The Natchez Trace Trek
ďThis looks like fun,Ē Honey said, reading
an email. ďDo you want to go on a tour?Ē It didnít sound
like fun to me, a bus tour of the Tennessee section of the
Natchez Trace. I knew what it would be, a busload of senior
citizens, thatís what.
In case youíve never heard of the Natchez
Trace, let me explain. A trace is a path or trail through the
wilderness, in this case thousands of years old. Natchez refers
to an extinct Indian tribe that lived in the lower Mississippi
River Valley. Natchez Trace is no longer a footpath; it is a
two-lane paved road that stretches from Nashville to Natchez,
Since the tour was in the distant future, I
agreed to go. Time has a way of passing and eventually the day
came for the trip. At the beginning of the tour, we crossed the
famous double-arch bridge. Unfortunately, you can only see the
arches from underneath the bridge and canít get down there.
There wasnít much scenery. The trees were
close to the road and it was like driving between two green
walls. We stopped at a house that remained from the time of the
old trace. It belonged to the captain of a ferry boat that took
early travelers across the Tennessee River. Unfortunately, the
house is boarded up and you canít go inside.
Next stop was a monument for Meriwether Lewis,
half of the historic Lewis and Clark expedition west. The trace
was not part of that exploration. Lewis was traveling north from
Louisiana and died at a tavern along the trace, apparently of
suicide. The road was boring, Iíll admit, but not THAT boring.
We stopped at a scenic overlook to view the
rolling hills of Tennessee. Afterwards, we had a picnic lunch
and hiked to a waterfall. ďIt is a steep trail,Ē the guide
told us, ďbut it is paved and there is a banister.Ē Steep is
not the word for it. Mountain goats would turn in their
resignation on this trail.
I didnít expect Niagara Falls at the bottom,
but I did expect a waterfall worthy of all the effort. However,
when I finally made it down, it was more of a trickle than a
waterfall. And, if I thought going downhill was rough, it was
nothing compared to climbing up. I clung to the banister
sweating, gasping and hoping I would not have a heart attack.
Finally, back on the bus, I found that a bottle
of water I had left on the seat leaked, so my pants were soon
soaking wet. We passed a log cabin that was a replica of the
cabins from the time period when the old trail was used. The bus
didnít stop. I suppose that historians do not like replicas.
The old trace was abandoned in the 1800ís when
better means of transportation, such as steamboats and
railroads, became available. Prior to that, it was used by
pioneers who transported goods downstream on river boats, sold
them for gold, and took the trail back home. At one time it was
used by Andrew Jackson to move his troops.
It was a difficult journey in the rough terrain
of swamps, rivers, and hills. Robbers and murderous gangs
stalked the trail stealing from travelers. Nowadays there are no
robbers, unless you call the amount of money we spent for the
trip highway robbery.
The road would probably be beautiful in the fall
when leaves are changing. If you are young, you might enjoy it.
However, if you are over 50 and decide to go, stay off the
waterfall trail. You could die on that trail.
Iíve heard that the road is more scenic in
Alabama and Mississippi. Maybe one day we can drive the entire
444 miles. If so, I hope I will not spill a bottle of water on