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Ratliff Ferry May 31, 2012

Posted by marzwaggener in Campgrounds, Mississippi.
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On Monday, May 21st, Charlotte and her family drove me down to the Ratliff Ferry campground. It’s a beautiful area on the water – people launch their boats for fishing and recreation and there’s nice areas for both RV and tent camping. There’s a small convenience store and a restaurant, and campers have access to showers (HUGE plus for me!)

The pier at Ratliff Ferry

The next day a bicyclist named Kevin came to the campground. We shared pizza and drinks and built a fire to keep the bugs away. Kevin is an ultralight camper and uses a VERY small tent.

That evening Walt Grayson’s “Look Around Mississippi” aired on WLBT. The owner of the campsite very kindly tuned in and let me watch in the restaurant. It was pretty cool to see myself on TV – the 6PM news no less! – and since I stayed past 6 to watch the show, I camped another night there.

Kosciusko May 30, 2012

Posted by marzwaggener in Mississippi.
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Kosciusko is a small town off the Natchez Trace Parkway. It has a really nice Natchez Trace visitor’s center right off the Trace, and that’s where Walt and Jo dropped me off after the shoot. It was having some construction work done but the construction workers were really nice and let us slip in and pick up brochures and information. When Walt and Jo left for their next project (Walt gave a speech at a graduation) I headed down the highway in search of Wi-Fi.

The search for Wi-Fi ended up taking two days. During the night between the two days I encountered my first unpleasant person – a cop woke me up and harassed me for a while, even running my driver’s licence to see if there was a warrant out for my arrest. He seemed disappointed that there wasn’t and told me to leave town in the morning. Leave town! Almost comical. Finally he left me alone but it took a long time to fall back asleep. It reminded me of one of my favorite videos from the Walking Fool – his first police encounter when he walked across the country:

Everyone else I met in and around Kosciusko were very helpful though. Perplexed, no doubt, but nice.

I went by the Natchez Trace Welcome Center on my way out of town on Saturday the 19th. The construction was finished and I got the chance to talk to some of the volunteers and locals. Kosciusko is the birthplace of Oprah Winfrey, several people pointed out. After chatting a while I headed back out to the Trace.

On Sunday I stopped at a campground called Holly Hill to wait out the heat of the day. With the high humidity in Mississippi, the 90° and higher temperatures can be dangerous for an out-of-shape hiker with 60 or 70 pounds of gear to carry. This kills most of the time I would usually hike so I travel even SLOWER than before. I met a handful of people at the park:
Old Man on a Bicycle

Tour group from Germany
Tour group’s intrepid leader

Some motorcyclist passing through – on the right is Joe, who lives just a few miles away.

Joe stopped by to offer help or information to any bikers who happened to be resting at the picnic area. He was very interested in my story because may years ago, a woman passed through town on a horse and stayed a night with his friend Charlotte. It had been such a positive experience for her that he called her up to see if she’d like me to stay a night. She said sure, and I took down directions, figuring it would be the next day when I would get there.

The bikers left and I gathered up my clothes (which I washed in the sink and dried in the sun) and full water bottles (about 12 pounds of water!) and stared on my way again. I hadn’t gotten very far when Joe pulled up.

“This is wild hog territory,” he told me, “I don’t want you to sleep out in a tent with the hogs!” (Wild hogs are vicious and can attack and kill a human. They are hundreds of pounds behind sharp tusks – and they will eat anything. Including people.) I had heard a lot of noise near my tent the night before, and it sounded louder than the cows just on the other side of the Trace, but I shrugged it off. Could have been the wild hogs but fortunately they didn’t bother me in my tent.

Joe took me to Charlotte’s place and we sat and chatted for a while. Then we drove out to Kosciusko and they very graciously treated me to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. That evening Charlotte invited her kids to come over and meet me – and her daughter had met me a few days before at Subway in Kosciusko! It was a really nice evening, and the following morning I got to meet her great-grandson as well.
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The next day Charlotte, Johnny, and Ruby drove me out to a campground called Ratliff Ferry, and my visit in Kosciusko was over. But it was a great experience meeting some wonderful people – enough to make up for being harassed by an unpleasant cop. :-)

Look Around Mississippi May 30, 2012

Posted by marzwaggener in Mississippi.
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Walt Grayson’s piece about me aired on May 22nd. I was able to watch it at the campground I was staying at that night (although today is my first time getting internet access since a few days before it aired). It was pretty exciting watching myself on TV. Walt did an amazing job. The clip can be viewed here: http://www.wlbt.com/story/18591417/walts-look-around-marz-waggener-hikes-across-miss

Walt Grayson “Look Around Mississippi” May 18, 2012

Posted by marzwaggener in Mississippi.
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Thursday, May 17th, I was woken up by a familiar and much-welcomed voice – Carole was back! As usual, she was wearing one of her fabulous hats.


Carole has a gift for finding and talking to interesting people. She met Sandra, who is biking down Natchez Trace. Sandra started in Tennessee so she’s almost finished. Sometimes she camps, and sometimes stays in motels – the night before she camped at Jeff Busby campground, the same one I was in a few days earlier.

