Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts from the ‘States’ category

Natchez Trace – Mount Locust

“Of the 50 or so primitive hostelries established before 1820 along the Trace, only Mount Locust remains. It is one of the oldest buildings in Mississippi, dating to 1780. In 1956 it was restored to its form as a frontier hime of the 1820’s, which was the peak era of the Trace’s foot and horse travel. The old framework of the house is sassafras and was found to be in almost perfect condition where the other woods had succumbed to the years of southern Mississippi’s moist heat. The interior trim and walls are poplar, the exterior siding, cypres.”  From Guide to The Natchez Trace Parkway by F. Lynne Bachleda.

It is a gorgeous setting for a farm and “stand” (tavern or hostelry). You can walk the trace behind the house, and there are family and slave graveyards. The original brickwork remains in walkways and chimneys. The bricks were made on the site.

I should have walked the Mt. Locust Scenic Trail, which is described at pristine and stunning in Bachleda’s book, but I didn’t read about until later.

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Natchez Trace Emerald Mound

Like the Grand Village, this is a sacred and impressive site of the Mississipians beginning about 1300. Mound building was practiced for thousands of years. It was a place of ceremonies, trade among nations all the way to Indiana, and games. Here they placed stickball with only their hands. They still return every year for ceremonies.

Note: if you click a picture, you can then scroll through them as slowly or quickly as you want.

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Driving back up the Trace from Natchez, I wanted to see Mount Locust, one of the hostelries along the Trace. It is the only one that remains. The framework of the house is sassafras, and was found to be in almost perfect condition. The interior trim and walls were poplar; the exterior siding cypress. From “Guide to The Natchez Trace” by F. Lynne Bachleda. Unfortunately it was not open. I visited some other sites along the way, a beautiful cemetery on the Trace, the remains of Elisabeth Female Academy (1818-1845) and Loess Bluff, an ancient wind-blown cliff.

I went back to Natchez, visiting St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Natchez National Cemetery that my tour guide recommended. Walking along the boardwalk, there are three impressive homes standing above the Mississippi.

Natchez Trace – Grand Village of The Natchez Indians

I didn’t tour the plantations and mansions, but there are lots of beautiful ones. I opted to tour the Grand Village of the Natchez. There is a nice information center. I listened to a person of Natchez decent telling his history to the lady at the desk. I wished I had recorded it. He was telling about his family’s land, going back to early European times and how the tribe wouldn’t accept him now. He thought the new casino might have something to do with it.

The Grand Village is impressive. It reminded me of sites in Mexico, though no buildings remain. You could imagine large numbers of Indians in ceremonies and games. It’s an impressive site. “The Natchez Indians inhabited what is now southwest Mississippi ca. AD 700-1730, with the culture at its zenith in the mid-1500s. Between 1682 and 1729 the Grand Village was their main ceremonial center, according to historical and archaeological evidence. French explorers, priests, and journalists described the ceremonial mounds built by the Natchez on the banks of St. Catherine Creek, and archaeological investigations produced additional evidence that the site was the place that the French called “the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians.” from http://www.mdah.ms.gov/new/visit/grand-village-of-natchez-indians/

Stickball

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The origins of Lacrosse is often attributed to the Algonquins, but the Indians of the southeast played stickball for more than 1000 years.

“Among the Indian nations of the Southeast (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Natchez, Seminole), there were two basic ball games which were played. These games had both social and ceremonial meaning.

Stickball was played with two sticks per player. The ball sticks, made from hickory or pecan, were about two feet long and were bent at one end to form a racket. The balls were made from deerskin which was stuffed with deer or squirrel hair. Players would catch the ball between the nettings of their sticks and then throw it. They were not allowed to strike or catch the ball with their hands. The players, however, could tackle, block, or use any reasonable method to interfere with the other team’s movement of the ball.

Points were scored when a player hit the opposing team’s goal post with the ball. Among the Cherokee, a team had to be the first to score 12 points in order to win. The Creek, however, required 20 points in order to win.

The field for the game might be as long as 500 yards or as short as 100 yards. The object of the game was to get the ball between two goal posts or to strike one of the poles with the ball.

