Haunting Fort Morgan, Alabama

To get to Fort Morgan, you must first drive through about twenty miles of tangled vegetation and sand dunes to the very end of a narrow spit of land that stands guard across Mobile Bay. The peninsula is hardly more than a sandbar at some points, and remote–defenseless against storm, salt, and southern sun. It is hard to imagine how hundreds of people worked and survived out here while the fort was under construction between 1819 and 1834.

Fort Morgan, Alabama
Entering Fort Morgan

Battles fought and lost…

While battles had been fought on this sand since the war of 1812, the Battle of Mobile Bay in the Civil War is the one the fort is most known for. Walking around, you can almost hear the footsteps of the soldiers as they run to load the cannons and brace for impact. The siege lasted from August 5 to August 23 of 1864. The walls of the fort still bear the scars of the cannons…

Fort Morgan was in service through WWI and WWII as well, but has been largely abandoned now for over half a century.

Fort Morgan Ruins and Salt
Salt formations on a mysterious bricked-over doorway in Fort Morgan

The fort is full of echoes–breezes–the sound of dripping water. It has suffered the ravages of two centuries of hurricanes, heat, and briney sea air. Years have woven moss, salt formations, weathered brick, and sand into a strange and colorful tapestry. The shadowy casemates of Fort Morgan sometimes open up into grassy courtyards or sometimes into dead ends.

Everything contributes to kind of an eerie ambiance.

Fort Morgan Sand and Shadows
Sand and shadows in Fort Morgan

A troubled history…

One room in particular felt ominous. The walls inside the room are covered in dark, sooty hand prints. One lone white hand print is eye-level on the interior face of the door. I couldn’t find any information about the origin of these hand prints on the internet, but one reviewer said they had been there since at least the 1970s. Common sense would say they’re just a bit of vandalism, but…..

Fort Morgan Mysterious Hand prints
Shadowy handprints on the walls of Fort Morgan

Let me just mention that the fort was constructed through leased slave labor. And the on-site museum contains artifacts from a freak cannon accident that blew a commander’s head to pieces (a twisted fragment of his upper denture remains on display)…and I’ll let your imagination do the rest.

Courtyards at Fort Morgan
Courtyards at Fort Morgan

If you go to Fort Morgan….

Fort Morgan is open to the public from 8AM-5PM daily with admission of $7.00 per adult (discounts for kids, seniors, and veterans). A gift shop and museum is on the premises with A/C and water, but the fort itself is very open to the weather so come prepared!

 

Visiting Fort Morgan Alabama
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Visiting Fort Morgan Alabama
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Visiting Fort Morgan Alabama
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3 Free Things to Do in Sioux Falls + A Bonus

Last week I shared some of Sioux Falls restaurants with you. In between meals, though, there’s actually plenty to do in and around Sioux Falls, and a lot of it is free! Here are some of our favorite things to do and see in Sioux Falls…

Three Free Things to do in Sioux Falls

Falls Park is Sioux Falls’ landmark attraction. Surprisingly, it’s located near the heart of downtown. It is beautiful no matter the season, whether crashing over the rocks after a spring thaw or frozen into an abstract ice sculpture in the middle of winter. Check out the ruins of the Queen Bee Mill — it was destroyed many years ago in a fire, The Overlook Cafe will give you a great view and a place to sit down or get out of the weather if you need to!

Standing in front of the falls, Falls Park, Sioux Falls
Standing in front of the falls, Falls Park, Sioux Falls

Another highlight is the tower that’s part of the visitor center. You can climb up five stories and see the whole city.

I could tell you a funny story about that tower, but . . . I should probably wait till we’re better friends.

While you’re downtown, check out the Old Courthouse Museum. Free admission! Some say it’s haunted — it definitely has a little bit of an eerie feel with constant restoration going on  — fading murals and crumbling plaster, that kind of thing — and there’s a sign outside documenting the hanging of an innocent man. The Pettigrew Museum is nearby, and full of curiosities from around the world and Native American artifacts.

The hanging of an innocent man, Sioux Falls
The hanging of an innocent man, Sioux Falls

Bonus time!

