Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for August, 2014

Meadowcroft Rockshelter Holds Early American History

Meadowcroft Welcome Center

Meadowcroft Welcome Center

This is no ordinary tourist spot! Near Avella, PA, hidden away in the mountains, stands a welcome center for the Meadowcroft Rockshelter. Go inside and watch a short video to hear the beginning of this 16,000 year old story. One visitor commented, “We wanted to see one of the oldest spots of human habitation in the United States.”

The site was first discovered back in 1950 by owner of the ground, Albert Miller. He had found some projectile points on his farm while taking a walk, but one day noticed a small artifact by a groundhog hole and decided to dig there. When Albert found bits of pottery and arrowheads buried, he felt like he was tearing pages out of a book, so the proper history could be read.

Dr. J.M. Adovasio from the University of Pittsburgh became interested and conducted the first professional research at the site.  More recent digs have been conducted by Adovasio at Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute using state-of-the-art equipment. It is considered to be one of the most carefully excavated sites in North America.

This rockshelter overhang provided shelter, as well as a vantage point, for early inhabitants from the time of George Washington back to 16,000 years ago. Archaeologists are studying traces of what those early cultures left behind so we can perhaps better understand those early people who lived in America.

Rockshelf Shelter

Stairs to Rockshelf Shelter

Getting out of your car at the Rockshelter, your eyes climb upward to the observation deck that has been built so visitors can get a closer look at the archaeological work being done. While today there is a long stairway for easy access, about ten years ago anyone wishing to climb to the rockshelter had to use a rope to help pull themselves up.

Archaeological Dig Site

Archaeological Dig Site

After a long climb to the top, visitors can see evidence of tools and campfires made by those early inhabitants thousands of years ago. The deck allows visitors to witness “Deep Hole”, where the oldest evidence exists. Rocks fell from the cliff above to cover many of the pieces of the past that are being uncovered today.

At the center of the dig, a fireplace was carefully excavated showing layers to make you smile. Starting at the top there was a layer of plastic bottles, then cans, beer and whiskey bottles, and finally clay bottles. This fireplace area was obviously used for relaxation purposes for generations.

These layers coincided with the people who stayed under this shelter for various reasons. Starting today and going back to George Washington’s time describes the most recent layers. Those deep layers describe life 16,000 years ago. While there is some skepticism over dates, they all admit that it was thousands of years ago.

View of Tags in Dig Site

View of Tags in Dig Site

Each find has been carefully tagged from spear points and arrowheads to bone fragments. This is one of the first sites that used computers in the archaeological field.  It is easy to see that much patience is needed in order to conduct this type of investigation. Sometimes they might work for months with a single-edge razor blade to scrape the rock from a piece of history.

Cross Creek

Cross Creek

After the climb back down, now the look at the Rockshelter gives you an idea of its purpose. The top seems a perfect place for a lookout to watch for approaching enemies, while under the rock cliff would be the perfect shelter for camping. Cross Creek cuts through the valley, and most likely cut through the sandstone surface of the rockcliff to help make it what it is today.

Searching for the past, helps us better understand the present.

Meadowcroft Rockshelter is found near Avella, PA off the beaten path. Your easiest bet might be to have your GPS guide you to 401 Meadowcroft Road in Avella, PA.

Or you can  take exit 17, Jefferson Ave (old exit 6) off I-70 West in Washington, PA. At the bottom of the ramp turn right. At the second light turn right onto Jefferson Ave. At the next light bear left onto 844. Follow 844 for 11 1/2 miles to the junction of 844 and 231 (just past Breezy Heights restaurant and driving range). Turn right onto 231 North. Go 1 1/2 miles to junction of 231 and 50. Turn left onto 50 West. Proceed 1 9/10 miles and turn right onto Fallen Timber Road. Go 1 3/10 miles and turn left onto Meadowcroft Road. Proceed 9/10 of a mile to Meadowcroft entrance on right. 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Experience the World of Krishna at New Vrindaban Temple

Temple Altar

Temple Altar

The spirituality of India comes alive in the mountains of West Virginia. After the visit to the Palace of Gold, the tour continued just down the road in their New Vrindaban Temple. Arrival happened just in time for one of their worship services, which are held seven times a day every day of the week. Before entering, shoes must be removed or covered, to pay respect to the deity within the Temple.

