Our last morning in Tennessee we spent our time (sitting in mass amounts of traffic) to visit The Parthenon. Right smack in the center of Centennial Park stands a full-scale replica of The Parthenon in Athens, Greece. After the park we started our drive down The Natchez Trace Parkway.
Inside the The Parthenon is a 42-foot statue of Athena, as well as an art museum. There is an entrance fee to see the inside, but if you’re making your way out to see the outside, you might as well see the inside for $6 ($1 off with a student ID), and it really is truly unbelievable. The Athena statue is obviously just a recreation, but it stood for 12 years as just a plain white statue, but in 2002 they gilded the statue with real gold and painted in additional details. Our jaws dropped when we entered the second floor.
When we left the park we started our journey down The Trace. The parkway is protected by the National Park Service, so you can only imagine some of the sights there are to see. It’s a 444-mile drive that follows the original route that Lewis and Clark followed on their expedition; it runs from Nashville, through a corner of Alabama and through most of Mississippi. Not only is it a scenic drive, but there’s also a ton of hiking,biking, camping and horseback riding. We made a few stops at some scenic outlooks and took a short hike to a waterfall our first night then camped in Muscle Shoals, Alabama for $10 for the night.
The next morning we got back on The Trace and checked out a bunch of different sights. At the beginning of the parkway they supply maps so you can get the most out of your drive. We traveled more than 300 miles down the parkway, but we didn’t make it all the way down. We had other plans for the next few days and with it getting dark we took the night to camp for free at the De Soto National Forest in Mississippi. Not many free camping sites have running water, but this one did. No shower, but toilets are always nice… especially when there’s a bunch of other people camping in the same vicinity as you. It was an awesome site right next to a lake, you just kind of pick a spot and pop your tent up.
One thing that concerned us about this site was this cat that kept circling the forest, which wouldn’t have been a big deal but we couldn’t see the cat and it sounded big! After we got settled into the tent we heard it right outside. It sounded like it was trying to get into another camper’s food or into our car. We tried to see it with a flashlight, but we had no luck! Finally we got some sleep, but it was definitely nerve racking thinking a big cat was trying to get into your car! The next morning we headed back east a bit to go to Pensacola, Florida in the panhandle. The original plan was to go to Mobile, Alabama, then to Pensacola, then back west over to New Orleans, but with Mardi Gras coming up we decided to shuffle the dates around a bit so we could check out some parades!