Traveling the Natchez Trace with your dog: Franklin TN (440) to Meriwether Lewis Campground (385.9)

Traveling the Natchez Trace with your dog, Part 1: Franklin to Meriwether Park

Wow, first let me say the Trace is a great place to have your dog. I’m going to split our trip into physical days and blog about each one. This serves a few purposes. It gives you a good idea of how much mileage you can plan to travel in a day (take into account changes in daylight hours depending on season). And it keeps the posts from becoming intolerably long. It’s a lot of info to jam in and this just makes the most sense!

You gotta get up early to give yourself more daylight on the trace. Here we are around the 4 a.m. hour ready to leave.

We liked to call this Whiskey's Crocodile face- where his face seems exceptionally long. This trip he spent several hours shoving his face between the headrest and window so he could look forward out the window. Back windows wouldn't do!

This first day I was on the trace around 9am and off of it around 4 pm. I headed Southbound from Franklin Tennessee. If you too are headed in this direction, then first on the agenda should be to stop at Loveless Café.

At Loveless they had lots of cool things to sniff. Here Whiskey checks out a piece of farm equipment.

We had to make lots of doggie pit stops for the weak traveler in our lives, ahem ahem whiskey). We called Loveless from their parking lot and ordered a breakfast to go and then wandered around the grounds while waiting for it to be ready. There was a lot to see and smell. A man was set up in a side courtyard to play guitar. People lingered about the grounds listening and gazing into shop windows. It was very nice.

A singer seranades at Loveless. He said my dog was better behaved than his daughter. Haha!

While I couldn't get W to sit in front of the sign (too much to smell mom!!!) I still wanted to include it. Beautiful!

I deposited W back in the car, grabbed the food and we were off.

Signs on the wall at Loveless. Love.

When pulling onto the Trace you will circle by this breathtaking bridge with Natchez Trace written in huge letters across its daunting length. I had to keep shutting my mouth lest flies swarm in while gaping. I wish I could have had less traffic so I could have pulled over to take a picture. None of my pictures did justice to capture the size, grandeur and beauty of the bridge so you’ll have to go see it yourself. It’s won some awards too. You can see it at Mi. 438. It even has a pretty name “Birdsong Hollow.” All bridges should have names like that!

This brings me to the importance of “Mi. #xyz.” A map is very useful. You can order one from the Park Service (like I did) or you can realize (like I didn’t) that pretty much every pull over has a nice box with free maps in it. Grab a few there. You’ll be using that map to a limp bundle of folds I assure you.

Our particular trip showed us a lot of rain. We didn’t get to hike as much as we’d have liked to simply because we were rained out in a few occasions but we did get to hike A LOT and a lot more than we normally do.

When we first turned on the trace we were met by a beautiful site. Half of the sky was dark and rainy. Half bright and sunny. Bizzarre and lovely. The picture doesn't capture the dramatic change in light down the middle of the sky/road as it was in person.

Whiskey checks out the view of the bridge far off in the distance.

Between 440 and 385 there are 16 potential stops, not including anything that catches your eye NOT on the fold out map.  Here are our thoughts and dog/human randomness about some of them.

438.0– Birdsong Hollow bridge- awesomeness. A short walk to overlook at the bridge.

427.6– Garrison Creek. A lovely walk with your dog. The trail is flat and along the side of a hill part of the way. Everything was wet and vibrant after the rain and we had a good time. It’s a trail also used by horses so Whiskey was especially sniffy along its length. We didn’t go all the way down it due to threat of rain.

A really nice easy hike for you and your dog

Old Trace

Signs similar to this (some just say Old Trace with no picture) mark where you can put your feet down on centuries of travel.

426.3– Old Trace. There are lots of old trace places to pull over and walk. You will usually see a sign either high or low like the one here to the side. We got out and walked on quite a few of these, just pulling over randomly on the bank to do so. Lovely places. ALSO for you backpackers out there you can try to piece together the 444 miles of the old trace and hike a lot of it. I (once upon a time) had a thought to do this (not sure if it qualifies as a dream) and talked to a ranger about it. I just emailed them and said hey this is what I’m thinking about and they told me of people who had and how I could get started. They were VERY helpful. You will do some road walking, and you will probably need a compass and good trail skills. It’s not like the AT. While there are some markings, it’s not all easily laid out for you.

