Lovely Morning at Antietam

Well, this has been a winner of a morning in western Maryland! Crisp, I kid you not, CRISP air greeted me as I followed Sidekick Pauli out into the yard this morning. Like Autumn…what an absolute blessing after the pea souper of a week we have had!

Sweetie and I headed over South Mountain for a walk at Antietam National Cemetery. I have been to the battlefield many times, but never the cemetery. It did not disappoint.

I sought out the graves for Indiana soldiers killed in battle and perused for last names that I knew from home. The only one I found was ‘Evans’. I moved on through the pines and circled around to the other side of the cemetery. Here I found a grave that seemed oddly out of place.

This grave belongs to Goodloe Byron, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1971-1978. His term ended when he died of a heart attack while running on the nearby C&O canal. He was an avid runner having completed several marathons…and seemed to believe he could eat whatever he wanted. Unfortunately, not so.

He ignored warnings from his physician who told him that treadmill tests from 1974 to 1978 indicated his coronary arteries were gradually closing. The last treadmill test in January 1978 indicated severe abnormality and was positive for heart disease. The physician advised Byron to stop running until further tests could be done.

Hmm, okay…let that be a lesson to us all!

Anyway, interesting story, but still not sure why he is buried with civil war soldiers.

Exiting the cemetery, we drove down to Burnside Bridge and stolled down the Final Attack trail and Union Advance trail.

Refreshing cool breezes kept us perfectly content with life as we rounded through sunny fields and then into cool dark woods. We found plump ripe rasberries, a variety of wildflowers, and blue birds.

Ahh, this is the kind of morning that makes me want to live forever! Heed that lesson from G. Byron’s premature death and Hike on!

The Search for the Missing Caverns (Schoolhouse Ridge, WV)

We could write a book, Queen V and me.  Hers would have a “Little House on the Prairie” spin, while mine would be more of the “Nancy Drew” formula variety…but still.

Yesterday’s adventure started as a pre-scheduled Trail Dame hike up to Boliver Heights in which everyone had canceled except Queen V.  We took that opportunity to go rogue. So after a gentle climb up and down Bolivar Heights,  we went looking for the abandoned camp on Schoolhouse Ridge.

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We entered an area that we assume “unofficial” cars are not allowed…but there is no gate or fence keeping out curious pedestrians…hike on!

The dew laden grasses in the battlefield had soaked our shoes, so I was pleased to be hiking up a gravel road.  The air was crisp, the sky was blue, and a few leaves were showing off bright yellows and reds of autumn.

I was looking forward to revisiting the abandoned camp which Little Caesar and I had stumbled upon last year.  There is nothing quite so exciting as to inadvertently hike into something unexpected and forgotten.  It seems to open a box of memories locked in place and time.  Not my personal memories, but a collective of memories created by what I have read or seen of the time period.

We reached a fork in the road, which way?  I don’t remember so we go to the right at first, then finding nothing, turned back and took the left fork.  Ah, there it is!

Queen V states “Better to ask for forgiveness, than ask for permission.”  as we pass the first long, low building.  There are some official park vehicles behind a chain link fence.  I give little attention at first, then look again.  Oh, it was a swimming pool! Queen V steps forward pointing out how it has been filled in and oh, look there is the baby pool!

Turning our backs on the pool area we head to the other end of the building.  Here we find another shack with signage!

We are now both on our phones “googling” for information on this park.  I find nothing because I have T-Metro (T-Mobile).  Queen V is victorious, somewhat, in her search. This was an early Jellystone Campground!  We continue to poke our heads into each building, searching for clues to the past.

Just an average girl climbing up on a cement block to take a peek. Go Queen V!

Just an average girl climbing up on a cement block to take a peek. Go Queen V!

Scramble under the bushes, poke, poke, ….Oh My STARS!!! Hey Boo Boo, How about a pic-a-nic basket?!!!  THIS IS THE BEST FIND EVVVEEEEERRRR!!!

Can you believe it? The best! We are both just giddy at this point and our curiosity is at full throttle.  What else was here?  What else are you finding on Google?

“Caverns…there were caverns!” reports Queen V.   “Caverns?” I ask, just to be sure I heard her correctly.  Oh yes, now the hunt for the missing caverns began.

I found this online...there are caverns!

I found this online…there are caverns!

We hiked further up the road.  Veering right at the next fork we found the cracked, old pavement ended and our wade through thigh high grasses began.  It was still a road, just unpaved and not frequently used. We found a power hook up, like an RV or trailer would use when camping and looking around discovered we were in one of the old campground areas.  Overgrown and forgotten, including the bath house.  But no caverns.

We hiked up past the maintenance area, into another campground loop long forgotten.  More power hook ups, but now with an addition of water pumps!  And security lights floating above the trees that looked like flying saucers. 🙂

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But still no caverns! Online resources stated the caverns had been “adjacent” to the campground, so they had to be here somewhere!

We stomped up and down and all around Schoolhouse Ridge until our stomachs were growling and our feet were sloshing in our shoes.  Still nothing! Where could the missing caverns be located?

