– Memphis, Tennessee to Tupelo, Mississippi –
Our hotel last night was less than stellar. I guess our neighbors got kicked out of their room at about 4am this morning, after multiple incidents of loudness and disruptions in the room and the hall outside. About 4am, we finally heard an argument, and then blissful silence. Our sleep was not peaceful.
The humidity was pretty rough this morning, too. We went for a run along the Wolf River Greenway trail. As you might expect, it follows the Wolf River, and it winds its way through very thick trees and brush. It’s paved, which is nice, but the trees are packed in around it like sardines, and with the humidity, it gives you an almost claustrophobic feeling in places. It was light enough by 5:45, when we were out there, but only just. As the sun started to come up, the shade was very nice, but we were a sweaty mess by the end of it.
Another hotel problem cropped up after we had made it back and showered. The breakfast area was packed with people from a tour bus, and they had mostly devoured all of the food put out like locusts. Since we weren’t particularly interested in waffles and toast crumbs, we decided to drive a few miles over to the nearby Whole Foods to pick up a nice, warm, buffet breakfast. It was a little expensive, but totally worth it. I’m not sure Mark enjoyed his grits, though. I can’t eat the stuff. It tastes fine, but the texture gives me the heebie jeebies.
From there, we were on the road. We stopped before we got all the way out of town for tea and ice, but we were not lucky in the tea department. It’s strange, but we’ve actually had more difficulty than I would’ve expected finding tea in the gas stations. That’s pretty weird for the south, in my opinion. Isn’t the south the home of iced tea? In any event, we had some bottled tea in the cooler, and Mark had gotten an iced coffee at Whole Foods, so we survived the morning.
Our first real stop of the day was at Shiloh National Military Park. I’m going to be honest with you right from the outset: my background in Civil War history is very general. I know the names of famous generals, and can roughly tell you what happened, but the specifics of most of the war escape me. It’s been rather interesting reading about it this weekend, in fact, since I know so little about specific battles and occurrences. My father-in-law is a bit of a Civil War buff, so I’ve picked up a few things here and there, and of course I remember a reasonable amount from U.S. history classes in high school and college, but not a lot.
I tell you that so that if I repeat something obvious, you’ll understand that I didn’t remember it prior to our park visits today, but I have no idea if it should’ve been common knowledge or not. If I make any mistakes, please feel free to correct me in the comments. I’m trying to be as accurate as possible, but still only summarizing. I’m sure people have written entire books on things that happened in the Shiloh area alone.
The Battle of Shiloh, which is mostly what this park commemorates, took place on April 6th and 7th, 1862. It was named for a small church that originally stood on the site. The church did not survive the battle. The Union soldiers were coming for a rail center at Corinth that was vital to the supply lines of the Confederacy, and the Confederate soldiers were waiting nearby, to defend the railroad. The Confederates surprised the Union by attacking first, and the Union was driven back several times on the first day. Overnight, the Union troops were reinforced with fresh soldiers, and they then forced the Confederates back to Corinth. The Union won, but the remaining soldiers were too exhausted to pursue the retreating Confederates, so Corinth and its rail center had to be addressed again later during the war.
Around 23,000 people died during those two days of battle. Approximately 13,000 of those were Union soldiers. Many of those soldiers are buried in a national cemetery that is also in the park, while many of the 10,000 Confederate dead are buried in several mass graves spread throughout the surrounding area. The battle was particularly bloody.
We began our trip through the park at the visitor center and bookstore, then we followed the 12-mile tour road. It’s a bit strange to think about what you are seeing as you drive through a place like this, and visiting Civil War battlefields in general is a little strange. It’s absolutely staggering to consider that 23,000 people died there, and they died miserably. It gives you a bit of a hollow feeling to think of it.
As we drove through, we saw many signs and monuments to the various regiments that fought and died there, and I know Mark mentioned that we had not really seen a monument from Texas. When we finally did spot one, he remarked that it was strange to think of Texas in relation to the Civil War. We identify ourselves now as Texans, but of course, the Texans of the time would’ve been the bad guys. We still got excited to see a monument for Texas, but finding it really does give you mixed feelings.
A portion of the Shiloh National Military Park is closed because an eagle nest was spotted along the road in the park. One of the chicks fell out of the nest, and the parents have been caring for the (almost fledged) chick on the ground until it is old enough to take care of itself. The chick apparently hops around in the area, since it is currently living on the ground, so that portion of the park is closed to visitors until the little bird leaves the nest. We had already spent almost an hour and a half in the park by the time we reached the closed potion of the road, so we didn’t mind too much when we had to turn around and go back.
