When your plans for the day call for only 100 miles or so of driving, it gives you a very relaxed sense about getting up and getting going in the morning. Our goal was to get from the Timberlake Campground, on the Barnett Reservoir (near milepost 102) to the Jeff Busby Campground at milepost 193 right on the Parkway. Not a very stressful day.
Because of our lazy approach to things, we didn’t get on the road until 11:00AM!!
Our first stop, and by far the best stop of the day, was at the Cypress Swamp at milepost 122. The park literature states that “a lucky visitor may have a chance to see an alligator” here. There is a relatively short walking trail, with a boardwalk that takes you literally onto the water. I had my doubts about seeing an alligator, because there were quite a few people out on this lovely Saturday afternoon, including some pretty noisy children. We spent about an hour slowly walking the half-mile trail and thoroughly enjoying the swamp.
After about an hour, with no wildlife sightings, E found some people who pointed out a small alligator on a log out in the midst of the swamp. It was so small, and so far out, that we probably would have missed seeing it without having it pointed out to us. My super zoom feature on my video camera was perfect for this situation.
I think this fellow was probably only about 2 feet long.
Now that we had a better idea of what to look for, and where, we started seeing more things. We saw a big turtle sunning himself. Then we noticed that there was actually a second, smaller turtle right near him. Then, within a few feet of them, there was another gator. A triple play!
Eventually we found a third gator! I guess we would have to be considered “lucky visitors” by park standards.
The rest of the stops along this stretch of the Parkway were enjoyable, but nowhere near as exciting as the Cypress Swamp. We saw more of the sunken trace, we visited the Mississippi Craft Center, we stopped at a place called the French Camp, and we eventually pulled in to the Jeff Busby Campground late in the afternoon.
We had been assured by park staff that we would have no problem getting a campsite at this campground. This is a non-reservable, free campground with 18 campsites. I was a bit concerned about getting one of these first-come, first-served sites, arriving as we were, late in the day on a Saturday. As we drove in, the first thing I noticed is that all the sites seemed to be pull-through sites. (This is a type of campsite where you do not have to back your RV in to the parking spot. You pull in, park, stay the night, and then proceed straight on through a sort of a loop to exit the site.) Then I noticed that nearly all of them were full already. Then I noticed that there were far fewer than 18 of them, and some of the ones that were vacant would not adequately fit our truck and trailer combination. I was beginning to think we’d have to find a different campground.
I started a second drive through the campground, more slowly this time to see more clearly what was available. This time I noticed that what I had thought were single pull-through sites were actually access drives to multiple sites. In other words, what had looked like a single pull-through site was actually a little driveway to three tent sites. One guy with a truck/trailer combination had pulled in to one of these driveways, blocking it off from allowing others to use it, and had essentially made three tent sites inaccessible. A couple other people had done similar things. That explained why I had not been able to count 18 sites. Since the campground is free, it is also not staffed, so there was no one to control this sort of behavior.
I was able to find a spot on one of these little driveways to park our trailer in such a way as to give us access to one of the sites and leave the other sites on that driveway available to others. There was a substantial hillside (drop-off) just outside our camper, leading down to a fire pit and picnic table. Not a super-nice site, but adequate for one night. It was very quiet and very forest-y