Field School: Week 1

I survived my trip to Maryland!  It was about 18 hours from Orlando to Alexandria, Virginia, where the head archaeologist picked me up for the drive down to St. Mary’s City.  St. Mary’s College of Maryland is a small, rural school with pretty much nothing anywhere near it except the museum site where I’ll be working.  I like it though, the campus is beautiful and very wooded, it reminds me of Michigan.

We had three days of lectures on field methods, history, and some of the artifacts we’ll encounter, then two days in the field.  Yesterday my group learned to use the surveying equipment, plotted a new square & started taking off the topsoil, today we finished the topsoil & dug through a layer of pea gravel that nobody expected to be there.  We haven’t found anything really big but in sifting all of that dirt we came across lots of little bits of brick & coal, some nails, & a few pieces of ceramic & clay pipe stems.  Digging holes and picking through dirt really is the best thing ever.

So here I am for the next couple of months.  Should be interesting!

This Week in Awkwardness

I got my train ticket booked!  I’ll be taking Amtrak’s Silver Star 934 miles from Orlando, Florida to Alexandria, Virginia.  I keep trying to figure out how to get from St. Mary’s City into D.C. without a car, and even though there’s a ton of public transit through there, it’s pretty much impossible because the times just don’t match up.  I think if I want to go anywhere I’ll have to take a bus to Lexington Park and rent a car.  Maybe one of my fellow students who does have a car will want to go places or at least let me borrow it.

This week I visited International Plaza, the fanciest shopping mall I’ve ever been to.  Valet parking, chandeliers in the food court, Tiffany jewelry store on the premises kind of fancy.  I couldn’t find so much as a pair of pants that didn’t cost my whole paycheck.  I wandered into one store wondering if this is one of those places that I REALLY don’t belong, then found a ratty pair of jeans on the clearance rack marked down to $85 from $245 and was like YUP.

I discovered SkyScanner, which is not just any old flight search engine – it searches all the flights from entire COUNTRIES over months at a time to find the best deals, so if you’re flexible about when you travel and exactly which cities you fly out of and/or into, it’s a fantastic resource.  My days of wandering through multiple airline sites plugging in various cities and seeing what happens are over!


Added to the Travel Map:

Karlu Karlu, Northern Territory, Australia – piles of giant boulders also known as Devil’s Marbles because Satanic placenames rule I guess.

Foundry Branch Trolley Bridge, Glover Archibold Park, Washington, D.C. – abandoned in the woods.

Dinosaur Kingdom II, Natural Bridge, Virginia – a museum depicting Civil War soldiers fighting dinosaurs.

Devil’s Hole Ruins, Cresco, Pennsylvania – remains of….something – a ski lodge, a speakeasy – nobody knows.

Map Rock, Melba, Idaho – ancient petroglyph map of the Snake & Salmon Rivers, carved into a rock.

Livraria Bertrand, Lisbon, Portugal – world’s oldest still-operating bookstore, established in 1732.

Asik-Asik Falls, Alamada, Philippines – waterfall in a lush jungle, only discovered in 2010.

Bayers Lake Mystery Walls, Halifax, Nova Scotia – another set of stone walls that nobody remembers the purpose of – five sides, maybe a fort.

This Week in Awkwardness: The Resurrection of the Website

I have officially reopened my Smugmug site!  If you are so inclined, you can now purchase prints of the best photos featured here on the blog as well as others from my wanderings.

I’ve also been adding to my Instagram, (gaining double-digit followers was exciting for some reason) although I pretty much just stick them on there at random since I’m posting old stuff and putting them in any kind of order is no fun.

I’m DOOONNNEEEEE with spring semester!  I’ve got almost a month to relax before I head off to Maryland.  I don’t even know what to do with my evenings anymore, now that I don’t have something to frantically read or write for class the next day.


Added to the Travel Map:

Keys Ranch, Joshua Tree National Park, California – abandoned; accessible only by guided tour.

Cinnamon Bay Plantation, Virgin Islands National Park, U.S. Virgin Islands – ruins of an 18th-century sugar plantation.

Amatol, New Jersey – ghost town that was once a munitions village.

Fort Ord National Monument, Salinas, California – abandoned military base.

Zamskhang Palace, Sumur, India – abandoned ruin but so hard to get to that it’s still full of amazing Buddhist statues & silk paintings.

Museum of Failure, Helsingborg, Sweden – who doesn’t love a good fail?

North Field, Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands – site where atomic bombs were assembled and loaded before being dropped on Japan.

A Random Love Note to Fog

One day in 2013, when I was still living in Tennessee, I drove up to Clingman’s Dome. I don’t recall what the weather was like in town that day, but the mountaintop was socked in with fog. When I got to the observation deck it was surrounded by a solid wall of gray, only broken up by the pine trees within 50 yards or so of the tower. It was amazing. It was so beautiful up there, nothing to look at but those few layers of trees, no sound but a few birds calling, not a soul in the world knew where I was at that moment. I had nowhere to be and nothing to do. It was an incredibly meditative experience.