Stickball was often used to settle issues between Choctaw communities. This approach to settling internal issues reduced the possibility of civil war. In these instances, the goal posts might be located within each opposing team’s village which meant that the goal posts would be several miles apart.

Among the Choctaw, the players were not allowed to wear moccasins or any clothing other than a breechclout. On the night prior to a game, there would be a dance in which the players would dance in their ballplay outfits and rattle their ballsticks together.

Among some of the tribes, players would not eat rabbit prior to a game as it was felt that this might cause them to become frightened and confused. They also avoided eating frogs because this would make them susceptible to broken bones. Players would generally fast before the game.

The number of players varied greatly. Sometimes there were games with as few as nine players per side, while other times there were games with several hundred players on the field. A game might last several days. Play was rough and it was not uncommon for the players to suffer severe bruises and even broken bones.

The Southeastern nations also have a single pole ball game which is played in ritual context. Like stickball, the single pole game is played with sticks and a small ball. In this game there is a single pole, about 25 feet high, with a wooden effigy of a fish at the top. Seven points are scored when a player manages to strike the fish with the ball. Striking the pole scores two points.

This game has been played for more than 1,000 years. The game is often played in association with the Busk (or Green Corn Ceremony). The game, which is played on sacred ground, brings a sense of balance and harmony by bringing the secular and sacred together.” From: https://nativeamericannetroots.net/diary/949

 

 

Natchez Trace From Ross Barnett Reservoir to Natchez State Park

As I drove the Natchez Trace Parkway, stopping at each marker to learn the history and see the sights, I was impressed by the depth of history of this ancient road. The Native American history is told pretty well, although it left me wanting to know more. Then the thoughts and stories of the European settlers who walked this trail for 500 miles back to their homes is amazing. Making 20-25 miles a day on foot, carrying gear and a heavy rifle for a month is no small feat. As travel increased, “stands” were built along the way for travelers to sleep and eat. Usually they were small, with many sleeping on the floor, but that’s still better than sleeping in the woods with no shelter from the rains or cold.

Talk about walking, the Trail of Tears crosses the Trace, and Native Americans were made to walk to Oklahoma. They had inadequate food or shelter, and many died along the way.

Rocky Springs is an abandoned 1790’s town where about a 2’616 people had lived and farmed. When and the poorly managed land gave out, it was abandoned. All that remains is a beautiful brick church built in 1836 that is still in use today.

There was a stop to view the “Sunken Trace”. You could easily see how bandits could have full advantage in this area.

Natchez Trace Meriwether Lewis Campground to Ross Barnett Reservoir

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Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi includes a museum and beautiful grounds. “When Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto passed through this area in 1540, he encountered an established Chickasaw Indian civilization nestled in the wooded hills and valleys. The Chikasaw, who had a reputation as fierce fighters, ultimately drove de Soto westward toward the Mississippi River, the ‘discovery’ for which he is perhaps most famous.’ from Guide to the Natchez Trace Parkway by F. Lynne Bachleda. De Soto came with 700 armed men on horseback. It is a story of torture, enslavement and murder.

Tupelo is also the sight of a battle in the French and Indian war, with the Chickasaws joining the British. There was also a Civil War battle here. The town was originally named for the native Tupelo tree. It was home of the Chickasaw and Choctaws for thousands of years. Mud Creek and Town Creek intersect here, and there are many surrounding lakes, so it was a good area for hunting, fishing and planting for the native Americans. As with most places, there is much more to see in Tupelo.

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I visited the Chicasaw Council House at Pontatok, where tribal chiefs and leaders met in the 1820’s to adopt laws and treaties (that would not be good). This area also marks the National Trail of Tears. When all was said and done, the European settlers took their land and marched them to Oklahoma. The good news is that many return to their homeland for annual ceremonies.

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As Ed Brownfield reminded me, President Jefferson made the Trace a mail route and more of a road between Nashville and Natchez, which took them about two weeks to ride the 450 miles. It was a difficult, lonely and dangerous road. The white man’s use of the trail was to take their crops and goods down the Ohio or Tennessee Rivers on wooden rafts to the Mississippi and to Natchez. They would sell everything, including the wood from their raft. Then they would either ride or walk the Trace back to Nashville or into Kentucky. Since they were flush with cash, they were easy targets for bandits, especially in the sunken areas. They would sometimes travel in groups for safety, but that often slowed travel.

