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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bicycling the Natchez Trace: Plans and Notions

still a work in progress

The Natchez Trace is a historical footpath of 440 miles (710 km) from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee, linking the Cumberland, Tennessee and Mississippi rivers. It was created and used for centuries by Native Americans, and later by early European and American explorers.

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a two-lane road from Natchez to Nashville that closely parallels the route of the Natchez Trace, serving to commemorate the route while preserving the path. The Parkway is operated by the National Park Service and is advertised as dual-use for bicycles and cars.

Our initial plan to ride the Natchez Trace Parkway by bicycle was to proceed as two bicyclists (with a support van) to the northern end, and to bike-camp our way to the southern end, whereupon we'd drive back to the center of the universe (Pittsburgh).

Our original itinerary, for those who like such things, went something like this:

Thurs 11 Apr: Day 1 of 6 riding North Terminus MP445 to MP388 MerriwetherLewis (57 miles)
last coffee: 8400 Tennessee Hwy 100 Nashville, TN 37221 http://www.lovelesscafe.com/
trailhead bike shop: http://tracebikes.com/ 615.646.2485
444.0 TN Hwy 100 - market (gas) .1 mile east of parkway
429.0 STOP (15 miles) TN Hwy 46? (prob 96) – market/gas .8 miles east of parkway,
town of Leiper's Fork 1.3 miles east of parkway
Leiper's Fork Joe Natural's Restaurant http://joenaturals.com/joes-menu/
Puckett's Grocery & Restaurant http://www.puckettsofleipersfork.com/
427.5 Garrison Creek trailhead (restrooms)
415.7 STOP LUNCH (15 miles) TN Hwy 7 – market 1.7 miles east of parkway
408.0 TN Hwy 50 – market (gas) 1.1 miles west of parkway
407.7 Gordon House trailhead (restrooms)
404.7 Jackson Falls (restrooms)
392 STOP (23 miles) US 412 - Fall Hollow Market at exit
385.9 TN Hwy 20 - market (gas) 1.3 miles east of parkway
385.9 END (8 miles) Meriwether Lewis National Monument, 191 Meriwether Lewis Parkway, Hohenwald, TN 38462
Camp: Meriwether Lewis campsite (restrooms)
Bnb: Natchez Hills B&B, 906 Ridgetop Road, Hampshire, TN 38461 http://www.natchezhills.com
dinner in Hohenwald, 2 miles from trailhead
Junkyard Dog Steakhouse 18 N Maple St Hohenwald, TN 38462 (931) 796-0041
River Rat Grill 35 N Maple St Hohenwald, TN 38462 (931) 796-4330


Fri 12 Apr: Day2 of 6 riding, MP388 to MP305 Tishomingo State Park, camping (83 miles)
385.9 TN Hwy 20 - market (gas) 1.3 miles east of parkway

380.8 Napier Road - market .5 miles east of parkway: Naco Natchez Trace Wilderness Store
377.8 Jacks Branch (restrooms)
372.6 Laurel Hill Lake & Wildlife Mgt Area with market 2 miles east of parkway
370 STOP (18 MILES) US 64 Lawrenceburg Hwy - market (gas) .9 miles west of parkway
364.5 Glenrock Branch trailhead (restrooms)
354.9 STOP (15 miles) TN Hwy 14 – town of Collinwood .5 miles west of parkway with market (gas)
G G's Market 1271 Railroad Bed Rd Collinwood, TN 38450
350.7 TN Hwy 13 – market (gas) .1 miles east of parkway
4 Mile Market, 1609 Chisholm Road Cypress Inn, TN 38452 (931) 724-5320
Tennessee / Alabama border
337 AL Hwy 20 market 3 miles east of pkwy
331.9 AL Hwy 14 – market (gas) 6 miles west of parkway
327.3 Colbert Ferry (restroom)
320.3 STOP (25 miles) US 72 – market (gas) .5 miles east of parkway
Alabama / Mississippi border
305 END (15 miles)
Camp: Tishomingo State Park
BnB: Belmont Hotel, 121 Main St. Belmont, MS 38827
Dinner: Four small restaurants in Tishomingo, MI 4mi NW


