Wednesday, May 25, 2011

We Have Walked on Sacred Ground

Etowah Indian Mounds - Cartersville, Georgia
The Etowah Indian Mounds are located near Cartersville, Georgia, midway between Chattanooga and Atlanta, just a few miles off Interstate 75. The landmark has a very nice little museum and interpretive center. The mounds are unbelievable.

Archaeologists believe this site was the principal village in the region between 1,000 - 1,500 AD. It's easy to see why this rich valley was a popular place to live. The Etowah River flows through the property, and the mounds provided a safe retreat from the annual flood waters that breached its banks. The floods of the Etowah also brought rich silt (and gold) from the mountains and provided the valley with resources unmatched in the region. Notice the ancient Native American fish weir, very visible in the picture below (click to zoom).

When visiting this historic park, one of the first things you learn is that the entire site is considered "sacred ground" by the descendants of the original inhabitants. In times past, members of the Muscogee (Creek) families buried their loved ones under their river-cane beds when they passed. Over several hundred years, most of the village became one large cemetery. What this means today is archaeological excavation is next to impossible. Only one of the site's mounds has been fully excavated, but it revealed a tremendous amount insight into the lifestyle of ancient city's inhabitants. 

The Etowah Indian Mounds were built over many generations, each adding its own later. One mound, the tallest, was dedicate to the Chief. Another mound was dedicated to the superstar ball players (little has changed  in 1,000 years.)  The excavated mound was found to be a mortuary mound, final resting place for over 300 highly regarded tribe members.

Opinions differ as to the significance of the other mounds (10+ total). I have my opinions, but I'm hardly an expert. Click here for many more pictures and details.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Little River Canyon Center

Fort Payne, Alabama -  Read the rest of the story
he Little River Canyon is carved from the side of Lookout Mountain in Northeast Alabama near Fort Payne. The Little River flows through the canyon to Lake Weiss, the Coosa River, and eventually, the Gulf of Mexico. There are many features of the canyon that make it an attractive destination. There is kayaking, hiking, and fishing in the canyon, and several good places to camp in the area. One new feature that is particularly inviting is the Little River Canyon Center
The Little River Canyon Center is a cooperative endeavor between the National Park Service and Jacksonville State University. Randy Owen of the legendary country band Alabama is a Jacksonville State Trustee and was instrumental in the center's establishment. The facility serves as a field school for the university. Professors and students provide expertise and resources for public interpretive programs and classes that take place at the center's indoor and outdoor classrooms.
The 23,000 square foot Little River Canyon Center is still very new, so they are working on making it an unforgettable educational experience. In addition to the existing classrooms, there are plans for an indoor interactive museum that will teach about the geology and natural science of Little River Canyon. The way it was described to me it sounded like a lot of fun and included an educational climbing wall.
Outside the beautifully designed building is a massive deck constructed of recycled materials. The view from the deck is very nice, and there are plans to add a stage for concerts and various other events. There are several outdoor interpretive classrooms located along a path that arcs through the natural North Alabama underbrush behind the building. There is also an old log cabin on display that was built in the early 1800s.
We have much to learn about the Little River Canyon Center, and we plan to visit again soon. For more details, visit Jacksonville State University's webpage. For a calendar of events, click here. For more pictures and Adventure Journal entry, click here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Paddle faster Daddy, I think I hear banjos!

Adventure Journal Entry Date: May 2011  
We decided this would be our year to really explore water-related activities. Santa brought two 14' canoes this Christmas, and we immediately christened them by paddling with the manatee in Salt Springs, Florida. In fact, we've taken the canoes out numerous times, but always on still water. We figured it was about time to try moving water, so we decided to re-visit Cedar Creek Park on a weekend that the folks at CRBI (Coosa River Basin Initiative) were sponsoring a five-mile paddle trip down the creek. That way, we'd be with people that were familiar with the creek, and might help us along the way. We became acquainted with CRBI through a friend, and have since joined the group. More on them later, let's talk about the paddle first.

The shuttle was supposed to leave for the drop-off point around 10am Saturday morning. We'd camped at the park, so pulling ourselves together in time wasn't too difficult. Fortunately, the outfitter store at Cedar Creek had all the special items we hadn't thought of. I mean, do we really need water proof bags? We're not planning on getting wet!

We had a nice size group, filling two shuttle vans with paddlers and trailers with kayaks of various sizes, and two long canoes. James and Debbie, owners of Cedar Creek Park were incredibly helpful and gracious. James went ahead with a chainsaw to clear trees that had fallen across the creek as a result of a tornado that had ripped through the area earlier in the week. Debbie and our friend David hung back with us novices to give us some pointers. We piled into the creek one by one, and headed downstream. Rebecca, Lee Thomas, and John Micah in one canoe, and Heath, Lainey, and I in the other.

Cedar creek is a pretty mild mannered piece of water, at least that's what I'd been told. I had nothing to compare it with. Rough water means rocks, Debbie said. Ok, I'll avoid the rough water. Wait, all I see up there is rough water! So, I tucked my tail between my legs, and paddled hard, following the kayak in front of me through the rapid. The bottom of our canoe smacking rocks all the way. Rebecca did the same. Woo hoo, we made it through!

