I a pleased to introduce my son-in-law, Ken McCarron, who is an enviromental consultant, and the author of this post. He lives in Denver, Colorado with my daughter, Becca. They have two dogs, Konza and Lexie.
As an environmental consultant, part of my job I often get sequestered away to client’s offices for weeks and sometime for months at a time. I generally enjoy the traveling and I love to see new places, the adventure of exploring, but after a few visits to the same city it becomes a challenge to find new inspirations. This was my reality a few winters ago as I worked on a long-term consulting project in Jackson, Mississippi. I had explored the city on previous trips, seen the museums, walked the streets around the capital, and I needed something different. I didn’t have a lot of time on the weekends, so I wanted something close to the city. My inspiration came from an unexpected source, the long ignored iconic symbol of the cheap hotel lobby; the tourist brochure stand.
No, I didn’t go for the flashy casino ones, golfing vacation rentals, or the numerous ones advertising the battles of the Civil War. As a child my father had saturated our family vacations with everything Civil War; I really thought that every vacation had to include a picture of my sister and myself sitting on a battlefield canon. The one that caught my eye was the simple paper one, dull against the glare from all the glossy reflections around it, with the simple print; the State Parks of Mississippi. It was February in Mississippi, the rental car was paid for, and I had a couple Saturdays to myself. So, for the random encounter with the simple non-intrusive state park pamphlet, I would visit the four closest parks to my hotel in Jackson, Mississippi and spend my day off. . Side note, I had already visited the LeFleur’s Bluff State Park in Jackson, including the Museum of Natural Science on a previous trip and since it was only about 5 minutes from the hotel, I decided to visit the next three on the list.
Roosevelt State Park (Morton, MS):
It’s not a far trip from downtown Jackson, it only takes about 40 minutes with light traffic on interstate I-20 going east. The entrance to the park is north of I-20 about half mile, you will notice the watch tower on the hill just before the turn. It was a warm winter Saturday morning when I drove into the park and I didn’t expect to see many visitors, that was my plan, to escape and shake off some of my hours in front of a computer screen editing reports. To my surprise there were a number of visitors down by Shadow Lake near the visitor center enjoying the sunny day. I milled around the area, walked down to the lake and past the pools that were closed for the season. Back at the visitor center there was an information board with a copy of the trail map, which I studied, noted the color system and names (really, trail #7 Civil War Hill; my Dad would be so proud) and then headed off to walk around the lake. Once I was on the trail I quickly left behind the few picnickers and entered into a pleasant trail system that took me through the winter forest, past pine stands, through a couple of wetlands, past the rental cabins, and into the many campsites on the backside of the lake. I had the place to myself, except when I decided to climb the watch tower, but it was not even that busy. The park is really nice, situated in the Bienville National Forest the scenery was beautiful and there are some great panoramic views from the overlooks and the tower.
Golden Memorial State Park (Walnut Grove, MS):
My second stop of the day was a trip to Golden Memorial State Park. I didn’t have a lot of information about this place when I set out, but I really enjoyed my time in this small park. The park is centered on a 15-acre spring fed lake and seems to be popular among local fisherman and the park memorializes the “Patrons Pupils Teachers and Friends” of the old Golden School and their descendants (I was so tempted to put commas on the stone memorial). When I entered the park in the late afternoon there were only a couple of cars and a few people fishing. Since there were not a lot of trails and the park was fairly empty, I ended up walking along the road across the levee up to the trail head. It was very relaxing and I felt like I had the place to myself. I assume during the summer the small size of the park may hinder this feeling, but for my afternoon it was perfect. The trails take you to the far side of the park where you can walk among the pines and see the second largest loblolly pine in the state of Mississippi, and yes, it was pretty tall. It was getting dark by the time I got back to the car, but the drive back to Jackson was not that bad; without stops it took me about an hour.
Lake Lincoln State Park (Wesson, MS):
The next Saturday was a bit overcast with some rain, however living in Denver, I was just happy that it was not snowing and that it was almost 60 F in February. I headed south on this trip to Lake Lincoln State Park; I figure that I had already been to Roosevelt, I should keep up with the presidential theme. The trip from Jackson, down I-55, and through Weston took about an hour. However, it took me a lot longer to get into the park because right across from the entrance to the park was Smokin’ Oaks BBQ & Steakhouse, and yes I am a sucker for good BBQ. After lunch I drove/rolled across the road to the park, the rain had picked up so I slowly drove around the park roads and took in the sites of the forest and all the campgrounds. I parked my car near the boat ramp wanted waited for the weather to clear a bit before heading out to explore on foot. The park seemed larger than the ones I had visited the week before, but I was a little disappointed in the lack of trails, however, this park is all about the 550-acre Lake and fishing. This was obvious when I realized that everyone I saw in the park that day was either getting ready to fish or was out on the lake in a boat fishing. I enjoyed my time in the park and I did walk around after the weather had cleared, but I was kind of jealous that I didn’t have a boat to really appreciate this park. With the weather turning on me again, I decided to head out early and take the back roads back to my hotel. Part of enjoying a place is to step away from the interstates and just let the roads dictate where you go.