Stained Glass Ceiling at New Vrindaban Temple

Stained Glass Ceiling at New Vrindaban Temple

The inside of the Temple is where the statues of Krishna can be found in a golden setting. The statues are shimmering while the stained glass ceiling allows filtered light to fill the room. People from all over the world come here to worship their Hindu beliefs. Ladies were dressed in their finest saris to honor Krishna. Their fine dress also showed their affluence and success to everyone present.

This is a congregational worship service with all those in attendance chanting a prayer to their God. They also use prayer beads, a string of 108 – a special number for their faith. To say a full prayer, you must go around the string sixteen times, which usually takes about an hour. Basically, the prayer that is repeated says: Hare Krishna, please allow me to serve you.

Children chant and dance before the altar.

Children chant and dance before the altar.

But mainly going to the Temple becomes a place to receive Darshan – you are looking at Diety and they are looking at you for a transfer of grace and spirituality. A priest made and accepted offerings at the altar through fire, incense, and water. An offering tray filled in the center with their holy burning butter was carried through the Temple. Those who desired could receive a blessing connection from its fragrant smoke.

After the service, a vegetarian lunch was served in the courtyard of the Temple. Dishes included: Basmati rice; Chickpeas sauteed with spices;  Subji -sauteed mixed vegetables; and Halavah – a sweet dessert made with farina toasted slowly in butter.  Our table was honored to be joined for lunch by Andy Fraenkel, the wonderful storyteller, and even Jaya Krishna Das, the president of New Vrindaban Temple.

Andy Fraenkel, Master Storytaller

Andy Fraenkel, Master Storytaller

Back inside the Temple, listeners sat on the floor with Andy as he told stories of Krishna.  One, in shortened version, began with Krishna’s birth in a dungeon of a wicked king. They were imprisoned because the king wanted to be certain to kill the new baby boy, as he was the eighth son born on the eighth night of the month, and was prophesized to be the king’s slayer. But, he escaped with his father after everyone fell into a deep sleep and the dungeon door opened.

Krishna and his father were protected on their journey by a Divine snake. His father carried Krishna in a basket through the waters of a river that parted to ensure their safe passage. There they traded Krishna for a female child and his father took the female baby back to the dungeon before the king discovered the birth.  Eventually as years passed, Krisha came back to the city and killed the wicked king.

Many stories were told that day but you will have to visit yourself to hear more!  Many of the stories describe the many forms that Krishna took during his lifetime. Some of those include:  Butter Boy, Blue Boy, amd Lion Man.

Surrounding the Temple is the New Vrindaban community. Only a small portion of the believers now live on the grounds, but there is a group of apartments where devotees can stay. The basic teaching of the Krishna Consciousness is that we are all individuals and have a loving relationship with God.

Cows and Cabins

Statues of Cows with guest cabins in background

Where once only woods stood, now visitors can stay in a beautiful lodge built in 1981-82, or cottages along Swan Lake. Many families spend their vacations here to worship in a Hindu atmosphere. Around the lake are several gigantic statues honoring their faith: Sacred Cows, Elephant, and a pair of 30-foot-tall Sri Sri Gaura Nitai statues.

These Krishna followers are basically very simple people who enjoy serving God in the way they believe.   As Andy said, “If you can’t be satisfied with a little bit, you will never be satisfied  with a lot.”

Andy Fraenkel ( www.SacredVoices.com )  is an award-winning author and recipient of a WV Artist Fellowship Award. He is available for in-depth tours to small and large groups, and even student groups from elementary school to college level. For more info you can get in touch with him at afraenk@icloud.com

New Vrindaban is located just down the road from the Palace of Gold.  From Moundsville, WV take Route 250 South. Watch for signs along the road for easy directions.

Steamboat History Flourishes at Ohio River Museum

W.P. Snyder, Jr on the Muskingum River in Marietta, Ohio

W.P. Snyder, Jr on the Muskingum River in Marietta, Ohio

“Say Steam” Those are the special words the guide used when taking pictures of visitors on the steam-powered W.P. Snyder, Jr. at the Marietta River Museum in Marietta, Ohio. You can feel the river beneath your feet as you walk the deck, listening to the guide’s description of life on the river many years ago.

