We left the Grand Ole RV Resort in Goodlettsville on Monday April 5 at 9:45 and around noon we drove into the Natchez Trace Wilderness Preserve – a Thousand Trails resort – located right by the Natchez Trace Parkway. Acey’s mileage as we departed was 71,480.8 and Thor has 81,684 miles.
The roads in the park are paved, but very narrow and in need of repair. We found a site with full hook-ups – water, sewer and electric — but only 30 Amps – so we will need to be careful what we have turned on at the same time.
Memorial Day weekend of 1991, we tent camped at this park with some friends in our small group from church. It began to rain after we got into our tents for the night, and then a deluge hit! We ended up finding a cabin to stay in. That was CAMPING; with Acey, we are GLAMPING! We have all the comforts of home and take our house with us as we travel to new destinations. We are enjoying the journey!
Tuesday we drove up the beautiful Natchez Trace Parkway into Bellevue. Jim’s niece Julie and her husband Royce have a meeting with the missions committee at Stephens Valley Church, and her father Bruce and brother Sean came with them. Julie and Royce had been in China and hope to soon leave for Thailand to do linguistic work. Bruce lives in Sparta, TN and Sean (living in Fort Wayne, IN), Julie and Royce (staying with his parents in Minnesota) came to be with Bruce for Easter. After the meeting, we went out for lunch. It was great to see everyone and catch up!
On Wednesday, Jim worked on preparations for the papermill project and also worked on the dash air conditioning. Apparently there is a bad wire causing the intermittent problem with the A/C. Linda worked on last week’s blog, but has been having difficulty getting photos to upload. The internet package we bought here is not very good and we have no cell service – we have no TV reception on the antenna – this park is definitely in the boonies!!
Thursday Jim completed work on the dash air conditioning – he replaced the faulty wire and hopes that will solve the problem. Linda continued to work on the blog for our last stay.
After lunch, we went out to see some of the stops along the Natchez Trace Parkway.
We had lived very close to the Northern Terminus (at Milepost 444) in Nashville that was completed in 2005. But, other than driving as far as the bridge in nearby Franklin, TN, we had not checked it out! This viaduct over Highway 96 is quite impressive. Turns out that one of our Boca Raton High School classmates was involved in the design of this beautiful double-arched bridge that was completed in 1994. It received the Presidential Award for the Design Excellence in 1995 for its innovative design that rises 155 feet above the valley. You can read more about it here https://bridgehunter.com/tn/williamson/5570463P0000000/
4 years ago, Linda’s Book Club had read Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage – a great story of the adventures of Lewis and Clark trying to find “the Northwest Passage”, a water route to the Pacific, and exploring the Louisiana Purchase; encountering many native Americans and myriad difficulties along the way. Meriwether Lewis met his death not far from where we are staying, so we went to see the memorial and the park nearby at Milepost 385.9. Many have pondered his mysterious death at age 35. It is unknown if the death was murder or suicide – as he suffered 2 gunshot wounds on the night of October 11, 1809. A broken column, symbolizing of a life cut short, marks his grave. In 1925, President Coolidge established the Meriwether Lewis National Monument. When the Natchez Trace Parkway was established in 1938, it became an important component of the Parkway.
The below monument and signs give more info about the Natchez Trace.
The above sign reads: “EARLY TRAVELERS ON THE TRACE The Old Natchez Trace was once a major transportation route. Some of its most frequent travelers were boatmen known as “Kaintucks”. These intrepid adventurers sailed goods and supplies down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to sell in New Orleans, Louisiana and Natchez, Mississippi. Then they took the Old Natchez Trace north to return home to the Ohio River Valley.
Mail carriers, merchants and settlers also journeyed on this route. Its designation as a postal road in 1801 led to road improvements and increased traffic. When steamboats made the trip north by river possible, use of the Old Natchez Trace declined.
LEWIS LINK The Old Natchez Trace was a well-established route by the time Meriwether Lewis travelled on it. Rustic inns, called stands, were spread out along the Old Trace’s length. Lewis spent his last night at a stand operated by the Grinder family, The stand once stood not far from this path.”
The above sign reads: “LEWIS’ LAST JOURNEY When Meriwether Lewis returned from the Corps of Discovery expedition, President Jefferson appointed him governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory. The position was an honor, but it was also full of challenges.
While Lewis was governor, the newly elected Madison administration adopted a stricter financial approval process. When Lewis’ payment vouchers were denied, it put his personal credit and reputation at risk. Lewis headed to Washington, D.C. to address these matters in person.
LEWIS LINK Lewis planned to get to Washington, D.C. by traveling down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, then north along the Atlantic coast. But hostile British ships were patrolling the ocean, and he feared his journals might fall into their hands. Also battling poor health, he changed his mind. Instead, he traveled over land on the Old Natchez Trace.
