Serpent Mound

This is one of many earthworks in the eastern and central parts of the United States. For a long time, white historians and antiquarians believed these the work of a vanished people, “the Moundbuilders,” separate from the various indigenous peoples living in the areas. The white historians and antiquarians were wrong, and now the historical establishment agrees with the indigenous that these were the work of their ancestors. Sadly, too many were destroyed as Europeans built their own works across the land. Some survive, such as this. Ohio History Connection currently runs it as a museum.

Shows several loops of mounded earth
Most, but not all, of the Serpent Mount, as seen 2/3 up the viewing station

I visited there last summer, on (then) lovely day (it rained later. A lot. Plus thunder and lightning, which made my mother’s dog, traveling with us, very unhappy). At that time, the museum operators were keeping the mound mowed. I’ve heard since that they’re reconsidering this–but have yet to get back.

There’s a viewing station from which one can see most/all of the earthwork. It helps if you don’t mind heights or see-through stairs. There’s a walk around, but folks are (understandably) requested to keep off the actual mound.

It’s not clear just how old it is, but other mounds nearby date to 800 B.C.E. to 100 C.E. so it’s probably from somewhere in that range.

Here are a few more photos from my visit, closer up to various portions of the serpent.

Jemez Historic Site

The Jemez Historic Site is set a reasonable drive from Albuquerque and Santa Fe. It contains the ruins of an old village and church, both built in the early 1600s. Near the church ruins lie the remains of a kiva. When paying the entrance fee, I asked about photographs and was told it was okay to take them anywhere except inside the kiva — so I didn’t take any in the kiva.

Here are a few of the church:

And an image from the start of the walk which tickled my funny bone–the part about the rattlesnakes, that is, which is also quite apt! (I quite agree with all sentiments on this sign.)

Water and Fishes

For something a bit different, let’s go to an aquarium. Talk about big, expensive buildings to create and maintain! Especially with all that water. That said, there’s definitely something about the experience of being within the water while safely dry & able to watch fishes swimming by.

While in Baltimore for the World Fantasy Convention, I stopped by the Maryland Aquarium. Some of the items which particularly caught my eyes weren’t actually the aquatic life but light-water installations.

Or the immense skeleton hanging in mid-air.

But there certainly were ample fishes and other aquatic creatures as well.

In all, an enjoyable time — and educational as well, although I admit that wasn’t my prime objective. Next week, back to historic sites, but for now enjoy the water.

Gila Cliff Dwellings

A little while back, I posted about a visit to Bandelier and the cliff dwellings there. I’ve also visited the Gila Cliff Dwellings. This is a much smaller site, at least as shared by the park service, and rather more off the beaten path. Bandelier is pretty close to I-25, the main north-south corridor from New Mexico up through Colorado and on. In contrast, to get to the Gila one first must travel well over an hour. I spent several years living in Silver City, New Mexico — about 1 hour’s drive from I-25 and from I-10 (the main East-West route). It took a long time driving along very swervy roads (often at under 25mph) to get to the Gila site.

View of cliff with dwellings visible inside large caves
Gila Cliff Dwellings, as viewed from the path

According to the Park Service, many civilizations used the caves as temporary housing over the centuries. Around about 800 years ago, the people of the culture called Mogollon decided to live in the caves for a while and built dwellings. They traded with other peoples before deciding to move on after about twenty years.

building of stone within a cave, with a few small openings
One of the dwellings

Then again, that’s what they say now. The more time passes, however, the more the story evolves and changes–and often grows closer to the traditions of local peoples (in this case, in particular the Apache). I would be interested to go back in another decade or two to see how understandings have deepened. In the meantime, I’m grateful that we are preserving the site–and only wish we could preserve (and in particular not destroy) others of importance (sometimes in ignorance but others by deliberate action).

Boulders along the cliffside with greenery and the path up to the dwellings in the distance
View from one of the caves

If you’re wondering whether the site was worth the drive–the answer is most definitely yes!

Notre Dame de Paris

I have no personal photos of Notre Dame. I never made it to Paris (other than 6 hours in de Gaulle airport way back when, while traveling from Washington DC to Florence, Italy). I wish I had. Someday I still may visit. In which case, of course, I will visit Notre Dame and see what it is then.

Whatever it becomes, it will not be what it was. And I am very sorry for its loss.

So I’m dedicating today’s post as space to remember, even for those such as me who never visited.

That said, Notre Dame already has a large amount of money pledged to its repair. And the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem caught fire yesterday as well, although thankfully it was contained. Many other churches and religious buildings damaged by fire can use assistance–for those so inclined, consider ones closer to wherever you live.

Cliff Dwellings: Bandelier

Mesa Verde is, insofar as I’m aware, the most famous of the cliff dwellings (I’ve not visited it)–but there are lots of them throughout the southwest. This was a major civilization, after all. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit some of the preserved cliff dwelling sites — in particular the Gila and Bandelier. Today’s post is about Bandelier.

The first photos offers a view from above the valley — and of the creek which runs through it (one of my works-in-progress is connected to a fictional tributary of the creek).

From what I understand (and I am not an expert in this!) Bandelier was occupied particularly during the western calendar centuries of 13-15 BCE. Most of the peoples dwelling there had begun to move down to live near the river generally known as the Rio Grande or Rio Bravo — before Europeans arrived in the area. They’re now known collectively to non-indigenous Americans as the Pueblo, although they are a number of separate, related nations.

