We are less than 3 weeks away from the big move to Chengdu and last weekend’s 70 degrees and sunny weather seemed the perfect backdrop for the last hike we will take on American soil for at least the next 2 years.
But rather than fight the hordes trekking up the slick, muddy passes of Old Rag in the springtime, and rather than spend 6+ hours driving to one of our other favorite hiking haunts, my husband suggested we try something a little different: a historical walk around the Battle of Bull Run. He is the king of good ideas.
It was a really fun way to spend a morning. The National Park in Manassas has lots going for it, including:
1. It’s proximity to DC (less than a 40 minute drive)
2. gentle and forgiving hills-perfect for pasty and out of shape hikers
3. historical sites and facts and plaques abound. Also makes for timely breaks along the trail for when even those gentle, rolling hills are getting the best of one’s pathetically jiggly quads.
4. There is a pleasant mix of wooded trails and grassy meadows
5. In some places, you feel that shivery bit of history running up and down your spine
There’s something about climbing up a hill and looking over the top to see another hill, lined with cannons, right in front of you. It’s hard to imagine perfectly, but you can sort of begin to guess what those soldiers must have felt like that day, fighting in such close proximity to each other, to houses, to farmland.
At the first battle, people from DC actually packed picnics and rode down to watch the battle as spectators, as if war were just a glorified boxing match. I can’t imagine their horror (and maybe even their shame) as they watched soldiers fall, felt the boom of the cannons, and realized that the cannon fire would soon be raining down on them and their picnic blankets as well.
On a lighter note, this place has A TON of trails. Many, many more than are on the map. We saw fellow walkers, runners, dog owners, painters with easels, photographers, people on horses, little people in strollers. We saw people having picnics and flying kites and training for marathons. Despite all of the people, it never felt crowded. Must be all of the wide open spaces.
There is also a nice little museum with some cool artifacts including uniforms and pictures, etc. I’m not so into the guns so this suited me perfectly. Those who would prefer firearms pried from their cold dead fingers can find the NRA museum just up the road (shudder).