Since everything was in bloom, I knew I just had to get down to Gettysburg.
There is a shot of the monuments at Gettysburg National Battlefield Park that I've been trying to get for a long time, but the tree only blooms around this time of year. When I saw this weekend's forecast, I ran on down.
After camping at Caledonia State Park (Hosak Run 178, which was quite nice, by the way), I started out on my "usual" hike around the park.
I don't think that battlefields come to a hiker's mind when you talk about hiking, but what else do you call a three hour, 6 mile walk? I call it hiking, and battlefields are cool places to explore. No, I am not weird about it, but I do like history, and it gives me a good reason to pack my camera.
The hike I usually take, with small changes, now and then, is to start at the visitor's center, to the High Water Mark, down to the Pennsylvania Memorial, and up to Little Round Top. I usually take the horse path, actually, catching it near the New Jersey monument. If you can deal with the occasional pile of manure, it's a better hike because you get to stay off the road for a good distance.
After the horse path, you get to Little Round Top. There are three ways I go from here. I either stay on the horse path (the trail gets quite soggy), head up the road to the top, or detour down and to the right. Today I chose the last. I walked down to Crawford Ave, then toward Devil's Den. This would all make sense from the park map.
From here, I hiked up to Little Round Top, got hollered at from some ranger-wannabe for standing on the wrong rock, and got some really nice panoramic photos. After visiting the 20th Maine marker, made famous in the movie, Gettysburg, I headed up Big Round Rop. There a small parking lot where the trail starts, and I've made the mistake, several times, of heading up what seems to be a path, but that dead-ends about 200 feet up the hill.
Anyway, I hiked up to the top of Big Round Top, and while I made it to the top without stopping, it was the only time I broke a sweat on what was a somewhat chilly and very windy day, despite abundant sunshine. Heading down the path, and going straight across the parking lot, there are three paths, all of which head to Devil's Den. This time, I took the path to the left, and it was tres cool, with a number of unusual bolders and giant rocks.
From Devil's Den, there's a small restroom, which by then, I usually need to use, and there's a path that runs behind it to the west. This is one of the hidden gems of the park. A nice wooded path runs from there back to "The Loop" along an old railroad grade.
One or two of the roads you cross aren't on the official map, for some reason, but when I got to the The Loop, I just headed westerly and up to Wheatfield Road, then toward The Peach Orchard. I was surprised to see that there were no peach trees for some reason, but I didn't want to go that far, anyway. What I usually do is to cut across the grass to what I believe is United States Ave, and then road walk down to Hancock Ave, and back to the PA Memorial and the High Water Mark. The long road walk at the end of this hike can be a bit draining, but it's part of the experience, I think, being in the hot sun. I tried to shortcut the road walk down United States Ave, once, but it gets very swampy, and I had to abort. It's a shame, because there are some great shots of the PA Memorial.
I've been heading to Gettysburg for about 15 years, and the park has changed dramatically. I think Gettysburg was the first really long hike I had ever taken, and it was where I learned the value of packing water. Sure, I had a backpack and a camera, but I had nothing to drink, and after 7 miles or so in the hot sun, that's a pretty stupid thing to do, but what did I know? I had never done anything like that before.
Anyway, I finished up by driving over to Culp's Hill, climbing the tower (again without stopping, a feat I could not have accomplished two years ago) and got some more photos there, and at the High Water Mark before a relaxing meal at KFC and then home.
All in all, a nice day that combined three of my favorite things: hiking, photography and history.