Tips & Resources
THE NATCHEZ TRACE Parkway begins in Natchez (mile one), heads northeast, and ends just south of Nashville (mile 444), but since this stretch starts in between and heads south from Tupelo, the mile marker numbers will decrease as you go. For camping info, call the National Park Service (800-305-7417, www.nps.gov/natr), and watch your speedthe Trace is heavily patrolled.
ROUTE: Tupelo to Natchez, Mississippi
ROADS: The Natchez Trace Parkway
Bisecting the land that brought you fatback and collard greens is one of the only unclogged arteries left in the heart of Dixie, the Natchez Trace Parkway. A leisurely roll south along its sunlight-dappled tarmac constructed on and beside an ancient Native American trading route once used by conquistadores, French trappers, and pioneers will take you through wildflower meadows and a winding colonnade of redbud, dogwood, and magnolia trees. Because the National Park Service maintains the Trace for its historic value, not a single traffic light or convenience store will mar your drive through Mississippi-style wilderness (though there is a lone gas station at the halfway point). A telling mix of sharecropper homesteads and fading antebellum decadence surrounds the Trace, but out here in the fragrant forest, it's just you, a silky-smooth road, and wailin' blues on the stereo.
Fishing Davis Lake: Remember to pack the rodsyour first stop is a quiet fishing (and swimming) hole in Tombigbee National Forest, teeming with catfish, four miles west of the Trace, at mile marker 244. (662-285-3264, www.fs.fed.us/r8/tombigbee)
Hiking in Tombigbee National Forest: The Witch Dance trailhead, near mile marker 233, leads to a hilly six-mile loop over loamy soil in a spooky loblolly pine forest.
Biking from Clinton: The highest point in Mississippi is 800 feet, and it's nowhere near here, which makes cycling the Trace a high-speed pursuit. Take a break from driving and ride about 30 miles south from Clinton to the Rocky Springs rest stop, at mile marker 55.
Canoeing the Pearl River: The lazy Pearl is ideal for a late-afternoon float. Slip your canoe in at the River Bend rest stop, at mile marker 122, and explore this bald cypress swamp where you can quack at the wood ducks and pick your fill of wild blackberries. BYO canoe.
Sip iced tea on the breezy veranda of Oak Square Bed and Breakfast, in quiet Port Gibson, an 11-room Greek Revival mansion surrounded by 200-year-old oak trees. (Doubles start at $105; 800-729-0240)
Deep in the sticks, six miles east of the Trace in Montpelier, you'll find AJ's Bar & Grill, an old juke joint that serves up cold suds, hot music, and the best barbecued-pork sammies on the Trace. (662-492-0101)
In Natchez, numb your road-weary bum at the Old South Winery by sampling sweet wines made from the local muscadine berry. Grab a bottle, walk west to the bluffs overlooking the mighty Mississippi, and raise a toast to Old Man River. (601-445-9924, www.oldsouthwinery.com)
**ON THE STEREO
Nothing but old Mississippi bluesmen: Asie Payton, Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, Robert Johnson, and T-Model Ford. If that gets too old, slide Dusty Springfield's Dusty in Memphis into the CD player and get misty.