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On down the Natchez Trace

December 19, 2009

We woke up in quiet camping areas south of Tupelo, Mississippi along the beautiful Natchez Trace the last two mornings,  and walked through a cypress swamp yesterday morning, but it was too cold for the alligators to be doing much other than napping on the bottom of the muck.  It’s been warmer since Jackson, a noticeably welcome college town, and we’re looking forward to the bayous ahead.  The road is restful on our eyes, with no billboards, semis, power lines, or commerce.  The plantation we wanted to tour is closed for winter.  Frogmore plantation is a realistic look at a traditional cotton plantation, compared to the more antebellum glory days tours.  We’ll see what we find in friendly Natchez in the morning, here on the Mississippi river, that has many still-standing plantations.Natchez Trace 006

Fried dill pickles at Cock of the Walk near Jackson were a brand new treat, along with fine catfish and fried chicken and toasty brown hushpuppies, and crocks of greens and sweet slaw, with a pan of cornbread.

Today we walked through parts of the original sunken Natchez Trace, worn 12′ down from the surrounding earth by thousands of years of foot and wagon traffic, and by particularly heavy use for the 30 years just before the steamboats began to run the whole river.  Footsteps along the path are softened by the carpet of leaves – rainbow colored gum tree, sycamore, oaks of all kinds, and lifting your eyes up on the ground above, sugary tall loblolly pines and haphazard bamboo.

Among many types of vibrantly colored fungii and lichen, spongy Usnea grows here, a type of light green lichen on the trees, and it’s a bit different from our Montana usnea – a faint tang to its dry taste.   Civil war soldiers carried usnea, valued for its germ-fighting and astringent qualities, in the event they needed something to stuff in a bullet wound.  It can be invaluable in a tea for wet pneumonia or urinary or other systemic infections.

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