27 Apr Cycling the Natchez Trace
This was a 3 day ride from the Nashville end of the Natchez Parkway to milepost 368 and return. I carried my sleeping bag, tarp tent, food, and supplies in my panniers and dry sack bungee attached to my bike rack.
Day 1, April 25th, 2014 – “A long ride without much rest”
From Kroger near Nashville end of Natchez Parkway to Meriwether Lewis Campground – 63 miles
I was on business in Brentwood, TN for the week so I made plans to bring my bicycle and to camp/ride as far as I could get on the Natchez Trace Parkway on the weekend following work.
A little after 2 PM on Friday I parked my car at the Kroger parking lot about a half mile northeast of the parkway on Highway 100. With little time to make my way past milepost 442 (there is no milepost 444 that I could find) all of the way to Meriwether Lewis National Monument near milepost 386, I began the long initial climb up to the first ridge.
On the way out, I stopped only for water and kept working the pedals. The parkway had very little traffic and even more surprising to me was that there were also very few bicycles. Given the low vehicle traffic, I was surprised that the parkway wasn’t heavily used by Nashville area cyclists.
The hills didn’t seem like much, but I think it was some sort of illusion brought on by the relative straightness of the road and the long gradual climbs. I am used more variation with varying lengths and grades and with curves. My legs and speed were telling me the truth. My eyes deceived.
Stopped at the Gordon House (did not tour) and used the bathroom, refilled water and ate my 6 inches of Subway sandwich and cookies left over from lunch. Some other cyclists heading north warned me to pace myself. I had Baker’s bluff ahead and about 5 miles of mostly climbing. The afternoon seemed to wear on as I counted the mileposts and dragged on ever more slowly.
The weather was beautiful the first day. Breezy and cool enough. The oaks were way behind those in Roswell, GA, still budding. Flowers bloomed along the parkway. I saw a few deer and Turkey spotting was a regular event. I think I saw the same skunk twice. Once on the first day and again on the third day when I passed the same spot. It was nosing around in the grass alongside the parkway. I didn’t stop for a photo. Sorry, no selfie with a skunk for this blog post.
Meriwether Lewis had been burned. It appeared to have been a controlled burn. I picked a campsite among the other tents and RV’s. No showers here, but there is a clean bathroom with running water. Who can complain when it is free?
The ground was a little damp and bugs flew around my head. I set up my tarp tent, but chose to lay my sleeping bag on top of the picnic table and sleep under the stars. I thought it would get me in the breeze and away from mosquitoes. I used a little of my bug repellent. Dinner was red beans and rice. I read a book on the Kindle.
Day 2, April 26th 2014 – “Just taking it easy on down the road”
From Meriwether Lewis to milepost 367 near Dogwood Mudflats and return to Meriwether Lewis.
My plan was to spend the next night at the same spot so I unloaded most of my weight and left it under my tarp tent. I mostly carried food and water since I didn’t trust leaving any food for varmints that might wander the campground.
Since I had all day and I was very worn out from the previous afternoon ride, I decided to stop at every site and to take frequent breaks. My first break was at the Meriweather Lewis death and burial site.
There are very few spots to stop to eat or buy food. I stopped at two of them on this day. First I stopped at the Laurel Hill Fishing lake. It is about 2 miles off the parkway. I had coffee and 2 egg and cheese biscuits at the bait shop / grill. They also serve hamburgers that looked pretty good. Among the customers was a Mennonite couple out for a day of fishing. They had driven their horse and carriage. The lake is large and includes a number of smaller attached fishing lakes. This place is popular among fishermen and looks like a great place to catch fish. Another beautiful day. I could just lay in the sun by the lake and watch a fishing pole.
Another stop was off Napier Road at a general store for a KOA campground. There wouldn’t usually be much reason to stop here and at Laurel Hill lake since they are within a few miles of one another. This store is only 0.3 miles off the parkway.
Day 3, April 27th 2014 – “A hot day”
From Meriwether Lewis to Kroger on Highway 100.
I tried to take it easy today, but it was so hot and humid. Stopped and hiked to every waterfall. Worried about water running low. Drank water and more water when I finally reached Gordon house to refill water. Be careful on the Parkway and don’t skip water stops. If it is hot, you could easily run low on water. There was also no place to stop for a 2nd breakfast and coffee so I had to live off Cliff Energy bars for the entire distance. After eating oatmeal and 2 packs of hot chocolate and coffee and starting my ride at 6:30 AM, I was hungry again by 7:30 AM. Those 2 Cliff bars had to last to Nashville.