Saturday, May 19, 2018

Following the footsteps of mammoths, squirrels and Presidents.  The Natchez Trace Parkway. By John Moran
It’s been said that before the Europeans showed up in America a squirrel could hop from tree to tree from Maine to East Texas.  I’m not too sure how they got across the major rivers on the way, but as Dave Barry knows, squirrels are both brilliant and diabolical.  All those great forests have been turned into boards, fuel, farms, house, cities and roads.  Most of the magnificent old growth is gone forever.  For the last 500-600 years the off spring of those mighty forest have attempted to carry on business of becoming an old growth forest again.  Their efforts have been defeated at every turn by the ever- increasing demand for their timber and cleared land, to farm, subdivided, and expand the cities with our ever-increasing population.  
Enter the Daughters of the American Revolution in the early 1900’s.  They recognized that there was a strip of land that ran through the South that has been in almost continuous use for thousands of years.  First by the great prehistoric beasts that wandered along this vague ridgeline that let them keep their feet dry as they migrated from the salt licks in Middle Tennessee to the Mighty Mississippi grazing lands long before the early paleo Indians showed up.   About 12,000 years ago these paleo Indians and their descendants used this same ridgeline to keep their feet dry as they expanded their culture with trade and communications routes through the heart of the country to develop complex societies of Mississippi Era Mound Builders.  That was until 1540 then this guy named Desoto (yup the car was named after him) ran into them.  This encounter was pretty much the beginning of the end of the well-established life of the Native Americans who have been living in this area for about 12,000 years or more.  In the vacuum left by these early tribes dying off and being killed the Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Natchez Tribes moved in.   Fast forward to the early expansion U.S. to the west which brought conflict and cooperation with these Tribes. Expanded agriculture and manufacturing of the young U.S.  needed the markets on the Western frontiers of the country in the 1800’s.  Moving these goods down the great rivers of the Mid West provided the perfect highway to markets in Natchez and New Orleans.  The only problem was, it was only a one-way highway.  So, all these guys who had hauled their goods down river and turned a nice profit from selling their products and the wooden planks their boats were made of, had to find a way home.   Thus, was born the “Old Natchez Trace.”  A loose system of Indian trails wove through the forest to follow this ancient ridgeline that managed to miss most but not all the swamps, bogs, and creeks.  With more and more use over the years this path became more formalized and less easy to lose in the vastness of the forests.  The tromping of countless feet, wagons, and horses had cause the land to subside in some areas that left the travelers walking and riding a path 20-30 feet below the surrounding land. 
With all this traffic on “The Trace” there were several people who recognized that this was an opportunity.  About 50 “Stands” and trading post sprung up along the Trace to provide food, shelter, and supplies for the travelers on their 35-day 500 mile walk home. This 35-day stroll was no walk in the park.  Even though most of the Trace ran along the ridgeline there will still heat, humidity, rain, wind, downed trees, mudholes, bogs, swamps, creeks, and rivers that they had to contend with.  Not to mention snakes, ticks, mosquitoes, highwaymen, and unruly fellow travelers.   Various treaties were made with the Native Tribes along the Trace to ease the passage and that worked well until the government decided they Tribes had to move to a new land called Oklahoma in 1830 on the “Trail of Tears.” 
Around the 1820’s steamers started to show up on the rivers and alleviate most of the need to stomp back 500 miles.  However, from 1830 to Civil War the Trace was used to march thousands of slaves from Maryland to Florida down to “The Forks in the Road” a slave market.   It’s just outside Natchez and was used to provide slave labor to the plantations in Alabama and Mississippi.   During the Civil War a few battles were fought near and along the Trace.  After the Civil War the use of steam increased on the rivers and rails and the Natchez Trace started falling into obscurity as an identifiable path.   It morphed into roads, farms, and some forest.  Things were starting to look up for the squirrel with an urge to travel. 
In 1903 Mrs. Elizabeth Jones of the Daughters of the American Revolution, got together with her sisters in the D.A.R. in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee to start a program of establishing monuments along the Old Natchez Trace.  As the years passed their movement picked up steam that got local and National politicians involved. These politicians envisioned opportunities for their states to get Federal funds to build a road to provide lots of money and jobs for their states and enrich their campaign chest for decades to come and those of their followers.  They didn’t want to spend a dime of State monies and the only way they could get the Feds to pay for it all was to have the National Park Service build it.  In January of 1934 Representative Jeff Busby introduced a bill to provide $50,000 to survey a road named the “Natchez Trace Parkway” and latter that year a bill to provide $25,000,000 to build the road.  The first bill passed the second went down in flames.
Busby and his supporters envisioned a road that would run in and out of the numerous small towns, that had few if any connecting roads,  thus increasing the commerce and wealth of those small burgs.  However, the survey of the “Old Natchez Trace” found that It was a meandering, everchanging pathway and much of it had been taken over by state and county roads.  The reality of what was envisioned by the politicians and those from the NPS were in conflict.  In clever use of semantics of “memorializing” the “Old Natchez Trace”, the Park Service worked out a route that would provide the least difficulties in construction, knit together various historic sites on the on the route, and still fit the Federal definition of “Parkway.”  In 1938 a bill to fund building the Natchez Trace Parkway was passed by Congress allocating $1,286,866.  Over the next 67 years funding kept trickling into the Parkway construction till it was finally completed in 2005.   Despite the best efforts of the Politicians the Park Service built a road that is an artful compromise between where the actual “Old Natchez Trace” was and where the Parkway ended up.  What they finished with is 442 miles long by 800’ wide section of road and surrounding land that weaves a rich tapestry of the history of the land and inhabitants for the last 12,000 years.  Most of the Natchez Trace Parkway has a 50-mph speed limit, little traffic, few if any street lights, tasteful brown and white signs at various intersections, hand sculpted wooden signs denoting pull offs for various historic sites, buildings, and hikes.  All on a very nice, fully paved, peaceful two-lane road.  I have traveled all over the country on all manner or highways and byways have not had such a relaxing enjoyable drive in my life.
We took 25 days to travel the 442 miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway.  We were faster than those who walked but slower than most of those who travel it now.  We always camped with in 15 miles of the Trace and took the time to see the history of the area from the Mississippian Era Mound Builders, to local Music of the surrounding country, and everything in between.   We stopped at the sites carefully knit together by the National Park Service to stay within the bounds of the definitions of “Parkway.”  These sites encompassed the natural beauty of the area, historic sites and structures with lots of information, and the opportunity to hike several sections of the original Trace.   To follow the foot steps the early Native Americans, Andrew Jackson, Meriwether Lewis, and thousands of “Kaintucks” walking back from Natchez to their homes in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee was amazing.   But the real winners are the squirrels.  They still can’t hop from tree to tree from Maine to East Texas, but they have 442 miles 800’ wide to get warmed up and wait.

