Bucket List Louisianne: Clark Creek Natural Area

So I set out this morning to Clark Creek Natural Area – #8 on my Bucket List Louisianne. I haven’t been on a solo adventure since I left Memphis, and Ashok knew right away that we were headed somewhere fun. The alarm clock went off at 5 AM, and I was so excited to get out in the woods again that I jumped out of the bed and started packing before I even had my tea. Ashok was beside herself as I packed my lunch, my hiking shoes and got dressed in running gear.

Jessica informed me that I had to run 5 miles this morning – even though I ran a 5K yesterday AND placed in my age group – just because she is mean. She’s been trying to get me to dub her McB*tch instead of the B*tch and I acquiesced and let her have the title since she coached me to an age group win. I knew I had to find a spot along the way for my run. I found the perfect place in St. Francisville. I hadn’t remembered that St. Francisville had so many antebellum homes. I knew they had a couple, but as I ran, I found Rosedown, Audubon’s Oakley Plantation, and the Myrtles. They were all closed of course, but I snuck in a short trek via a back entrance to Rosedown. I didn’t get to take a gander at the home, but I did scare up a fawn who ran in circles and stopped and stared at us for a bit. I didn’t see its Momma until we were headed out, and she darted across the road.

I ran for a bit down the main street of St. Francisville, and house after house had placards out front explaining the historical significance of the homes. It was quiet at that time, and I only saw one couple hard at work manicuring their beautiful yard. I ran down a lovely red-brick sidewalk lined with Live Oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. I passed one house with a placard informing me that this was Widow Ross’s home. Admiral Dewey ate supper there when he was a Lieutenant during the Civil War. I giggled as I pictured Lt. Dewey stopping by for a meal. My guess is the Widow Ross was hot. Why else would he be hanging out there? Anybody can cook.

After my run, I had breakfast at Birdman Coffee and Books. Mary prepared the most beautiful, perfect decaf latte’ I’ve ever seen. I joined a young family outside in the garden and brought Ashok over to hang out with me as I ate my eggs and cheese grits. The family had obviously done this before. The kids were playing in the garden, and the parents had a nest built with their food, computers and books. They were there before I got there, and I’m sure they lingered long after I left. The temperature was perfect, and the garden outside was just beautiful.

The destination of the day was the Tunica Hills, specifically Clark Creek Natural Area, where I had been promised waterfalls and an Appalachian style habitat. For $3, you can hang out all day. There were plenty of cars parked outside the entrance when I arrived. The trails aren’t really that long, but they are steep, and in many places, stairs are built to keep people from sliding down the steep inclines. I was really impressed with how clean it was. The water was clear, and I saw at least 5 waterfalls today.

Late morning, I stumbled upon a couple from Baton Rouge. We chatted a bit at a trail crossing and then went our separate ways. I ended up running into Tracy at a stream crossing. She was waiting for Maurice to come back from a run. We hit it off and became fast friends. She is related to Mrs. Swindle, who was one of my high school English teachers. She caught me up on their family. Her parents live in St. Francisville, and we talked about the Magnolia Cafe which sounds like a must on my future visits. I ended up hiking with them the rest of the day. When we finished, we promised to stay in touch and shared our contact info. We have a lot in common.

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It started to rain just as we were leaving. It was a soft, steady rain as I made my way out through Pond, MS. The name is pretty descriptive. There is a pond in Pond MS and a store. Maurice told me I should stop at the store when it is open. It’s been there since the 1800s, and the woman that runs it can tell me all about the history of the area. He also told me to stop in at the Angola Prison Museum where an elderly gentleman who has hiked these woods all his life can tell me anything I want to know and then some. I actually took a wrong turn on the way out and ran smack dab into the Angola prison gates. It freaked me out a bit. Everybody there is in that prison for Life. It’s a little spooky when I think about it.

My sister told me that her husband worked at Angola after he decided he didn’t like teaching school. While he worked there, a couple of the prison inmates escaped. Most escapees try to swim the Mississippi River. But, these two decided to hike the Tunica Hills woods like I did today. After several days, the two escapees walked back to the front gates of the prison and asked to be let back in. The mosquitoes and the woods had gotten to them, so they went back home. I’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall for the conversation that set them on the path back. It must have been pretty bad.

But, it was nice today. The temperature was perfect. The company was good. All the kids along the way had to stop and pet Ashok. The water in the little stream was really chilly, and it felt good on my tired feet. I hiked for three hours after I ran 5 miles. I think I finally managed to wear my dog out. She’s passed out right now. If I don’t get out in the woods every now and then, I feel nuts. I really needed it. The trickle of the waterfalls cascading down, the gurgle of the sandy stream, the excitement of my dog as she splashed around in the cool water and the feel of the breeze through the leaves just filled me up. Thanks, Clark Creek. That was the best $3 I’ve spent in a long time.

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