I've written about Native American mounds a few times, such as our trip to see some in Wisconsin, and a trip to West Virginia where our hotel was near the Criel Mound. There is one mound in the Midwest, though, that is the grand-daddy of them all: the Serpent Mound in Ohio. It's the largest effigy mound in North America, and I think in the world, too. Last month Wendy and I took a weekend trip to see it, as well as see some of the sights in nearby Cincinnati.
One of the first things we did to prepare for our trip is buy a cooler with wheels. When we went to Kansas and Nebraska for the solar eclipse a few years ago, Bill and Beth had one that we borrowed. It was so handy to have. So we bought one the night before our Serpent Mound trip, and filled it with water bottles and all kinds of snacks: bread, cheese, hummus, veggies, and fruit.
It took about six hours to get to Cincinnati, but a time change made it seven. It was dinner time when we got there, so as soon as we checked into our hotel, we went back out to eat. After dinner, we stopped at a place called Graeter's for ice cream. It was $5 for a single large scoop of ice cream, which seemed really expensive to me, but I have to admit it was very good. I had cookies and cream, which I really liked, but Wendy had salted caramel with chocolate chips, and it was even better.
First thing the next morning we drove 90 minutes east of Cincinnati to the Serpent Mound. The drive was mostly on a major highway (and wow, were there a lot of police out and about; I lost count how many times Google Maps said "There's a speed trap ahead") but the last 20 minutes or so were on narrow, curvy roads through lots of hills.
There's a gift shop and very small museum at the Serpent Mound, which we looked at first. One of the things that really surprised me is that the Serpent Mound was built on the site of a huge, ancient meteor crater! The construction of the serpent also has astronomical significance. The serpent's head points to where the sun sets on the summer solstice, and the curves in the serpent's body point to other astronomical events. I did not know these things, and they fascinated me!
We then walked all around the Serpent Mound (twice, actually, at my request) and climbed an observation tower to get a better view. The mound is 1,400 feet long, and even at the top of the tower, it's hard to see all of it clearly.
When we first arrived at the mound, there weren't many people there. But as the morning progressed, it got much busier. We think we might have seen some kind of Wiccan wedding, too! There was a picnic shelter reserved for a private event, and it seemed like a man and woman were at the center of the attention. Later we saw the group walking around the mound and the groom was wearing a skirt and long, blue robe. Unusual, if nothing else.
By this time, it was noon, and we were hungry, so we made a lunch from the many snacks in our cooler. Before leaving, we stopped at the gift shop again, and I scored some loot, which included this super cool wooden turtle bowl:
Then we drove back to Cincinnati (once again avoiding the speed traps) and had enough time left in the day to visit the American Sign Museum. It was fairly small and a little disappointing, to be honest, given the great reviews we'd read, but it did have many different kinds of colorful signs.
The next day was our last day in Cincinnati, and we made the most of it. We started the day by going to the Cincinnati zoo, which is the second oldest zoo in the country. There were lots of neat things to do. We started out with a "cheetah encounter" where we got to see a male and female cheetah sprinting. The female was faster, but the male was terrifyingly big and still very fast.
Later on we waited in a very long line to ride the train around the zoo. It was an okay train ride, certainly not great, but two notable things came out of it. One, as we rode by a small lake, everyone saw some turtles sunning themselves on a log. This caused great excitement among all the kids on the train, and one little boy yelled out "I want a turtle SO BAD!" Ha. I know the feeling, kid.
The other notable thing was that Wendy happened to see a sign saying "Galapagos Turtle Encounter, 2pm". This really piqued my interest, so we added it to our agenda. Around 1:45pm, we decided to head to the turtle area, and this is where we had a problem. Getting around the zoo was kind of confusing. We had a map, and I found where we were on the map and where we needed to go. Despite knowing that, I managed to lead us in a complete circle. This was not good. We were going to miss the turtle encounter. But, I put my logic skills to use, and now that I knew which way not to go, I managed to figure out which way to actually go. And we made it in time, and it was even cooler than I had hoped, because we got to see the Galapagos turtles up close, touch their shells, and take pictures with them. They were only 11 years old, but still quite big, and we learned it would be another 14 years before the zoo would be able to tell their gender! Getting to see them up close was the highlight of the zoo, for me.
It was now mid-afternoon, and despite being exhausted we still had one more stop on our itinerary: the Cincinnati Art Museum. Wendy wanted to see this, and I'm glad we went because 1) it was free parking 2) it was free admission, and 3) it was the last day for an exhibit of art from Burning Man. This exhibit was very weird and super cool. It's hard to describe many of the exhibits because they were so weird, but I enjoyed it immensely.
And that was it! We drove home the next day (gaining an hour this time, instead of losing one). It was a fun trip.