We headed back downhill, not satisfied with our search, we discussed next steps.  “We can leave a car here in the parking lot, then drive further up the road…there has to be something!” I said confidently.  Okay, good plan! Let’s do it! So we did.

We took my car and drove about a hundred feet up the road to the Train Museum.  I turned in and we found ourselves in the middle of yet another adventure! Only $2 to take the train ride???  OH WE ARE DOING THIS…wait, do we have any paper money? I found three crumpled dollar bills and Queen V found a dollar’s worth of change in her wallet…train ride on!

“Hey, do you know about the caverns around here?” I asked the conductor.  Of course he did and told us he would fill us in after the ride. 🙂 🙂 🙂

This guy had information on the caverns! After the train ride, he happily gave us a little history lesson.

This guy had information on the caverns! After the train ride, he happily gave us a little history lesson.

I think we had more fun than the kids on the train!

I think we had more fun than the kids on the train!

The Train guy’s story:
The campground closed in the 1970s. “It would have been miserable up there in the summer. No trees then, just out there in the middle of the field.” He shows us an old post card. A view from above, happy campers lounging by the pool with the long low house in which Yogi now resided. “Oh yeah, the caverns are up there, but they filled them in too…they were collapsing anyway. Pretty dangerous.” he finished.

We still want to find those old caverns…but for now the missing caverns will have to remain missing for us! Hike on!

A Morning at Boliver Heights Battlefield

The mysteriousness of a heavily fogged in morning.  It feels both calm and spooky, like something is about to happen.  Battlefields are especially moving in the early morning and add in the fog…well, walking through it, having it swirl around me and swallow me up…left me feeling as if I had entered a magical place where it was possible to transcend time.

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Looking towards Schoolhouse Ridge

Sidekick Pauli walked with me this morning up the the hill from Schoolhouse Ridge.  I looked back at the car once finding it hard to see in the mist.  I looked back twice and it was gone.  A thick misty white wall moved across the field in no hurry to rise into the sky.  We headed on up the hill and eventually emerged from the fog. How beautiful the opposing Schoolhouse Ridge looked.  We turned back to enter the woods and climb up to Boliver Heights.
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The climb was gentle and several deer greeted us with a quick glance and a flip of the tail as we made our way up.  Then the beauty of the ridge!

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Sunrise at Boliver Heights

Looking down to the Potomac & Shenandoah Rivers … rivers still hidden at this early hour.  Absolutely stunning!

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Looking down into Harper's Ferry

Headed back down into the woods after walking along the ridge enjoying the views. The trail here was a little rough with several blowdowns. At one point I wondered if I had gotten off the trail, but there was a definite path in front of me so I continued.
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Coming to a fork in the trail, someone had tied ribbons to indicate which way to go. Downhill, well, that makes sense. So down we went! More blowdowns, then into a pawpaw patch we followed the ribbons.
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“Yay!” I thought, catching site of the field as we climbed over our last log. Entering the field, we were about 100 yards away from a farmhouse. I heard a man’s voice yell up to me, “Are you lost?” Um…um…awkward! I didn’t think so, but apparently this was someone’s private property!! After talking, well, yelling back and forth with the guy, we had no choice but to follow the ribbons back up the hill! I don’t know who marked that trail, but ergh.

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Dead end!!!

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Back on the ridge, but the fog is gone

A lovely morning to explore, though! And hey, eventually I will find the right trail down the hill! 🙂

Happy Friday and take the weekend to hike on!

Morning Stroll at Antietam Battlefield

I understand, I think, why the battlefields are made for auto traffic…but to really get a sense of what a Civil War soldier might have felt you might want to get out of the car and walk.  I only say “get a sense” because there is no way for me (with no battle experience) to really understand on any level what a soldier, who is carrying all his stuff, wearing a wool uniform, eating whatever is in the ration can, and who might be miles away from home, is going to feel lugging himself through some muggy, hot farm field in Maryland to fight in a war he may or may not understand.

When I began my walk this morning on Rodman Avenue (just off Route 34 east of Sharpsburg, MD), it was a pleasant 75 degrees.  Probably about the same temperature on September 17, 1862, the bloodiest one day battle in American history.  23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing at Antietam…wrap your head around that number.

Walking down Rodman Avenue

Walking down Rodman Avenue

Along the road, are monuments, similar to Gettysburg.  If in a car, there is no place to park along Rodman Avenue or even pull over in order to get out and read the about the monument…of course this is why they have a podcast…so one will NEVER, EVER, have to get out of the car.  Great for those who truly need it, but come on America, many of us are able to get out and walk!! Um…okay, I’ll stop now.

Colonel Benjamin C. Christ - Monument to the 50th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (1st Brigade, 1st Division, 9th Corps)

Colonel Benjamin C. Christ – Monument to the 50th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (1st Brigade, 1st Division, 9th Corps)

It is beautiful walking up the road.  To the left are views of the mountains and Sherrick Farm and to the right are meadows blooming with wildflowers.  It is an easy road walk and this morning it was pretty quiet.  The birds chattered and flitted from the field to the meadow and back again, sometimes resting on the fence line before taking off again.  There was a nice breeze, but I could feel the humidity bullying its way in and knew in a few hours this walk would be unbearable.

