Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Travels With Clancy: Serpent Mound

Clancy and I took advantage of absolutely perfect weather to get back to our Travels last Saturday morning. Thanks to a recommendation from Amalie at Waxing Lackadaisical, we headed to the Serpent Mound, which is just outside the town of Peebles in Adams County, Ohio.

The mound is about 80 miles east of Cincinnati, and the majority of the drive is along Ohio State Route 32. As it was such a clear and beautiful morning, Clancy and I really enjoyed the drive through the rural counties of Clermont, Brown, and Adams. I love the convenience and speed of expressways, but I couldn't help but think while driving along 32 that if I had all the time in the world, driving along old state routes would be the way to really see the country.

We saw some funny billboards for upcoming events, such as an Old West Festival that looked like it would fit perfectly in an old-fashioned cowboy movie. We also passed a turn-off with a sign pointing to "The Land of the Singing Coyote." Clancy really wanted to stop there, but he was over-ruled.

As we got into Adams County, we saw street signs for Tranquility Pike and Unity Road. Apparently the people in the area are a happy and peaceful bunch. I considered going on Tranquility Pike to see if it lived up to its name, but I decided to keep going to the mound instead.

The Serpent Mound is the largest serpent effigy in the United States, and it is a National Historic Landmark. According to the Visitor's Guide that I received at the Museum, which is run by the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System, it is also the largest surviving example of a prehistoric effigy mound in the world.

The mound sits on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Brush Creek Valley, and it is in the shape of an uncoiling serpent. There is a paved trail that goes along the length of the snake, so Clancy and I set off along that trail when we got to the site.

We couldn't have asked for a better morning to be there, as the sky was so clear and blue that the moon was still visible in the sky even though the sun had been up for a few hours.

As we we walked along the trail, I was intrigued by various signs marking the Winter Solstice sunrise, the Equinox sunrise, moonrise, etc.

The sign at the head of the serpent notes that it is aligned with the Summer Solstice sunset.

The original purpose of the Serpent Mound is unknown, but its alignment with the cycles of the sun suggests a possible connection to ancient sacred traditions. It was so fascinating to me to try and imagine the mound builders lining up the serpent to such exact points. According to carbon dating, the mound was likely built around the year 1070 by the Fort Ancient culture, but its origins will always be shrouded in mystery.

As the Visitor's Guide put it, "mystery, rather than certainty, remains this site's greatest gift to present generations." I liked that!

There's no question that there is a palpable sense of mystery surrounding the mound. For one thing, I can't begin to imagine how it was ever built. At times, it is a good three feet tall, and it is perfectly shaped and rounded. Its width ranges from three feet to twenty feet.

As Clancy and I continued on, we came to an overlook of the Brush Valley below. This may have been my favorite part of the morning, as the valley was simply beautiful, and the epitome of rolling farmland. I loved the white farmhouse, and the bales of hay dotting the landscape.

We kept going on the trail, and came to the tail of the serpent, where Clancy posed on the stone steps. He wasn't particularly thrilled to do so, but finally consented to at least sit there, even if he wouldn't look at the camera.

After we finished the paved trail, we headed to the Ohio Brush Creek hiking trail, which runs along the creek that borders the park.

This was a narrow and uneven trail, so my klutzy self had to be very careful, but it was worth the extra care. 

Clancy loved the creek trail, as he much prefers the shade to the sun. Even so, he wasn't any happier about having his picture taken.

By the time we finished the hiking trail we had worked up an appetite, so I was glad I had packed a lunch. We headed to the picnic shelter adjacent to the mound.

It was great to be able to sit and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the park while we ate lunch. And, when he wasn't begging for part of my sandwich, Clancy was happy to have a long cool drink of water.

I think the Serpent Mound is my favorite of the places Clancy and I have visited, as I was fascinated by both the history and the mystery of the place. I'm a history buff, and always find the study of ancient civilizations to be very interesting. I am also always intrigued by ancient religious traditions and sacred sites, so the Serpent Mound had plenty to keep me interested.

But beyond all that, it is simply a beautiful place, and Clancy and I were fortunate to visit on the most gorgeous day we've had in months. I'm hoping the rest of our fall outings will be just as successful!


