and grub.

I then got out the multi grain baguette and cheese I had purchased from Trader Joes and made a cheese sandwich for lunch.

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Directly below the trailhead and parking area was a karst spring. This was the first of many I would see along the trail.

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I was not surprised to see Water Cress in the pure, crystal clear water.

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The trail meandered through the woods and then down to the first crossing of the small creek formed by the above spring and several others along the way.

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The first of three crossings. All of them had the foot bridges missing. Luckily the remaining concrete anchors and some judiciously placed stones made it possible to hop across the creek.

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This moss is Climacium americanum, or Tree Moss. I first saw this moss when, back in the mid 70s, I sat in on an Intro to Bryology class offered by retired professor Ken Carvell from WVU. Ken is a great teacher and made the class fun, so I remembered a lot of what I was introduced to. On one of our field trips we went out to and area to the west of Morgantown near Greer and Ken showed us Climacium americanum growing near Maiden Run Cave. It was then I learned this moss preferred calcareous substrate and thus if often found in karst areas. So, it was no surprise to see it here.

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I saw many, many acres of this moss where it corvered entire slopes growing amongst all the seeps in hillside.

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I then came across this peeking out of the leaves. It is a leaf of Adam and Eve orchid (Aplectrum hyemale). I learned this plant from orchid expert Doug Jolley. It is a nice easy one to learn because of it's distinct leaf shape, color and texture. And, it is winter green which makes it easy to spot this time of year.

Aplectrum hymaleSeen here is the reason for it's common name.
Source: North Carolina Native Plant Society

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One of several interesting lichens I saw on this hike.

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This is almost certainly evidence of Pileated Woodpecker feeding activity.

Pileated Woodpecker Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)
Source: WikiPedia

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Still more interesting lichens.

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The trail eventually parted from the small stream and came along side Little Swan Creek.

Looking at this creek I wondered if it might be a karst steam as well. Certainly, there is significant surface water feeding of the steam, but I wondered if all the seeps I had seen along the way were the major water sources. And that rock wall on the right - is that limestone? I needed Geary there to fill in blanks, because I could not. Beautiful stream. It would make a great float trip.

At this point I turned back as I was unsure of where the trail went to.

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The trail was lined with mosses which seemed to glow brightly.

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Another side stream which originated from a spring.

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What a beaut! I had never seen Turkey Tail fungus this big.

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This plant looked very familiar, but I could not conjure up an ID.

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I bet Bill or Jim can tell me the name of this plant.

When I got back to the car I drove on up to the Meriwether Lewis Memorial site to take a look around.

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On October 10, 1809 he stopped at an inn on the Natchez Trace called Grinder's Stand, about 70 miles (110 km) from Nashville, Tennessee. Lewis requested a glass of whiskey almost as soon as he climbed down from his horse. After he excused himself from dinner, he went to his bedroom. In the predawn hours of October 11, the innkeeper heard gunshots. Servants found Lewis badly injured from multiple gunshot wounds. He died shortly after sunrise.

While modern historians generally accept his death as a suicide, there is some debate.[8] Mrs. Grinder, the tavern-keeper's wife, claimed Lewis acted strangely the night before his death. She said that during dinner Lewis stood and paced about the room talking to himself in the way one would speak to a lawyer. She observed his face to flush as if it had come on him in a fit. After he retired for the evening, Mrs. Grinder continued to hear him talking to himself. At some point in the night she heard multiple gunshots, and what she believed was someone asking for help. She claimed to be able to see Lewis through the slit in the door crawling back to his room. She never explained why, at the time, she didn't investigate further concerning Lewis's condition or the source of the gunshots. The next morning, she sent for Lewis's servants, who found him weltering in his blood but alive for several hours.

Source: WikiPedia

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Left at the base of the monument, these roses speak to someone's love of Meriwether Lewis.

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The Meriwether Lewis National Monument, located along the Natchez Trace Parkway in Lewis County, was designated in 1925 by the federal government to mark the grave of Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809), a Virginian who was one of the coleaders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-6) and governor of Louisiana Territory (1806-9). In 1924 Tennessee State Archaeologist P. E. Cox wrote the National Park Service about the site of Lewis's grave and the old Grinder's Inn, where Lewis allegedly either committed suicide or was murdered on October 11, 1809.

The National Park Service, however, did not want to set a precedent of acquiring the gravesites of famous Americans. Even after a favorable response to the proposal of a national monument from President Calvin Coolidge, the Park Service passed the proposal to the War Department, which formally accepted deed to the property on February 6, 1925, and created the Meriwether Lewis National Monument. Later that year, President Coolidge presided at the dedication of the monument, which features a broken column, symbolizing Lewis's early and tragic death.

The War Department, however, made few significant park improvements at the grave site. When the Natchez Trace Parkway was established in 1938, the Lewis property was included in the new park's boundaries, and development of the property as a historic site along the Trace began. Today the monument site includes a visitor center, a 1930s reproduction of Grinder's Inn, walking trails, and picnic areas.

Source: Text copyrightę 1998 by the Tennessee Historical Society, Nashville, Tennessee.

I left Meriwether behind and headed down the Trace to my destination for the day - Tupelo, Mississippi.

Welcome to Tupelo, birthplace of Elvis.

When I arrived in Tupelo at 5:00pm the traffic was pretty thick on Rt 145 south. Now, I had to find a place to stay for the night. After about a mile I encountered classic urban sprawl, complete with Super WalMart. I decided this was as good a place as any to get a post card and ask about hotels.

I was told to just keep heading south and I would find all the usuals, Motel 8, Howard Johnson's, Quality Inn, etc. I hopped back in the car, drove about a quarter of a mile and pulled into a Motel 8 to check the rates. To my horror I was told the rates for a single were $99 and they only had a few rooms left. Seems the Tupelo Furniture Market was in full swing and that event was sucking up all the rooms.

I asked about more moderately priced hotels and the women behind the desk made a few calls. The cheapest? 65 bucks at the Travel Lodge down the road. Bummer.

Resignedly I started my search for the Travel Lodge when a I spotted and older place called the Travellers Inn. I pulled in and as soon as I opened the door to the office I smelled curry. Now, this is more like it! At 40 bucks (total) a nite, I had found my place. The room has strong, stable wireless, a fridge and a micro. It is rough around the edges. But who care? Not me.

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My humble but healthy hotel meal. Now I need to make up for all the money spent and calories gained during my big splurge in Nashville.

Next stop - Oxford.

 

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