A MEMORABLE PLACE
Ghostly walk at Gettysburg
We meet in a hotel parking lot in downtown Gettysburg and the three of us exchange greetings and begin to change into our uniforms. Two rebels and one Yankee. I pull on the wool trousers of the Union uniform similar to the ones my great-great-grandfather wore in 1863.
We walk into a tavern called the Mine Shaft, which is where you traditionally start a ghost walk. Civil War re-enactors take a walk after the sun goes down and sleep on the battlefield on an anniversary such as this one. It is July 3 here in Gettysburg. Many ghostly sights and sounds have been witnessed on a ghost walk.
It is midnight as we walk away from the tavern to the road with rolled wool blankets and rubber ponchos slung over us. We thumb a ride to the Peach Orchard. A pizza-delivery boy on his way home from work stops and drives us two miles down the road south of Gettysburg. He tells us he volunteers at the Park Service and we tell him the wrong direction we are walking in case he tips off the park rangers. After he drops us off, we sprint through the Peach Orchard in waist-high wheat in total darkness. There is no moon here tonight.
At the tree line, we stand with our mouths open and stare at thousands of fireflies. Johnny whispers, "Look behind you." "No fireflies?" I question. Johnny says, "Each firefly represents the muzzle blast from a musket during the battle."
We are walking the route the Confederate Army took through here. We proceed through the fireflies and into the trees. On the paved road, Johnny says if any cars come to dive off the right side of the road and he will take the left side. Sure enough, a car comes and Garrett and I stumble off into the woods and lie face down.
Now we enter the Wheat Field. Many men came to rest here in this field. Here Johnny has us remove our hats. It is really dark, and overhead are many stars that seem so close. We cross up and over the snipers' lair and we crouch behind the rock, where more cars pass by.
After we walk through Devil's Den, Garrett yells, "Car." We realize a car is coming from each direction on a one-way road. One vehicle is definitely a park ranger. We dive behind a rock wall. A van parked nearby is what attracted their attention. The park rangers park so close we can see the dome light illuminating the woods. We hear the squawk of the radio and the crunch of gravel under their boots. Then we hear voices, and the van starts up and leaves.
The ranger shines his flashlight right over us toward the trees. Garrett and I pull our feet close to our bodies and hold our breath. Both rangers leave, and we breathe a sigh of relief. It is then that I realize what soldiers felt when they hid from opposing troops.
Now we are at the toughest part of the march. We are at the base of Little Round Top. We walk up the same direction the Rebels did, but we are in darkness and there are many rocks. We stumble and usually catch each other. At the top, we are sweating and ready for some water from our canteens and some quiet conversation. The stars are even brighter and there is a small breeze to cool us. We remove our coats and lay out blankets and fall asleep about 3 a.m.
As I drift off to sleep, I think that if those park rangers had seen us, we would have looked like ghosts roaming the battlefield in our uniforms. Then I realize that we are the ghosts.
Charles L. Phillips lives in Catonsville.
MY BEST SHOT
Peaceful Yosemite Park
By Robert J. Lennon, Towson
My wife, Dianna, and I just returned from a glorious week at Yosemite National Park in the Sierras of California. In the winter, the normally crowded valley is quiet and peaceful. There are plenty of rooms available at off-season rates. Lift tickets for skiing at Badger Pass are included for free. The ski school is great; four hours of lessons a day for $25. Photography of the breathtaking scenery is best early in the morning and before sunset, so you can spend the day on the slopes and still catch the good light.
READERS RECOMMEND. . .
Nancy Rubin, Baltimore
"Ever since our children were young, we have taken them on a yearly vacation. About seven years ago, we discovered the island of St. Kitts in the West Indies. We have been vacationing there annually ever since. St. Kitts is known for its friendly people and quiet atmosphere. We feel 'at home' there and have made many new friends. It is truly a hidden gem in the Caribbean."
Perry Luzwick, Columbia
Shenandoah National Park
"We rode horses, walked on the Appalachian Trail to the highest point in the park and took some short hikes. Our favorite was to Whiteoak Canyon Falls. We hiked 2.3 miles down a trail crisscrossed with streams and rivers to the first falls, which is 86 feet. The roar of the falls was incredible compared with the silence of the forest."