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Shortstop: Natchez, MS State Park

PHOTO_20151106_171439.jpg There are two campgrounds at Natchez, MS State Park (plus a primitive camping area and a cabin area). We stayed in the newer Campground B a couple of years ago and liked it very much. Our stay this time was in the older Campground A, we like it too. Campground A has the only full hookup sites in the park and there are only six of them. Not only that, but it appeared to me that three of those were taken by long term campers. I’m not sure how that works in a state park, but I remember seeing at least one other long term setup in the newer campground a couple of years ago. The full hookup sites are all back in but between two one way roads in and out of the campground. The sites are level, reasonably spaced and concrete slabs. The other sites in Campground A are water/electric only. Some look like they would be okay for bigger rigs, but there are others that would be a tighter fit. I could get my 5th wheel into the lower part of Campground A but I don’t think I would like doing it very much.

Our 2013 Review – focused on Campground B – is here.

PHOTO_20151108_124253.jpg Getting to Campground A is an experience all in itself. As I mentioned in my 2013 review, to get to this state park one turns off of Highway 61 onto State Park Road. You will wind your way past several buildings that are at the falling down stage right on a pot-hole filled road. In a few minutes you come to a sign instructing you to turn left off of State Park Road if you want to go to Campground B and the main offices. Otherwise, you continue down State Park Road to the entrance to Campground A. The rough road only gets worse as you come, but it’s only a mile or so to the campground entrance. The back in, full hookup sites are right there.

You could get into this campground from the main state park road (not to be confused with the road I just described “State Park Road” – how’s that for confusing!). However, that way into Campground A is via a narrow road just wide enough for one vehicle down and through the lower part of Campground A. Then, once you get to the row of full hookup sites you are going the wrong way with no place to turn around! Needless, to say, you don’t want to do that, so approach Campground A on State Park Road and not the road into the rest of the park (I know, confusing).

100_4841.JPG I managed to get most of my satellite TV channels but it was a challenge. Had it not been fall with the tree leaves thinning out, I doubt I would have had any success at all. My Verizon 4G was a fairly good 2 bars. Now that I’ve stayed in both campgrounds at Natchez State Park I think I’d go for Campground B for shorter (no sewer hookup) stays and Campground A for longer stays, and that only if I could get a full hookup site.

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Shortstop: LeFleur’s Bluff State Park – Jackson, MS

PHOTO_20151104_092856.jpg Our shortstop at LeFleur’s Bluff State Park in Jackson, MS is our second stay at this campground. We were here two years ago as we journeyed down Natchez Trace Parkway the first time. There’s really not much new to say. We still like it here.

Our review from 2013 is here.

One good change is that the unnecessary concrete island at the entrance has been removed, making it easier to navigate through the gate. Before, there was no one at the entrance station but now we noted that it is manned. I mentioned in my previous review that I thought satellite TV would be easier to get in the sites across from the bathhouse. I was mistaken. “North” isn’t quite where I thought it was and the satellites are still out through the trees. From what I can see, the sites nearer the campground entrance might be best for satellite, but as wooded as it is getting a signal there would be challenging at best. However, there are lots of local over-the-air channels so a TV watcher will still have plenty of entertainment available. This is a busy campground on weekends so a person would be wise to reserve a site early if possible.

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Campground Review: Tombigbee State Park at Tupelo, MS

100_4829.JPG This is our second stay at Tombigbee State Park at Tupelo, MS. We were here two years ago and as we journey down Natchez Trace again we’re staying at the same places as we did then. Obviously, we like this state park. The campground features nice paved sites, 50 amp electric, full hookups, and a nicely done and clean bathhouse that even includes a laundry. The route back into the state park is, of course, still a hilly, twisting road that is a bit challenging but do-able.

See our previous, and more complete, review of this campground here.

100_4830.JPG My Verizon data has been a weak but usable 3G and satellite TV is pretty good, although in this particular site I wasn’t able to get my third satellite which has some of the HD channels on it. My only real complaint is the same one I had two years ago: late every night the campground voltage rises to the point that my electrical management system shuts the electric off to my camper to protect it from high voltage. I spoke to the office about this two years ago and brought it to their attention again. They know about the problem and the too high voltage is related to an effort to keep the voltage from dropping too low during busy, hot summer months. Our solution was to unplug overnight and use a heavy duty extension cord to run a space heater. It’s a minor inconvenience for us, but I do wonder how much wear and tear is being done to campers that are experiencing this higher-than-optimal overnight voltage each night.

