43 miles on Mississippi’s Tanglefoot Trail

The Tanglefoot Trail runs from New Albany to Houston.

bikes and butterfliesThis is a rail-trail that stands out for doing the most basic of amenities incredibly well — shelters with running water and real toilets (and even outlets to recharge your phone). Don’t laugh — I have been on many longer trails with almost no bathroom facilities and where water fountains are scarce. Oh, and they’ve got tool stands in some spots for when you need to do a quick repair.

Who does that?

downtown new albanyThe day’s route was straightforward: get on the Tanglefoot Trail at New Albany, the birthplace of William Faulkner and home to a vibrant downtown (the bakery comes highly recommended, but it didn’t open until 10 a.m. and we’d already had a hearty breakfast anyway), and head south to Houston 43 miles away.┬áThere’s an infrequently used rail line within sight of the trail head — maybe one day it will become a rail with trail that can extend the trail another 20 or so miles north to Ripley?

train and bike

Why is it called the Tanglefoot Trail? William Faulkner’s great-grandfather started the rail line and one of his engines was named … Tanglefoot.

The scenery varied — sometimes water, sometimes woodland, sometimes pasture for beef cattle, sometimes industry. The route, like most rail-trails, was essentially flat. We went through many small towns, some of which had seen much better days and others that had a decent population (4,000 if you counted every dog to 8,000 or so). You could find hotels and B&Bs not far from the trail — or in the case of this one, just off the trail. A couple of towns had supermarkets within sight of the trail.

And I was impressed with the number of rest stops (uncovered), rain stops (covered) and whistle stops (much more elaborate covered stops with water and clean flush toilets, plus wooden owls near the rafters to scare off birds — apparently it does help.). In the town of Pontotoc, where a third of users access the trail, the mayor has big plans to expand an already large whistlestop to offer RV and tent camping nearby (and more, including a large pavilion with a commercial kitchen). Private developers are betting on the trail too — not far away, a developer has cleared the land and is planning to install a number of cabins for travelers.

tanglefoot advocatesHats off to some of the enthusiastic advocates!

One thing I’d like to know more about is more about the Native Americans — the Chickasaw tribe. And yes, I’d like to know about on-road routes to Oxford and Tupelo. Just in case I was making a bigger trip out of this.

fried lunchWe ate lunch in the tiny town of Algoma. Walk into the country store and it’s fried everything for lunch. I went for chicken on a stick (fried chicken, fried onion, fried pickle, shish-kabob style) and some fried corn-something. (Tomorrow, I’m sticking to just fried vegetables!) The place may not look like much, but apparently it’s quite the destination for cyclists. Plus they let you camp out in the pavilion they built (yes, with water and toilet). If it’s dinner time, you might want to hit Seafood Junction across the road that offers an all-you-can-eat seafood buffett.

Yes, it’s always all about the food.

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