Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Southern Ohio - an Area of Global Significance?

You wouldn't expect an area between two correctional institutes outside a small city in Southern Ohio to be an area of Global Significance. But it is. If you travel to Chillicothe in South-Central Ohio and travel State Route 104, you will come to the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park. At this very unassuming and small Visitor Center, you would be at the center of the "most spectacular concentration of Ancient Earthworks in the World." Yes, the world.

The term Hopewell encompasses several different Native American groups of differing economic, spiritual and political beliefs who lived in this area from 200 B.C. to A.D. 500. The main characteristic that all these peoples have in common was "construction of earthen walls and mounds of various shapes and sizes." They were the Mound Builders.

And if you visit the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park you would be fascinated by their history. The Visitor Center includes a 20 minute film explaining the history of the Mound Builders, a small museum with artifacts from archeological digs here and a small bookstore. Then you can walk on the trails and paths to see the Mounds themselves. 

People of the Hopewell Culture seettled along waterways - such as the Scioto River here - and lived in very small settlements. Usually only a few houses per area. Rather than hunters, these peoples were more agricultural and started some of the first Native American farming. They were largely into trading and archeological digs of the mounds found marine shells, copper and mica - which could only have been found outside of this area. Archeologists believe that there was a trading route set up all across what is now the U.S. and southern Canada known as the Hopewell Exchange System.

Earthworks and burial mounds were the trademark of the Hopewell peoples. Earthworks were geometrical complexes and conical mounds. In the photo above, at the bottom left, the circle would fit inside the square and the square inside the large orange structure. All of these mounds were exactly the same no matter where they were built - be it Southern Ohio or northern Wisconsin. Mounds could take decades to build and were built through filling container after container with earth and dumping them until they had a mound. Sometimes 20 or 30 years worth of earth dumping. 

Generally, these mounds were used for religious practices or funerals. We know this because of archeological digs which uncovered funeral pyres with some bodies stacked with mica in between - which might have been those of higher caste in the society. This mound, pictured above, was filled with over 200 effigy pipes - which were believed to be smoked during funeral services - carved in the likeness of animals. Other artifacts found were artwork and pottery.

At the Mound City Group in Chillicothe there is an earthen wall around the mounds. 

Some historians and archeologists believe that the mounds also were encoded to sunrises, sunsets, equinoxes, solstices and were lunar observatories.

Unfortunately, over the years many mounds were destroyed due to farming practices - farmers thought they were a huge nuisance - or just because they weren't thought to be important. During the War of 1812, this area became a Prisoner of War camp. In the 1840's two surveyors - Ephraim Squire and Edwin Davis - began the important work of documenting the mounds and the Hopewell culture. In June of 1917, Chillicothe would become the home of Camp Sherman and the population would swell from 16,000 to 60,000. Barracks had to be built - and quickly - but luckily some men from the Ohio Historical Society were able to talk the government into building the buildings around the mounds - though some were inadvertently destroyed. 

What it looked like in 1846

Today you can visit Hopewell National Historical Park and walk the mounds. It seems to be a place forgotten about in modern times. But that makes it no less fascinating to me. I realize this isn't a bucket list, top travel site so you wouldn't plan a trip here just to see these mounds - and if it was to you, you probably have already seen them - but if you're traveling through Southern Ohio, it's worth a stop. See where some of North American civilization began.

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This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and The Weekend Travel Blog Party!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Hangin in St. Pete Beach, Florida

If you were hanging out in St. Petersburg Beach, Florida for a week, you probably would be happy to dig your toes in the sand and relax in a beach chair for the most part. After all, the Gulf Coast of Florida is known for it's golden sand beaches, calm, turquoise water and incredible sunsets. But if you felt the need to do something else, you'd be happy to find that St. Pete Beach and the surrounding area of St. Petersburg and Tampa have quite a bit to do besides beach walking - though that would be fine to do, too. I spent a week vacationing in St. Pete Beach with friends - and here's what we got up to.

Fort Desoto Park
Let's start with the obvious. Beach. Fort Desoto Park is 5 interconnected islands with beaches, camping, kayaking, picnic shelters, and a nature trail. There are two designated swimming areas with concession stands and lifeguards - and Fort Desoto is the only park in the area with a dog park where dogs are allowed on the beach. There is also the historic fort that you may explore (you can download or pick up a pamphlet explaining the history of the fort) Obviously Fort Deosoto offers enough for at least an afternoon visit. We enjoyed the caribbean blue water of North Beach - this was our only beach sitting we did. (Admission fee is charged)

Visit the Salvador Dali Museum
The Salvador Dali Museum, located in downtown St. Petersburg, houses the largest collection of Dali's art outside of Europe. The Dali is open daily, late on Thursday, and is worth a visit, if not for Dali's art but also for the building itself. Located on the St. Petersburg waterfront, which is reminiscent of where Dali is from in Spain, the museum includes an outdoor art garden, Cafe Gala - serving meditterean fare and of course, a gift shop. It's a small museum but I found it fascinating to learn about Dali, his art and his life.

