Natchez Trace (Hiking) 2021

  • Getting Ready to Hike the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail (4/14/2021) - I'm super excited to start my thru-hike of the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail tomorrow! A quick background on this hike. Back in 2013, when I first thru-hiked the Ice Age Trail and fell in love with thru-hiking I had a travel writers' conference in Biloxi, Mississippi. I knew there was another National Scenic Trail nearby – the Natchez Trace – and decided to thru-hike it after the conference.
  • Day 1: Southern Terminus to Potkopinu (4/6/2021) - My first-day itinerary called for hiking about 20 miles (32.2 km) from the southern terminus to the end of the Potkopinu section. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail consists of 62 miles (99.8 km) of trail along the 444-mile (714.6-km) parkway. The first trail segment is a 3-mile (4.8-km) stretch called Potkopinu, from about mile post 17 to 20.
  • Day 2: Potkopinu to Port Gibson (4/7/2021) - Today's itinerary called for hiking nearly 20 miles (32.2 km) to the Port Gibson area. Last night, camping at Coles Creek, was OK. It was warm and stuffy in the tent until the middle of the night, when it got cooler. We heard a lot of owls hooting, and some local dogs barking on and off. Every once in a while a vehicle rumbled past.
  • Day 3: Port Gibson to Rocky Springs (4/8/2021) - Today's goal was Rocky Springs, the second of five sections of the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail. It lay at the very end of the day. I was excited. Little did I know what this day would bring. The morning went well. It was sunny and warm out, but not too humid, and with a nice breeze. The only negative was that there seemed to be an awful lot of non-tourist cars on the Trace, many zooming by at far above the speed limit. The parkway is supposed to be mainly for tourists driving at a leisurely pace, not for those using it as a highway. But this gets abused a lot.
  • Day 4: Rocky Springs to South of Clinton (4/9/2021) - Today's hike was from the northern terminus of the Rocky Springs section to mile post 79 – a little under 20 miles (32.2 km). But first, a short recap of last night. The Rocky Springs campground was reasonably full. Strangely, while the bathrooms were open, there were no lights or soap. There were a lot of bugs out, but nothing was biting us or following us into our tent or the car. (Phew!)
  • Day 5: South of Clinton to Jackson (4/10/2021) - Our goal today was reaching the 100-mile (160.9-km) mark, which is in the Jackson, Miss. area. The storm that was predicted did sweep through overnight, so we woke up to gray, drizzling conditions. By the time we headed out, though, the rain had ended. Yay!
  • Day 6: Yockanookany (4/11/2021) - Because Ed is leaving tomorrow, I amended my itinerary so that today was hiking all of the Yockanookaney section of the Trace. Again, there are five sections of National Scenic Trail along the Trace. Yockanookaney is the third of the five, and the longest at 24.9 miles (40.1 km).
  • Day 7: Filling in the Gap (4/12/2021) - Ed left for home today, so my first order of business was filling in the gap between the Choctaw Agency at mile post 100.7 and the southern terminus of the Yockanookany section, a distance of 7.2 miles (11.6 km). If you recall, I'd skipped that little piece yesterday so Ed could enjoy hiking all of Yockanookany on his last day, plus get off the busy roads, which were bugging him.
  • Day 8: Kosciusko or Bust (4/13/2021) - My goal today was hitting the town of Kosciusko, where Oprah Winfrey was born. But first, let's talk about the night. The Grand Marais ladies all went into their tents around 8:30, I think. I was the last one up and outside, but got into my tent by 9 p.m. and did some writing on my laptop. It was lights out by 9:30 p.m. Since we'd gotten to bed so late last night due to the motorcyclist encounter, I figured I'd fall asleep right away. WRONG.
  • Day 9: Kosciusko to French Camp (4/14/2021) - Today's goal was French Camp, about 20 miles (32.2 km) up the parkway. Last night, the weather forecast called for rain/thunderstorms overnight and into today, tapering to "just" rain by the end of the day. I wasn't sure what I'd do re: hiking, as it would depend on the severity of the storms. Well, apparently the severe weather moved south overnight, along with much of the rain.