May 18-19, 2018 Allensville, Kentucky

We moved to Allensville, Ky and are parked at Teri's sister's house in the country. Kentucky red soil with green new plants. Welcome to Kentucky and this big skink greeted me behind the shed. 

The bus parked between the barn and the well. With a beautiful view.

The old tobacco barn near the bus.  The Montgomery county courthouse in Clarksville, TN was built 1878-79 after being destroyed in a fire in 1943. In 1900 it was once again damaged by fire but rebuilt. In 1999 a F3 tornado struck severely damaging the courthouse. The interior was redesigned and the exterior restored. 

Another historic building in downtown Clarksville, looks like a museum now.  Teri took us to dinner at the Blackhorse pub and brewery in Clarksdale tonight. John with is IPA.

Teri, Kristie, John and Suep at dinner at the Black horse. The basket is almost done and Teri is purchasing it having seen it made from start to finish.

Our beautiful campsite at Kristie and Ricky's farm. We lost power night before last and this is why. The rain got into the connection of extension cord  to the well house and melted the plugs. Thankfully is was on wet ground so it did not burn up much. John went into town and got a new cord and it is now waterproofed. 

The masterpiece is now done. Looks a lot like the last picture but it has beads around the center covering up the holes and the beeswax from the cords is melted onto the basket. I didn't get to admire it much, Teri now owns it. It is 10 x 11 x 3 inches, has a center with a kokopelli and some blue magnetite, red coral, and amethyst chips set in resin, more chip beads around the center, red glass beads, large turquoise magnetite beads. The last row is dyed pine needles. Kristie the proud owner  the abalone shell basket and Teri made the smaller colorful basket. I taught her how and she is going to start basket making. Great first basket, much better than my first one. 