Take a boat ride on Boca Ciega Bay
We chose to take a sunset sail on Boca Ciega Bay - which was wonderful! - but you can also choose dolphin watching cruises, or a boat ride out to one of the keys, Shell or Egmont. There are a couple different companies to book with - we sailed with Dolphin Landings. They're easy to book online and we were able to bring our own beverages - they put them in a cooler for you - and refreshments. And we were able to see a beautiful sunset and experience a thunder storm on the same sail!

Visit a Craft Brewery
St. Petersburg has jumped on the craft brewery bandwagon. We hit up two - Green Bench Brewery and 3-D Brewery.

Green Bench was St. Pete's first microbrewery. Located downtown in the Edge district and started by two college roomates, Green Bench has a tasting room and an outdoor beer garden. So named because St. Petersburg was "the City of Green Benches" in the early 1900's - some 2500 of them lined the streets - Green Bench has 20 ever-changing taps and overlooks Tropicana Field.

3 Daughters Brewing is the largest brewery in St. Petersburg. They offer Trivia nights, food trucks, live music on the weekends and games galore. We enjoyed some outdoor brew sipping on one of the back porches in rockers. And just so you know, the name comes from the owners 3 daughters - as in, how much beer do you have to sell to put 3 daughters through college?

Get Funky in Gulfport
Toward the south end of the St. Pete/Clearwater peninsula lies Gulfport. Known for it's artsy and quirky shops, waterfront restaurants and vibrant art scene, Gulfport is where you go if you want funky in St. Pete. Art walks take place on the first Friday and last Saturday of every month and there is a farmers market every Tuesday. It's biggest claim to fame is Geckofest, an annual celebration of the end of summer. People in crazy costumes, live music and offbeat street performers make this festival one of the funkiest - and largest. So go get your funky on and have a few drinks at a waterfront bar, enjoy a meal and peek into some of the shops.

The bar is a boat!

Visit The Don
The legendary Don CeSar opened in 1928. Once the playground for pampered society, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, it  also served as a VA hospital during World War II. Saved from ruin by a group of concerned citizens, it opened as a full-service resort, including spa, in 1973. It has served as a movie set, music video set and tv drama set. If it's a bit too hoity-toity for your blood to stay there, you can always enjoy some beachside beverages or hang out in the lobby bar listening to a jazz trio. We enjoyed the sunset from the pool bar. 

Johns Pass
Johns Pass is a shopping/eating/walking village right on the water at yes, you guessed it - John's Pass. There are over 100 merchants and it is set up to resemble a fishing village. If you catch a rainy day or feel you've had too much sunshine then this would be a good spot for a stroll, a meal and some boat watching. We had lunch here and then hung out at the Bamboo Beach Bar - it's quite the festive place to be with live music and drink specials. Be aware that Johns Pass is the number one tourist attraction in St. Pete Beach so you may run into crowds - especially on the weekends. Every Fall they hold a Seafood&Music Festival which has been voted the favorite festival so if you're there then you may want to check it out.

Cross the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

If you're a bridge afficionado, the Sunshine Skyway has to be on your list. Voted by the Travel Channel as 3rd in it's top 10 bridges, it is a cable-stayed bridge and is 4 miles long. The first version of the Sunshine Skyway was hit by a tanker ship in 1980 and this new version was opened in 1987. (It's part of Interstate 275 and there is a toll) And who knows? Maybe you'll see a car commercial being filmed! (You might want to reconsider this one if you don't like heights)

And finally, hang out at a beach bar and watch the sunset!

There are so many beach bars in St. Pete Beach that I couldn't name them all - or visit them all in a week. But we definitely enjoyed having a cocktail and watching the sunset with our toes in the sand.

We've hung out at The Undertow, Sloppy Joe's (the Key West favorite has a branch in St. Pete), Postcard Inn on the Beach's license plate coated bar, Caddy's on the Beach, the Bamboo Beach Bar at John's Pass(not on the beach but on the water), the Brass Monkey -which is technically across from the beach but still beachfront - and the rooftop bar at the Kimpton Hotel Zamora, which is , also, not beachfront but definitely beachview. So if you're going for those beachy bar, watch the sunset vibes, St. Pete Beach has what you're looking for. I'm sure of it!

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party and Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute!