A treasure called The Tanglefoot

August 9, 2018

 

 

 

Anyone from Houston, Mississippi, knows the importance of emphasizing Mississippi when explaining their hometown’s location with a stranger. My Houston—which is a surprise to seemingly everyone—is not in Texas. And most importantly, yes—Houston, Mississippi actually does exist.

 

Yes, we’re a small lesser-known town in Northeast Mississippi. Despite having lived away from Houston a couple years now, I still use that term “we” when referencing the tiny town because that’s the kind of place Houston, Mississippi is: always home.

 

After moving to Jackson to take on my Mississippi Matters summer internship, I often had to emphasize the Mississippi after Houston, as well as list other towns near Houston to give people a sense of where we even are.

 

That’s simply the reality for Houstonians. We get it.

 

But then, a normal sultry summer night in Fondren turned into a cool pleasant conversation with a stranger after Houston, Mississippi was mentioned. Because my town is a hub for cyclists, Houston formed the common ground for Jackson native and cyclist Kelley Williams and me to start a conversation—a conversation about the Tanglefoot Trail.

 

I remember when the Rails-To-Trails gem opened in September 2013. In fact, I have clear childhood memories of the trail when it was still in its rail form, literally crossing over my grandparents’ driveway in Houlka, Mississippi.

 

Those fond memories of cool-to-a-child trains trucking through the gap at my grandparents’ have yielded to more recent experiences of cycling (casually for me, of course) with friends and family, enjoying miles of memory-making.

 

That’s what the historic Tanglefoot Trail—with roots back to 1871—is all about.

 

Board of Directors member Lee Nabors of Houston says the concept for the Tanglefoot Trail, named for the work engine used in the original railroad line, emerged after the Mississippi Tennessee Railroad announced plans to abandon the rail line between New Albany and Houston.

 

Soon locals from New Albany and Houston—and every community between—gathered and landed on the idea of birthing what we now know as the Tanglefoot Trail.

 

With the help of grants, the expertise of Three Rivers Planning & Development District, and cooperative work of every county affected by the project, construction of the 43.6 mile trail began in December of 2011 and finished in the summer of 2013.

 

Since its completion, cyclists such as Jackson’s Kelley Williams and Sam Hubbard have enjoyed Tanglefoot Trail’s ever-growing treasures.

 

Amid the solitude stretching from New Albany to Houston, Hubbard and Williams took in the beauty along the trail’s flat terrain.

 

Many cyclists visit Houston’s Bridges-Hall Manor Bed and Breakfast. Owner Carol Koutroulis says her guests truly enjoy the biking experience.

 

As word of the trail keeps traveling, more people fall in love with the Tanglefoot experience.

 

When the trail connected me with a stranger in Jackson—hours away from my rarely recognized hometown—I knew Tanglefoot wasn’t just another bike path.

 

It’s time well-spent.

It’s a ride you’ll want to tell.

It’s memory lane and memories to be made.

It’s the Tanglefoot Trail.

 

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© 2017 MississippiMatters

MississippiMatters is a news blog of cooperative writers, videographers and podcasters published by  The Well Writers Guild, a 501c3 devoted to mentoring Mississippi writers and to addressing uncovered or under-covered topics.  MississippiMatters focuses on offering creative "takes" on our state's culture, ideas, events and more.