Taking a daytrip to Gettysburg was at the top of our must-do list during our time in central Pennsylvania. We knew we wanted to experience the battlefield in an unconventional way that would keep us away from crowds and enjoying the outdoors. Keeping Little Bird cooped up in the car all day to do the auto tour was not high on our list, so, we took a look at the map and found a nice loop trail that would take us around much of the battlefield.
We stopped briefly at the visitor’s center to get Little Bird’s national parks passport stamped and introduced her to her first statue of Abraham Lincoln (she was rightly confused!). After we got our bearings with the map, we made our way to the amphitheater where we ate our lunch and began our hike.
Based on our cursory review of the map, we figured the hike would be about 5 miles. Since we tend to have a knack for underestimating distance and overestimating our abilities, the trail was actually 7.5 miles. Luckily, it was generally a flat and easy hike, although it did take us around the back of Big Round Top, which posed a little more of a challenge, but was absolutely worth it.
It was truly incredible walking along both the Confederate and Union lines and experiencing the battlefield from so many perspectives and vantage points. With every step, we were walking through history. I will never forget the brief conversation we had with a woman as we hiked up to the top of Little Round Top. Apparently, she had seen us hiking at various points during her drive around the battlefield, and she said to us, “You are experiencing this place the right way,” and you know what, I had to agree with her. What would have been an amazing experience driving around the battlefield took on so much more meaning being immersed in the landscape.
As we walked around Big Round Top, we marveled at the rock outcroppings. On a normal hike, you see the rocks and topography, but when you are walking on a battlefield, you see shelter, a place to rest a gun, a shield from the opposing side. You stand on top of Little Round Top and can almost hear the cry echoing across the hills for soldiers to “hold at all hazards” as they defended the Union. You gain a perspective for the vantage points of each side, for the strategic movements the soldiers made on the battlefield, and the journey they had simply getting there. You walk through meadows where you know countless soldiers were killed, where blood ran like water, and where the history of our country was forever changed.
Visiting Gettysburg has been at the top of my list for a long time, and it was one of our best days yet. While I hope to someday return, go through the museum at the visitor’s center, and share the detailed history with Little Bird, I am grateful for the perspective we gained of being on the battlefield and experiencing the area in a nontraditional way.