Pilot Wheel of W.P. Snyder, Jr.

Pilot Wheel of W.P. Snyder, Jr.

This early tugboat replaced the mules that walked along the banks of the river towing the barges. Tugboat probably wasn’t the best name for this type of boat, because they didn’t tug anything…they pushed it instead.

W.P. Snyder, Jr. was built in Pittsburgh in 1936 as the result of a terrible winter there. The wooden boats were brutally torn apart by the ice on the Monongahela River, so for the first time, a tugboat was constructed of steel by Carnegie Steel Co, and called W.H. Clingerman.

After years of service, it was retired due to its coal furnaces. In 1955, the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen purchased the boat, now re-named the W.P. Snyder, Jr. for $1.00, and moved it to the banks of the Muskingum River in Marietta. This tugboat is the last intact steam-powered, stern-wheeled tugboat in the United States.

But the effects of weathering made it necessary, in October of 2013, for the W.P. Snyder to leave the dock at Marietta for refurbishing, mainly on the exterior. The trip back had a slight delay because the Ohio River was too high in late May, 2014 for the W.P. Snyder to get under the Putnam Avenue Bridge.

Laundry Room with wringer washer and washboard

Laundry Room with wringer washer and washboard

Pushed back by two antique tugboats, Lady Lois (‘28) and J.S. Lewis (‘31) the W.P. Snyder, Jr is now moored at the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers, ready for tour.

On board, you will see the Engine Room, where the engineer controlled passage by using not only steam but also electricity. A system of bells could be pulled to signal conditions or problems. There was even a telegraph handy for outside communication.

Officers and crew were provided completely separate living quarters on the upper deck. If at all possible, officers and crew went out of their way to keep from crossing paths. Two separate bathrooms, a laundry room, and kitchen completed the facilities onboard.

Ohio River Museum

Ohio River Museum

While the tugboat draws many visitors to the museum, there are three separate buildings nearby that contain a history of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers, and the steamboats that frequented their waters.

An introductory film, History of Steamboats, opens the door to exploration inside the museum. The buildings are filled with models of steamboats, related artifacts, and stories of early life on the river…and much more!

Mirror from Mark Twain's Crystal Palace

Mirror from Mark Twain’s Crystal Palace

Among the historic pieces, the exhibit contains a dug-out canoe that was used as a ferry between Fort Harmer and Marietta. There is even a reminder of Mark Twain through a display of an ornate mirror that hung in the Crystal Palace steamboat, where Mark Twain served as pilot.

Near the river’s edge, a flatboat that was used during Ohio’s early settlement is on display. Close by stands the oldest existing Western Rivers’  steamboat pilothouse from the steamboat, Tell City, which sank in 1917. An interesting section of poles shows the heights of some of the worst floods in Marietta history, three of the worst being : 54.5′ in 1884, 55′ in 1937 and 60.3′ in 1913.

Shanty Boat where folks flew under the radar

Shanty Boat where folks flew under the radar

Don’t miss the old shanty boat, probably from the 1920’s to 1930’s. It possibly could be the oldest surviving shanty boat on the inland river system. People actually lived on these boats or had businesses there. Many of those who lived on the boats were trying to hide from something. Here they could avoid taxes as they were always on the move, and needless to say, the shanty boat provided the perfect place for thieves and lawbreakers, of many sorts, to hide from the law.

These floating shanty boats were banned in 1930 from the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers. However, a friend said when he was a kid in Parkersburg along the Ohio River, there were still shanty boats in the 50’s . Evidentally, more law breakers! The gypsy in me still likes the idea of being able to fly under the radar during those early years with no address, but much freedom.

End your day by cruisin’ down the river on the Valley Gem docked right next door to the Ohio River Museum.

The Ohio River Museum is located at 601 Front Street, Marietta, Ohio, one block from Ohio State Route 7, and minutes from I-77. Plenty of free parking is available and cost of admission is very reasonable.

Tag Cloud