Today I spent several hours on the original Trail of Tears. Some of the trail was spent in a vehicle, some was spent walking. All of it was spent with a voice recorder in my hand (someone else was driving). It was an amazing experience to see so much of the trail and to actually take the time to walk on part of the trail. For those of you that live in the Springfield/Clarksville/Adams area, there is a pretty good route that goes from South Coopertown Road in Springfield, TN to Port Royal in Adams, TN that will take you down a bit of the original trail. We ended our journey at the Port Royal State Park which has a walking trail on a portion of the original trail. Apparently, Port Royal was not only one of the sites through which the Cherokee walked, it was also one of the places where they stopped overnight.
All day, I kept thinking “so much history, right here beneath my feet…”. I was certainly inspired by what I saw and experienced today, but I am, admittedly seeing it all in the wrong season. The Cherokee were forced to walk this trail during the dead of winter. I was seeing it in the height of spring. And it was beautiful. The trees formed a lovely canopy over the road, a nice spring breeze blew through the car with our windows down, with the fragrances of spring rich in the air. Wildflowers and wildlife accompanied and highlighted our journey. But this would not have been what they experienced. All the Cherokee would have seen would have been bareness and death. The death inherent in the winter of nature, and the death surrounding their people along the way.
All in all, today was an education and I think the book (the work in progress, “Trail of Fears”) will be all the better for it. It was something to just feel, to just be in the places where my characters would have been. To set foot on the places where their feet would have walked. To walk beside the same river and cliff face that they would have looked at on their journey into the unknown. I only hope I can do it…do them justice.