Driving down history's path on the Natchez Trace

Published: June 10th 2008
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After a few days visiting family in Atlanta, Georgia, Alan and I head to Memphis, Tennessee, by way of Vicksburg, Mississippi. No, it is not on the way. But, the chance to see something new while driving on country back roads is an irresistible lure, especially to Alan.

So, we make our way across Georgia and Alabama mostly on secondary roads. After crossing into Mississippi, the real adventure begins when we pick up the Natchez Trace at Mathison, Mississippi. The Trace is a combination road and national park. The long, green corridor winds through Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi following a route first used by Native Americans and, later, by the early settlers.

Once on the Trace, we stop at a pullout to read an historical marker. Off to the left is the “Old Trace,” a footpath leading into deep woods. When I walk down the leaf-covered trail, my footsteps release the odor of decomposing pine needles and leaves.

“Ahhh,” I say taking a deep breath, “This is the way the woods should smell.” It reminds me of walks in other southern woods that I’ve taking through the years.

As our drive continues, we pass farms with cows sitting next to farms with donkeys and horses. A turkey crosses the road into woods where dogwood blossoms appear like white clouds in a sea of new green leaves. Purple wisteria climbs through the trees.

Soon, we arrive at French Camp. The historic village displays log buildings from the American Revolutionary era adjacent to a Christian community and school. A small restaurant, the Council House Café, serves sandwiches on homemade bread in a building where Choctaw Indians once hosted tribal negotiations.

Back on the Trace, we travel through an area with many downed trees. Alan and I can only guess at what caused the destruction. MoreAt the Pearl River overlook, we stop to watch anglers try their luck. A small boat putters from behind the trees, then motors leisurely down the river.

Storm clouds turn the sky to grey as we approach Jackson, Mississippi. It’s time to leave the Trace for a faster approach to Vicksburg and our accommodations at Baer House Inn Bed and Breakfast .

Once we arrive at Baer House, owner, Doug Coustineau, shows us to our room. Then, we meet him in the library for appetizers and a glass of wine. Doug tells us a bit about the history of the house and offers restaurant advice. Alan and I decide on Rusty’s Riverfront Grill, a quirky mix of seafood restaurant and sports bar. It proves to be a delicious choice.

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