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Campground Review: Natchez Trace Thousand Trails near Hohenwald, TN

At the conclusion of my previous review of Natchez Trace Thousand Trails near Hohenwald, TN a couple of years ago I commented that on a future visit I hoped to see some of the maintenance issues of this campground addressed. Frankly, as we finish up our second stay here, I have to report that my previous review is still accurate. If nothing else, I’d say the mile and a half road back into the campground has even more potholes than it did two years ago. I mentioned that good WiFi was one of the real bright spots, but this stay it wasn’t working well with lots of dropouts even with a strong signal. I mentioned it at the office a couple of times and near the end of our stay someone may have looked at it because it finally settled down and disappeared less often.

100_4825.JPG As we arrived there were two other rigs just ahead of us. We found out they were a mom and dad from the northeastern part of the country meeting their son and his family from Texas for a two week stay together. They were very disappointed in the campground. The son wasn’t a member and had paid the “rack rate” for a two week stay in his brand new 5th wheel. After walking around the campground for a long time, looking at every available site and digesting the news that there were no 50 amp sites at all, they settled on a couple of rougher sites next to one another. The next day they pulled out, looking for a nicer campground. I don’t know if they got a refund or not.

Let me say that I think that was a bit of an over-reaction. Anyone who looks online can see that there is only 30 amp service here. Still, for someone looking for a nice campground with some amenities I can understand the feeling of disappointment. For us, the campground itself is at the low end of “acceptable” and not a place I would look forward to visiting aside from it being easy on my camping budget as a fulltime traveler. The primary other positive is that our stay coincided with the peak of the fall foliage here and the colors were glorious.

I don’t understand the layout here. At the front gate there’s a store, pool, min-golf, and lake access. However there are no campsites. The campground for members is a mile and a half away, over a very rough and hilly road. There’s plenty of room for a campground in a big, wide open area near the amenities and I have no idea of why anyone ever thought isolating the primary campground as it is would be a good idea. Aside from that I know the long term residents and the staff of this Thousand Trails are still hoping cooperate will finally turn its attention to this long neglected campground. I suggest that happen sooner and not later.

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Natchez Trace and vicinity: southwestern Mississippi

2013-10-22 15.00.30.jpg Natchez, Mississippi is known for it’s antebellum home tours.  We chose to go to Melrose which is operated by the National park service.  There is some remodeling being done to the exterior but we enjoyed our tour with a volunteer guide. The McMurran family moved into this home right after it was built in 1841 and it has been restored to that era.  We entered through the massive front door and stepped in the wide hall that runs the length of the house. The furniture and fixtures throughout are elegant and remind us that this was a family of means.  The main hall floor is made of painted oilcloth that feels like linoleum.   In the dining room is a large elegant table and there’s a large mahogany fan that has a pull rope to be used to keep the air moving around the diners at all times.  Wood venetian blinds and silk curtains cover all the windows.   There are bell pulls in each room running to a set of bells with different tones in the back of the house to summon a slave to that particular room when something was needed. There is also a room where the women could entertain, sew, and chat as well a separate room for the men to go to smoke and talk.  The bed rooms upstairs are nicely furnished with four poster beds, day beds, desks for writing for the adults, and toys in the children’s room.  Behind the big house is a two story building housing a kitchen, a cooling room for milk and other perishables.  There are two other buildings for slaves that are open for viewing as well as buildings for the animals and carriages.  Most of the flowers are gone this time of the year but gardens are still a nice place to visit.  There are many different types of trees.  The two that caught my attention are the very old and large Magnolia beside the house on one side and a sweet olive tree that has fragrant blooms on the other.  We thought this was a very interesting and enjoyable tour.

