Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tenn Tom Waterway

We left the Trace for Columbus, MS. After stopping in the welcome center we decided to head to Pickensville, AL and the Pickensville Campground. It is run by the Army Corps of Engineers. We found the campground with no problem and were lucky to get a water site even though it was the weekend. Sites at Corps of Engineer campgrounds are big and well developed.
We had an excellent view of the canal which connects the Tennessee River with the Tombigbee River.
We were able to watch many types of boats as they passed our site. Most were bass boats--the fishing seemed to be good. We watched this yacht going north.
This barge passed us and we saw it several days later further down the waterway as they travel very slowly.This barge pulled to the opposite shore late in the evening and stayed for most of the night.
Most tugs push 8 barges--3 on each side and 2 in the center. An 8 tow hauls as much as 480 semi trucks.
One day we drove along the west side of the canal to view the lock and dam.
Then we drove to the east side to see the Bevill Visitor Center and US Snagboat Montgomery. The visitor center was built to look like an antebellum plantation house.
The snagboat is displayed near the visitor center. It was taken out of the water so it could be preserved. It worked on 7 southern rivers from 1926 to 1982.
It was used to remove snags and debris from the river.
It is on of 2 steam powered stern wheel paddle boats in the U. S.

While we were in the area, we did some geocaches and visited Columbus AFB which is one of the bases used to train pilots.
We spent 3 nights at Pickensville before moving on to Forkland Campground which was also a Corps of Engineer park.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Natchez Trace--

From Shiloh National Battlefield we drove east to enter Natchez Trace. Once on the Trace, we headed north to Merriwether Lewis Campground. We have traveled the Trace before, from Jackson, MS to Cherokee, AL. This time we wanted to see the northern part of the Trace.

This monument marks Merriwether Lewis's burial site. It was erected in 1848, years after his death.
We were lucky enough to get a site at the National Park Service Campground. Unlike others in the park service, this one was free.

For those of you who don't know about the Trace, it was once the major route from Natchez, MS to Nashville. People would take their goods south by river, sell everything (including wood from the boat), then walk home along the trace. There were stands (inns) built along the trace for people to stop and rest. Today's parkway follows as closely as possible the original route of the trace.

As we drove along one of the original Trace roads (dirt) we spotted these turkeys.
Jackson Falls was one of our stops as we traveled north. The falls are at the end of a 900 f00t trail that winds below the parking area.
From the falls we went to the Gordon House Site. It was near the spot where the ferry crossed Duck River.
Near the end of the Trace, is the bridge over Birdsong Hollow. It won an award in 1996 for design excellence. It has double arches which eliminates the need for columns.
We spent 2 nights at Merriwether Lewis Campground before heading south to Tupelo. We stopped along the way to do some geocaches.

One was at Rock Spring. There were stones set in the creek to get to the walking trail.Beavers built a dam across the creek.When we arrived in Tupelo we got off the Trace to find a state park to spend a few nights. It was after 5 when we arrived so the office was closed. We picked a site and went to register the next morning. Unfortunately, all the sites were reserved for the next night (spring break for Mississippi students) and we had to leave. There was nothing else available near Tupelo so we returned to the Trace in hopes of finding a site to camp.
Our first stop was Davis Lake which is run by the Forest Service. They had one site, and it wasn't long enough for our rig and it was on a slope. So we continued on to Jeff Busby Campground on the Trace. We were lucky enough to get a site so we stayed several nights. The campground filled every night.
From our camp site we walked the trail to Summit Overlook.Bob searched the geocache site and found some caches located near the Trace. We visited Kosciusko, MS which is Oprah's birthplace. We found a cache at the Boys and Girls Club building she donated to the town.
We also found a coal mine not far from our campground. We had to answer questions to get credit for this cache.

We enjoyed watching the big trucks hauling coal and dirt. They dwarf the bulldozer on the right.
It was early in the evening so the lights were on on the front of the trucks.
We enjoyed our travels on the Trace. Since we had done the southern part, we retraced our route and exited the Trace in Starkville to head toward the Tenn-Tom Waterway.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ft. Chaffee and Siloam Springs, Arkansas

Before we left Ft. Chaffee on March 9, we visited the barbershop where Elvis had his hair cut. It was not open on the weekend so we walked over from the campground Monday morning. The museum is housed in one of the older buildings.
We found out that Elvis was only at Ft. Chaffee for 3 days.
We also found out that the chimneys on the last post were left as a result of an unexplained fire about a year ago.

We left Ft. Chaffee around 11:00 and drove north on I540 to Springdale, Arkansas. From there we headed west on US 412 to Siloam Springs. We enjoyed our stay at Siloam and did some geocaching with Bob's parents. We found this old church in the country for one of our caches. In the cemetery behind the church we found graves for a soldier from the Revolutionary War...
and from the Civil War.
While in Arkansas we looked for a Razorback keychain to add to the SEC travel bug we needed to place. We finally found one as we were leaving Arkansas and going into Tennessee!
We left Siloam Springs on March 15. We left about an hour before Bob and Dot. The rv needed gas so we went west a half block to Oklahoma, filled the rv, then retraced our tracks to Springdale, then south to I-40. Bob and Dot caught up to us in Fayetteville and led the way to a rest stop on I-40. We all got out to stretch our legs, then continued on our way with a plan to stop east of Little Rock for lunch. Bob and Dot were headed to Knoxville and we didn't know where we would end up! After lunch we went our separate ways. They stopped east of Nashville for the night and we stopped at Natchez Trace State Park in Tennessee.

We only stayed at the state park for one night. The park was nice and on a lake. There weren't many campers in the park.
The dock was near our campsite.
From Natchez Trace State Park we drove south to Shiloh National Battlefield.
We toured the battlefield and saw the monuments erected by states for their soldiers who fought at Shiloh during the Civil War. These are just a few of the monuments.

After touring Shiloh, we headed east toward Natchez Trace National Parkway. We'll tell you more in our next post.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Beavers Bend State Park, Oklahoma

After leaving Tyler State Park in northeastern Texas, we headed for Oklahoma. We stopped at Beavers Bend State Park north of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. The park is located on Broken Bow Lake. This was our campsite.
We had a view of Mountain Fork Little River behind our campsite.
The park has several sections so we drove around and looked at all of them. This is one of the lakes islands in Broken Bow Lake. The water is usually up to the trees.
Bob and I both learned about traveling timber towns in the visitor center. As timber was depleted in one area, the timber company would move the entire town to the next area so workers wouldn't waste time traveling to work. The company (Dierks) we read about was in existence until it was bought out by Weyerhauser in the late 60s.

We only stayed at Beavers Bend one night. We didn't have phone or internet while we were there.

As we moved on, we happened by this monument on US 259. It is called Three Sticks Monument. The sticks represent air, land, and water.
This is a view of our rv from the monument.As we drove we planned to stop at an Army Corps of Engineers campground near Kerr Dam. Unfortunately, we missed a turn and when we realized we were going the wrong way, we were almost to Ft. Smith, Akansas. There is a military Fam-Camp located at Ft. Chaffee, so we stopped there for 2 nights.
Ft. Chaffee is a national guard base, now. In its heyday it was a huge, active base. Elvis got his first military haircut here.
Most of the old buildings aren't on the base proper. Many are in disrepair. Some have been reconditioned and are leased to local companies. Others are gone.

One portion of the base is a ghost town where the buildings have been torn down. All you can see in any direction are old chimneys and the burners used to heat the old buildings.During the time we were here, we did 32 geocaches. We finally hit our 800th cache! Can 1000 be far behind?
We are now caught up with our travels!!!! Tomorrow morning we leave for Siloam Springs, Arkansas. We will be there until the 15th, then we will head for home.

The Trip North

We left San Antonio with the intention of stopping in Palestine, Texas.

We stopped for a picnic lunch at Bastrop State Park.
There was a great playground next to the picnic area.
We didn't find the place we wanted to stay so we continued on to Tyler, Texas and Tyler State Park. It is located on a lake north of town. The park was built by the CCC back in the late 1930s.

We stayed at Tyler for 2 nights--enough time to pick up a record (for us) 23 caches in one day. Then we continued north into Oklahoma.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

San Antonio and the Surrounding Area

San Antonio is a great place to visit. The town itself has a lot of history, not to mention a great river walk. For our first tourist day we went downtown to visit the Alamo and the river walk.
We entered the river walk through the Hyatt across from the Alamo.
Naturally, we found some geocaches as we strolled along the river walk.
Near on of the caches, we spotted a mother duck and her ducklings. We don't know why two of them were left on the rock below--maybe they couldn't make the jump to be with mother duck.
Another day we drove to the Medina River Preserve and found some more geocaches. The trail was paved most of the way with some switchbacks to get down closer to the river.
One of our other adventures was to drive to Fredericksburg, Texas--geocaching all the way. We have been through Fredericksburg several times, but not when the stores were open. This time we took our time and walked the downtown area. There is still more to do in Fredericksburg, but that was all we had time for this trip.

San Antonio originally was to have 6 missions. Only 5 of them were successful. The Alamo is one of the missions. It is run by a state historical society. The other 4 missions are part of a national park. We spent a day visiting the missions along the San Antonio River. We started with Mission San Jose which has the visitor center for all the missions.
Each mission originally was protected by a wall surrounding all the buildings. There was a large area inside the wall for people to work.
Lining the walls were rooms for the inhabitants of the area. When they needed protection, they lived inside the missions.
Most of the areas we visited have been reconstructed.
From San Jose we headed south to Mission San Juan. Near the entrance to this mission there was a field of hay people.

This mission was smaller than the first, but it still had the same elements--a chapel, granary, wall, large grounds, rooms for locals.
The southernmost mission was Mission Espada. It was the smallest area of the four we had visited.

Then we went north to Mission Concepcion. As we neared Concepcion, we passed a marker noting that Mission Nejaria was never built (the sixth mission). The chapel Concepcion has needed the least amount of restoration to its structure. Restoration is in progress in this chapel and surrounding building. As the paint and plaster has peeled over the years, it is revealing frescoes on the walls.
Our last day in San Antonio we returned downtown to the river walk and took the river cruise. It was so enjoyable and informative that we forgot to take pictures. We walked around the river walk one last time and took a few pictures of some of the things we learned from our tour guide.
The building along the river walk with the most Gothic features was the home to the first Montgomery Wards and later to Sears. President Eisenhower worked there before going to West Point. Here are some faces from the building.
We walked to the end of the river walk where the San Antonio River spills through the last flood gate and continues south to the missions and finally the Gulf of Mexico.
We enjoyed our stay in San Antonio. After a week it was time to leave. Our plan is to head north toward Oklahoma and then Arkansas to Bob's parents' house.