Gary "Mark" Clark email@example.com
Originally published in the ReView of Jones County on
February 26, 2009".
In another column, I mentioned that "I actually have several favorite spots on the Longleaf Trace Bike Trail, but that is a column for another day". Well, itís another day.
The Longleaf Trace is a bike/hike/jog/roller blade trail that begins in Hattiesburg and ends in Prentiss. There are plenty of scenic rest areas, clean rest rooms, and water fountains along the way. In my humble opinion, the Trace is one of the jewels of the Pine Belt.
In 2000 or 2001, my family started test driving the Trace, even before it was totally finished. We dawdled along at 4 or 5 mph, making only a few short round-trip miles on Sunday afternoons. Soon our extended circle of family and friends joined in with their eclectic mix of rigs Ė dirt bikes, BMX, comfort, ten speeds, racers, and old assorted worn out pieces of junk.
At some point, we progressed to matching new bicycles with multi-speeds - but still we were a far cry from professional bike riders. We started going faster and further. Our growth mirrored the Traceís, and we watched it grow from a few miles starting at Jackson Road to the current 41-mile length extending from the Southern Miss campus all the way to Prentiss.
A watershed event occurred in 2002 when my son Matthew and I decided we could ride the WHOLE THING in one day. Judy dropped us off in Prentiss one morning and promised to meet us that afternoon in Hattiesburg. Well, after 6 hours, 36 miles, and many rest stops, we arrived alive at Jackson Road, the terminus in those days.
Since then, Matthew has cut Ďway back on his riding, Judy doesnít want to ride that far, and the trail has been completed all the way to USM. Nowadays, the riding crew consists mostly of just me, myself and I. Iíve ridden the whole thing several times now and my favorite places are completely burned into my memory banks. Without further adieu, here are my top 7 favorite places on the Longleaf Trace, starting at Prentiss and heading southeast towards Hattiesburg:
1) Kudzu World. The trail opens up a few miles from Prentiss to reveal Kudzu gone rampant, similar to what you used to see on Mississippi tourism brochures.
2) Burnhamís BeautiFarm. This is my unofficial name for one of the most beautiful farms in South Mississippi. Itís located between Bassfield and Lottís Circle.
3) Exotic Animal Farm. This farm is located between Lottís Circle and Sumrall. Here you will find Emus, llamas, horses, mules. deer, and cows. Some of the animals will come up to the fence if you arenít acting too crazy. This is a great spot for kids, and it is also accessible from a public road.
4) Bamboo Forest. A nice thick grove of bamboo that briefly makes you think that you arenít in south Mississippi. Itís located just west of Sumrall.
5) Beaver Pond. My most favorite of favorites. It is located between Epley and Clyde Depot. Thereís an extensive, multi-level wooden deck for lounging about. The deck overlooks a 13.6 acre lake; the natural dam was built by beavers. The property was recently purchased by Denbury Resources and donated to the Trace. There are big plans for the Beaver Pond. Thatís a whole Ďnother column, though.
6) The Bridge over the Interstate. This is the green caged railroad bridge that crosses over Interstate 59 close to 4th Street. Iím not sure if it is OK or not, but I go slow here and give truckers the "blow your air horn" symbol with pretty good results.
7) The Gateway at Southern Miss. This handsome cedar headquarters building is a welcome sight, especially after a 41 mile ride. It is first class all the way and staffed with both paid and volunteer workers. You can get maps, brochures, and other information there. It is right across the street from USMís football stadium.
I hope you liked the tour. Let me know what your favorite places are.
Feedback or comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org, or GMC c/o The ReView, 318 North Magnolia, Laurel, MS 39440.