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from: https://www.scenictrace.com/follow-the-path-of-the-kaintucks-on-the-natchez-trace/

 

Natchez Trace From Meriwether Lewis Campground

Seven Points Campground was added to my list of favorite campgrounds

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Leaving Charlottesville, I drove i64 to i81 to i40 and some back roads to Seven Points Campground on Percy Priest Dam and Lake southeast of Nashville. This is a great campground with lots of room, great staff and site-preparation, on a beautiful lake. I had two goals: visit my cousin and his wife in Somerville, Alabama and to explore the Natchez Trace

Driving from Seven Points to Meriwether Lewis Campground took longer than I thought it would. Traffic was heavy around Nashville, so I didn’t want to go into the city to get to the end of the Trace. It runs from Natchez to Nashville, so I was going to drive it “backwards”. I got on at Pasquo, south of I40. I was sorry to have missed the Loveless Cafe, just north of this, but it was mid-morning by then.

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. Today, people can enjoy not only a scenic drive but also hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping along the parkway. https://www.nps.gov/natr/index.htm

That’s the extent of what I knew about the Trace, but there is a lot more. It is a 444 mile National Park that you can drive, hike, bike or ride a horse. It is beautiful, changing subtly through different landscapes, soils, hills and bayous. The trees are magnificent, huge and seemingly untouched for generations. There is a lot of history. The trail was originally made by migrating game (buffalo and others) along the west side of the Appalachian Mountains. Native Americans followed these trails for thousands of years before the arrival of the Kaintucks. By the 1600’s, three tribes inhabited these regions – the Chickasaw in the north, Choctaw in the middle and Natchez in the south. 2,000 years ago, they were the Missippians, skillful farmers and great mound-builders, similar to the natives of Mexico. Approximately 10 million natives inhabited North American before Columbus. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_history_of_indigenous_peoples_of_the_Americas

For travelers throughout time, it was difficult. With frequent storms, trees fell, streams changed course and there was flooding, so the trail was seldom in one place. Rather there might be many trails. Yet, there are many beautiful campsites alongside creeks, streams and rivers. Today you can drive the Trace, walk it, ride a bike or ride a horse. A casual drive through the park might seem boring to some, but the more you explore, the more complex it gets. There is no charge to travel this national park, and there are three free campgrounds along the way. The Trace itself has many forms. Sometimes it is a dirt road, at times a narrow trail, sometimes deep or sunken.

Heading Home

October 10, 2018

With heavy rains predicted for the next three days, we decided to head back home, cutting the trip just a day short. There has been a lot of rain on this trip, and it has been difficult to keep humidity to a reasonable level inside the trailer. We bought a small dehumidifier and several dehumidifier tubs. Using propane heat generates water: Combustion.jpgThe heat pump does a better job of drying the inside, but not great. Some come with a dehumidify mode, but ours doesn’t. We had similar problems when we were in Olympic National Park, which is a rain forest. It is not good when mold begins to grow. With temperatures hovering around 48 degrees, the Yoopers (also known as Fudgies) said this was unusual weather.

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Site 163 in Taqwuamenon Falls State Park

With all the rain, we have actually been very lucky to be able to see and do things. Most of the rains, especially the heavy rains) have come at night. Though the days have been cloudy, we could hike or get out and explore. Now with six inches of rain predicted over the next three days, there is little chance of that. 

We headed south on 123, across the 5-mile long Mackinac Bridge and south on I75, which is very pretty and pleasant in the northern section. Then on to 23 south to Ann Arbor, Toledo and Columbus, where we stayed at Alum Creek State Park. It was still cloudy and rained during the night. Waking up early, we opted to go tough it out and go through Columbus in rush hour. Ohio is famous for its orange barrels and road construction. There was plenty in Delaware, now a bedroom community of Columbus, and plenty on the south end of 71. By the time we got back on 23, things calmed down. 23 and 35 are very pretty roads without a lot of traffic, and you can go 65mph. Martha offered to drive for an hour for the first time pulling the Airstream!! We picked up I64 north of Charleston, WV along with now tropical storm Michael, following both all the way home. I’m always amazed how people continue to drive top speeds in pouring rain, and we saw several accidents. 