  • Day 10: French Camp to Ballard Creek (4/15/2021) - Today's hike was a trek from was French Camp to Ballard Creek. My friend and fellow travel writer, Amy Eckert, would be joining me tonight. Yay! Before I began hiking, I first looked around French Camp. This is one of the more extensive stops on the Natchez Trace.
  • Day 11: Ballard Creek to Old Trace (4/16/2021) - Twenty miles (32.2 km) up the road today was a section of the Old Trace. Amy and I started the same leapfrogging shuttle system Ed and I employed, where we drove up to the next pullout, then hiked south. After that, we leapfrogged the car at the first pullout, then stopped at the second and hiked south to the first. Today was cool and gray. Rain was forecast from about 5 p.m. to 6 a.m. Hmm. What to do? It's one thing to set up camp in the rain. Or break camp in the rain. But we didn't like the idea of setting up camp in the rain, having to huddle in our tents for the early evening hours, then breaking camp in the rain the next morning.
  • Day 12: Old Trace to Chickasaw Agency (4/17/2021) - Today's goal was the Chickasaw Agency interpretive site, but I must first talk about last night and this morning! It didn't rain almost at all. Goodness, these forecasts here are so wrong! It was a good thing, though, because it's never fun to set up or break camp in the rain. But we stayed at this odd spot in Dancy just to be out of the elements. Anyway, Amy and I got up in the morning and were packing up and having breakfast when a National Park Service employee drove up.
  • Day 13: Chickasaw Agency to Blackland Prairie (4/18/2021) - My itinerary called for another 20-mile (32.2-km) hike to Blackland Prairie, the fourth of the five trail segments along the Natchez Trace. Amy and I woke up to cool temps and wet tents. That's never fun. Oh, well! On the plus side, last night we'd looked at our itinerary and saw that tonight we'd be staying at the Holiday Inn & Suites in Tupelo for one night. We thought we'd prefer two nights, so I added a second night for us both. So we've got two nights to luxuriate in real beds, and two nights of hot showers. Ahh!
  • Day 14: Blackland Prairie to Twentymile Bottom Overlook (4/19/2021) - My itinerary called for another 20-mile (32.2-km) hike to Blackland Prairie, the fourth of the five trail segments along the Natchez Trace. Amy and I woke up to cool temps and wet tents. That's never fun. Oh, well! Today was another 20-miler (32.2 km), as the plan was to hike from Blackland Prairie – another trail segment! – to Twentymile Bottom Overlook. The forecast was for a nice, sunny day in the low 70s F. (00 C.). I was excited because I'd stopped at a Walmart in Tupelo and bought some real food for my lunches – items for turkey sandwiches, plus veggies and dip. I like energy bars and Pop Tarts, but after a while, I crave real food!
  • Day 15: Twentymile Bottom Overlook to North of Tenn-Tom Waterway (4/20/2021) - The Tenn-Tom Waterway (Tennessee-Tombigbee) was today's goal. Well, actually a spot about five miles (8.1 km) north of there. Amy and I began the day by dropping one car at Twentymile Bottom Overlook. I got there first, and ran into the first other thru-hiker I've seen. His name is Shadow Hawk, and he is hiking southbound. We traded trail intel, and it appears the final two trail sections ahead of us are in good condition. Excellent! Also, Shadow Hawk said the shoulders along the trail are mowed in Alabama and Tennessee, but he'd heard they're not mowed in Mississippi so people can enjoy the spring wildflowers. Interesting! (I later confirmed this.)
  • Day 16: North of Tenn-Tom Waterway to Buzzard Roost Spring (4/21/2021) - The Tenn-Tom Waterway My itinerary called for a longer, 21-mile (33.8-km) day from about mile post 299 to Buzzard Roost Spring. But first, about last night. We were camping at Pharr Mounds, and I chose to pitch my tent under a covered area on a concrete slab. Amy pitched on the grass. It sprinkled a little overnight, so her tent was wet. Mine was dry – not even condensation from the frosty temps (35 F. / 1.7 C.). We both were plenty warm.
  • Day 17: Buzzard Roost Spring to Tennessee-Alabama State Line (4/22/2021) - Today we were aiming to reach the Tennessee-Alabama state line. And we did! Here’s how it went. Well, first I must recap the previous night. The overnight low was about freezing (32 F. / 0 C.), so it was chilly. But we were warm in our tents. However, we decided to get dressed and eat breakfast in the bathroom at our camping site (Colbert Ferry), since it was heated and clean. We even brought our camp chairs in there! As we neared the end of breakfast, a National Park Service employee arrived to clean the bathrooms. Oops! He said he’d come back later, and we felt badly about that.