The renowned explorer, who helped forge a new path to the Pacific Ocean, finished his last journey here. At age 35, Lewis died at Grinder’s Stand and was buried nearby, Follow this trail to the Old Natchez Trace, and walk in the final footsteps of an American hero.”
As we walked around the area, there were several segments of the “Old Trace”
“The site and ruins of the Grinder House in which Meriwether Lewis met his death on the night of Oct. 11, 1809.”
These stones below, seen to the right of the above sign, were part of the Grinder House.
There were several trails so we walked a couple on this beautiful day
Along the way, we saw some pretty flowers.
Driving along the Parkway we made another stop at milepost 382.8 – the Metal Ford was a place where travelers on the Natchez Trace crossed the Buffalo River
There was a heavy rain last night, so the river might be a bit rough to cross today…
Several dogwood trees were in bloom this one stood out more than the photo shows Spring has sprung in Tennessee!
Hohenwald is known for its Elephant Sanctuary, so on Friday we went to find out more about it! The locked front door made the Elephant Discovery Center appear to be closed, tho the online information said it would be open.
We walked around outside and saw some interesting displays – one about “what goes in… must come out” telling about the massive amounts of food and water one elephant eats in a day – and – well – the results. Behind the center there was a nice mural painted on a wall and a life sized elephant made of tires.
The wall display below made us think about the “herd immunity” that we are hoping to reach and be over this virus. We are all growing rather weary of all the restrictions and rules imposed on us in this past year of COVID. We are thankful for the vaccine!
Linda peeked in the glass door at the back of the Center and saw an employee who directed us back around to the front door where we were able to go inside and learn more about the Elephant Sanctuary. Linda has had a fondness for elephants since she was a child and has many happy memories of seeing elephants at zoos and her Dad taking the family to the circus over the years. He LOVED the circus!!
Having opened in 1995, the Sanctuary currently has 10 elephants in residence. Their aim is “Providing home, herd, rest, refuge, and individualized care for life.” Elephants have long been a source of curiosity. This display was interesting!
The above photos are from 1884 and 1797 the print is really small, so Linda will transcribe: On the left, “In 1884, a year after New York’s Brooklyn Bridge was built, circus owner P.T. Barnum orchestrated a crossing by 20 of his elephants – including the most famous of all, his giant African elephant Jumbo as a publicity stunt to demonstrate the bridge’s safety. On the right, the ad reads (as best she can tell…) “The Elephant, ACCORDING to the account of the celebrated BUFFON, is the most respectable Animal in the world. In life he surpasses all other terrestrial creatures; and by his intelligence, he makes as near an approach to man, as matter can approach Spirit. A sufficient proof that there is not too much said of the knowledge of this animal is, that the Proprietor having been absent for ten weeks, the moment he arrived at the door of his apartment, and spoke to the keeper, the animal’s knowledge was beyond any doubt confirmed by the cries he uttered forth, till his Friend saw him. This most curious and surprising animal is just arrived in this town, from Philadelphia, where he will stay but a few weeks. —————————- He is only four years old, and weighs about 3000 weight, but will not have come to his full growth till he shall be 30 and 40 years old. He measures from the end of his trunk to the tip of his tail 15 feet 8 inches, round the body 10 feet 6 inches, round his head 7 feet 2 inches, round his leg, above the knee, 3 feet 3 inches, round his ankle 2 feet 2 inches. He eats 130 weight a day, and drinks all kinds of spiritous liquors; some days he has drank 30 bottles of porter, drawing the corks with his trunk. He is so tame that he travels loose, and has never attempted to hurt any one. He appeared on the stage, at the New Theatre in Philadelphia, to the great satisfaction of a respectable audience. A respectable and convenient place is fitted up at Mr. VALENTINE’s, head of the Market, for the reception of those ladies and gentlemen who may be pleased to view the greatest natural curiosity ever presented to the curious, and is to be seen from sun-rise, ’till sun-down, every Day in the Week, Sundays excepted. * The Elephant having destroyed many papers of consequence, it is recommended to visitors not to come near him with such papers. * Admittance, ONE QUARTER OF A DOLLAR. —— Children, NINE PENCE. Buffon, August 18th, 1797″
The first elephant in America, according to this ad from 1797, was put on display from “sun-rise, ’till sun-down, every day in the week, Sundays excepted.”
In 1995, the Elephant Sanctuary was founded on 110 acres in Hohenwald, TN and construction of the first barn was also completed.
1995… The Elephant Sanctuary is founded in Hohenwald, Tennessee as a retirement home for Tarra, a former performing elephant 1996 Asian elephants Barbara and Jenny become the 2nd and 3rd elephants at The Sanctuary
In 2003 the Sanctuary expanded to 2,700 acres, making it the largest natural-habitat refuge for captive Asian and African elephants in North America.