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To entertain ourselves on the drive, we talked about what our favorite things were for this trip.

Favorite campground: There was no real standout, but we liked every state park we stayed in. Michigan and Ohio have excellent state parks with modern, clean facilities.

Favorite lunch: Colin’s Cafe in Harbor Springs and Brown’s Fish House in Paradise.

Favorite things about the trip: The towns – Petoskey and Harbor Springs; fall colors.

People: The “mayor” of Petoskey, Gary at Whitefish Point, the couple on Mackinac Island who told us all the places to go

Favorite place: Mackinac Island

When we got to Charlottesville, it was pouring down rain and traffic was heavy. Our tire monitor sounded an alert that the front left tire was losing air, so I got off at the next exit looking for a place to change a tire in this weather. At a stoplight, the monitor reset to everything being OK, so we continued slowly toward home, thankful it was a false alarm. I should change a truck tire just so I know where everything is. I keep the jack in the far back of the truck box, so I would have gotten everything soaking wet getting to it. By the time we got home, we were spent, but we were safe, and thank God for that!

Tahquamenon Falls

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

We explored the lower and upper falls in Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and they are beautiful – like a little Niagara with colors like Pictured Rocks. It rained hard again last night, so the river was rocking. This is a beautiful area you could explore for a long time. There are lots of trails and lots of clear streams to float, but we don’t have a lot of time, and it is supposed to rain hard for the next three days.

Our treat of the day was to go to Brown’s Fish House, famous for freshly caught whitefish. Looking at the small menu, I was torn between yellow perch, walleye or whitefish. The nice waitress said whitefish is fresh and what people come from miles away to get. Whitefish and chips it was, and it was good. With three good-size pieces of fish, it was all I could eat. 

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We drove out to Whitefish Point to see the beach, the lighthouse and bird sanctuary. Walking out on the beach, we came up on a young man with a scope and a computer, drinking his coffee next to a tiny hut. It was a chilly, windy day, but he was there to count birds for the Michigan Audubon Society. Martha walked right up and asked what he was doing. His name was Gary, and for 30 minutes he told us about all the birds that come through here. Birds are his passion, and he knows his stuff. The puddle ducks are all gone now, flying south for the winter. That’s why we didn’t see anything at Seney Wildlife Area. Now the diving ducks were just starting to come in. The plovers have all migrated, and so have the hawks. He said thousands of hawks migrate through here. It is such an important spot because birds will stop here after crossing Lake Superior or resting before crossing when coming back north. It’s a relatively narrow part of the lake, so it’s a good place to cross. Unlike so many places, this point has gained about 150 yards of beach, including a good-sized pond. We thanked Gary for his tremendous enthusiasm and sharing his knowledge with us.

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Walking up the beach, several people were collecting smooth, round rocks that line the shore. I took a couple of pictures of the lighthouse that protects shoals that have wrecked many ships, including the Edmund Fitzgerald. Gordon Lightfoot describes it well in his song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. 

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Lyrics

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they called ‘gitche gumee’

The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead

When the skies of November turn gloomy

With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more

Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty

That good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed

When the gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side

Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin

As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most

With a crew and good captain well seasoned

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms

When they left fully loaded for Cleveland

And later that night when the ship’s bell rang

Could it be the north wind they’d been feelin’?

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound

And a wave broke over the railing

And every man knew, as the captain did too,

T’was the witch of November come stealin’

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait

When the gales of November came slashin’

When afternoon came it was freezin’ rain

In the face of a hurricane west wind

When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck sayin’

Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya

At seven pm a main hatchway caved in, he said

Fellas, it’s been good t’know ya

The captain wired in he had water comin’ in

And the good ship and crew was in peril

And later that night when his lights went outta sight

Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Does any one know where the love of God goes

When the waves turn the minutes to hours?

