Jul 8, 2014
There’s nothing better to kick start a day and get out of a funk than to exercise, so in the morning we broke out the running shoes to explore Chicot State Park, where we’d “camped” (i.e. slept in the car) the previous night.
Alas, despite looking everywhere we could not find any of the trails our guidebook mentioned. We did get to see the lake in the middle of the park, which was quite interesting, looking exactly like the swampy, flooded bayou we’d seen in movies like the immortal “The Waterboy”. After dead end after dead end and a big ol’ black and gold garden spider to Gord’s face, we gave up did some circuits in the picnic area instead, disappointed to not have found a trail, but happy with ourselves for finally getting some not food- or alcohol-induced sweat going. After the workout, we showered and drove out of the park where, only 100 meters from where we had worked out, we saw that there was indeed a trailhead. What idiots.
For lunch we finally managed to locate a truly Cajun restaurant that was open. It was exactly what we’d hoped for: a truly local joint with a wood-paneled interior and fishing apparatus serving as decoration. We ordered fried catfish with grits and greens. The food hit the spot, but the highlight was the little 7-year-old son of our waitress who decided to plop down with us at our table. We asked him what his favorite food was and, with an amazingly thick accent that forced us to ask him to repeat everything he said, he said it was crawfish. He said he had his own crawfish and asked if we wanted to see. Of course we did! Into the kitchen scuttled the boy, and back he came with a pail full of live little critters. Grabbing one by its whisker he picked it up and proudly presented it to us. Amped up by our admiration, he lay a strip of napkins on the table and prepared to dump the whole pail right there in front of us and the other restaurant patrons. Just as he was about to release a pile of crawfish upon the restaurant, his mom came rushing in to stop him and tell him to put the creatures back where they came from, then returned to the table she was attending to. This did not please this little crawfish wrangler one bit. Under his breath, to our utter delight, the kid exclaimed, “I’m fixin’ to crush her!” It was so precious, so Southern, and somewhat terrifying. We loved it. Exito!
After lunch, we crossed the Mississippi river into the state of the same name and the town of Natchez. Natchez is famous for its antebellum homes (plantation owner mansions) which legend has it survived the civil war because when the Union troops rolled in the local ladies were so hospitable with their offers of lemonade that they decided not to burn down the places. With many such homes packed into a compact town center and excellent self-guided walking tours replete with information panels and direction arrows on the sidewalks, it made for a pleasant and interesting couple of hours of walking around.
After Natchez, we made it to Hattiesburg by the time it got dark, where we had a scrumptious dinner of shrimp and grits at a higher end restaurant, Blue Cotton, before crashing at a stereotypically roach-infested motel. Despite the dirtiness of the place, it was a dream compared to the microwave of last night’s ill-fated attempt to sleep in the car. We slept like crawfish in hot water.
- Chicot State Park had some cabins on stilts right above the lake that looked really cool. It would be fun to stay there for a day or two to fish, canoe, and look for gators. I believe they’re not that expensive, at about $85 a night for big cabins that could easily sleep four or more. If I went back I’d stay in one in a heartbeat.
- I was surprised to see how much resentment still remains, 150 years after the fact, amongst some people down here towards the loss of the Confederates in the Civil War. The visitor center lady was could not conceal her disappointment when Gord mentioned to her some positive remarks on General Grant, reminding us with a look of not too subtle indignation that history is written by the victors.
- It is sad to see how hopeless and uninspired many people we met were down here. Upon telling them we were from Canada, they’d say, “Oh I wish I could one day go there and visit” as if it was the other side of the world passing it off as if it was an unattainable dream. They seemed resigned to a life doing what they were doing (managing a motel, serving at a restaurant, cooking at a fast food place) for the rest of their lives.
- Mississippi has got to be the least often misspelled hard-to-spell words in North America, right? Everyone even way up North in Canada knows M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I.