Our Chalet Truck Camper

Our Chalet Truck Camper

Sunday, May 06, 2012

May 1 to 3 Natchez, Vicksburg and CoE Waterway

Up early and into Natchez before the heat hits. Downtown Natchez is actually quite small and easy to walk around. There are many small side streets where the truck camper easily fit so we moved from area to area.

A lot of the town buildings near the waterfront had balconies like New Orleans with cafe tables for that first morning cup of coffee. The flowers were plentiful, smelled like the south  and even the magnolia was in bloom.

We drove by many of the old mansions on the bluff. Chosing not to take a carriage ride or visit the many casinos, we started off on our trek up the Natchez Trace. This route was originally used by the Chokataw Indians for trade routes, then used by early settlers to move goods from Natchez to Memphis.

Inns and small towns grew up along the way and finally the road was abandoned for wider roads through towns. The depth of this old trace is amazing as it was worn down by foot and wagon traffic.

The Trace is now under National Park management and is a very well maintained two lane road with many turnouts to see historical or natural sights. No commercial vehicles are allowed, speed limit is 45-50 mph and it is very relaxing to drive. There are also three free campgrounds along the route as well as roads off it to get to diesel or other services. We cruised through one of the campgrounds just to see what they were like. Paved, level, boondock, well spaced and a bath house. It's early season and the one we went through had one camper.

The NPS has a brochure with every stop along the Trace marked by mile marker. You can look ahead and pick out the ones that interest you the most. We stopped at several Indian mounds and many of the natural sites such as swamps and old growth forests. That made good walks and travel breaks.

Arriving in Vicksburg, we went to a campground where it would be easier to take the camper off and feel safe about leaving it while we explored. Not a lot of choices and the one we were in was tight quarters. Very nice couple next door from Michigan who were camped for months for his work on a nuclear power plant rebuild. They were in a very old travel trailer and they spent a lot of time examining the truck camper and how it worked. TCs are pretty impressive aren't they?

May 2 - Vicksburg tour

Up early again - you think it might be the time zone change? Camper off the truck and over to start the day with a tour through the Vicksburg National Military Park Museum. We watched the film made on the battle for and siege of Vicksburg.

I'd never realized the length of the siege, how many died and that the surrender at Vicksburg and Gettysburg were on the same weekend. The campground had provided us with a narrative CD for the 16 mile long driving tour through the park. Learned a lot, walked a lot of paths to see memorials, views out over battlefields and several houses of civilians who lived in the middle of the battle.

We spent a long time walking around and through the USS Cairo, a gun ship sunk by the Confederates using a wired mine. It was found and raised 100 years later and been as restored as it can be. It'd thought it would be quite small but it wasn't. As interesting as the ship was, the museum at the ship site was more so with all the artifacts brought up and restored. The ship sank in 12 minutes with no loss of life but everything was left behind. The cemetary for the war dead was quite sobering.

Huge thunderstorm with very dark clouds came and we got the camper situated between two tall hills in the park hoping not to have a repeat of a tornado sighting. Torrential quick rain but no funnel thank you very much. We did a drive through of downtown Vicksburg, being too tired for more walking. The Mississippi is quite impressive in width. We did find this flood gauge down on the riverfront. 

May 3 - Natchez Trace and Corps of Engineers Piney Grove CG

Today was a travel day northward along the Natchez Trace. Took a half hour walk on a boardwalk back into a cypress swamp and later walked to what was supposed to be a beaver lodge - not.

Tonight we are camped in Piney Grove Corp of Engineers Park again on the Tombigbee Waterway. $10 - lake on three sides of us, paved level spot, water, power, utter quiet except for the small waves coming in from passing barges. Unfortunately the site is reserved for the weekend or we would be here a few days. Might move to another one further back and take some time to clean up this road weary camper and couple.

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