Date: 3/16/2003 11:40:38 AM Pacific Standard Time
My camping experiences so far in Mississippi have been great! While I was in Jackson and staying with Joanne, she made me several fire starters out of wax paper and candles. Y'know, prior to doing this walk, I've never camped out before in my life, and the thought of building a campfire has always scared me to death for fear that I'll burn the whole forest down. So my way of camping is taking a jar of peanut butter or a can of tuna fish -- non-cookable items. I've never carried a little camp stove or anything like that on this trip, and I've always thought I'd never build a fire unless I was truly dying, and then maybe I'd consider. Anyway, when I left Jackson and headed down the Natchez Trace, I stopped off at Rocky Springs Campsite and set up my tent. The spot I picked had a picnic table there, and also a fire pit. It was a little bit nippy outside, and I decided now was my chance to build a campfire.
I put my little wax-paper doodad down first, then got some teensy weensy twigs on top of that, then a handful of dry leaves, then small sticks, then larger branches, and topped that with decent sized logs. Then after digging around in my cart looking for matches and realizing that I didn't have any, I started vigorously rubbing two branches together. No, I'm only kidding. Actually I walked over to the retired couple sitting outside their hundred-foot long RV and asked them for a match. Not only did they give me one of those lighter thingys that you buy at Wal-Mart for a buck, they also loaded me up with 3 hotdogs and 2 cans of coke so that I could thorougly enjoy the full campfire experience.
So I marched on back to my little campsite ready to roast my fresh kill over my little bonfire. I lighted that little magic piece of wax paper clear down at the bottom of the stack, and much to my amazement the fire started right up. Being the maverick that I am, I walked over to a tree and broke off a small branch, then pulled out my buck knife and whittled the end of the stick to a point. I pulled my lawn chair right up to the fire and proceeded to roast my 3 hotdogs one at a time. It was a wonderful evening enjoying the warm glow of the fire, and the hotdogs and 2 cans of pop couldn't be beat.
I set my alarm for 5:00am because I knew Joanne would be coming to my camp around 6:00. I wish I could say that she came because I was the first thing she wanted to see that day, but that aint the case at all. She had set up a radio interview with a talk-live radio station that broadcasts all over the state of Mississippi, and I needed to use her cell phone to do the interview. So sure'nuff, she pulled in at 6am and handed me 2 Krispy Kreme Donuts, a can of Dr Pepper, and a USA Today Newspaper. At that point I was wondering if it could possibly get any better than this, but yeah, it did. I've still got more to tell you about.
Well the interview went fine, and we were both on our way again heading different directions. From there I went to Port Gibson and stayed at the Episcopal Church. Port Gibson is a pretty small town, but the two towns that I was planning on staying at after Port Gibson were even smaller, and I had everyone in Port Gibson trying to figure where I could stay at in these next two towns, Lorman and Fayette. Many people were trying to make contacts and connections for me, but in the end nothing worked out. So then I called up the park ranger and asked if I'd get in trouble if I just camped out along the Natchez Trace back behind some trees. They said normally they don't allow that, but if I stayed out of sight that would be fine. So the plan was that I'd just walk down the Trace and find a spot for the next few nights, and then end up in Natchez on monday. Everyone in Port Gibson said that would be my best bet anyway, because I'd be safer there than trying to find a place in Fayette, which is a black community full of drug dealers, drunks, and big bad mean people (really, thats what they said.)
Okay, so now I'm hiking down the Natchez Trace and I ended up staying at Coles Creek, a picnic area that also has rest rooms. Back behind the restrooms is a large flat picnic area that drops off into the creek, and I pitched my tent there, about 50 yds away from the restrooms. It was really a pretty spot looking out over the creek. Several people stopped to use the restroom, but I don't think anyone noticed me because I was fairly well hid and quite a ways back. The park rangers did stop by, and we visited, so I was glad that they knew of my whereabouts. Then when I was up around the restrooms, a black man driving an old beat up Ford Bronco pulled in. He looked at me, then looked around and then asked where I came from and where was my vehicle.
Positive that this was the boogeyman himself, I was not in a mood to give him much information. He was completely mystified as to why I was out there in the middle of nowhere by myself, and kept asking me if my car broke down and where. I finally said no, that I was walking across America and was camping out in the hills that evening. He thought I was totally crazy, but said he lived nearby and that he'd be back in a couple hours to check on me. I said well heck, if he was going to come back, to stop at McDonalds and get me a hamburger and fries and handed him $20. I was positive when he left, that I'd never see him, the Big Mac, or the $20 again. But true to his word, two hours later he showed back up with a burger, fries and a Dr Pepper -- and then handed me my $20 back. Not only that, but he also brought me 2 heavy quilts and a king-size pillow to use with my sleeping bag in my tent that night. Then he went home. It got down to 45 that night, but I'm telling you I was cozy warm. It could've snowed 6" that night and I wouldn't've noticed it, I was as snug as a bug with my sleeping bag, 2 quilts and king-size pillow. It was great. If this is roughing it, I think I can handle it. He showed up again at 8:30 the next morning and handed me breakfast. He then hauled my cart and stuff to a campsite that I was planning on walking to that day. My tent was pretty wet from all the fog and dew that morning, so I rode with him to the campsite and set my tent back up so it could dry out that day, and then he hauled me back to my starting point and I walked to the campground.
On my way there I stopped off at Mount Locust, a historic inn that was once used by people walking along the Trace. The park ranger station was also there, and I wanted to let them know I was on my way to the next stop. I visited with them for awhile, and they gave me a t-shirt and a book. Stacy, who works there, said that unless I was really looking forward to camping out that night that I could stay at her house instead. So I walked on to the campsite where my stuff was and at 4:30 she came and picked me up and hauled me to her house instead. Then on sunday when she went to work she hauled me back and I finished walking in to Natchez to her house.
So that's been my camping experience for this year so far. As long as it doesn't get much worse than that I think I'll be fine! Hope y'all had a great weekend! KB
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