It was not much longer before Walt and his lovely wife Jo arrived.
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Walt and Jo Grayson

Walt brought his own video camera and tripod – he usually films his own show.

We did the interview with me sitting in my tent and Walt asking questions from behind the camera. I was nervous being in front of the camera so I didn’t phrase things quite as eloquently as I would have liked. Usually, I’m the one BEHIND the camera and not in the picture! It’s one of the things I like about being a photographer.  :-)
View from inside the tent

We had lunch at the Council House Cafe. Halfway through lunch, a busload of people showed up! A number of them recognized Walt from his show and commented how much they enjoyed it.

Then I packed up my tent and we took video of me walking with all my mountains of gear. When we finally had enough shots – some close shots, a few long shots where I was far away, close up of my boots, motion shots, me walking towards the camera and away from the camera on Natchez Trace – Walt and Jo drove me to the next town, Kosciusko, and we stopped at the Natchez Trace Information Center. Walt was giving a graduation speech in the evening so he and Jo left for their next adventure, and I read through some Mississippi brochures from the Information Center. It was a fun experience and I’m so glad I had the chance to meet Walt and Jo. The segment will only be a couple of minutes (thank goodness!) and should air on Tuesday the 22nd during the 6PM news hour on WLBT Chanel 3 in Mississippi. It will also be on WLBT’s website, so I’ll post a link when it’s available. (Gulp!)

French Camp May 18, 2012

Posted by marzwaggener in Mississippi.

I started walking the Natchez Trace on Monday the 14th. I stopped at the Jeff Busby campground to camp for the night – there were even bathrooms!

My tent on the campground

The next morning I just relaxed in my tent, knowing it might be a while before I had access to bathrooms again. I was laying in my tent, writing a letter, when I heard a familiar voice call out “Marz? Is that you?” I sat up, surprised, and through the tent window saw Carole McReynolds Davis, whom I met at the 175th Starkville birthday party, coming towards my tent! I climbed out to give her a big hug. I couldn’t believe she found me on the campground!

My “Mississippi Mama”

She explained that she wanted to interview me for an upcoming article in the Starkville Daily News. Not only was she writing an article about me, she contacted her friend Walt Grayson and set up an interview for me to be on his WLBT segment “Look Around Mississippi.” She asked me some questions, jotting down notes in a yellow notepad, then she and her husband drove me up to the top of the campground, the highest point on the Natchez Trace.

Carole with her husband and soulmate, Dr. Frank Davis

We decided to drive down the Trace a little bit to the next little town, French Camp, so it would be easier for me to meet with Walt on Thursday (my cellphone didn’t get reception so I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to contact him). Carole and Frank told me the story of French Camp Academy – it’s a Christian school for children from broken homes. It was established in 1885 and many of the businesses in the small town are a part of the school. French Camp has a “Historic District” of old homes and log cabins – the gift shop, cafe, and a museum are all in restored log cabins from the 1800’s. It’s an amazing place to visit and the people there are caring and friendly.

Ordering lunch from Sonny, who runs the Council House Cafe

We toured the Historic District, then I unloaded my gear from the car and camped in the lawn for the night.

The next day I toured around French Camp a little more. There’s a bakery that makes the most delicious bread I have ever eaten. I stopped by and met the baker, Kevin O’Brien, and he gave me some information on bread and Sorghum molasses, both which are made in town.

Kevin slicing the bread baked fresh that morning

Sorghum cane is crushed in this cane mill and the juice is collected in a barrel. Horses or mules are used to power the press.

This is where the juice is cooked into molasses.

Touring the Historic District:
Inside one of the restored homes

Some small cabins in the Historic District, currently used for storage

The museum

A hand-sewn wedding dress from the late 1800’s

Early American Walking Wheel – from 1729-1759 – all original parts.

I love old typewriters!

There is a pottery studio in the old post office in the Historic District – Lisa Doty teaches a pottery class here, and many of the finished pieces are sold in the gift shop.

After my tour, I returned to the Council House. I mentioned to the employees there that I really wanted a shower before being filmed the next day, and Robin generously offered to bring me to her house to use the shower. How it is I failed to get a picture of her, I don’t know. She lived only a tenth of a mile down the road, and after showering I returned to the Historic District and set up my tent near the Council House Cafe again.

In the evening I heard the sound of children’s laughter, and went outside to find children playing after the church service.
Robin was there, and invited me in for supper. I chatted a bit with the folks there, and when I mentioned that Walt Grayson was coming, they immediately recognized the name – and started humming the theme song for his show! I began to feel a bit nervous about being filmed for TV – a lot of people might be watching! I returned to my tent for the night to try to get a good night’s sleep before the big day.

Starkville’s 175th Birthday! May 13, 2012

Posted by marzwaggener in Mississippi.

