A few days ago I left you after our auto tour of the Vicksburg Battlefield National Park.
Leaving the park we stopped for gas, a bathroom and then some lunch and on to Natchez. One thing about traveling with my 2 friends….we stop frequently. Mostly we stop for birds, but we also take bathroom breaks and snack/coffee breaks as often as necessary! Believe me, it is often necessary!
Funny thing we do when traveling, we look for those brown signs on the side of the road. You know, the ones that say So and So State Park, or Historic Marker, or Museum, or whatever. If we see one that looks interesting the car goes that way.
After leaving Vicksburg we saw a brown sign that said ‘Emerald Mound’. It was a short distance and our curiosity got the better of us, so we checked it out. Basically it was a small flat-topped hill in the surrounding flat land.
Another of the signs we saw was for the Natchez Trace Parkway. For the uninitiated, The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile recreational road and scenic drive through three states. It roughly follows the “Old Natchez Trace” a historic travel corridor used by American Indians, “Kaintucks,” European settlers, slave traders, soldiers, and future presidents.
We did a short walk on this portion of the Trace. It was awe-inspiring to walk where our forefathers may have traveled, even if it was for a short bit of the trail.
From the Parkway website: “Whether famous, infamous, or anonymous, travelers of the Natchez Trace relied heavily on this wilderness road. The Trace was a road home, a path of exploration, and a link to the growing population of the Old Southwest. Over time, new roads and population centers were developed and steamships carried people and supplies upstream. The Old Trace fell out of use. Reestablished as a unit of the National Park Service in 1938, the Natchez Trace Parkway was completed in 2005. The route still serves as a connection between population centers, and allows modern travelers to explore and discover the history and culture of earlier generations.”
After stopping to walk the Trace and increase our knowledge of said trail, we continued on to Natchez, in all driving about 20 miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway.
We got our room and settled in after deciding to find an Italian restaurant for dinner. The one we decided upon was called Pearl Street Pasta, located in a very old building. The directions on my phone said it was .4 mile to the restaurant, but with our unfamiliarity with the area, one way streets and poorly marked streets, it was more like 2 miles! Another possibility was my direction giving, but I don’t think that could have been the problem! It was a bit frustrating, but we got to see some lovely old buildings we hoped to have time to check out later. Dinner was delicious and the trip back to the hotel was actually about .4 mi.
Wednesday was hot and humid and there were severe storms predicted for later in the day. We decided to proceed as planned to go to St. Catherine Creek NWR south of Natchez, at least for the morning, then check the weather again. It was a short birding morning and the birds apparently knew there was a storm approaching as they were a bit on the scarce side. If you can believe it, I did not take one bird photo that day! Unfortunately, we did not have time to spend an extra day to explore more of the nearly 25,000 acre complex.
We returned to Natchez about 12:30 and the hotel graciously moved us from the 4th floor to the 2nd, as we really didn’t want to be at the top of the building in case of a tornado. We had some lunch, did a bit of sightseeing in town, then returned to the hotel until morning. The predicted arrival of the storm at 3 was pretty much on target with heavy rain, wind, thunder and lightning. A tornado did touch down about 20 miles south, but we were snug and safe, and dry, at our hotel.
I love the old Live Oak trees of the south. Some have Spanish Moss hanging from them and some have ferns growing on their branches, giving them a fuzzy look. These particular ones were in the churchyard of St. Mary Basillica, dedicated in December, 1843. It is seen in the background. The image below was taken between lunch and the arrival of the storm at around 3 p.m.
After checking our maps and hotel availability in the area of Louisiana just across the river where we would spend Thursday, we decided to stay at our current hotel one more night before heading on north. Having taken care of that change in plans Thursday morning, we crossed the Mississippi into Louisiana and the Bayou Cocodrie NWR, and Red River State Wildlife Management area.
This proved to be a good outing with us finding more birds than expected, and MUCH cooler weather. The high was 23 degrees cooler than the day before. There were some areas we could not access due to flooded roadways from the previous days rains, but it was still a good day. Probably the highlight bird-wise, was the Little Blue Heron, of which we saw at least 5.
After leaving the Bayou, we headed a bit southwest, again following the Mississippi River, at times on the top of a levee next to the highway. We saw numerous ducks from that vantage point and it was a nice drive to the Red River State WMA, a 78,000 acre area manned by only 3 people. We were fortunate enough to see the only person at the visitor center area as he was just getting off work. He told us we could drive through on the highway, but if we wanted to go on any of the side roads, we would need to get a permit. It was an easy process, and no cost involved, but due to the lateness of the day we opted to not do that and headed back to Natchez.
I will leave you here to anticipate the rest of our travels northward and back home, with a last look at one of the birds we saw that day, a Red-shouldered Hawk.