Kristie is holding Scarlett Teri's dog  and with Lexi Kristie's dog nearby. Scarlett and Lexi.

Last night Teri took us out to dinner for her birthday at Dos Margaritas. Where we met some more of Teri's family and friends. Many med techs also. Teri and I met working as med techs in the lab in Frisco, Colorado. We haven't seen each other in 20 years, but as with all good friends it seemed like just yesterday. A photo of Teri the birthday girl wearing a gift scarf and jewelry. They even carded her before serving her drinks!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

May 17, 2018 Natchez Trace, Tennessee

We finished up the Trace in the car today.  90 degrees and partly sunny, rainy.

We drove the car to see the rest of the Natchez Trace.  It is easier to park the car in the pullouts than the bus. Two of the waterfalls at Fall Hollow. The first is the top of the main falls, the next is a side stream.  It had been raining so it was cool and the trail was muddy.  The falls were beautiful.

This is the bottom of the main falls, about 20 feet tall. You could walk up behind it. Our next stop was the old tobacco farm barn.  The field was around the barn and where they hang the tobacco leaves for 6 weeks to dry.

Informational sign about the farm and the inside of the barn. There are tobacco leaves hanging in the lower left corner. We drove 2 miles of the Old Trace that runs beside the parkway here. No RV’s on the drive.

Red flower, false dandelion, pink flowers, monarda, spike of white, laurel and more white flowers.

The view from Baker Bluff overlook of the Duck River valley. John on the steep 900 foot trail to Jackson Falls.

Jackson falls from the bottom and the top half. 

Wild fragrant honey suckle, field of pink flowers, cool looking dead tree, monarda again, snail, the view of the  famous double arch bridge over  hwy 96 that won the 1995 presidential award for design excellence. They need to trip the trees on the overlook, this was all we could see of it. The sign for the historic Loveless Motel and cafe with hot biscuits and country ham at the terminus to the Trace. 

One of the few remaining  historic buildings is the 1818  Gordon  house, home of John Gordon.  Who operated an inn, trading post and ferry when the Trace was in use.  The Trace came to an abrupt end at mile marker 442 at a plain wooden gate, it is supposed to have 444 miles.  This sign and pull out were at about 440, with no indication that it was then end. No good photo op.

I stopped at the Shimai Gallery at the Loveless shops to met Becca, my friend Katy’ sister and see her gallery. Katy and I went to college together but I had not met her sister before. Here we are standing in the gallery. She looks just like Katy. We stopped at local landmark Puckett’s in Liepers Fork for dinner and listened to some great music. This 13 year old girl had a fabulous voice and the house band was great. We heard that Leon Russell says this is the best place to get a fried pimento sandwich. 
An angel in the park in Leipers Fork.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

May 16, 2018 Lynchburg, Tennessee

90's and partly cloudy, rainy.

We toured the Jack Daniels distillery today. Every drop made right here, Welcome to the source. What you can and cannot bring on the tour. Downtown Lynchburg you can get Jack Daniels ice cream and candy, the toilet in the JD visitors center, an old crock of JD, statue of Jack Daniels. He was 5’2” and dressed as a businessman in a suit every day. There is a JD fire brigade at the plant. There was an exhibit of some vintage fire engines. visit Lynchburg, the Jack Daniels trail sippin’ to saddles, the visitors center, Every day we make it we’ll make it the best we can, a display in the museum of making JD, sign that says danger snapping turtles and snakes in area, stay away from the water and do not feed the wildlife.

A photo of the distillery, and an  old photo of the work crew. Jack Daniels is the guy wearing the white hat, he is the only one standing in the photo, everyone else is seated. Next to him is George Green, who is Nathan ‘Nearest’ Green.  Before the civil war Jack was hired to work with the enslaved Nearest on Rev Call’s still. Nearest taught Jack how to make whisky. After the Civil war Rev Call sold Jack the still and Jack hired Nearest to be his chief distiller. One of the Barrel Houses. We could not take photos or use cell phones where they actually distilled the whiskey because 140 proof fumes were in the air and they did not want to spark off a fire. So no photos of that. 