Pretty early in the trip, there was a drop in the creek that required a hard turn right to avoid a rock. I made it through with our canoe, but Rebecca did not. Her canoe was quickly swamped, and for a brief moment, she couldn't see the kids. Not to worry, everyone had life jackets on, and there were several people right there to help her get the canoe emptied and reloaded. Unfortunately, this spill and talks of another rough spot down the creek made Rebecca nervous the rest of the trip. The funny thing is, it never came. Click here for the rest of the story, including many more pictures and details.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cedar Creek Park - Cave Spring, Georgia

Come play in the water!   Read the full story
Cedar Creek Park is cradled by the banks of its namesake in Northwest Georgia near Cave Spring. The clean, cold water winds from the ancient Cherokee farmlands and foothills to the Coosa River, and eventually the Gulf of Mexico. Big Cedar Creek  provides multiple opportunities for sport and entertainment. For instance, you can rent a kayak or canoe from the outfitter store, and they will shuttle you upstream for an invigorating 5-mile paddle back down. It's a lot of fun, and the creek is typically very safe and  "family friendly."  Back at the campground, fishing, swimming, and rock hounding are all pretty good at the creek. It's rocky, so wear water shoes.
Water, however, is not all this park has to offer. The most obvious non-aquatic feature is the driving range. From any campsite at Cedar Creek, it's just a short walk to the tee-boxes. We like to hit a bucket or two after a good meal, just around sunset.

Additionally, the outfitter/camp store has a variety of sports and game supplies such as horse shoes, volleyball, badminton, and much more for loan. Movies are also available! Simply check-out the items and return them when you're done. Their use is free. These are just a few of the perks of Cedar Creek Park.

While on the subject of the Cedar Creek outfitter store... WOW! If you are looking for a kayak or canoe, a personal flotation device, or a water-proof cell phone holder, you are in luck. This store is all about fun on the water. It also carries most of the basic RV essentials and a limited number of convenience items. There is, after all, a nice little grocery store is just a couple minutes away, just before THE light in Cave Spring.

Every member of the Richardson Tribe has his or her eyes on the ground regularly, seeking previously overlooked treasures such as semi-precious stones and artifacts. Creek beds in this region can yield very nice specimens of quartz and other crystals in various forms. Also, this is within the gold belt that is known for its rich placer deposits. At this site, I have found small geodes containing nicely formed crystals, cloudy and colorful quartz crystals, and a wide variety of flint and chert nodules. With regards to artifacts, there is no doubt that arrowheads and other ancient stone tools can be found here. Check laws regarding artifact collection, and always ask the property owner's permission to search for artifacts.

The gravel campsites are pretty good, but not perfect. Many of the sites back-up to the creek and provide a nice lawn overlooking the water. The sites are surprisingly level for water-side sites. However, because creek-side real estate is limited, those sites are pretty narrow for the most part. If you are expecting "state park" sites with all their acreage and privacy, you may be disappointed. What this place does have that most state parks don't? Full hookups For the Richardson Tribe, that's a big deal.
Another very positive aspect of Cedar Creek Park is its proximity to so many great places to go and things to do. It's just a stone's throw from Cave Spring's, Rome, Lake Weiss, Cedartown, the Silver Comet Trail, and much more. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Archaeology Day and Iron Pour - Red Top Mountain State Park

Note: We are reviving this Adventure Journal entry from this time last year because the annual Archaeology Day and Iron Pour at Red Top Mountain State Park is once again upon us. We feel compelled to draw attention to the event because it is one of our most cherished memories. If you are looking for an unusually fun and educational way to spend the weekend in North Georgia, this event is a no-brainer. The Tribe has since visited Red Top Mountain State Park numerous times, and we often camp at McKinney Campground located just around the bend on Lake Allatoona.  Archaeology Day this year falls on, May 7, 2011 10 AM to 8 PM.
Adventure Journal
Entry Date: May 2010
Prior to this visit, we had driven through Red Top Mountain State Park a couple of times just to check it out. There are many things that are appealing about the park. It's on Lake Allatoona, which means fishing and water sports. It is easily accessible, just a few minutes off Interstate 75 about 30 minutes North of Atlanta. It's convenient to a good number of restaurants, an exceptional movie theater, and two wonderful museums, the Tellus Science Museum, and the Booth Western Art Museum.

The attraction for making this the weekend to camp at Red Top? Archaeology Day. Saturday was filled with great activities. We started at 10am with a park archaeologist explaining how to recognize sites where artifacts might be found. Then we toured the old iron mine on Red Top via a hay ride wagon pulled by a tractor. The path we took was along an old narrow gauge railroad bed that was used to transport the iron ore. We had a nice view of the lake for some of the ride.

After lunch we got to dig for artifacts. Everyone got to keep an arrowhead, and yes, we know they are not real, but it was still fun to learn how it's done. Each of the kids also got a mold frame ($7 ea.) for carving things to cast in iron (which happened later in the day). That evening after Supper, we headed back over to the lodge to enjoy some Bluegrass music and watch them pour melted iron into our molds. It was a lot to do in a day, so we were tired when we got back to the camper (around 11pm). Click here for the rest of the story and lots more pictures and information about Red Top Mountain and their various events.