Monday, April 25, 2011

Serpent Mound and Adams County

The air is like a butterfly
With frail blue wings.
The happy earth looks at the sky
And sings
- Joyce Kilmer
Last week I visited several locations in Adams County in Ohio which offered moderate hiking, but lovely nonetheless. I had two reasons to visit these places: I was looking for some of the early spring flowers; and I am recovering from some knee pain, so I couldn't get into any strenuous hike.

This has been a particularly wet April and the early spring flowers are just now beginning to come out. One place I had been meaning to visit is the historical Serpent Mound in Northern Adams County. The Great Serpent Mound is what is called an effigy mound meaning piled earth in the form of some creature - in this case a giant snake.
Over 1300 feet long, this sinuous serpents wends its way along ending in the head which faces out over a large limestone outcropping facing toward the Summer Solstice Sunset.

It is the largest effigy mound in the world and is believed to have been built by the Ft. Ancient culture that existed in Ohio around 1000 AD. There have been no human remains found on the site and is believed to have been a worshipping site by the culture tied around astrological wonders. The Cherokee culture believed in the power of the horned serpent who wielded supernatural powers though some groups believed the snake to be tied to the sky gods and thus possibly the astrological tie-in.

Visiting the Serpent Mound not only affords the opportunity to wander over the area next to the mound, but also there is a short hiking trail that is somewhat primitive and winds downward below the area of the mound within the Brush Creek basin.
Since there has been much rain, portions of the trail were flooded, though I was able to step around and through a rather sometimes muddy area and look at many of the early Spring flowers including the magnificent large Snow Trillium.

In addition to the Snow Trillium, the Ohio state wildflower, there were also what appeared to be Virginia Bluebells, Bellwort and Larkspur. The flowers were ubiquitous.

Here in Ohio, we are lucky to have such a magnificent site to visit if you have any inclination toward the history and pre-history of the state. Serpent Mound is off State Route 73 which passes through Adams County toward the Arc of Appalachia nearer to the Shawnee National Forest. However, at this point the hills are still gently rolling giving some excitement to the surrounding landscape, but nothing on par with being farther south.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Stopping by the woods...

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
- Robert Frost

There's always something wonderful about being in the woods on a snowy day, hiking with the cornstarch crunch of snow under your feet; Surrounded by the gentle cold breeze whisping through the trees and the occasional call of a snow bird. But most of all is the quiet.

This week I spent some time in the Caesar's Creek Nature Preserve with the woods to myself. It is a gentle hike though moving through six inches of snow on the ground can be taxing on the legs over time. Hiking in snow, one doesn't have the sure foot of ground below as you move up or down the hills that make up this quiet location. While others have trod before me, it was a pleasure to see the revealing tracks of various wood creatures be it deer, winter rabbits, racoons and other smaller creatures. I knew I wasn't completely alone with a rather large doe leaped at least 8 feet across the wide path before me. In an instant she was gone blending invisibly into the background.

I especially like hiking where I will pass by a quiet burbling stream as with this one except the stream is the Little Miami River at a low point, but beginning to run more strongly as some of the snows are melting. It is still January and February is often the cruelest month in this part of Ohio. Though winter came early this year, there are no signs that nature is ready for spring yet. I did find some dormant green grass revealed sheltered by a tree where the snow had melted away. So I know I can always count on the Spring resurgence of life yet to come.

But, alas, though it is pleasant, one cannot dawdle as poet Frost continued:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
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