Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Road East

9.11 Effigy Mounds, Josh & Wu
We were facing a 30+ hour drive with our cat, TomTom and our infamous dog, Wu. It was going to be an intense and long drive but we were determined to make it fun. Josh and I planned out a few stops across the country that were in National Parks, Monuments and Forests. Why not see the back road beauty of our country as we make our way halfway across the nation?

The first night we planned our stop in Decorah, Iowa. Neither of us had seen Iowa before and this was a great opportunity. It looked incredibly similar to Nebraska or Kansas or Indiana until we came to the Mississippi River valley. The hills were green and the trees were just beginning their fall change.

As early as we could manage we were on our way to Effigy Mounds National Monument. It's located in Harpers Ferry, Iowa with the Effigy Mounds nestled along the mighty Mississippi River. The road was very country and wound for miles through the hills.

The National Monument, itself, spread out along the terrace overlooking the river. It cost $3 per person for us to hike the trails and after paying the fee we headed to the northern area. There are miles of walking paths that follow the course of the river and meander to various groupings of mounds.

9.11 Fire Point Overlook
We stopped at several overlooks and enjoyed the leaves which were starting to turn. The overlooks were breathtaking and our favorite was Fire Point. The Mississippi had risen above it's banks and from Fire Point we watched the water race through the drowning treetops. At each stop we had a bird's eye view of the Mississippi River and surrounding woodlands.

It's easy to see why this area has been sacred for thousands of years and why past peoples created the earthen mounds that populate this area. The most popular mound shape we saw was conical. There were numerous mounds in other shapes like bears and birds which could be found too. Most of the mounds are raised just a few feet and wild grasses are allowed to grow nearly unhampered on their tops. The groundkeepers trim up to the edge of the mounds and help to outline and pronounce the mounds shape.

9.11 Effigy Mounds NM, Iowa
Since their discovery several of the mounds groupings have been excavated but still there is little known about the people that built them. The mounds themselves can be dated to be 1000-1200 years old with the conical mounds being the oldest. Most of the time the mounds held the burials of several individuals but there's no way to tell if it's family groups or otherwise. The history here was very interesting and there's still so much to be learned!

The mounds were well preserved and as we followed the path through the forest it felt peaceful and serene. It turned out to be a beautiful morning stroll with the sun just risen and the air still crisp and we were completely alone most of the time. It's moments like that when I realize how lucky we are. 

The rest of our morning was spent exploring and we made sure to get checked in at the Visitor's Center. The Effigy Mounds NM was another stamp for our National Parks Passport. As our adventure here came to an end we packed up Wu and headed east with only 1400 miles left to go...

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