Day 8: December 30, 2006
Parkway's End
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Natchez Trace Parkway Natchez Trace Parkway Natchez Trace Parkway The Natchez Trace was never a road, it never carried vehicles of any kind, and, except for some clearing undertaken by the US military, there was never organized improvement of the path. But, not surprisingly, some sections proved to be a good route for wheels as well as feet and were eventually paved. One such section lies near the border between Lawrence and Lewis counties and can be driven today. It's narrow and to be avoided by anyone towing a trailer. Three overlooks illustrate the fact that the Trace, and footpaths in general, tend to follow the higher and drier course.

Merriwether Lewis Park, Natchez Trace Parkway Merriwether Lewis Park, Natchez Trace Parkway Merriwether Lewis Park, Natchez Trace Parkway Merriwether Lewis Park, Natchez Trace Parkway Merriwether Lewis Park, Natchez Trace Parkway Merriwether Lewis Park, Natchez Trace Parkway There's an awful lot of history packed into this spot that was once home to Grinder's Stand. One of the three Parkway campgrounds is here and there are several hiking trails, including the old Trace itself. There are picnic areas and restrooms. Clearly, there is still plenty of life around the place.

A log cabin, not very old, stands near the entrance. Right beside it is a sign identifying a cluster of rocks as what remains of the Grinder House. The cabin, which may be meant to represent the Grinder House, contains a guest book and an overview of Meriwether Lewis for those unfamiliar with him or wanting a refresher. A short distance behind the cabin, two different signs mark and commemorate the Natchez Trace. One is a large stone placed by the DAR less than two months ago. Meriwether Lewis died at Grinder's Stand and his grave and monument are just a couple of hundred yards away. In between, a large number of people are buried in what a sign calls a Pioneer Cemetery. According to information here, there are 121 graves with the oldest listed burial occurring in 1855 and a large proportion taking place in the early 1900s. The lowered flag is a reminder that President Ford died recently.

Merriwether Lewis Park, Natchez Trace Parkway Merriwether Lewis Park, Natchez Trace Parkway Merriwether Lewis Park, Natchez Trace Parkway There are inscriptions on all four sides of the Meriwether Lewis Monument. One contains basic birth and death information, one lists some of the events of his life, and another offers praise. A phrase in Latin appears on the fourth. The Latin, "Immaturus obi: sed tu felicior annos Vive meos, Bona Republica! Viva tuos", is translated as "I died young: but thou, O Good Republic, live out my years for me with better fortune". It seems odd until you know that it came from Thomas Jefferson. The "Bona Republica" was so much younger then.

But the real eloquence of the monument is in the broken shaft. What could the man who lies beneath it have done had his life not been cut off at age 35?

Until rather recently, I accepted the phrase "apparent suicide" as fact without giving it much thought. Maybe it was suicide. There is plenty to support that. But, maybe it wasn't. There is plenty to support that, too. Lewis' old partner, William Clark, reportedly believed it was murder as did others. Jonathon Daniels' "The Devil's Backbone" includes a whole chapter on the subject and, without actually staking out a position, provides much new to me information. The truth is probably unknowable.

Jackson Falls, Natchez Trace Parkway Jackson Falls, Natchez Trace Parkway Jackson Falls, Natchez Trace Parkway This is Jackson Falls; A place I hiked way more than necessary to see. Empty posts stood in front of the parking area indicating that a large sign belonged there. One or two other stops on the Parkway were also missing their signs and I assumed some off season maintenance. I walked to the brick building that housed restrooms and saw the sign behind it that pointed to a 1/3 mile trail to Bakers Bluff. I had not recently scanned any of the guides I had and thought of returning to the car to see if one of them contained better clues. But, nooooooo. It was only a third of a mile even if the falls were not there. But it was a third of a mile that was all uphill. I soon begin doubting that the trail was likely to lead to a waterfall and debating whether to turn back or "protect my investment" by continuing. I followed it through to a point overlooking the Bakers Bluff pull off, the river, and several cows, but no falls.

As I returned to the parking area, I saw people emerging from an opening on the far side. I only had to get a little closer to see the sign and the word "falls". This path was paved and downhill and shorter than the one I had just finished. At its end was the falls and a half dozen people. (I had passed one couple returning from Bakers Bluff but it was when I was nearly there and not about to turn back even if they had shouted "No falls here.") Of course a trail can only go downhill in one direction and the slope of the falls trail was steeper than the other. Thank goodness it was also shorter. Back at the car, I grabbed Bachleda's guide and read everything I had just discovered. "When you pull into the parking lot, take the trail to the right.", it started. Good advice that I recalled reading sometime in the foggy past. Seeing the falls is worth the walk(s).

Natchez Trace Parkway Natchez Trace Parkway Natchez Trace Parkway Even though the Gordon House was closed, I did get to approach it. A locked gate had kept me from getting very close to Mount Locust, the only other building remaining from the Trace's heyday. I decided to save the half mile hike to the ferry site for another day when the walk to Bakers Bluff is just a faded memory.

Natchez Trace Parkway Natchez Trace Parkway From pictures, I expected to be awed by the Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge when I saw it in person. I was a little disappointed but admit that I failed to take a look from beneath it on TN-96 as some advise. But, when I got a chance to look at the pictures I had taken, I thought it looked cool again. I guess that's OK. After all, the root of picturesque is "picture".

Natchez Trace Parkway Natchez Trace Parkway Apparently the last mile marker is 442. The Parkway ends at TN-100. While I was taking these pictures, a few drops of rain fell. It's not so amazing that I spent five days covering 442/444 miles but it is amazing that not one drop of rain fell while I was doing it. I saw plenty of rain driving south and there was even some on Christmas Day. But, from the time I started on the Parkway until I reached the last pull off, nothing! Since that pull off is actually beyond the entrance sign, I could make a case for a 100% dry Natchez Trace run. Now that's what I call precision driving.
banana man

Loveless Cafe, Nashville, TN Loveless Cafe, Nashville, TN The famous Loveless Cafe is just barely off of the Parkway. I had plans to eat breakfast here tomorrow but this was an opportunity not to be missed. Rain was intermittent when I pulled in but steady when I left. It was also dark. As every report says, the food is excellent. Before my pork chops, mashed potatoes, and okra arrived, I inhaled a couple of biscuits and sample of three different jams. Heck, I might just come back for breakfast, anyway.

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