I absolutely love fog.  It simplifies and softens a bright, loud, overwhelming world, makes everything into calm shades of gray.  Not everyone gets that.  So many people don’t know what to do with themselves in the dim and quiet realm of fog.  While I was up there at Clingman’s Dome other people kept coming up, just one family at a time, when one left another would arrive.  And they kept complaining about there being nothing to see.  I maintain that they just didn’t know how to look.

Prints of these three photos as well as others of fog can now be purchased here.

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This Week in Awkwardness

My time living & working on Mackinac Island has left me with a bizarre fascination with little islands.  There are dozens of them on my list of places I want to go, scattered all over the world.  There’s something intensely unique about an island.  Each one is its own little world, especially if the only way to get to it is by plane or ferry.

I was also discussing plantations on Facebook this week.  I admit that I think the houses themselves are really cool, and of course they’re interesting and important from a historical perspective, but they’ve been way over-romanticized.  “Come have your wedding at this place that was built on the backs of slaves!”  Yeah…no.  Maybe people just can’t really connect with the slavery aspect as something that actually happened to actual people, I don’t know.

Speaking of historical perspectives, I hope all my teachers like the in-depth historical backgrounds of everything, because I can’t stop writing that way even when I’m supposed to be working in the present. :/  Good thing I’m going into archaeology, they appreciate historical perspective.

I signed up for my LAST SEMESTER of classes!  I’m taking Digital Archaeology in the fall and I’m REALLY excited about it.  I also managed to test into second semester German, so my little bits of studying over the last few years actually got me out of a whole class!


Added to the Travel Map:

Gamble Plantation Historic State Park, Ellenton, FL – only plantation house left in Florida.

Ushant Island, France – westernmost point in France; also sheep, lighthouses, seafaring history, etc.

Hampi, India – ruins of Vijayanagara Empire’s capital, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hudson Highlands State Park, Cold Spring, New York – lots of hiking trails.

Cornish Estate Ruins, Cold Spring, New York – abandoned mansion in the woods.

Also apparently the Hudson River Valley is just packed with amazing ruins.  I don’t know why I’m surprised, there’s already several of them on my travel list.

This Week in Awkwardness

Do you want to show off your obsession with Stranger Things AND help the National Endowment for the Arts?  David Harbour’s t-shirt does both!

I started working on my trip to Maryland.  I’m planning on taking Amtrak’s Silver Star from Tampa to Washington, D.C., so I FINALLY get to go on another train adventure.  Or the Silver Meteor, but that would require taking a bus from Tampa to Orlando – bleh.  It’ll be some silver celestial body anyway.  Then I was contemplating possibly getting to D.C. a day or two before I’m supposed to move into the dorm and seeing some things.  Hopefully they’ll send me a schedule of any field trips we’ll be taking over the summer, maybe the stuff I want to see is stuff they’ll be taking us to see anyway.  Probably not the International Spy Museum though.  That I’ll probably have to do on my own time.

Maryland will be the fifth state that I’ve lived in over as many years – that seems kind of insane, it feels like forever since I left Tennessee but that really was just in 2013.

Train trip, new state, digging stuff up – should be a good summer!

This is my 100th blog post!

Also I’ve been thinking about a graduation gift to get myself in December.  Maybe a GoPro.  They shoot time lapses and they’re waterproof, two things my Canon M isn’t capable of without modification.  Could be fun.

I’ve got my class schedule all planned out for MY LAST SEMESTER O_O.  Finally I’ll get to take some in-depth archaeology courses, up to now the offerings have just not worked out for me.


Added to the Travel Map:

Tangalooma Wrecks, Moreton Island, Australia – shipwrecks just off the beach.

Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, Madagascar – wild rock formations.

Horseshoe Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, Utah – tons of rock art.

Longyearbyen, Norway – northernmost city in the world.

International Spy Museum, Washington, D.C. – pretty much exactly what it sounds like.

Barron, Washington – ghost town.

Canyon Falls, Alberta, Michigan – waterfall in a canyon.

Bears Ears National Monument, Utah – 100,000 archaeological sites.

Bagan Archaeological Zone, Myanmar – the “Plain of Pagodas,” 2,000+ temples.

Ōkunoshima, Japan – this is the island with the zillion rabbits, but I’m more interested in the ruins of the poison gas factory.

This Week in Awkwardness

I was accepted into the field school in Maryland that I mentioned in my last post!  I’ll be spending 10 weeks in St. Mary’s City this summer digging and learning and probably sweating a whole bunch.  St. Mary’s City was the original capital of Maryland, and the 2017 field season will focus on the 1634 house of Leonard Calvert, the colony’s first governor.  The home later served as a rebel holdout, Maryland’s first statehouse, and an inn, so there’s a wide slice of Colonial American life happening on this one little patch of ground.  Should be an interesting summer!


Added to the Travel Map:

Belle Isle, Richmond Virginia – once a Civil War prison, ruins of various things, trails, etc.  (Incidentally, why are there so many parks called Belle Isle?)

Fairfield Hills Hospital, Newton, Connecticut – abandoned psychiatric hospital.