Sat 13 Apr: Day3 of 6 riding, MP305 to MP232 WitchDance, (73 miles)
303.2 Market MS Hwy 25 – market (gas) .5 miles west of parkway
286.7 Stop (19 miles Self Support) Pharr Mounds trailhead (restrooms)
270.7 MS Hwy 363 – market (gas) .8 miles west of parkway
266.0 LUNCH (20 miles) Tupelo Visitor Center (restrooms, visitor center) Numerous restaurants
262.3 McCullough Blvd. – markets (gas) 2 miles east of parkway
260.0 MS Hwy 6/Main Street – markets (gas) .4 miles east of parkway
255.7 Palmetto Road (Verona exit) – market (gas) .7 miles east of parkway
251.6 STOP (25 miles) Pontocola Road/CR 506 – market (gas) .3 miles west of parkway
233.2 END (18 miles) Witch Dance
BnB: Bridges-Hall Manor B&B 435 N. Jackson St, Houston, MS 38851 (15 miles from campsite)


Sun 14 Apr: Day4 of 6 riding MP232 to MP160 Kosciusko(72 miles)
219.6 MS Hwy 46 – market (gas) .1 miles west of parkway.
204.2 STOP (28 miles) US 82 – market (gas) .5 miles east of parkway.
Trace-Way Restaurant .7 miles east open b,l&d 7x/wk. Subway, BBQ.
195.3 MS Hwy 9 – market (gas) at the exit
193.1 Jeff Busby (note: restroom and water only - market/gas station is closed)
180.7 STOP (23 MILES) French Camp (Council House Cafe Mon-Sa 10:30 a.m.-7:00 p.m.) Market on MS Hwy 413 .2m W of Pkwy
159.8 END Kosciusko Information Center - market (gas) .2 miles north of parkway and .2 miles south of the parkway
Camp: Kosciusko Depot Campground
BnB: Days Inn Kosciusko/1000 Veterans Memorial Drive Kosciusko (.3 mi off Trace)


MONDAY 15 Apr: Day5 of 6 riding MP160 to MP55, Rocky Springs camping (105 miles)
159.8 START Kosciusko Information Center - market (gas) .2 miles north of parkway and .2 miles south of the parkway
154.3 Holly Hill trailhead(restrooms)
146.2 MS Hwy 429 – market (gas) .5 miles west of parkway.
135.5 STOP (25miles) MS Hwy 16 – market (gas) 1.5 miles west of parkway
123.8 Ratliff Ferry Rd - market/gas .5 m east pkwy (clsd Dec-Jan, clsd MONDAY b4 MemDay and after Labor Day)
122.6 River Bend trailhead(restrooms)
114.9 MS Hwy 43 – market (gas) 1.5 miles west of parkway
103.4 Old Canton Road - markets .3 miles east of parkway
102.4 STOP LUNCH (30) US Hwy 51 - markets (gas) .6 miles south of parkway. The Trace Grill restaurant .6 miles north of parkway.
89 STOP (11) Pinehaven Drive - Clinton Visitor's Center (west) and market (gas) .4 miles east of parkway
79.0 MS Hwy 467 – town of Raymond is 2.5 miles east of parkway with market (gas)
59 Fisher Ferry Road (Utica/Vicksburg exit) - market .8 miles west of parkway (CLOSED ON MONDAYS)
54.8 END (35miles) Rocky Springs campground
BnB: Isabella B&B at Port Gibson (1.7 from the Trace, about 15 mi south of campsite)


Tues 16 Apr: Day6 of 6 riding. MP55 to MP0 (55 miles),
then drive nine hours to Nashville hotel

54.8 START Rocky Springs
41.3 STOP (13miles) MS Hwy 18 - Port Gibson (south on US 61) with markets (gas) are 1.1 miles west of parkway
37.5 US Hwy 61 – market .4 miles north of parkway
30 MS Hwy 552 to US Hwy 61 South – Old Country Store Restaurant 2 miles east of parkway
17.5 Coles Creek (trailhead, restroom)
15.5 STOP (26 miles, No logistics) Mount Locust (trailhead, visitor center, restroom)
00 FINIS (15 miles) 31.544875,-91.367587 377 Liberty Rd Natchez, MS 39120


And that's what the plan was, FWIW. No plan survives contact with the real world, as Clausewitz suggested, and Thursday was a day of thunderstorms and Tornadoes so instead of driving south on Wednesday and riding Thursday, we drive south on Thursday through the rain and stayed on schedule, beginning our ride on Friday morning.


We did discover two gems on the way to the trail. We found the River Terrace in Columbia, TN for our last meal before joining the Trace and it was very impressive. I had some andouille sausage and then New Orleans style crabcakes, which was excellent; all three of us were very impressed with the food and service.

Our BnB for the night was Natchez Hills Vineyard which we approached in total darkness so we really didn't have an appreciation of the setting, but when we arrived the two little cottages we saw were very nice so we set ourselves up for the night and turned in. It's a remarkable Bed-and-breakfast, very bicycle friendly, veteran-operated, great all around. Highly recommended.


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