After taking you across vast swatches of desert highway and isolated stretches of beach, it is now my very good pleasure take you to a place that’s close to my heart. It’s also a place close to my home in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This is not just a road trip on my bucket list – it’s one I traversed on March 18-20, 2016.
The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile drive through the warm forests and gentle rolling hills of the American Southeast. The parkway commemorates the Old Natchez Trace, a trail originally created by Native Americans. It was co-opted by European and American settlers who wanted to connect the distant parts of Mississippi with the more centrally located city of Nashville. In 1801, the United States Army started turning the Trace into a main thoroughfare. Relentless in its stolid advancement, the sands of time eventually diminished the importance of the Trace. Steam power made the Mississippi much more navigable and this facilitated easier ways to connect the sprawling United States.
History was born on the Natchez Trace, and it slowly faded away. This road is filled with historical sites and scenic pull-offs. Yet even if you’re not a history buff, it’s gorgeous in the spring and fall. It’s a special road – completely free of advertisements and tourist attractions. It’s singular in its purpose to preserve history. It’s a peaceful retreat from a loud world.
Even in its relative isolation (the only things on the radio are NPR and preaching for most of the route), the Natchez Trace Parkway is a well-maintained road. Not only is it a smooth drive, but there are lots of campsites and well-maintained rest areas. A lot of the places I’ll be talking about on this blog are rough-and-tumble, rugged stretches of road. Many of the roads I suggest will be technically difficult to drive, even ones in the same state (I’m looking at you Tail of the Dragon). This road isn’t like that. The Natchez Trace Parkway is a nurturing and sedate road.