Good Morning Mountains!

Good Morning Mountains!

Bucolic Sherrick Farm

Bucolic Sherrick Farm

The fields were already heating up so I decided to hike those first, then dip down towards Antietam Creek.  At the end of Rodman Avenue, turn left and continue to Burnside Bridge.

Burnside Bridge

Burnside Bridge

I passed the bridge and continued to the “Final Attack Trail” as this traversed through many open, sunny fields.

Along the "Final Attack Trail"...I love those fences...

Along the “Final Attack Trail”…I love those fences…

Leaving the ridge on the "Final Attack Trail"

Leaving the ridge on the “Final Attack Trail”

However, there are spots of shade to find respite!  Sidekick Pauli and I found a wonderful tree under which to take a little break before heading back out into the field.

Then we were blessed with a longer walk through the woods.  Nice and cool!

Sidekick Pauli's Saturday Smile!

Sidekick Pauli’s Saturday Smile!

We stayed in the woods for much of the time as we wound our way down to the “Snavely Ford Trail”.  Turn to the right at this trail junction in order to walk along Antietam Creek.  Sidekick Pauli very much wanted to go to the creek as it meant she would be able to get in and cool off!!

Where are my hedge clippers when I need them?

Where are my hedge clippers when I need them?

The trail is a bit overgrown at the moment and I sort of wished I had on long pants.  That thought only lasted for a moment though as I was soon hot, hot, hot, climbing back up the hill to reconnect with the trail to Burnside Bridge.

We crossed the bridge and rounded out our hike by meeting up with the “Sherrick Farm Trail”.  This trail is quite nice and passes a genuine swimming hole complete with a swinging rope!

Sidekick Pauli crosses Burnside Bridge

Sidekick Pauli crosses Burnside Bridge

Beginning of Sherrick Farm Trail

Beginning of Sherrick Farm Trail

After the swimming hole, the trail goes uphill to meet the Burnside Bridge road.  Take a left, cross the bridge, then take a right and continue on the trail.  At this point, “Sherrick Farm Trail” starts to resemble a real, meaning more rugged, hiking trail and may not be for everyone…it is not bad, just a little slanty with roots and a few rocks.

It doesn’t last long!  Sidekick Pauli and I were back at the car in no time!

This hike was about 4.5 miles long and included road walking, easy trail walking through rolling cornfields and along Antietam Creek.  It is a beautiful way to spend an early summer morning.

So get out of the car and Hike On! 🙂

Humpday Hike! Monocacy National Battlefield-Thomas Farm Loop

An unexpected day off for me! The stars had aligned…sunny, dry, and now a day off…well, let’s go hiking!

Thomas Farm is part of the Monocacy National Battlefield located in Frederick, Maryland.  The trail here is too short for a full day hike but perfect if you have an hour or two to spare (I did!).  This was my first time at Thomas Farm so I was filled with excitement that only a tramp down a new trail brings as I pulled into the parking area.  Sidekick Pauli was in tow, and together we started down the drive towards the big red barn.

The wind made things cold for awhile...and it kept blowing Sidekick Pauli's ears from side to side!

The wind made things cold for awhile…and it kept blowing Sidekick Pauli’s ears from side to side!

Once past the big red barn, the drive heads down the middle of the field.  Easy walking!  Beautiful view of the mountains in the distance, but totally flat through the field.  If there is a negative, it would be that this farm sidles up to I-270.  Honestly, it didn’t bother me that much…but the wind was literally howling at times so it could have masked the sound of traffic!

Are we in Kansas?

Are we in Kansas?

After walking through the field the trail takes a right leaving the hard, crushed stone drive to hug the edge of the field.  During the summer months this would be a nice respite from the hot walk down from the barn! OH…and the deer…wow, there must have been at least thirty deer in the woods!  They didn’t really want to hang out and converse with us…

Towards the end of the field the white trail goes down hill to the Monocacy River.  It was quite full, fast and muddy today.  The white trail was in pretty good shape for being so close to the river and was a pleasant diversion from the field above.  Sidekick Pauli had a good time using her hound dog nose to sniff the place out!

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Before the white trail hairpins to the right and heads uphill, I caught view of the old iron bridge over the Monocacy on Rt. 355.  With a cell phone camera, I couldn’t get a zoom with any clarity so gave up and headed back up to the field.  We could have earned a blue ribbon for speed as we raced back to the car…it was a bit nippy in that wind! Brrrr…not quite Spring yet! 🙂

Hike on!

Balls Bluff Battlefield Regional Park: Leesburg, Virginia

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Do you know what it feels like to walk down a trail and not know what is around the next bend?  Many of the trails I walk are well worn paths that I have walked routinely for years…so there is nothing that sparks my curiosity like a new trail to explore! Virginia has recently created or […]