June 2, 2018 was the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System Act, and in honor of that fact, several parks and other protected lands offered group hikes and volunteer opportunities on that date. I heard about some group hikes at Natchez Trace and decided to drag W- along since neither of us have had the opportunity to spend much time there.
Natchez Trace is a national parkway operated by the National Park Service (NPS) in order to commemorate the Old Natchez Trace, a 440-mi forest trail extending from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN. Parts of the original Trace still exist along today’s parkway, and hikers are welcome to explore them.
The group hike W- and I chose was Hike with a Ranger, which was a 2-mi hike along the historic Trace focusing on the many different people who traveled along the Trace over the years. It was the absolute perfect day for a hike – gorgeous weather and low temps for June; however, neither W- nor I were aware that part of the original Trace can be used by horses as well. Loose/disturbed ground from horse hooves plus rain a few days prior equals mud. So. Much. Mud. We were so covered in mud post-hike that we had to try to wipe down our legs in the tiny bathroom at the trail head, and then strip off our shoes and socks (which we had to immediately throw into the wash upon returning home) before getting in the car.
Aside from the mud, the group hike was well-attended and informative. We learned about a series of people who used the Trace, like the Kaintucks who floated down the Mississippi River from Kentucky to sell their goods, and then had to walk home (prior to the invention of the steam engine, that is). There were also several famous people who used the Trace, including eventual U.S. President Andrew Jackson, as well as Meriweather Lewis of Lewis and Clark and the Louisiana Purchase Expedition fame, who died on the Trace, presumably from suicide. Throughout the hike, the ranger was incredibly informative, while still being interesting, which was greatly appreciated. Although I don’t know the next time this particular group hike will be offered again, I would highly recommend exploring the Trace if you get a chance, especially if you’re at all interested in its rich history.