“The Mississippi Delta was shining like a National guitar, I am following the river down the highway through the cradle of the civil war” – Paul Simon
Miles Traveled: 311.7
It was an early start this morning, departing Port Allen about 6:45am to head North on old highway 61 – the Lower Mississippi Great River Road that takes you through the history of the delta blues. Took a few extra minutes and miles to get going in the correct direction as my GPS chose to have a ‘moment’, sending me on a 22 mile detour (really, the worlds longest U-turn) which put me right back at the exit where my hotel was. Guess it didn’t realize a new exit ramp was off my original exit……..hmpff.
My first stop was Natchez, MS, which is a small town right on the Mississippi River. Still a bit groggy from the early wake-up, I hopped out the Jeep and walked for about an hour (sweating like a champ) around the historic downtown area. Really neat place. Unfortunately, going North didn’t mean cooler temps! 99 degrees at 9am! I was officially alert and awake as beads of sweat dripped down my face, back, and legs (fabulous image, I know). Natchez, MS has some beautiful antebellum houses and structures from the 1800s street after street. I was also able walk over to the mighty Mississippi – the water level was several hundred feet below where I was in the park, but it made for a great view both directions. Small, quiet, river town. The stately manors were worth the walk in the blistering heat, for sure. 3 bottles of water consumed upon arriving at the Jeep. Don’t panic, I will sweat it off at the next stop.
After Natchez, I ventured a littler further North, passing through the town of Port Gibson down a Oak tree lined street before heading into Vicksburg. Vicksburg is a town/city situated up on the bluffs above the Mississippi. I think I read somewhere that the bluffs in Vicksburg were some 300 feet, but that could have been a heat-induced hallucination for all I know. Let’s just go with that, so you can at least have a visual. Vicksburg played a big role in the outcome of the Civil War, so I first spent sometime meandering my way through the historic downtown area. The hills in the city are like the Mississippi/southern version of the hills in San Fran – i.e. quite steep. Had I tripped while walking up one of the hills (which is very possible – I trip on flat surfaces all the time – just ask Alice), I may have very well slid all the way down to the river utilizing my own sweat as the ‘water’ on the proverbial slip n’ slide of Vicksburg. Ok, enough about the sweating…sorry. It’s hot!! Nice place to walk around in though, friendly people.
After checking out the downtown area, I drove up the street just a couple of miles and headed into Vicksburg National Military Park – first use of my annual National Park Service pass of the trip (so exciting – nerd alert). I caught the short film about significance of Vicksburg during the war before heading out on the 16-mile road tour. Thank the holy Lord this was a drivable park, because if not, that video would have been the extent of my stay! I’ve visited my share of National Military Parks and National Battlefields (thanks mom and dad – they are both probably just beside themselves knowing that i am voluntarily visiting a civil war battlefield or historical site!) to know full well that these are little historical gems with zero shade. By the time I started the road tour, it was registering 103 on the thermostat…so I was thankful for the AC in the Jeep while I drove around to check out the sites. I did hop out the Jeep several times to grab some photos, and to walk up to some of the larger memorials. Some things I learned while visiting the park: the campaign for Vicksburg significantly altered the course of the Civil War; there were roughly 20,000 casualties between May 18th and July 4th when the Confederate general surrendered; it’s location right on the Mississippi River was vitally important to both sides because it meant control of supplies and troops; it remained an occupied city throughout the rest of the war; Vicksburg was a prisoner of war exchange point along the Mississippi. Great visit to an important part of both US and Mississippi’s history.
And to confirm, the previous 3 bottles of water…sweated those off. Over-hydration crisis averted.
After the leaving the park, I continued up highway 61 for about 2.5 hours. This section of old highway 61, I have personally renamed the “dead armadillo highway”. I mean holy dead armadillos. I sense a future site of the roadkill café in this part of western Mississippi’s future. This part of 61 also was nothing but farmland. Corn and cotton. The cotton wasn’t ‘in bloom’ – had it been, talk about some pretty spectacular photo ops! But don’t fret. Little did I know, there would be some amazing subject matter to photograph shortly.
Clarksdale, MS – birthplace of the Delta Blues (of course I have some great blue’s music playing in the background as I write this post…how could I not!) – was my final stop of the day. Fitting I would say as I am headed to Memphis, TN tomorrow! I am staying at possibly one of the coolest and quirkiest places ever, called the Shack Up Inn & Cotton Gin. Highly recommend. It’s an old cotton gin that has been converted into an Inn with the additional buildings on the property that have been repurposed into ‘shacks’. I am staying in the “Tinth” shack, which is completely wrapped in tin siding. They got crazy creative with the name of my shack, I’d say.
Took a short break to face-time with my sweet little Goddaughter, Beale, who starts ‘school’ tomorrow. She was showing me her new book bag that her other wonderful godmother (also a Sarah!) got her for her birthday – it was adorable! Also got to see baby Currie (who gave me a very convincing wave) and chat with Betsy & Mike. Always makes my day when I get to talk to them (and see them). Yay for Face-Time!
The property is pretty awesome – and I couldn’t have thrown my stuff into the shack fast enough so I could grab my camera and get down to business. Patina – Everywhere. Rusty Gold – Everywhere. Glorious! I got some fun shots in as I walked the property in the 100-degree heat. I sweated through my shirt in record time. Sorry, I really tried to not mention the sweating again in this post – but it is so stinkin’ hot out that it is part of my new reality! After getting some shots in before the sun went down, I was back to the shack to get in some reading and to write my blog post (which as you are finding out did not get posted on Day 8, but rather Day 9, because the free wifi isn’t so spectacular). I sat on the front porch in the rocking chair, since there was a nice little breeze, to catch up on my reading while guzzling a bottle of water like a wild animal that just found a tropical oasis after days in the dry, hot desert. Nothing like rocking the day away with some Blue’s playing in the background and a brisk bottle of water. Delta Blues perfection. Re-hydration perfection.
Some pictures are below – I have tons more and will post on my Lowndes Photography Facebook page at some point!
Sorry for the late post! I see more of these delayed posts in my future as there will be some days with no internet at all!
Until next time…