Missed the previous installment of this series?
We didn't have to go far for the first adventure of the day. We camped at the Meriwether Lewis site which has plenty of hiking trails. We did one (a steep hike down a hollow and then back out again. There were lots of no-see'ums (I don't know the scientifically-correct name for this insect, but it's what my dad always called those annoying bugs that swarm your face but are too small to actually swat away), and the boys moaned about it the whole way and couldn't wait to get up to the car. Not every hike is a bed of roses...
Near the entrance to the site is the grave of Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark) who unfortunately committed suicide at an inn that used to stand near the site. The visitor center had a lovely interpretive center that told about his life and at the gift shop, we splurged and bought a CD of songs all about the Lewis and Clark expedition, along with its companion book. The songs are so catchy and we listened to it over and over for the rest of the day.
Destination: Northern Terminus in Nashville, TN (mi 444)
Planned stops: Phosphate Mine, Fall Hollow, Jackson Falls, Tobacco Farm / Old Trace Drive, Gordon House
Soundtrack: Lewis and Clark Songs of the Journey
Phosphate Mine (mi 390)
Nothing spectacular about this stop, but it was a great chance to stretch the legs, run and see an old phosphate strip mine, and grab a snack from the trunk before heading out again.
Fall Hollow (mi 391)
The kids went nuts with excitement as soon as we pulled off the Parkway. They could see the top of the falls across a big ravine and they went tearing off before I could get the stroller out and the baby strapped in. (Note: this was the first stroller-UNfriendly trail we encountered on the Trace). The trail was steep and gnarly but there were enough hand holds to keep from slipping.
There were two sets of falls. This picture is at the first one. The boys slipped behind the water and got splashed a little. The second falls is even more impressive - with a big carved out space behind the falls and a little pool at the base where you can safely stand under the shower. Big hit!
Tobacco Farm / Gordon House / Old Trace Drive (mi 401 - 407)
There are two spots where you can drive (northbound) on the actual Old Trace and it's worthwhile to do it! This Tennessee section of the Trace is so beautiful (especially to flat swamp-conditioned folks) and the Old Trace follows ridges that dump into steep hollows on either side of you. You can get a great feel for how the Trace followed the natural geography of the terrain.
Tobacco Farm and Gordon House are two stops that are quick, allow you to read a sign, wander around a solitary site and then get back in the car. I missed both due to diaper-changing needs, but the kids (and sign-reading Engineer) enjoyed them.
Jackson Falls (mi 404)
We really went out with a bang. I mean, it was a finale to end all finales. Jackson Falls is a steep descent along a nicely-paved path. There is an upper section of the falls, where it pools on a slippery plateau and then drops off another lip onto another slippery plateau before finally sloughing off to meander away through a creek bed. The Engineer took the the three big boys scrambling up the hill to get to the top of the upper falls and I took the littles to the bottom of the lower falls to splash around.
After awhile, I heard a lot of shouting and I craned my neck to see the bottom of the upper falls where I saw my 9-year-old son standing with blood pouring down his arm. When I finally made it up to him, he was shaking with adrenaline but the bleeding had slowed. At the top of the falls, he had sat down, thought about sliding down, changed his mind, but it was super slick and gravity had already taken the reigns. The Engineer counted him lucky that he hadn't broken his nose when he spun around to his stomach to try to stop himself. I counted the other boys lucky that they didn't follow him down the falls (they are featherweights compared to his bulk and I don't think they would have been able to stop at the first plateau...they would have rocketed off the next set of falls).
It was terrifying, but also the most memorable moment of the trip for the lucky kid and he counts it as one of the most exciting moments of his life. :)
Northern Terminus (mi 444)
We did it! Five Days and Five Nights on the Natchez Trace Parkway! So many beautiful sights and opportunities for learning and precious memories. This style of trip was so much to our liking that we've decided that a grand goal to shoot for is to someday do a similar trip along the Oregon Trail. About five times the distance and not as convenient for us to access at this point in life, but, hey, #goals, right? :)
That raps up our Natchez Trace Parkway adventure! Did you ever chance a vacation at a spot you weren't exactly sure you'd like? How did it turn out? Sharing is caring! Leave a comment and tell me about it. :)
Check out some of my other travel posts: