Saturday, May 23, 2015

Wild Flowers of The Natchez Trace Parkway

I imagine every season brings its own style of beauty to the forest, fields, meadows, rivers, and streams that make up the 400-mile Natchez Trace Parkway. We were lucky enough to be here in the middle of Spring, and were treated to a fantastic display of wildflowers! We delighted in flowers of red, yellow, white, purple, and blue, showcased in fields, on decaying logs, in shady groves, and popping up in sunny places on the forest floor. Wrapping up my Natchez Trace blog entries is this wildflower display of Butterweed, Crimson Clover, Daisy Fleabane, Dogwood, May Apple, Ox-eye Daisy, Scaly Blazing Star Thistle, White Daffodil, Wild Blue Phlox, Wood Ear fungus, False Solomon's Seal, Bluebells, Wild Rose, and others I was unable to identify, but are beautiful none-the-less.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Natchez Trace Parkway (Mississippi)

As we worked our way across Mississippi we continued to explore portions of the Natchez Trace Parkway. Using a map with detailed descriptions of each mile marker, it felt like we were on a grand treasure hunt, and I found myself eagerly anticipating each stop along the way. The two-lane highway that makes up the parkway has well marked pull outs and picnic areas every few miles, encouraging you to stop for frequent explorations. We discovered diverse ecosystems including a lush cypress swamp and an impressive beaver dam; we saw ancient burial grounds of nomadic Native Americans nestled in a field of spring wildflowers; we took short hikes through groves of alder trees and loblolly pines and longer hikes through parts of the Sunken Trace, an area of deeply eroded trails carved out by thousands of travelers walking on the easily eroded loess soil. Finally, and all too soon, we found ourselves at the end of our journey at the southern terminus of park in Natchez, Mississippi. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mississippi Petrified Forest

The Mississippi Petrified Forest is a privately owned park near Jackson, close to the town of Flora. The only petrified forest in the Eastern United States, it is believed to have been formed 36 million years ago from fir and maple logs washing down an ancient river channel, and coming to rest (and petrify) where the remnants now reside. The park is open to the public and for a small fee you are welcome to walk the one-mile interpretive loop and learn a little about the conditions that led to this National Natural Landmark. The forest, a mix of ancient wood and living trees, is filled with birdsong, sweet smelling flowers (honeysuckle was in bloom when we were there), and our walk wound us through a shady pine needle covered path. The short walk ends up in the earth science museum where you can browse a collection of fossils, petrified wood, and minerals, and a gift shop highlighting gemstone jewelry as well as decorative pieces of petrified wood.