Monday, December 12, 2011

On the Natchez Trace Parkway

We got onto the Natchez Trace Parkway late this morning to see what it was all about. It is a "unit" of the National Park Service, described thusly:

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile drive through exceptional scenery and 10,000 years of North American history.  Used by American Indians, "Kaintucks", settlers, and future presidents, the Old Trace played an important role in American history. Today, visitors can enjoy not only a scenic drive but also hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping.

Sidebar: What is a "unit"? 

First stop: An information center close to Hwy 51. Super friendly NPS staffer; she recommended a restaurant for lunch and even photocopied the info to take with us.

Second stop: Said lunch at Mama Hamil's, a feast of southern cooking, all via buffet. The ribs were smoky and juicy. Creamed corn just like my mama used to make.

This gigantic place in Madison, MS, is so famous, it doesn't even have a sign. It does have a delivery van in front of the entrance door. But you know you've come to the right place because of all the cars. At first I thought we had the wrong place, that it was a church, because there was an outline of a cross above the entrance. But then I realized this was a Christmas decoration. And then I thought, some people might consider Mama Hamil's their place of worship. I didn't think it was that heavenly, but it was good. Along the lines of Missouri's Lambert's Cafe, the "home of the throwed rolls." But not nearly as much fried stuff as Lambert's. A place you go to once, maybe, to see what all the fuss is about.

Third stop: Mississippi Crafts Center. Lofty, contemporary place. Some nice things for sale. My brain made a desultory attempt at convincing me to spend a stupid amount of money on a scarf. No sale. Maddeningly poor signage to (not) get you back onto the Natchez Trace Parkway. 

Fourth stop: Ross Barnett Reservoir overlook. Gigantic reservoir created from Pearl River. We saw many herons along the banks of the reservoir, both great and white.

Fifth stop: Cypress Swamp trail. For me, the highlight of our Trace drive. Still, primeval, darkly beautiful. The person who wrote the thoughtful guide signs has a serene, spare style.

While I walked the pleasant trail, I remembered a seminar presented by a parks and recreation professor awhile back. He talked about the Declaration of Independence's "pursuit of happiness" and that parks and recreation programs help us in that pursuit.  
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.


Carol wasn't interested, but I wanted to hear some music. Specifically, blues. So about 10:00, I went to Martin's for its Monday night open jam while Carol relaxed in the hotel room. While nothing blew me away, the music was good. Glad I went.

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