It’s amazing how popular the park is, to be honest. I wasn’t expecting all of the visitors, though given that the park is huge and it is Memorial Day weekend, I shouldn’t have been surprised. The age of the average visitor seems to skew quite a bit older than Mark and me, which is a little funny. I wonder what makes older people want to visit parks like that one more than the younger ones. A greater interest in history, perhaps?
With Shiloh behind us, we turned our attention to our next stop of the day, the highest point in Mississippi. On our way there, we stopped by Pickwick Landing Dam on the Tennessee River. Mark and I like to see dams and locks, for whatever reason, and given the size of this one, it was worth a look. I wish we had gotten to see a boat go though the lock, but we didn’t spend a huge amount of time there waiting for it, because it wasn’t worth it.
The highest point in Mississippi is Woodall Mountain, which was a bit further down the road. It’s only 807 feet in elevation, so it’s really not much of a high point, but Mark really likes to visit them, so we did. It’s a hill with a radio tower on it. There’s a little monument that marks that it is the highest point in Mississippi, and a little guest book to sign, but there’s not much else to see.
While we were up there, we got our lunch out of the cooler and ate it on the road. As you can tell in the above photo, Ripley spent some time begging for nuts after she had finished her kibble. She’s a nut fanatic, as a lot of dogs seem to be. I think peanuts are her favorite, but she was totally down for the cashews and almonds Mark and I had with lunch. She might have even gotten one or two. Nuts are a healthy snack, even if you are a dog, I guess.
Our next couple of parks were a bit less interesting. By a bit, I really mean a lot. First, we stopped at Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Site, which is basically a few signs, a monument, and a couple of cannons. There’s a little driving around you can do, and a little visitor center that doesn’t belong to the National Park Service, but not much else. I guess I was expecting a little bit more.
Given how I felt about Brices Cross Roads, I think you’ll be surprised to hear that I was even more disappointed in Tupelo National Battlefield. You might not believe it, but it is literally about an acre of park along one of the main roads in Tupelo. It has a few flags, a monument, and some cannons. That’s really it. I did find a park brochure for it, but it didn’t even have a parking lot. We parked in the lot for an office building nearby, thankful that it was a Saturday, while we snuck over to take a few pictures.
Tupelo was actually our final stop for the day, and it was still around 4pm, which made today a short day, I guess. We did end up getting three parks and a high point, but the real distance between Memphis and Tupelo isn’t that great, so we spent most of our time meandering through back roads and around Shiloh.
After Tupelo National Battlefield, we hustled over to the visitor center for the Natchez Trace Parkway, which we are going to drive down tomorrow. The road, a National Parkway, commemorates an old road or trail through the area that American Indians used a long time ago for travel. The road is 444 miles long, though we won’t be covering all of it.
The visitor center was actually about to close when we arrived at 4:20. It’s strange for things to close at 4:30 instead of 5:00pm, especially during the summer, but they were out taking down the flags when we arrived. Mark rushed inside to get our stamp for the park, and we managed it just in time. I was really glad we got it, as I’m not sure we will come across another visitor center for it on our drive tomorrow. It’s a little unclear from the maps.
With that finished, we took Ripley over to the Tupelo Bark Park for some exercise and a bathroom break. She’s such a good travel dog, but I hate it when she doesn’t get the chance to run around off leash on a long driving day. Sure, we took her for a run this morning, but by the end of the day, she’s been cooped up in the truck for quite a while and could use the break. I wasn’t expecting Tupelo to even have a dog park, let alone one that was empty at 5pm on a Saturday. Ripley had a great time with the park all to herself. Sometimes other dogs intimidate her a little, so the emptiness was a bonus rather than a disappointment, since she wouldn’t have the chance to play with other dogs.
When she was once again worn out, we took her back and booked into our hotel. After unloading the truck, we scoped out our dinner and ended up eating at a nearby Mexican place, called Salsarita’s, which is similar to a Qdoba or a Chipotle. It was pretty good, so we might visit another in the future, since it is a chain.
It was nice having a lighter day, and tomorrow shouldn’t be too bad either. We will get up early again to run tomorrow before the sun gets too hot. Hopefully we will have a better experience at tonight’s hotel. Tomorrow we end in Vicksburg, and we may or may not get to the park in Vicksburg tomorrow afternoon. We may have to visit the following morning. Timing is everything.
– Trip Total : 798 miles –