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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sunshine in Vicksburg but Only 35 Degrees

Thursday February 6, 2014 3:20 PM Quality Inn Suite 339 Vicksburg, Mississippi

Well, after a hearty breakfast we resumed our ride on the Natchez Trace. 28 degrees and dismal but the road, as usual, peaceful and beautiful. Bill and I ride without talking much and without the radio on—enjoying the surroundings. Of course, there are the occasional remarks about something we see, such as the looming dark spot above my head as I gazed at the passing fields. With no cars or houses or wildlife in sight the suddenly looming helicopter was a bit startling. The fact that the water in the fields was frozen was demoralizing,

We’ve traveled the Trace so many times, sometimes the full length in both directions, and sometimes only sections, that we don’t pull off at all the historical spots anymore. Just favorites or new ones. The Blackbelt is always a fav because of the spelling of prarie and because the black soil is never evident—at least at this location. As we pulled back on the road we espied two robins and one of those ant hills for which Mississippi is famous and one of the reasons the Southeast does not appeal to me as a place to which to move. The robins, on the other hand, turned out to be the first of many birds we saw today.

Looking for the Park brochure I picked up yesterday at the visitors’ center I came upon the book I bought,too. This is the first of several I will buy on the trip—I always manage to find something I want to read in almost every place we linger. Our next stop, the Bynum Mounds. These are some of the burial mounds found along the Mississippi portion of the Trace. The ones yesterday were the Pharr Mounds which date back 1800 to 2000 years ago. There are eight of them at Pharr. There are only two at Bynum and they are of the same vintage. They are about 55 miles apart.


Here and there along the Trace are signs pointing out sections of the old Trace and in some cases you can drive along them. The ground is not frozen despite the cold and it is wet. These sections are not paved and we’ve driven one in Tennessee and know that there are holes and indentations that we’d rather not explore at this time of year.  We had gone about 53 miles from Tupelo when we saw a sign that said Tornado Damage April 2011. Nothing seemed terribly damaged until we drove a few yards ahead and then the devastation left us speechless and in awe at the evidence, once more, of what Nature can do and how helpless we are in her face. We tried to remember if we’d come on the Trace in 2011 but I don’t find a stamp in my NP Passport—though I didn’t look very closely –too busy taking in the trees broken off like toothpicks and twisted and uprooted. In a couple places we could see the twisted remains of houses off the Trace. It looked as though it entered the road a mile marker 203 and then rushed northward clearing both sides of the road for about six miles. It was difficult to see how wide it was but it cut quite a swath. http://wireupdate.com/wires/3318/large-tornado-causes-widespread-damage-in-western-mississippi/

There are some videos on the net of the immediate aftermath of the strike. As for us, we went from the destruction right into untouched woods that looked the same as the previous area must have looked. Just mind boggling. Another reason this area isn’t for me—but then again, Joplin isn’t in the Southeast. We didn’t climb up the highest point in Ms—603 feet—since there was construction of yet another fancy potty and the road was somewhat blocked. Shortly afterwards the sun came out for a millisecond and I recorded the shadows on the road, just so I’d remember it.

Eventually, we arrived at one of the biggest reservoirs I’ve seen away from a large city—although I suppose it serves Canton and Jackson so maybe it isn’t so large. This is the Ross R. Barnett Reservoir on the Pearl River which flows into the Gulf at Pearlington, Ms. Lots of waterfowl in a backwater in front of two shabby multi-roomed homes—she says facetiously. Also, finally, I was able to get a shot or two of the huge flocks of red-winged blackbirds that have been all along the sides of the road.  As the car approaches they rise as one large black cloud into the trees. I never could get them in flight but this small portion of one flock in the trees gives you an idea of how many there are. Bill thinks they are gathering for the migration to the North. Hope they wait a bit—if they want anything to eat, that is.

We missed getting a shot of a heron –a lone heron in one of the field ponds. He looked miserable standing there and hunkered down and fluffed up. He and the water were so gray on this gray day that everything blended together—would have been an evocative of moodiness shot. Also went back to get a picture of a large red-tailed hawk sitting openly on a low limb surveying the fields on either side of the road. As soon as we stopped the car, off he went—just so majestic and much to fast for me.

We did get a nice picture of a group of strutting geese headed for the water. They have done a great deal of work on the South end of the Reservoir including the building of a parallel bike path with a fancy dancy bridge or two. Don’t know if this was a National or Municipal or cooperative endeavor but it is one nice path. The funny thing though—it ends abruptly in the middle of a field with a huge Road Closed barrier just South of the conglomeration of merged cities and just a half field short of the Trace roadway!!! So strange. Also at about that spot the Trace began to be very wavy—not only could you feel the roughness, you could literally see the waves in the pavement. Again, strange. Within five miles the surface was fine once more.

We looked up the motels in Natchez and I remembered that I didn’t like it or the Chinese restaurant that seemed to be the only one near-by. We pulled into the Battle of Raymond area to regroup—as the snow fell softly!—and decided to head up to Vicksburg. Before we pulled out I got a quick picture of a female bluebird—her more colorful mate had been baiting me for minutes but he flew across the road when I finally decided to give him some notice.

Off we went to Rte 27 and a few miles to Vicksburg. The sun came out and there was blue sky. Nevertheless, it is still 35—actually colder now-I’ve just turned up the heat in the room. It has clouded over once more.

When we arrived we were surrounded by cardinals and mockingbirds. Checked in and the lady gave us a King suite as an upgrade—not too shabby for $68 !! It is so lovely, I decided I want to stay in and eat a liverwurst and Cabot cheddar sandwich on pumpernickel with black olives and chips on the side. A cherry coke to drink. I’m happy. Bill went out and got a burger and a beer. I think it is time to eat at the dining room table. Not sure where we are headed tomorrow—we might backtrack from Natchez to Kilm, Ms and then along the La coast west. We’ll see. Now begins our who knows where we’ll head perambulations—the greatest fun of these trips. Until we chat again—be safe—KandB

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