From Melrose we drove downtown to visit the William Johnson house.  He was a freed slave turned barber.  William Johnson was freed by his white slave owner of the same name.  As a boy he was trained to be a barber by his brother-in-law who was a free black man.  William became a prosperous business man and land owner. He owned and operated three barbershops and a bathhouse in Natchez as well as property outside of town.  We were surprised to learn that he, himself, was a slave owner.  The family lived in town in the upper level of the house on State street over the commercial space.  Johnson was a prolific writer who journaled daily.  His journals not provide invaluable information about the day to day life of a free, and successful black man in Natchez.  Sad to say, he was murdered in 1851 over a disputed land boundary.

image-002.jpg Mount Locust Inn and Plantation is just a short drive north of Natchez on Natchez Trace Parkway.  it is one of the oldest structures in the area.  It was purchased by William Ferguson in 1784 as a farm.  Since it was a day’s walk from Natchez this place became a stopping spot for the the “Kaintucks” who had floated their goods down the Mississippi and sold them in Natchez or New Orleans.  They then walked the many miles back up the Natchez Trace.  Mount Locust Inn provided a place to sleep and a meal of corn mush and milk. It started as a simple inn and later a four room, two story annex was added for the travelers.  We enjoyed seeing the old house and taking a quiet walk around the grounds.  We walked just a short distance along the Old Trace to see what the early travelers walked through on a beautiful sunny day.

image-009.jpg Overall, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed exploring the areas along Natchez Trace Parkway; both the beauty of nature and the rich history of the area.  In spite of our spending nearly a month along the Trace and spending time in three different area campgrounds we know we’ve barely scratched the surface of all there is to see and do along Natchez Trace Parkway.  We hope to return in future journeys to continue enjoying the area.

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Campground Review: Natchez State Park – Natchez, MS

2013-10-22 17.27.21.jpg The last leg of our journey down Natchez Trace Parkway brings us to our third Mississippi State park, and our favorite of the three: Natchez State Park.  This park is just a short distance off the Parkway; in fact, there’s a sign pointing to it right off the Parkway.  The route in to the park is an interesting one.  From highway 61 you turn on to State Park Road.  The weary RVer thinks, “Ah, here I am at the park!”  Well, not quite.  You drive a short distance on a rough section of road with abandoned buildings nearly sitting on the pavement.  Then, to get to the state park Campground (and you want Loop B) you actually turn off of State Park Road on to Wickcliff Road and after a few minutes you come to a nice park entry.  After that, you are still a couple of miles from the campground.

But it’s well worth the effort.

Our 2015 review – focused on Campground A – is here.

2013-10-22 11.39.07.jpg We’ve visited some campgrounds and wondered just what the person who designed it was thinking.  This park, though, is laid out wonderfully.  Whoever put this one together could give lessons on campground design.  The sites are level, paved, big enough, and angled so they are easy to back in to.  The campground has 50 amp electric and water but no sewer hookups.  The dump station is right at the entry to the campground and it, too, is an easy in and out.

This is a big park on a nice lake.  The campground, though, isn’t really on the lake – although there are a few sites down on the end of the campground that have a partial view of the lake though the trees.  There are rental cabins, though, a mile or so from the campground that are built with beautiful lake views.

2013-10-21 16.18.42.jpgWe were allowed to change sites upon arrival, moving from one of the somewhat-close-to-the-lake sites to one closer to the bathhouse and, even better, with a small adjacent open area that gave my satellite dish a view of the southern sky.   Also, my Verizon cell service is working fairly good with the signal booster along with about 3 bars of 3G data.

2013-10-22 17.36.24.jpg I’m tempted to complain about our noisy campground neighbors – no, not fellow campers, but the herd of deer making a bit of noise in the woods settling down for the night just a short distance outside our door!

In case you missed it I really like this park.  Obviously, this is Mississippi and a late summer stay here would include plenty of humidity and mosquitoes.  The October weather during our stay here has been absolutely perfect.  I can’t imagine it being better.  Jackie will post a review of our sightseeing in the area so I’ll just say that Natchez State Park is an excellent base of operations for exploring nearby Natchez, MS.  We’re about 13 miles from the city.

image-001.jpg Since this is our last stop on Natchez Trace Parkway I’ll add a few comments about driving the parkway.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the 400+ mile drive down the Parkway.  The pretty, unspoiled scenery, the rich history, the lack of commercial traffic or even roadside advertizing, and the leisurely 50 mph speed limit combine to make this a terrific drive.  I highly recommend this Parkway; it is truly an American treasure.  If you RV Natchez Trace Parkway I highly recommend that you spend some time at Natchez State Park.

