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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Georgia Peach or Peanuts?

Georgia Peach or Peanuts?
In the last blog, we were entering the Southeast State of Georgia. With little knowledge of what to visit or see other than looking online and carefully looking at our trusty Walmart atlas we really had no clue what to expect. I had highlighted several possibilities on or close to our route of travel up US27. The one exception was the Little Grand Canyon which I had seen a picture of at the Visitor Center, on the way down to Florida. I actually got this wrong as far as locations goes.
Georgia "Little Grand Canyon"
I wrongly assumed that this was located at Kolomoki Mounds State Historic Park. It would be one of the first stops just north of Blakely. Driving into this State Park, about five miles to the west of US27, I smelled smoke and the atmosphere was hazy, the forest were mainly of tall pines with little underbrush. It was overcast and cool. We now could see where the smoke was coming from. The foresters were doing a “control burn” to eliminate the underbrush and give the tall pines command of the forest. This is what the road signs, at least indicated. Soon we were driving along large fields with historic fencing on both sides of the road. There, to our right, was this very tall mound with very gentle rolling hills all around. These mounds are man made by ancient Indian tribes and used as burial grounds.

From Wikipedia
Kolomoki Mounds State Historic Park is an important archaeological site as well as a scenic recreational area. Kolomoki, covering some three hundred acres, is one of the larger preserved mound sites in the USA.
In the early millennium of the Common Era, Kolomoki, with its surrounding villages, burial mounds, and ceremonial plaza, was a center of population and activity in North America. The eight visible mounds of earth in the park were built between 250-950 CE by peoples of the Swift Creek and Weeden Island cultures. These mounds include Georgia's oldest great temple mound, two burial mounds and four smaller ceremonial mounds.
The park's museum was built to incorporate part of an excavated mound; it provides an authentic setting for viewing artifacts. The museum features a film about how the mound was built and excavated.
As with other mound complexes, the people built and sited the earthworks according to a complex cosmology. Researchers have noted that several mounds are aligned according to astronomical events. For example, mounds A, D, and E, which form the central axis of the site, align with the sun at the spring equinox. Mounds F and D form an alignment with the sun at the summer solstice.
Soils at the Park are mostly dark red sandy loams or loamy sands of the Americus, Greenville, and Red Bay series. Some pale brown sands of the Troup series occur on the western shores of Kolomoki Lake, and at the northern end of the lake is brown or dark gray alluvial loam of the Herod-Muckalee soil association.
A view of the temple mound at Kolomoki Mounds State Park.

The Temple Mound is 56 feet high and measures 325 by 200 feet at the base. Research indicates that it would have taken over two million basket loads carried by individual workers, each holding one cubic foot of earth, to build this mound. The southern half of the mound is three feet higher and was probably the temple platform. From the top of the steps, most of the Kolomoki Archaeological Area can be viewed. Approximately 1,500 - 2,000 residents lived in a village of thatched houses arched around the plaza.
Back to rolling down on the highway
First stop was at the Park Visitors Center. The attendant mentioned that the park would be booked solid for the weekend. We weren’t planning on staying here anyway. We just wanted to visit the “Little Grand Canyon” anyhow. Surprise, surprise! The canyon is not located here! She gave us directions to Providence Canyon State Park about an hour north on US27. We could have stayed here and explored the archaeological site, but not on this day. We wanted a “Little Grand Canyon”!
The highway soon turned from pine forest to large plantation fields. Peanuts! Yes, I even had Jimmy Cater’s "Plains, Georgia" on the possible list of sights to visit. Plains is fairly close to Americus, GA… about the same distance from Kolomoki Mounds to Providence State Park, but in a different direction. North was our destination and so President Carter wasn’t going to welcome us to his home town. Providence Canyon was soon on the horizon and our lunch stop was there, at the Park. This is a self-registration State Park and the honor system is the rule. You fill-in the envelope, put your five dollar check, seal the envelope, put the envelope stub on your mirror and you are good to go. After lunch, we walked over to the overlook some twenty feet away and were blown away by the spectacular view and the one hundred fifty foot drop off at our feet. Amazingly, it reminded me, of not the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but of Bryce Canyon in Utah. This State Park is over a thousand acres in land mass. The access road has many overlooks to stop and admire the scenery. It’s not only the land erosion that makes this place special, but the flora makes everything jump out into the cameras view finder. At the end of the road was the Visitor Center which was not open. "Off Season” I guess. In the back of the Visitor Center was a trail guide which indicated different trails to the valley floor. We weren’t sure what equipment we would need and elected to pass on this hike to the bottom. There were plenty of places to explore along the ridge of the canyon.