411.8– Water Valley Overlook. I think all the overlooks are worth seeing. Some were more picturesque and breath taking than others and many are going to be *spectacular* in the fall because you just see all these trees straight to the horizon around farm land… will be lovely! Other overlooks in this section include 405.1, 382.5.

Gordon House seems out of place in the south...

It was very very hot. Whiskey got into every stream he saw. This one was right before the Duck River....which I wouldn't let him into.

407.7– Gordon House and Ferry Site. We scared a small family here. Despite being on a leash the young dad of a toddler thought a wolf was coming out of the woods. Took him a second to see me and a leash. He seriously put his hand of his heart and eeped and then warned his wife and child. He was laughing by the time we got to him. They didn’t look the nature-y type so I’m guessing his imagination train had left the station surrounded by all those woods and fields lol. I gave his son the opportunity to pet the great wolven beast (ahem) but the toddler was scared. Apples don’t fall far as they say lol! We had a good laugh about it.

404.7– Jackson Falls. Okay so it was rainy and the sign said it was a steep walk on concrete so we didn’t get out here. Sorry. But we hear it’s great, and there’s even some videos on you tube of it if you really want to see it

403.7– Old Trace. We got out here and walked. A trail runner dashed by on the unmarked older part of the trail that we wouldn’t have even noticed. I liked this spot a lot.

401.4– Tobacco Farm. In the parking lot you’ll notice at the far end, past the tobacco shed what is small enough to almost make you think its a wide paved sidewalk. It’s not. Go for a drive down the old trace here. Whiskey was sooo excited about this and spent the entire time trying to shove his head past the seat rest and seat belt out the drivers side window. He seems in his doggie teen years to think he should be allowed to sit up front and not in the back. Hmm…

"Are you sure we want to go down this mom?"

391.9– Fall Hollow. Don’t be deceived by the name. These are actual falls. I had assumed it was a hollow with a first name. Get out here for sure. This was our favorite place. Now just imagine. Everything is rock, slick, wet, and you have to descend down a trail past a sign warning you about the trail, with a sled dog pulling you. We waited till the distractions were gone (people, kids) and descended. It was slow going with a lot of “Stop here” “with me” commands that whiskey is now a PRO at so long as it is actually a scary situation warranting the use of them. We went down a steep incline to the falls. The pictures pretty much tell the story.

L- top of falls. C- the steep rocky/clay *wet* incline we had to go down and up to get to the falls. Lots of fun to practice our "don't run or pull and kill mommy" commands lol. R- bottom of falls. You can get up under the falls too. Lots of peole were swimming here minutes before.

385.9– Meriwether Lewis Campground. Phew! I’m going to have to do this one on its own post. There’s just too much action in this post right now to shove anything else! And we have a lot of cute pics and stories from the campground..so…see you guys next time with that post!

Some Links:
Loveless on facebook and the web:
http://www.facebook.com/LovelessCafe
http://www.lovelesscafe.com

The Park System: http://www.nps.gov/natr/index.htm
http://www.nps.gov/natt/index.htm

For more info consider visiting one of these sites:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natchez_Trace
http://www.ohranger.com/natchez-trace-parkway
http://www.byways.org/explore/byways/2285/

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5 Responses to Traveling the Natchez Trace with your dog: Franklin TN (440) to Meriwether Lewis Campground (385.9)

  1. Never considered it that way.

  2. Thank you for a great post.

  3. sounds like an amazing travel trip. I would adore to see more pictures. My next vacation is in about 7 month so i can just read and dream of travelling through the world .

    • Gina V says:

      Thank you! I hope your time flies by to your vacation. If it’s somewhere awesome we should visit then you’ll have to come back and update us!

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