  • Day 18: Tennessee-Alabama State Line to Collinwood (4/23/2021) - Today’s hike to Collinwood should have been great. After all, it was our shortest day, at 13.2 miles (21.2 km). Also, we had booked a night’s stay at Miss Monetta’s Country Cottage, a lovely spot run by lovely people whom Ed and I met eight years ago. But the day did not go as planned. First, there were some sprinkles in the morning (not in the forecast). Despite the minimal rain, it was enough to wet our tents. Rats. We again breakfasted in the bathrooms, although we left early when our janitor friend arrived. We didn’t want to make him have to come back to clean two days in a row!
  • Day 19: Collinwood to Dogwood Mudhole (4/24/2021) - Oh, what a day reaching Dogwood Mudhole! Actually, that wasn’t the main problem. So, Amy and I are both suffering from tendinitis. She decided to take the day off. I was going to do the same, then dive back into 20-mile (32.2-km) days.  But the more I thought about it, it didn’t seem smart. Better to add a day and hike fewer miles. So I began the day hiking 4.3 miles (6.9 km) from Sweetwater Branch, I think it was, to Dogwood Mudhole. When my leg felt OK, if sore, I added another 4 miles (6.4 km). Then I went back to our cottage to rest and ice my leg. The weather forecast kept changing by the minute. First it was rain all day, then no rain, then rain on and off. It got quite sunny while I was resting and icing my leg. Then, as I got ready to hike 4 more miles (6.4 km), it got gloomy and the forecast called for rain.
  • Day 20: Dogwood Mudhole to Metal Ford (4/25/2021) - Today’s goal was Metal Ford, just 15.5 miles (25 km) north. We are punting with our schedule every day, trying to make it these final miles despite our painful tendinitis. Since Amy has plans to hike in the Grand Canyon with her husband shortly after this trip, she is doing very little hiking for the rest of this trip. No sense developing a severe case of tendinitis that will ruin her Grand Canyon adventure. My situation is different.
  • Day 21: Metal Ford to Old Trace (4/26/2021) - Today’s goal was a section of the Old Trace 14.6 miles (23.5 km) north. As I said yesterday, we are punting with our schedule every day, trying to get the miles in without inflaming our tendinitis. First, a quick note on thru-hiking, rules and what's being honest. Many National Scenic Trails define thru-hiking as completing a long-distance trail within one year. Beyond that, there isn't always more guidance. On the Ice Age Trail, which isn't completed yet, you're allowed to hike any way you want along the connecting roads to get to the next trail segment, although the Ice Age Trail Alliance does have a map with suggested connecting routes. 
  • Day 22: Old Trace to Highway 7 (4/27/2021) - Amy and I were excited about today's trek, which would end with us hiking from Highway 7 south on the Highland Rim section of the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail. But, as always, a recap of last night. Ed and I stayed at Fall Hollow eight years ago during our Natchez Trace thru-bike. We’d rented one of their two motel rooms, and it was clean and comfy. The place also rents cabins and campground space, and Amy and I decided to rent a camping spot.
  • Day 23: Highway 7 to North of Highland Rim (4/28/2021) - Today was supposed to be a fun day, finishing the last 12 miles (19.3 km) of the Highland Rim section of the trail, then heading north on the parkway to the Leiper’s Gap area. But it was not a fun day at all. Last night, Amy and I camped at the Gordon House pullout. There was a nice bathroom there, plus plenty of flat spaces to camp. It was nice, other than that the bathroom had a light that kept shining in our faces all night. Oh, well.
  • Day 24: North of Highland Rim to Natchez Trace Northern Terminus (4/29/2021) - Today was the big day: hiking to the Natchez Trace northern terminus. The rain forecast kept changing, but before we turned in for the night it said the rain would arrive around 10 a.m. So the plan was that I'd get up at 4 a.m. so I could start hiking at 5:45 a.m. If my leg (and luck) held up, I'd finish right as the rain was arriving.



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