The searches all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay

If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her

They might have split up or they might have capsized

They may have broke deep and took water

And all that remains is the faces and the names

Of the wives and the sons and the daughters

Lake Huron rolls, superior sings

In the rooms of her ice-water mansion

Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams

The islands and bays are for sportsmen

And farther below Lake Ontario

Takes in what Lake Erie can send her

And the iron boats go as the mariners all know

With the gales of November remembered

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,

In the maritime sailors’ cathedral

The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times

For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they call ‘gitche gumee’

Superior, they said, never gives up her dead

When the gales of November come early

Songwriters: Gordon Lightfoot

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Sunday, October 7, 2018

It was 48 degrees with a 12mph breeze, but we bundled up and went on the Pictured Rocks Cruise. It is usually a 2 1/2 hour cruise, but they said if it gets rough, they would turn around. I had been on this cruise maybe 10 years ago on an absolutely perfect fall day. This time it was cloudy, breezy and chilly sitting on the top, open deck so I could get pictures. I was surprised to see Martha come up top and more surprised that she stayed there the whole time. 

John, a retired National Parks ranger, who now works the cruise, sat down to look at my new Nikon 200-500 lens. He grew up in Wisconsin, but traveled all over with the parks, living in Harrisonburg while working for the Shenandoah National Park. He had visited Charlottesville many times. 

The captain come on the speakers suggesting if you get seasick, you might want to get off. I get seasick, but I was guessing it wouldn’t get too bad. He introduced Grand Island on our left that helped protect Munising from the weather. The small town is at the top of Munising Bay, named by the Indians meaning near the Island. Grand Island is 49 square miles, larger than Manhattan, population 47. 

As we cruised out with two Cummings diesel engines at 15mph, the captain told us about the park, which is 40 miles long. Water seeping through the rock cliffs makes different colors and designs on the cliffs. Iron, copper, manganese and limestone play their part. Water, ice and time carve cliffs to look like an Indian chief, a battleship or a castle. The fall colors were gorgeous, even though the sun wasn’t lighting them up. As we rounded a corner, the waves got bigger and the captain said we were heading back. We went along Grand Island on the way back. Some executives bought the island years ago and stocked it with game as their hunting preserve. There was just one problem. When winter came, the whole bay froze, and the deer, caribou and moose walked off the island. As we entered the harbor, the captain invited us to come to live in Munising. We should like snow sports as they get 272 inches of snow a year, and the bay freezes over. However there are hundreds of miles of snowmobile and cross-country ski trails. He said the bay is filled with ice fishing shacks in winter.

After warming up in the Airstream and some lunch, we went to see several of the 11 nearby waterfalls. We stopped in Open Wings Art and Fine Crafts for a look. It’s a very nice store featuring arts and crafts by local artisans. Wooden bowls and vases, knitted gloves, paintings of wildlife and Pictured Rocks, ceramics, photography and many other things were neatly arranged. We walked out with a bag full of things. Then back home for some split pea soup Martha made in the slow cooker – perfect for a chilly day. 

Tunnel of Trees

Friday, October 5, 2018

We spent the morning driving the Tunnel of Trees that runs between Cross Village to Harbor Springs, just north of Petoskey along M119. It follows a bluff over Lake Michigan. Cabins, cottages and houses dot both sides of the road, and add to the scenery. We stopped in the shops of Good Hart. There are so many cabins and cottages in this land of lakes, it is fun to go in some of the cabin stores. Michigan is bordered by four of the Great Lakes and there are lots of interior lakes, all of which are dotted with cabins.

It was lunch time when we got to Harbor Springs, a darling little town on Little Traverse Bay. Seeing several local ladies going into Colin’s Cafe, we parked and went in. It is a cute, little shop that makes great sandwiches, scones and cakes, coffees and teas. 

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We walked the downtown shops a bit and bought a few little things, including scones and pastries, before heading out. Now I can’t decide where I want to live – Petoskey or Harbor Springs. We drove back to camp and took a short hike around a lake in Wilderness State Park, then made a fire, having a steak meat pie for dinner from the farmer’s market in Holland. I was surprised by a phone call from Traverse City. It was Joe from Nature & Me RV, wanting to know if everything was working all right. Are you kidding me?! “Do you call everyone?” I asked. “Yes we just want to know if you are having any trouble”. Geez!