From Wikipedia
Providence Canyon State Park is a 1,003 acres (4.06 km2; 1.57 sq mi) state park located in Stewart County in southwest Georgia.1] The park contains Providence Canyon, which is sometimes called Georgia's "Little Grand Canyon". It is considered to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia. Providence Canyon actually is not a purely natural feature — the massive gullies were caused by erosion due to poor farming practices in the 19th century. It is also home to the very rare plumleaf azalea.
This old story of the origin of the canyons has been commonplace since the 1940s. Although there were probably a few early arrivals before 1825, the first heavy influx of settlers in Stewart county came after the Treaty of Indian Springs (1825) by which the Creek Indians ceded all their lands east of the Chattahoochee river. Evidence of the existence of the canyons is their mention in a deed by James S Lunsford to William Tatam recorded in 1836.
The park lies on marine sediments—usually loamy or clayey, with small areas of sand. Loamy sand topsoils overlie subsoils of sandy clay loam, sandy clay,

or clay in most of the uneroded section. Nankin, Cowarts, Mobila, and Orangeburg are the most prominent soil series. The canyons have much exposure of clay, over which water often seeps. Water is mobile in this well drained area.
Providence Canyon seen from the canyon floor, March 2009. One of the quirkier attractions of the state park is an abandoned homestead including nearly a dozen rusty, 1950s-era cars and trucks. Due to the environmental damage that removing the vehicles would cause, park officials have decided to leave them alone.
In was mid-afternoon when we said our farewell to this land of strange, but beautiful landscape.
Back to rolling north!
Next stop was Ft Benning, which is on the outskirts of Columbus, GA. I knew they would most likely have a good size RV campground on base. Ft Benning is massive in land area and is used for maneuvering everything from Infantry, Armor, Airborne and many other disciplines in the Army…It is a very, very large Army Base. The main entrance to the base is accented by a very impressive bridge with columns at the four corners with the Interstate running underneath. We entered the base, not being sure where I was going. At the 100% ID checkin main gate I asked where the military RV campground was located. The guard gave me directions. Forty-five minutes later we were on the other side of the airfield very close to Uchee Creek Campground. The campground is located in a well manicured forest next to a Marina. The campground was well planned out, as with most military installations. Full hookups with cable TV. The restrooms and laundry room were close by. Hundreds of sites were available midweek.
After settling in, we went for a walk towards the Marina. I noticed a bunch of guys hanging outside of the activity room. We walked towards them and struck up a conversation. They weren’t just camping, but they were there for an annual Vietnam Memorial Reunion. In the pavilion, a long table had lit candles, one for each fallen comrade… most of which had fallen during a battle at Fire Base Mary
First View of Ft Benning famous entry bridge
during a Vietcong attack. These guys were Army infantry, now most in the twilight of their lives, much like myself. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to talk and share a moment of their memorial reunion. We continued our walk down towards the Creek and the Marina. A couple of pontoon boats were returning from down river. It was very early in the season and I’m sure this campground and marina would be jam packed with soldiers and their families in the summer time.
Fort Benning was a good place to recharge our bodies along with the camper necessities, water, propane, dump station, laundry and nice long hot showers. The next morning, as usual, our departure was early. We wanted to checkout the main base exchange, but we somehow missed the exit and the time was early. Most likely the exchange wouldn’t have been open yet.
From Columbus, I wanted to continue on my quest to visit Civil War Battlefields and Memorials. This meant that we would have to leave the back road highway and head towards Atlanta. This wasn’t an easy task with the heavy traffic of several Interstates converging into the Atlanta region. My goal was to visit Marietta National Memorial Cemetery and further up the road the Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield National Park. That’s for my next travel blog. Remember, all of this travel adventure occurred in the later part of March 2015. My old laptop died during our winter stay in Key West, Florida and delayed my blogging.

That is what we saw and did!

Follow this link to view a map and zoom in to follow our tracks!

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