Sonoran Desert Staff Visit Natchez Trace Trail CrewPosted by SCC on Friday, July 13th, 2012.
Upon my arrival in Mississippi I immediately realized I had left the southwest and entered a new, strange and beautiful land. The drive into Tupelo was characterized by vibrant green landscapes of rolling green hills, a plethora of ancient towering trees and endless blue skies. The air was so thick that it felt as if a blanket of humidity was upon me. The people were ultra-friendly; the slogan transcribed on the Tupelo town boundary sign reads, “We let our hospitality show.”
Intense greenery, the smell of Eastern Red Cedars, and the overpowering harmony of multitudes of cicadas enveloped me as I drove into the Natchez Trace Trail. The crew wasted no time in showing me the ropes and within minutes of my arrival I was building my first check step. It was evident that the time that the crew had spent together over the last few weeks had helped them to become a strong and unified team. The in-sync movements they were able to execute with giant logs and minimal communication made a strong impression on me from the beginning of my visit. Every local that passed us on the trail let us know that our efforts were appreciated, even if working hard in the heat seemed absurd and an antithesis to the slow-pace of life in the south.
These trails were once used my many of the first people to settle the land and now are underused by the local citizens. Stretching from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN, this 45-plus- mile foot trail was the lifeline through the Old Southwest in the early decades of our nation. Used for thousands of years by many tribes of American Indians including the Choctaw, Chicksaw and Natchez, this trail was later used by American Settlers to transport products. In 1938, the parkway was established to preserve this historic route.
The main headquarters of the Natchez Trace Trail are located in Tupelo and they have a large administrative department located on-site. The Superintendent of the park hosted a coffee and donut mixer for the crew to honor the work they are doing to preserve America’s natural world. Employees from the National Park Service were extremely impressed by the work ethic of the crew, the level of professionalism and technical skills that they embodied and the efficiency with which they had been operating.
Nighttime in Tupelo was characterized by the full-blown chorus of the cicadas and other creatures of the night. Fireflies circled the camp, flashing unexpectedly through the dense woods around us. The crew prepared gourmet dinners for us to enjoy before sharing our life stories under the starry sky. Despite the trials the crew is facing with six weeks away from home, high humidity, countless chigger bites, constant awareness of ticks and contact with poison ivy, Crew 158 is truly embracing their adventure and doing a fantastic job of proudly representing the Southwest Conservation Corps.