The Sanctuary currently has 10 elephants in residence; 6 Asian and 4 African. You can learn more about the Elephant sanctuary, meet its residents and see the “Ele-cams” at https://www.elephants.com/ There have been many stories in the news about the elephants and links can be found on their website. One famous story is about a stray dog that befriended one of the elephants – playing and sleeping together! The Sanctuary is NOT open to the general public.
We drove down the Natchez Trace to see a few more stops along the way. At Jack’s Branch, near milepost 377, there was a nice picnic area by the stream and a short trail. The rocky surface under the stream looked much like what we imagine the bottom of the Buffalo River must look like at the Metal Ford – with large slabs of rock on the riverbed.
At mile 375.8 you can leave the Parkway and drive a 2.5 mile section of road that follows the original trace route. This marker had interesting history:
The road was narrow. The Old Natchez Trace usually followed along a ridge where it was away from the river.
There were a few overlooks along the way. Imagine how colorful it would be in the fall!
We left the Parkway around mile 373 to see Laurel Hill Lake
Linda looked to see if she could find any fish in the water… nope!
Saturday afternoon was another drive on the Parkway to do some more exploring. We went south and made our way north, stopping at the points of interest along the way. At mile 350.5 is evidence of the Sunken Trace. It was easy to discern 3 different tracks several feet apart where the driest trail could be chosen. A better camera would be required to get a photo… A whole lot of thought and tongue-in-cheek humor was put into the wording of this sign below!
At mile 352.9, There was no evidence of the McGlamery Stand (an Inn) here; just over the hill was a church and cemetery.
It was a beautiful but windy day, its been windy all week! We had hoped to ride our bikes on the parkway, but between the hills and the wind, we decided not to. The dogwood in bloom was so pretty!
At mile 363 — We enjoyed the walk at Sweetwater Branch, but did not sample the water…
This sign was not very informative but we got a chuckle out of the sticker…
Lots of colorful wildflowers were growing along the trail.
A nice surprise further down the trail was an abundance of bluebells!
At mile 367.3 was this sign for the Dogwood Mudhole which was a mile to the south. We saw no path, but could imagine the arduous time the travelers may have encountered on the Old Natchez Trace. How fortunate we are to have paved roads and interstates to travel on!
Sunday we drove up the Parkway to go to Sunday School and church. Today, only one “Zoomie” was on, so Linda made sure to say “Hi” to Thomas. In a few weeks we will be back in the Zoom box next to him! In church, a series on the book of Esther has started. It is the only book of the Bible that does not mention God’s name, but his providence and sovereign hand is evident in the events told in this Old Testament book.
After church, we met Chris for lunch and exchanged a few items, we had borrowed his air compressor and had papers for him to shred and he had a tool to return to Jim and our Amazon order that was shipped to him. We drove up to Madison to get the last piece we need to complete the flooring project, stopped by storage to drop off more things we don’t need with us… then we headed back down the Natchez Trace Parkway again. We were running out of daylight, and had already seen the beautiful bridge (pictured in the beginning of this blog!) so we made our first stop at Garrison Creek – at mile 427.6 – there is a trailhead there for hiking and horseback riding. We walked down to see the creek.
At mile 426.3 there is an 1812 memorial.
At mile 423.9 was the Tennessee Valley Divide which was the boundary between the US to the north and the Chickasaw Nation to the south when Tennessee joined the Union in 1796
Just a few miles down at mile 411.8 was the Water Valley Overlook
The Gordon House and Ferry site was at mile 407.7.
A VERY scratched up sign by the house told more about it. “One of the few remaining buildings associated with the Old Natchez Trace is the house of ferry operator John Gordon, Built in 1917-18, the Gordon House was one of the first homes in this area. In the early 1800’s, Gordon settled here as ferry operator, trader, farmer and Indian fighter. Because military expeditions kept him away from home, his wife Dorothea supervised the building of the house. Gordon died shortly after it was completed, but Mrs. Gordon lived here until her death in 1859. In 1973 the National Park Service restored the house to its original appearance. A ten-minute walk beginning here leads to a section of the original Natchez Trace and the Duck River ferry site.”
We didn’t take the time to walk down to the ferry site – we wanted to get off the parkway before dusk when the deer can be a hazard. So far, the only wildlife we have seen has been wild turkeys. We have had 2 run-ins with deer, and one more close call.
Our last stop was Jackson Falls at mile 404.7 – the falls were named for Andrew Jackson and the water flows into the Duck River.
The very top of the falls – there are several levels that the water cascades down…
Basically the same view as above – in one shot… with trees in the way.
…and down – below and beyond the falls
We headed back to Acey and packed up for our departure in the morning. Our next destination is Park City, KY – Diamond Caverns RV Resort for 2 weeks – then we will head east to North Carolina and up into New England.