An online journal of Mannie Gentile, a National Park Service Park Ranger working on the National Mall in our nation's capital.
DISCLAIMER: please note that this blog represents only my views and not those of the National Park Service.
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The much anticipated "Three Farms Trail" opened this past October and now, at long last, Antietam National Battlefield is connected from the northernmost to southernmost ends by hiking trails. This had been in the works for years, and as regular Antietam hikers are aware the roster of available trails has been growing over the last three or four years. Now with the three farms connector, a sack lunch, plenty of water and a pair of sturdy boots a visitor can spend an entire day on the battlefield's trails getting to know the battlefield from the inside out.
As the euphonious name suggests, this new trail (above, in yellow) connects three farms that are all witnesses to the battle. Starting at the Roulette Farm ("Drive 'em boys, drive 'em, take anything you want but drive 'em!") the visitor can continue to the very secluded Parks Farm on the bank of Antietam Creek, and after pausing for photos and a re-lacing of the boots hike along the creek to the Newcomer Farm at the Middle Bridge.
If one is feeling particularly ambitious, one can simply begin at stop 2 on the Cornfield trail and end one's day at stop 9 after having conquered the Snavely Ford and Final Attack trails.
This was a multi-year effort, requiring lots of planning and hard work to make this fabulous trail system possible, and much of the labor was provided by the youthful arms and strong backs of the members of the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC). These fantastic young people spend the summer engaged in a variety of infrastructure building projects, including: brush removal, trail maintenance, and fence reconstruction. Much of the beauty that the visitor enjoys at the Battlefield is the result of the hard work of these enthusiastic and good-natured young people.
YCC is a great altruistic way to employ young adults for the public good. you can check out their website here.
The trail on a chilly day this week.
Earlier in the week I stopped by the trail as it passes behind the Newcomer Barn and walked a few hundred yards to enjoy the wintertime aspect of this corner of the Park. You can bet I'll be packing a lunch and enjoying the view of Antietam Creek from this bench when the weather gets a little warmer.
This is the mud-proof portion of the trail that passes under the highway 34 bridge, theBoonsboro-Shepherdstown Pike just north of the Newcomer Farm.
Continuing South from Newcomer, the trail crosses a little run and makes its way toward a connection with the Sherrick Farm Trail and all points south. Note the inscription on the bridge: "YCC 2004", an earlier project of the Youth Conservation Corps.
Now let's flashback a few months to when the weather was much, much, warmer...
Here are some pix, taken last summer, of the making of the trail as it passes under the highway bridge.
Rocks delineate the borders of the trail as chips just begin to be shoveled in.
As can be seen here, YCC kids literally work shoulder-to-shoulder with Park staff.
Young people + shovels = work getting done.
Despite the hard work, everyone is cheerful and enthusiastic.
The progress moves ever forward...
one shovel full at a time.
Watching all this work tuckered me out, I went for a little stroll down the trail to cool off and catch the summertime sights.
This way leads north to the little footbridge...
to the Parks Farm...
and beyond, with beautiful sights, sounds, and smells every step of the way.
Refreshed, I returned to the worksite.
And timing is everything...the work had been completed with a lone YCC worker glancing back at a very good days work, as well as a legacy left for several seasons of visitors by the YCC class of '08.
Antietam National Battlefield; a great place to make connections of all sorts.
The Mumma barn has been a beehive of volunteer activity this fall and winter as our all-volunteer gun detachment has been getting trained up on the safe loading and handling of the Park's 12 pounder light-gun howitzer (Napoleon).
Safety, being the first consideration, kept the crew in the barn going through each step of each postition of each crewmember until everybody could perform each job flawlessly.
As with an actual gun detachment, each member has to become proficient in each job, and they rotate positions frequently.
The ultimate goal is to provide gun firing demonstrations on the last Saturday (tentatively) of each month during the tourist season.
The detachment moved out of the barn in December as they were ready to do actual firing. And they've had about four firing sessions since then.
We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated group of volunteers willing to sacrifice so much time in order to bring this exciting program to the public.
Come on out this spring and summer to see our crew in action.
From the Lincoln exhibition at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History.
p.s. Sorry for any confusion here (as noted in comment below) I was merely struck by the interesting symmetry of these two images, both taken in the Lincoln gallery of the Museum of American History. A parallel line of Lincoln protraits, contrasted with and equally parallel line comprised of the actual hoods worn by the Lincoln conspirators on the scaffold.
I'd never seen these hoods before and was unaware that they even still existed. I found this display both chilling and compelling.
For those of you who check in to my blog regularly (for which I thank you) you know that I've been asked to produce videos for the park's website. The first video "The Rest is Silence" (about the illumination) went up in the late autumn just prior to the battlefield illumination.
I recently completed the editing on an artillery video that explores the role of the guns during the battle and follows the step-by-step procedure of loading and firing. "Artillery at Antietam (part one) exists as a final draft and is making its way through the approval chain as I type.
I'll keep you posted as future videos come on-line.
Press the "play" arrow on the screen below to view an out-take from the artillery video; no, I don't mean "bloopers" ,artillery and bloopers are mutually exclusive, this is one of many extra clips that didn't get into the finished project. Shot without a tripod, this scene was just a test.
I'll see you through the viewfinder, just north of Sharpsburg.