Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Adventure Begins

    I think it was about 10pm Wednesday night that I was in my old bedroom at my parent’s house looking both at my ‘to do before leave’ list and at all the things I still had to box up.  I had decided on Monday that I would definitely be ready to leave by Thursday, four days after August 1st, the arbitrary initial planned leaving date I set a couple months before.  Setting that initial date (a date that I was confident in, at the time anyway) was the biggest key into getting this whole thing rolling.  I knew from talking to others that setting the date was huge.  Some days and one days can be forgotten too easily.
    So, anyway, as I was looking at all this mess, I decided that the best thing to get me motivated to do all the stuff I needed to do was to email a bunch of people my blog address and tell them I was going to leave the next day.  It worked.  I stayed up until 1am (spending a lot of my time ripping cds to my laptop while drinking tea)  and woke up at 6am the Thursday morning.  There was so much stuff to do that by noon I still hadn’t packed one thing into my car.  By 2 pm, I had gone through all the gear I was going to bring and began boxing the rest of my belongings up to store.  By 3pm, all the gear was loaded in my car, my bedroom was clean and my allocated storage closet was full.  Finally, at approximately 3:30pm, I was on the road.
    My trip “planning” that morning had consisted of looking over my Atlas (while on the, ahem, in the bathroom) and figuring that I probably wouldn’t be able to make it to the state parks in central Mississippi that day, so I decided to head toward Kisatchie National Forest in central Louisiana, a place I’ve always wanted to go, but never did because of how far it was from New Orleans.
    Taking some back highways out of Lafayette, I got a chance to pass through lots of small towns that I had only heard of but never visited.  Towns like Rayne, Crowley, Eunice and Mamou.  Most of them were dumps, but at least I can say I’ve been there (I kid, I kid).
    At around 7pm I was approaching the Kisatchie area.  I knew, in theory, that there was camping there…somewhere…I just didn’t no where.  Turns out though, there is no apparent central office.  The only thing I saw was a sign indicating I had indeed reached Kistachie National Forest, but it wasn’t next to a road or a trail.  I went up and down this highway for a few minutes, anxiously looking to see where the sun was.  I didn’t really care what time it was - I just needed to know how much daylight was left.  I saw a couple of forest service dirt roads, but instead of taking one of those, I ended up going down this road, away from the forest, that lead to something called Indian Creek Recreation Area.  I had no idea if they had camping, but it was my only solid lead.
    The front office was closed, but they did have primate camping.  I drove around and saw that the camping area was in a pretty cool nook by this lake.  I put my $8 in an envelope and slid it into the overnight drop slot (no, I really did, scouts honor) and then set up camp about fifteen minutes before dark.
    The next morning I woke up and hiked a couple miles of the Wild Azalea Trail.  It’s a 24 mile trail, some parts of which area apparently hilly (for Louisiana anyway).  The only creature I saw was a deer prancing a hundred or so yards away from the trail.
    At 10ish, I headed through Alexandria and toward Natchez, MS.  I ended up on the Natchez Trace Parkway because it was the most direct route I saw to go through Jackson on my way to Roosevelt State Park in Bienville National Forest.
    I didn’t know much (or anything) about Natchez before I took this road.  Apparently Natchez used to be a pretty big deal back in the day (today, though, it still holds the honorable title of “one of the coolest places in Mississippi you can’t get to by interstate).  Seriously though, it was a major route for people going from Nashville to New Orleans/Natchez.  People would boat down the Mississippi River, deliver their goods, and then walk (yes, walk) back to Nashville because their back in the day boats couldn’t go upstream.  The Old Trace was so used that it sunk some 20 feet below sea level.  The two coolest spots I saw along the very scenic drive were Emerald Mound (2nd tallest Indian Mound in the country; btw how come we don’t make man made hills anymore – surely some rich guy living in the South could afford to have people truck in big mounds of dirt if Native Americans made these big mounds by hand) and some Inn that is the only Inn still standing that was used when the Old Trace was still being actively used (peak use in early 1800s).  This inn was essentially the equivalent of a five star resort back then because it was more than a one room log cabin (it had a living room, a couple bedrooms and a kitchen!).  25 cents to stay.
    My initial plan had been to just drive down the Natchez Parkway instead of stop every ten minutes to check something out, so when I passed by a place to camp at 4:30pm, I thought about stopping.  I was at least 60-70 miles from my initially planned destination though (see the problem with planning!) and had no phone connection, so I pressed on.  I drove past a field where Grant was ambushed by some confederate soldiers in Raymond on his was to Vicksburg.  At around 5:30pm, I had reception and called park I planned to stay only to get a message saying the park office closed at 5.  Wonderful.
    I passed up the I-20 exit and took a highway a couple miles down that lead into Jackson.  I thought about staying at a state park that is pretty much in the city, but the road that I thought lead to the park brought me to an interstate where I was basically three options: drive north on the interstate, drive south on the interstate, or drive off the road and do something stupid and illegal to avoid taking the interstate.  I went south.  It probably turned out for the best because I was way behind on time (it was 6:30ish and I was 40 miles or so from the park).  I got lucky and someone was filling out some paper work at the front office, so I got a map and headed to this secluded area next to a lake to set up camp.
    I’ve adapted pretty well to everything about this trip except the blogging part.  In the mornings, I like drink coffee and then explore the forest I barely made it to the night before.  In the afternoon, I go on random road trip adventures.  In the evenings, I’m pretty tired by the time it’s dark and my tent is set up and definitely don’t feel like pulling out my laptop and trying to be creative with my words.  I may just post every few days when I just want to chill out…we’ll see.  This morning this couple pulled into the camping are in Roosevelt State Park hoping to find a secluded peaceful area to fish and I’m sitting there in my camping chair with my laptop, phone and camera on my ice chest typing away and then suddenly grabbing everything and throwing it in my car in an attempt to reconnect my laptop before it ran out of batteries (I was downloading something).
    Also, some bad news.  I forgot the USB cable to connect my camera to my laptop, so there won’t be any pictures for a few days.  Well, time to go hiking.


Ferg said...

Great start to your adventure so far! Don't worry about blogging every day; sometimes you'll need a break from hiking and exploring and you can catch up then. I used to keep a little spiral notebook where I would write down shorthand notes about my day so I would have a reference for later.

Primate camping? Goodness, hope the monkeys weren't too noisy! ;)

RRed said...

Nice mix of adventure, history, and you.

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