After driving a bit of the Natchez Trace a few days ago, we committed to doing most of the 440 mile drive on our way north. We’ve read rave articles on the web and in magazines about what a special place this is. When we signed the guest book at the visitor center we saw comments like, “This is my fourth time here. It just gets better every time.”
But now that we’ve come almost half way on the Trace, we’re not sure why we are here or what everyone was raving about. Certainly, our mood is darkened a bit by the cool, cloudy weather. Even the most mundane feature looks much better in bright sunshine. But there is little here to see and enjoy. To be fair, the Trace was a big deal in the early 1800’s when traders used it as a way to walk back to Nashville from Natchez, but that was a long time ago and next to nothing remains from those times. Every few miles we pull into a parking area and read about an Indian or a settler or extinct passenger pigeons that used to be here. But now - we see trees and grassy fields. If we were really into Indians we might be more thrilled by the burial mounds that are still here, but a burial mound looks a lot like a green hillock. Not a major wow.
There are only three campgrounds on the Trace. They are free and take no reservations. We read vitriolic comments on the web written by folks who tried to camp here and found the campgrounds full of people from Quebec who stay here for weeks at a time, doubling and tripling up on each campsite. If we aren’t quite sure why we are here for the day; we can hardly imagine why you would stay at these campgrounds for weeks at a time. Free camping only goes so far.
But we decided to try one campground out, knowing that if it was full there are no alternatives nearby. We were off the road before 2 and 15 of the 17 sites were occupied. But the sites are like none we have ever seen. It is difficult to differentiate a site here from a spur road; they are so long they can easily accommodate two or even three rigs our size. And after we parked, someone from Quebec pulled into our site behind us. It is easy for us to boondock here. We have batteries, a generator, fresh water tanks, and could linger for quite a while if only there was a reason to. But the real downside is that all the sites are in the thick forest - no satellite dish here. Being off the internet for more than 24 hours could be a real privation.
Now that we are on the Trace it makes no sense for us to get off until the end. There are roads that cross it, but many are tiny and don’t head where we are going. So we will hope for better weather and savor driving down a road without traffic signs, bill boards, gas stations, restaurants, or other places to stop - except to read a historic sign about something that is no longer here.