These three images show some of the remains of a village built between the cliff and the creek. The last photo is of the village from not-very high up on the cliff. Its my understanding there are many of these villages scattered throughout the park–most unexcavated and likely to remain so (particularly since excavation is inherently destructive).

This last set of images is of the main cliff dwellings and/or evidence of them (one shows part of the cliff from the village). They don’t properly present the scale, but this is a very impressive site which reflects the complexity and ingenuity of the people who built it and lived there. I’m not particularly fond of heights, so I wouldn’t have done well (and admit to not having climbed up any of the ladders)

Fort Craig

Maybe 2/3 of the way up I-25 from the southern end of New Mexico, there’s a turn off. Take it and drive 10+ miles of dusty road, and one reaches the remains of Fort Craig. It’s a national historic site, operated by the Bureau of Land Management. The kind of place where retirees can park a trailer and live free/cheap in return for keeping it open

View of mountains

The fort itself is mostly a matter of crumbling walls, though some still stand higher. It was part of a chain along the Royal Road (El Camino Real) leading to Santa Fe. The United States Army spent time there during campaigns against the Apache in particular (Apache no doubt have very different names for it!) Some Buffalo Soldiers were stationed there. I picked up a book in the shop containing papers delivered at a Fort Craig conference. (I confess, I haven’t read them in depth yet — my historical fantasy/magical realism writings are currently taking a more southerly route from El Paso to San Diego.

Ruined walls with path leading around them

I took a lot of pictures — but there’s only so many ruined walls one can post. So here’s a log playing the role of a cannon, placed atop a crumbling perimeter barrier

Log in the shape of a cannon lying on remains of fort wall

In Honor of Spring

Lorain County, Ohio, owns and operates a number of parks. One, Schoefple Garden, is just over the county line, in Vermillion, because the previous owner evidently had a high respect for the Lorain parks manager and bequeathed his estate to the county. It’s got a number of interesting features — such as a garden incorporating music and plants . . .

And also the more traditional walks through woods where once an interurban train line ran, along with walks along the river.

It never hurts to check out stray parks around a corner. One never knows what one might find!

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

The weather where I live is bouncing back and forth between almost-spring and still-winter. So for today’s site, here’s something a bit warmer — the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. It’s a zoo! it’s a botanical garden! it’s a natural history museum! and much more. (It’s also just down the road from one section of the Saguaro National Park but the latter will have to wait for another post.)

The bookstore alone is one good reason to visit — lots of wonderful, interesting texts about the region’s history, natural history, and more.

The museum is, of course, mostly outside and occasionally underground. Here are two attractions, one dead and one living.

I took a lot of photos during one of my visits (I spent a number of years close enough to visit Tucson and the museum on several occasions). I’m restraining myself rather than overwhelm visitors with images, but here are three showcasing vistas (those are not merely mountains but sky islands in the distance), cacti, and flowers.

The raptor free flights are one of the museum’s many attractions. They’re seasonal–the birds aren’t flown free during the hottest months–and definitely make for a fine show. Here are two samples from my visits.

Owl perched atop a long, thin cacti
Owl landed
Raptor flying with mountains in the distance
Raptor in flight

The Sunken Trace

Shows where centuries of travel by Natchez, Chickasaw, and other peoples wore down the earth more than five feet in places.
The Sunken Trace, Natchez Trace Parkway, 9 February 2018

A little over a year ago, I moved from the Southwest to the Midwest. I took a month off to move and settle in, and have a bit of a breather before starting a new job. I did a facilitated self-move (hired labor at either end to pack and unpack a truck, which I drove myself), then flew back and drove my car a slightly different route. I am an inveterate planner, but for once I didn’t plan ahead and arrange all my lodgings, stops, etc. I went with the flow.

That said, I went with the flow with a semi-formed goal in mind: to drive the Natchez Trace Parkway. I’ve driven, or been driven, along many of the most beautiful roads in the US at one point or another (Skyline Drive, Kancamagus Highway, Going to the Sun Road, northern parts of Route One). I made it to the Parkway (lets not talk right now about just how long it takes to drive across Texas) and got all of 100 miles along it before I bowed to fate. It was raining, heavily, and the forecast predicted rain, rain, and more rain for all the days before when I absolutely had to be in the Midwest. I left the Parkway in favor of roads that are easier to drive when one is a stranger forging through pouring rain (I got lost first, but that’s a sidepoint).

Nevertheless, I was able to drive far enough along the Parkway to see the Sunken Trace — which is every bit as stunning as I’d hoped. The overcast sky lent the scene a gray stillness, and contributed to my being the only person there. I’ll admit a had a flash decidedly out of this world (it brought to mind the scene in Peter Jackson’s Fellowship where the hobbits hide from the wraiths in the roots of a tree). Nevertheless, the real power of this spot is the centuries of travel along it. The Park Service sign suggests visitors walk along it imagining themselves back to 1800 — but I didn’t stop there. Centuries of Mississippian peoples (Choctaw, Chickasaw) passed by long before any of European descent. It’s all these peoples taking the same path to/from that wore it down between the trees to such an extent. It’s definitely worth visiting–and revisiting.

I’m going back, someday, to drive the whole Parkway and stop at all of the historic and nature spots that the 444-mile road boasts. Someday. Until then, memories and the photo posted above (taken about when the rain started) will have to suffice.

National Park Service sign providing background on the Sunken Trace
Sunken Trace Sign, Natchez Trace Parkway, 9 February 2018