The Rick Yard. JD is filtered through sweet maple charcoal that they make here in the rick yard.  They stack 2 inch strips of maple, burn them under this OSHA approved hood, hose down with water and grind up. They used 140 proof Jack Daniels to light them, they don’t use petroleum products because they don’t want petroleum flavors in the whiskey. Our guide Mike showing a piece of the charcoal in front of a video of the wood burning. The water comes from the Cave Springs. It has no iron it it which will affect the color and has other minerals that add flavor. 

John standing in front of a 55,000 gallons of beer.  After the mash ferments it is beer, that is distilled into the whisky. After the tour we went to historic downtown Lynchburg where the distillery is. The distillery is in a dry county. They can sell the alcohol to go out of state, but no where in the county can you get an alcoholic  drink. Very touristy downtown souvenirs and BBQ places.  We had lunch at a BBQ joint.

The bottling area at the distillery. John at a soda fountain in town getting a malt and drinking it in a huge Jack Daniels rocking chair made from the left over oak fermenting barrels. My latest masterpiece in progress.  It has a kokopelli in the center with turquoise magnetite, red coral, and amethyst gem chips around it, red glass beads and will have those large turquoise magnetite beads between the wrapped coil and the basket.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

May 13-15, 2018 Florence, Alabama to Hampshire, Tenneessee

92 and sunny.

We toured the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Here is the outside and John downstairs looking at all the albums that were recorded there. The keyboards and the sound studio. From 1969 thru 1978 many of the hits we listened to were recorded here. Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Willie Nelson, Joe Cocker, Paul Simon, Bob Seger, Rod Stewart, an d many more.  It is restored to the original 1970's condition. 

Bob Seger, Lynyrd Skynyrd,  Linda Ronstadt recording there. The original bill for the Rolling Stones recording 3 songs. The bathroom where Keith Richards did the finishing touches on Wild Horses, Dec 3-4 1969 Keith and Mick stood at the same microphone at Muscle Shoals, lights dimmed, splitting a fifth of bourbon and simultaneously sang melodies and harmonies on the three songs they recorded over three days Brown Sugar, You got to Move and Wild horses. that's your rock 'n roll fantasy right there pal: a six piece band working in a tiny converted coffin factory across from an Alabama graveyard, on an 8 track recorder, with no computer editing or autotune recorded three songs representing 30% of one of the greatest rock 'n roll records of all time.  Mic in the sound booth. 

It was 100 degrees in the car when we got in after the tour. It was really only 92, but both are a bit too high, Hippies use the front door sign at FAME recording studios, Welcome to City of  Muscle Shoals , hit recording capital of the world. 25 foot  aluminum statue of a generic musician. FAME studio was closed on Sunday so we did not tour. 

Scenes from McFarland Park where we are camped. Trees in front of the Tennessee River are the right distance for hammocks. We have seen dozens hanging there enjoying the good weather. The golf course was closed and is now used as a frisbee golf course and the serpent in front of the bluffs across the river. 

Another day driving down the Natchez Trace. We missed Swamp John’s fish fry in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, we crossed into Tennessee. The Natchez Trace sign says Northern Terminus  57 miles, and southern terminus  386 miles. We are close to being done. Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark died on the Trace. The rest of the graves in the graveyard are small marble squares flush with the grass. This big granite Trace marker was placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution.  

We stopped at Metal Ford. It is one of the river crossings on the Natchez Trace.  We hiked on the mill race for the the iron mill that used to be there. 

  Meriwether Lewis grave and monument. The Grinders stand or Inn is where he was staying when he got shot. No one saw it so they don’t know if he was murdered or if he committed suicide here. 

We are staying at my friend Teri’s house, she has a 30 amp plug in on the side of her house that we are plugged into. John had to do some major limb cutting near the gate to get the bus into her yard. Here is the bus at her house.

John, Teri and her dog Scarlett on her front porch.  We all went to Columbia, the Mule Capital of the World. The rectory of the  Athenaeum school for girls 1852-1904. You can tour it or rent it, one of many cool historic houses along mainstreet and a monument in town. 

The three of us went to the Asgard Brewing company tasting the beers.  Sue, Teri and John. I finished the basket. I am calling it Peaceful Rain. It is 4 x 4 inches and has clear iridescent glass seed beads on the outside and a magnetite peace sign inside. a