Sunday, October 13, 2019

Etowah Indian Mounds (family adventure, part 1)

Andrew suggested we go on a family adventure this weekend. He originally suggested we attend a famous apple festival, but the more we looked into it the more we felt it would be very off brand for our family—milling about booths with hordes of people, looking at things we had no intention of actually buying, trying to keep track of our children, paying for overpriced rides...

It's true we need some apples, but a festival didn't seem like the place for us to get them. 

So with very minimal research (admittedly also a little off brand for us) we struck off on a different sort of adventure on Saturday morning—a "history time" adventure (which sounds much more like us). Benjamin was elated to hear our first stop was the Etowah Indian Mounds, which he'd heard about at school while studying the regions of Georgia. They're not too far from us—about an hour's drive—and it was well worth the visit.

We learned that the mounds were built by prehistoric tribes (that the Muscogee (Creek) would later descend from). The museum had a beautiful timeline featuring various pottery sherds showing the age of the pottery (and thus dating the occupation of Etowah). The oldest pottery is found around the mounds is from around 1000 AD (though older pottery (200 BC to 600 AD) has been found at the site, archeologists believe such pottery pre-dates the mounds themselves) and the newest from the 1500/1600s. A large ditch was built around the village and the earth removed during ditch construction was used to create the center mounds where important buildings would be placed (the chief's house, ceremonial buildings, a mortuary, and things like that). 

Here are the kids in front of a replica of a wattle and daub house:

Poor Alexander was passed around a lot on this trip since we forgot his stroller and his leg was still bothering him. Here he is clinging to Rachel in the hut:

And here are Zoë and Benjamin looking impressively bored:

It's an easy walk from the museum out to the mounds. We enjoyed watching the birds...

...and the bees...

...along the way.

Here we all are smiling nicely for a picture:

And here we are complaining about the sun being in our eyes:

At the start of our day, running up 106 steps to summit a 63 foot hill sounded like a lot of fun, so we did it with gusto (and later Benjamin would do it again because he lost count of steps on the way up the first time). 63 feet is taller than a six-storey building (according to wikipedia), so the view from the top was pretty great (since we live in a deciduous forest, where trees typically only grow to approximately 60 feet—and you can really see that with the next picture since the mound is about level with the surrounding trees):

Here we are heading up the stairs:

Rachel has been so sweet about helping Alexander (we're all so glad he's deciding to brave walking again, though he still begs to be carried a lot and is still limping):

Here's Benjamin dashing up the stairs to count them again:

He said, "106! There are 106 stairs! I counted while I ran up. I just breathed the numbers because I can breathe numbers, ya know."

Here are some shots of the compound from the top of Mound A, the tallest mound, looking out at Mounds B and C, I believe, which are both much shorter (25 feet and 10 feet):

The kids found it exhilarating to be up so high with the wind rushing past us. Here are cute Miriam and Rachel (with matching shoes because they both liked the same ones (but their feet differ so greatly in size that it's not remotely confusing for them)):

Here are Miriam and Benjamin racing to tell me that "It's just a cliff!!" on the other side of the mound (while Zoë found a bench to sit on; she was obsessed with finding and sitting on benches this trip):

In actuality, the other side of the slope isn't quite a cliff, though from the top it certainly seems that way! It slopes down just the same as the other sides. The kids had fun running around at the top, joking about how funny it would be to play soccer up there and have the ball go out of bounds...and down a 60 foot hill (and how terrible it would be to carry groceries up to the top (though they supposed that since the chief lived at the top he probably had servants to carry his groceries)).

Zoë was in a remarkably good mood this find morning:

The kids seemed to be having so much fun that Alexander insisted on being put down to take a few bumbling steps:

His little limp makes him keel heavily to the left, which means he never goes quite where he's aiming to go (which is rather terrifying when you're at the top of a steep incline, so he didn't get put down much).

When I first heard about "Indian mounds" I had assumed they would be burial mounds, which naturally would call for some reverence, so I was surprised to learn that these mounds were just part of the city. It's still an important ancestral town for the Creek, we felt like it was okay to have a little fun there. Here are Benjamin and Zoë enjoying the view an ancient chief might have had:

Here we are heading back down all those stairs:

Here we are on top of one of the smaller mounds:

And attempting a jumping picture:

Here's an attempt at a family picture (we really need to get those done for real):

And here's an attempt at a silly picture (I set the timer on the camera and then ran into the frame and didn't have time to get all the way into a headstand and it's kind of hilarious):

So here's another attempt:

Andrew and Alexander aren't very good at being silly. And for the rest of us, apparently "silly" means "upside down."

We had fun strolling by the Etowah River. There is still an ancient v-shaped dam in the river bed, designed to channel fish into nets (pretty ingenious (I don't know if you can see it in this picture)).

We were in awe of how big around the trees were (because we've never been to the redwood forest (and it shows)). Here are the kids giving some of the bigger trees a hug:

You have to be careful about which trees you hug around these parts (and, in fact, this ginormous tree does have some poison ivy to the left of Benjamin, but the kids are fine where they are). Each prospective candidate must first be examined for poison ivy. This tree, for example, is a tree you might regret hugging:

These sneaky vines are all over the place!

The kids had fun hunting for nuts and trying to crack them open. Benjamin was pelting walnuts at tree trunks (and then quickly turning around to shield himself from the walnut as it ricocheted back toward him):

Miriam found the remnant of some sort of...thing...which she thought looked like a pig snout:

Here's Benjamin throwing things into the river (where they don't come flying back to hit him):

Here's Zoë begging to keep a carefully curated walnut (we said no since it's against the park rules to remove anything from the park):

Here's everyone feeling worn out and ready for lunch:

Don't they just look like a happy bunch? And then there was Zoë who was just happy to be there...

Seriously so happy...

I don't know how everyone else was so grumpy when our resident grump was having the time of her life!

Fortunately we had just the thing to cure everyone's blues—a picnic lunch (though we had to hike out to the car to get it). Here are the kids standing on an old stump on our way back to the museum:

Alexander was super annoyed that we put him up there:

Here are the kids enjoying one last look at the model fo the village in the museum:

Everyone was very happy to fill their bellies (a hangry little crew, they were):

They were also excited to see some good climbing trees:

This particular tree was the most popular tree for the kids to hang out in:

Here they all are together:

Zoë was rather over sitting on her branch by the time we were finished with this little photo shoot:

We debated whether we should just go home at this point, or whether we should hit the next item on our itinerary. It really had been a pretty full day already and the kids were feeling a little tired, but when we saw that there was an accident slowing down traffic on our route home we decided to make the second stop—a Civil War site (so Benjamin was once again pretty excited about that). 

We pulled over to take some pictures of a cotton field on our way out of the park—a sign of autumn in the south:

It's an interesting crop to see, at least for us since it's not one that we're used to spotting. It was also interesting to see crops still growing and fields still being irrigated since I know my cousins have finished with their harvest (and have already endured a massive snow storm). Yet, here we are with our leaves just barely starting to change:


  1. I enjoyed this. So funny that Zoë was so happy compared to the others at that one point. She looks great with a smile. :) I love her looking at you in the first handstand picture. And Alexander on the tree stump...that face! Ha! Thanks for the history lesson, too!