One Hundred Miles of Trace

We covered 100 miles on the Trace today, from Kosciusko, the birthplace of one icon, to Tupelo, the birthplace of another. Actually, in addition to Oprah, quite a few famous people come from Kosciusko, including James Meredith, Charlie Musselwhite and Roy Oswalt. The most famous resident of Tupelo of course was one Elvis Aaron Presley, whose birthplace we hope to check out Tuesday.

We stopped at almost every marker on the route today. Many of them were just signs mentioning something that had been near the site, such as the Bethel Mission and Chickasaw Agency. These were of course agencies of management and control of the Native American population in the area but like so much on the Trace, the actual buildings are no longer in evidence.

The highlights of the day for me were French Camp, Jeff Busby, Black Belt Overlook, Chickasaw Village Site, and the Parkway Visitor Center: Parkway Headquarters. There’s so much to see on the Trace, and it’s hard to describe it all, so I do recommend a visit. 

We knew, based on recommendations from people we’ve met over the past few days, including a woman cyclist I met at a rest stop on Sunday, that French Camp should be our lunch stop on the day we were in that section. Therefore, since we knew it wasn’t too far from Kosciusko, we didn’t feel like we needed to rush away from the hotel in the morning. That worked out fine, since Angie had to undertake another tick removal procedure on Rebbe before we did anything else today. We’ve been checking him after we have him outside but we missed one on his face and when he woke up this morning he had a very noticeable intrusion on his snout. He was a total trooper about it. Once we’d taken care of that, we headed out.

We arrived at French Camp slightly before noon. French Camp is so named because there had been a stand there started by a Frenchman named Louis LeFleur. It’s grown into a nice small town, but the high points are some of the historic buildings related to French Camp Academy and the Council House Cafe. 

We had been told they offered a killer BLT, but since neither of us eats bacon, we skipped that. Instead, we ordered a bowl of soup and a turkey sandwich to share. The soup was potato soup and it was really good. We ate the soup as we sat in the car, saving the turkey sandwich for a hunger pang later in the day!

Our next fun stop was Jeff Busby, which is one of the campgrounds at which we had intended to camp until the weather forced a change in plans. We wanted to see what we had sacrificed, but we also wanted to check out the view from the top of the hill in the campground. It’s actually called Little Mountain, and apparently you can see for up to 20 miles on a clear day. We couldn’t see that far but it was a pretty view. The campground is named for Thomas Jefferson Busby, a member of Congress who introduced a bill to get a survey of the Trace completed. It was only four years after that that the Trace was made a unit of the National Park System.

Black Belt Overlook was another nice view, but it was also interesting because the black earth there is considered to be extremely fertile. It was home to cotton growing for a time but it’s now considered good cattle-grazing territory. I’m not too sure why it’s not seen to be useful for growing crops of any sort any more.

The next spot, the Chickasaw Village Site was interesting to me because it was the site of a village, so the information there explained a bit about that particular civilization and how they lived. One of the things we thought was cool was the design of their buildings, which included entrances that helped block the elements, but also potentially slowed the entrance of intruders, which reminded us of the entrances to the buildings of the Northwest First Nations that we learned about at the UBC Museum of Anthropology though using a completely different method.

As we drove Monday we saw lots of wild turkeys along the side of the road. Every time we slowed to look at them, they fled, but they seemed to gather in small groups, since there were always at least four when we saw them. We saw them quite a few places along the road.

My other high point was the visitor center at the park headquarters but Angie’s going to write about that separately.

We topped the day off by actually going out to eat. We’ve mainly been eating in our room when staying at hotels so we don’t have to leave Rebbe, but on Monday we spotted a pizza place very close to our hotel. We looked at the website and it seemed to be a regional chain, so we figured it might be worth a visit. Angie really loves pizza and we haven’t had it since we were in Ohio. It turned out to be a good call. The pizza place was called Lost Pizza and it was good. They offered individual-sized pizza and also had gluten-free options. I even had a pizza with chicken on it and liked it! We didn’t love leaving Rebbe in the car, but we could keep an eye on him from our seats and he got plenty of loving from us for the rest of the evening, not that this is any different from any other day!

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