Palisade State Park Sioux Falls South Dakota
Palisade State Park, South Dakota

Our favorite thing about Sioux Falls, though, is kind of a secret. (Here’s the bonus!) Less than half an hour northeast of town, you’ll find Palisades State Park. A river runs through it (sorry, was that a bad pun?) and formed a totally unexpected rocky canyon. It’s not a huge park and the trails are pretty short, but it will definitely get you out of the city for an afternoon.

I lived in Sioux Falls for 2.5 years, and somehow I didn’t manage to see everything I wanted to! Someday we’ll have to get back there and hit the Strawbale Winery, Japanese Gardens, and Sertoma Butterfly House. If you go to any of these, tell me about them in the comments!

What’s your favorite thing to do in Sioux Falls?

3 Free Things Sioux Falls

3 Free Things Sioux Falls

One Day in the Twin Cities

one day itinerary minneapolis st paul twin cities

The Twin Cities have a special place in my heart.

It’s at least partially a mythology my brain has built up around it–the soothing drone of Garrison Keeler rippling across the prairie grasses, a shadow of young F. Scott Fitzgerald hashing out his thoughts about life over absinthe, the glint of chrome at Mickey’s Diner — which I’ve never actually been to, so there may not be any chrome but I feel like there should be — the silent grandeur of Summit Avenue whose houses have seen so many glittering snowfalls and so many gem-like leaves in August.

I think the mythology we accumulate about certain places makes them come alive in our minds in a special way. And sometimes, the mythology can make the reality look a little drab.

But here is some wonderful reality for you.

After our wedding, Josh and I spent one day bouncing around Minneapolis/St. Paul before moving on. Although it was just a taste of what the Twin Cities have to offer, it was a perfect, bite-sized refreshment.

You could easily fill up an entire week or two there, but here is a one day itinerary for the foodie, art buff, or just plain multicultural enthusiast.

One Day Itinerary: Minneapolis and St. Paul

As a former barista, there are so many coffee shops in the Twin Cities that I would loooovvvvvve to visit. We just went to Claddagh Coffee, though, and it was a perfect, low-key start for our day. Bring your order down into their comfy basement. Some coffee shops have kind of a pretentious, hipstery vibe. Some coffee shops have an overly commercialized vibe. This one was just pure, quirky, casual comfort. Oh, and toss some gold to their leprechaun on your way out.

Next — now trust me on this — the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Plan on spending all day here. They have a cafe inside, so you don’t need to leave for lunch! We arrived around one in the afternoon, walked until our feet hurt and walked some more, didn’t leave until closing time — and we still missed out on a couple major galleries. Even if an art museum doesn’t sound interesting to you, there is something here for everyone — jade exhibits from Asia, mummies from Egypt, re-creations of Jane Austen era rooms, swords and suits of armor, all the famous paintings and sculptures your eyes are capable of absorbing in one day (actually, more), sheep to take selfies by. . .

Not kidding about the sheep.

sheep selfie

Also, admission is free.

So when they kick you out at closing time, you’ll need to find some dinner. Moscow on the Hill. Do it. If I lived next to Moscow on the Hill, I would eat my way through their entire menu. Perusing the enormous vodka menu, Josh was like a kid in a candy store. I think we split their Appetizer Tasting Platter and it happened to be a variety of all things salmon, and it was amazing. I also tried escargot for the first time, and it is actually not revolting if you don’t think about it too hard!

It has been a year and a half, and my mouth is still watering, thinking about the salmon pate.

 

At the end of our long day, we checked into Hotel 340. They upgraded our room at check in due to availability, so I’m not exactly sure what kind of room we ended up in, but it may have been a king suite. It felt more like an apartment than a hotel room — I think I’d be ok with living there! It was a charming mix of modern convenience with early 1900s ambiance soaring 12 stories above the streets of St. Paul.

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Usually, I’m the type of person who likes to try new things. I never buy the same shampoo twice. I’m always trying new recipes from Pinterest. If I’m going to travel somewhere, why see things that I have already seen?

But all that said, this one-day trip is one that I would be happy to recreate over and over again.