  1. Gorgeous pics, Julie! Looks like a thirsty dog! :-)


  2. ...great pics of a place roughly two hours south of home ;)


  3. What an interesting and beautiful destination! I am intrigued by the serpent. Imagination wheels are turning a little faster in my brain. :)

  4. Oh Julie, I'm glad you went and enjoyed it! It's nice in the fall too, when you can look out over that valley at the fall colors, but the trails can get slick, so the most exploration-friendly time is summer.

    Did you climb the tower? And that cliff is actually an pre-historic impact site, it's a big ole bowl shape if you get zoomed out far enough, was in the paper a few years ago :) I kind of wondered if that had anything to do with the serpent being built there.

  5. @EJ, thanks! LOL, yeah, Clancy definitely needed a drink.

    @Elliot, thanks! Have you visited the mound? If not, you should take a trip there sometime. :)

    @LG, it really was. I'm so intrigued by the serpent too, it was fascinating.

    @Amalie, thanks again for your recommendation, I really loved the mound! I can imagine it is beautiful in the fall. Oh, I couldn't climb the tower since I had Clancy with me, I didn't think we'd both make it. I could imagine us tripping over each other and landing at the bottom in a heap LOL. I would love to have gone up there though, maybe if I make another trip sometime. How cool about the cliff, I didn't know that! Really interesting place.

  6. Gorgeous pictures! We have a state park nearby called Mounds. They aren't on the size of Serpent Mound, but it's a pretty park.

  7. @Christine, oh, that's interesting, I had never seen mounds like this before. Very cool. Thanks so much!

  8. Awesome pictures! You should try the Newark Earthworks next time. :)

  9. Looks interesting. And it also seems peaceful. Great pictures.

  10. Wonderful pictures, it's good to get out and about,


  11. Great photos and so interesting! What I love most about your journeys (besides Clancy!) is that you are showing people how beautiful and interesting your city is. Showing us (most of us!) places we've never heard of. Thanks, Julie!

  12. I've been there! I am fascinated by history as well, especially indigenous ancient cultures. There are some gems in Ohio...just have to hunt them out. ;) Ever been to Seven Caves on Rte. 50? It's only open on the weekend, but the area is just gorgeous...and the history is in the rock formations/caves. Sarah xx

  13. I love this post! Sounds so great and looks like the weather was gorgeous. I'd love to visit that one day. Fascinating stuff.

  14. That's very fascinating, Julie. I knew anything of the sort could be found in Ohio.

  15. @Carrie, oh, I hadn't heard of the Newark Earthworks, I will have to check that out. Thanks!!

    @Medeia, thank you. It really was a great place.

    @Yvonne, thanks so much, and I totally agree!

    @Becky, oh, thank you, that's so nice of you to say. Honestly I never realized there were so many lovely places around here either, this project has definitely met my goal of finding the beauty in my own backyard!

    @Sarah, no, I haven't been to Seven Caves, but it sounds fascinating! I will add that to my list, thank you! I agree about the ancient cultures, I'm so fascinated by the history. Thanks so much!

    Lisa, thanks! We got so lucky with the weather, it was perfect. Thanks so much!

    Kara, I never knew it either, I'd actually like to go back sometime, I really loved it. Thanks!

  16. Oh, what a neat and interesting place. Thanks for sharing it, Julie. And it's very beautiful, too. My brother & his family are in Columbus.

  17. Sounds like an interesting and beautiful place to visit! I've heard of mounds like this, but never been to one. I'm always interested in ancient lore and mysterious items like this that still survive, but with no real hints as to their past.

  18. @Mary, oh, my brother lives in Columbus too! I went to college there at OSU, love Columbus. Thanks so much, the mound really was neat.

    @Shannon, it was, thanks! I agree, I love the mystery of things like this, it's fascinating.

  19. This is a place I've always wanted to go. It's in a part of Ohio that I am not very familiar with even though I was born in Ohio. Maybe someday. From the photos it looks well worth the visit.

    Tossing It Out

  20. @Lee, if you are back in Ohio sometime, I definitely think it's worth it. I wasn't familiar with the area either, but I thought it was a gorgeous place. Hope you make it at some point! :)

  21. Wow - so pretty there! What a lovely post.


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