Friday, May 11th, I headed towards Downtown Starkville. I stopped by the library to update my blog, but the internet went down before I even finished going through pictures. I remained undiscouraged and headed towards the historic downtown area. I passed some festive looking shops and finally stopped to talk with and take a picture of a lady in a fabulous patriotic costume.
Her name is Carole McReynolds Davis, a local artist. She explained to me that it was the 175th birthday of Starkville and a party was starting in a few hours. She gave me a magazine with a feature about her art and even autographed it for me!
Carole with her daughter and granddaughter.
Mayor Parker Wiseman gives a proclamation

There were cupcakes, a petal-powered cart to ride, and facepainting – all free for the celebration.

Boardtown Boys performed for most of the afternoon.

The party was a huge hit with the kids.
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It was a fun afternoon and I got a lot of great pictures. I was pretty excited that the day I happened to go through downtown Starkville just so happened to be a big birthday party! Afterwards, I got a ride to Eupora (where I am now), where I will catch the Natchez Trace trail.

Starkville Firestation Three May 13, 2012

Posted by marzwaggener in Mississippi.
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I camped a few days in Starkville, through muggy and rainy weather. I haven’t been caught in a torrential downpour yet – always been in my tent or inside a building. Caught a couple cool pictures:

Here’s another shot of the rainbow over Columbus
Starkville Horses

On Wednesday the 9th I ventured down a different road to do some laundry, and happened to pass an interesting-looking fire station. I stopped to take some pictures of the tall wooden tower, wondering what it could be – a super awesome lookout tower? A training structure? Finally I knocked on the door of the fire station to ask.

I got more than just a brushoff quick answer – the firefighters on duty gave me a complete tour of the station and the training facilities, including background stories about the ghosts that haunted the old station. (I did not see any ghosts, unfortunately. I WAS secretly hoping for their company.)

The silver structure on the left is the station; the red trailers are a Live Fire Multitrainer System (used for the first time that day), and the tall wooden tower on the right is a training tower that’s been in use for about ten years.

The Tower

The Station

Live Fire Multitrainer System

Trent demonstrated his firefighting gear for me, and snapped a picture of me proudly wearing a jacket and hat.


The firefighters shared some venison sausage with me at dinner – it was delicious!

There would be more testing of the new training system the next day, so I camped nearby to catch the action in the morning. I got some cool pictures and video of the fire inside, and then a few more as the firefighters put on their gear to try out the trainer.


The training and testing went late into the afternoon, so I camped nearby again until the next day’s adventure.

In Mississippi! May 4, 2012

Posted by marzwaggener in Campgrounds, Mississippi.

I mentioned at the end of my last post already, I finally made it over into Mississippi! On May 2nd, I ran out of water in a long stretch of nothing (again!!!) so I took a ride to a convenience store. (I was 7 or 8 miles from the border, 9 or 10 miles from the next gas station.) I stayed one night in a field behind the truck stop where Mike dropped me off, and a large part of the next day sitting inside. I talked to truck drivers, got caught up on email and blog postings, and left around 3:30 or 4. I backtracked a few miles to a campground I spotted on Google Maps – Parkwood RV Park. On the way a beautiful rainbow appeared over Columbus.


The RV park is pretty nice – quiet, no rowdy kids, and even has washing machines!!! I was VERY happy to get to wash my clothes. There was no tent camping though. I called the manager, and he let me camp next to the office and didn’t even charge me. If you’re RV camping in Columbus, Parkwood RV Park is a nice spot.

Last Days in Alabama May 2, 2012

Posted by marzwaggener in Alabama.

I didn’t hike very far my first day back on the road. Still getting used to the enormous weight of the pack, especially when it’s loaded up with water. I set up my tent right off the highway behind a hill.

The next day I continued on my way. Unfortunately I was in the middle of nowhere and started running out of water. I saw a sign that I thought pointed to businesses on a side road, and ventured off Highway 82. Well I was mistaken. There were no stores. I started getting thirsty.

Finally someone drove up to ask if I was okay – Russell and his 10-year-old son Patrick. I answered I was just looking for the nearest convenience store, which Russell told me was quite far away. He kindly gave me a lift there, and he was right – it was pretty far, even driving. I filled up my water and purchased a few things, and as I packed them into my backpack Russell returned. He insisted I stay with him or even his mom for the evening, so I wouldn’t have to sleep in the tent. I accepted his generous hospitality and spent several fun days with Russell and Patrick.

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Patrick and I had a lot of fun with photography. We made some “light paintings” – where the camera shutter speed is open for a long time (ten seconds in this case) so movement of lights are recorded.

Then Patrick helped me with a photo project I’d been thinking of for quite some time which I’m calling “I Hate Fireants” until I can think of a better name.
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Patrick is not scared of fireants. But I am. So I’m pretty sure there’s no way I could have done this without him.
(This one makes me shudder just to look at it!)

Not scared of fireants AT ALL.

Patrick and Russell at Jack’s

I found a few other interesting places to camp:
Behind a church
Woods just off the 82

I met these adorable brothers:

And finally, on May 2nd (today!) I crossed the border into Mississippi. I didn’t walk all the way – a gentleman named Mike gave me a lift the last few miles, which was fortunate as I was out of water (again!) and several miles from any water supply.

And now I’m in a truck stop, updating the blog, and soon will be taking a $5 shower. My Alabama adventure was great and I hope Mississippi is just as awesome.


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