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Natchez Trace and vicinity: Central Mississippi

image-014.jpg Our journey down historic Natchez Trace Parkway included a fun stop at historic French Camp, MS.  We took a break from driving the Parkway to look over the Visitor Center and Log Cabin Gift shop.  There’s a sorghum mill set up to show how sorghum was processed for use.  A boardwalk allows visitors to walk past Colonel James Drane’s Antebellum House and another historic house then down and around a blacksmith shop.  One of the buildings on the walk houses the Carriage used by the Last Chief of the Choctaw Nation east of the Mississippi to go to Washington DC to meet with Andrew Jackson concerning the Indian People.

We continued our drive down the Trace and to the state capitol of Mississippi, Jackson. The state park we’ve stayed in is named for the same Louis LeFleur we learned about at French Camp: LeFleur’s Bluff State Park which is wonderfully located in the city but feels as though it is out in the country. We took advantage of being so well located in the state capitol to visit some of the nearby museums.

image-007.jpg Our visit to the Old Capitol gave us a glimpse of Mississippi history. The building has been restored to it’s original beauty and is a wonderful place to learn about Mississippi government. We started with an orientation film that tells the history of the building itself. We then followed the self guided tour starting with the Keeper of the Capitol’s room. In the early days this was woman who was responsible for opening and closing the building. There are interactive exhibits through out the building. We enjoyed seeing the restored House Gallery and Senate Chamber. This is great place to see how Mississippi government interacts.

image.jpg The Museum of Natural Science was fun and would be even more enjoyable with children. There is a park entrance fee as well as museum fee but the price is still quite low. Entering the exhibit hall we saw the bones of extinct species of sea life and land animals. There are exhibits of endangered species of Mississippi as well as local waterfowl and wildlife. I enjoyed the aquatic habitats housing native fish, reptiles, and other water creatures. The aquariums are interesting and a greenhouse with a tank provides a home for a variety of alligators, turtles and fish. There’s a special exhibit on reptiles which I found both enticing and creepy with it’s many poisonous and nonpoisonous snakes. I especially enjoyed seeing the Gila monster. For those with preschoolers there’s a hands-on room where small children can climb a tree, play with puppets, visit animal habitats, and listen to stories. There is walk way around the building lots of interesting plantlife. For more about this museum go to http://www.msnaturalscience.org/

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Campground Review: LeFleur’s Bluff State Park – Jackson, MS

I’m thoroughly enjoying our journey down Natchez Trace Parkway.  This drive is for folks who aren’t in a hurry and who enjoy pretty scenery — that should describe retired full-time RVers more than anyone else and it describes us.

2013-10-19 16.13.41.jpg Our campground for this stop along Natchez Trace has been LeFleur’s Bluff State Park in the state capitol, Jackson.  What an interesting place!  We’re right in the middle of the city but it doesn’t feel that way.  The campground is a mile down a winding gravel road from the highway.  If you listen you can hear the hum of traffic out on I55 which is just 10 minutes away.  But by just looking you would never guess how close it all is.  We’re camped next to a nice lake and surrounded by deep woods.

2013-10-16 10.12.58.jpg Arriving here is somewhat interesting.  One exits the Interstate and travels east on Lakeland Drive.  However, you don’t want to follow the sign to the state park.  That will take you to the state Natural Science Museum which is part of the park but isn’t where the campground is located.  Next, you’ll pass a sign to the LeFleur’s Bluff State Park golf course – nope, that’s not it either.  Third, you pass an unmarked entrance to a baseball complex.  Don’t turn but you are getting close.  When you see the sign for Lakeland Terrace you’ve found the correct turn.  Turn right and continue straight ahead on that street and you’ll see an unmanned entry booth.  For some reason they put a traffic island there that might challenge larger rigs.  If no one is coming, you’ll find it easier to enter on the exit side.  From there, follow the signs to the campground down the gravel road and around the lake to the campground.

2013-10-18 10.26.35.jpg The electric here is 50 amps and water pressure is good.  There are no sewer hookups and the dump station is out near the entrance so it’s not very handy for those using a “blueboy” on a longer stay.  The campground restroom is built up on stilts, about eight feet up.  The sites are level concrete slabs.

My satellite reception is limited and, honestly, I’m glad to get even one satellite through all the trees.  I think the best chance for satellite coverage would be in the sites directly across from the restrooms.  Cell reception is very good and my data is a strong 4G.  The weather during this October stay has been pretty good with cool temperatures and only a little rain.  I have the idea that humidity and mosquitoes would make a late summer stay here rather challenging to say the least.

Here’s our 2015 review of this campground.

There are three state museums within minutes of the campground and the Mississippi State University Medical Center is right down the street.  In fact, a park ranger told me that a lot of people use this campground when coming to the area hospitals.

We would return to this campground when passing through the area.  It’s quite a change of pace from staying in rural spots, miles from shopping, etc.  I guess you’d say that LeFleur’s Bluff is a place to get away from it all without actually getting away from it all!

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Natchez Trace and vicinity: northern Mississippi

IMG_1761.JPG Scott is loving towing the camper on Natchez Trace Parkway. No commercial traffic is allowed, there are no stop signs (and no advertizing of any kind), beautiful scenery, and a leisurely 50 mph speed limit. There are many turnouts, some at features to be seen along the way and others just for quiet picnic spots. Our drive from southern Tennessee, across the corner of Alabama, and into northeastern Mississippi was relaxing and beautiful. Sorry to say that the government’s partial shutdown closed some of the more major sights along the Parkway so we missed the Parkway’s main welcome center at Tupelo and a few other places of note along the way. We are disappointed with that. Still, we stopped for a short hike in one place and stopped at another to view Indian burial grounds.

IMG_1797.JPG Arriving at our campground in Tupelo we spent our time relaxing, doing a little shopping, and getting maintenance done on the truck. The only “touristy” thing we did while there was visit the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Park. There’s a gift shop, museum, the house where Elvis was born, and the church he attended and sang in as a child. It’s a nice place to spend an hour or two. Also, we were happy to add to our list of nice soft ice cream places. The “Dairy Kream” was busy any time we passed by. Our stay at Tupelo was a relaxing one and we thought our five nights there was about the right length of time for us to enjoy the area and take care of a few day to day things we needed to do.

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Natchez Trace and vicinity: southern Tennessee

image-010.jpg Our stay in south-central Tennessee was in a campground right along Natchez Trace Parkway, near Lawrenceville, Tennessee which just happens to be the location of the most Southern Amish Community in the US.  That influence was evident as we shopped at a small Amish store named Yoders which is located out in the country. This business is famous in the area for the baked goods and we found the molasses cookies we bought there to be excellent. Outside the store on the porch is crafted wood furniture and inside we found in-season fruits and vegetables and food items for everyday cooking. There are also kitchen utensils, dish towels, and other items for the home.  

PA049194.JPG Some places on Natchez Trace  were closed due to the partial government shutdown but we enjoyed some of the trails including Fall Hallow where there’s a short walk to some beautiful waterfalls.  We also visited the Davy Crockett State park.  It’s a lovely place just off Natchez Trace with many historical markers. The main attraction is the Museum and Grist Mill but we also enjoyed walking by the river and seeing a small water fall on Shoal Creek.

2013-10-05 13.18.24.jpg We went to the Banana Pudding Festival at Centerville,TN.  It’s a fun event offering various craft and food booths. We bought a plate of twisted fried potatoes that was more than we could eat.  Then we went to the Banana Tasting tent and purchased our eight small tastings of pudding. They were all good but two were unique. One was made with Twinkies another had peanut butter in it.  My favorite was a traditional one made by a local church. There were large jars for people to put money into to “vote” for their favorite banana pudding. All the money goes to charity.  It was very warm so we did not go to the antique car show going on in town or visit the craft booths set up all around the courthouse on the square.

As you can tell we enjoyed our time along Natchez Trace Parkway in south-central Tennessee. There’s a lot to see and do in the area, especially for those who like the outdoors or like crafts.

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