Bringing the Past to Life

We have settled into our “summer home” on the outskirts of our nation’s capitol. Volunteering as camp hosts at Greenbelt Park, a park under the auspices of the National Park Service, it is our small way of giving back, as we know many of our national parks are at risk without the help of volunteers, and it also puts us in the middle of a metropolitan area that begs to be explored.  Our biggest challenge this summer will be remaining tick-free. 😦

Our new-found friends John and Pam, of “Oh, the Places They Go” were headed in the same direction up the east coast as we and they offered to play tour guide in DC…perfect!  What began as the seeds of a grand biking adventure resulted in two days of horrendous rainstorms and flood warnings around the area.  What appeared to be a “wash-out” ended in a day spent getting to know each other better over coffee, and continuing over lunch.  Although our original plans had been washed away, we walked away feeling once again as if we had rekindled an old friendship instead of shaping a new one.

Fast forward several days and we find ourselves headed to a place that had a resounding impact on our nation, Gettysburg, PA, once again looking forward to our guide John giving us a tour of one of the bloodiest skirmishes of the American Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg.  Lest you think I am going to bore you with facts and figures, fear not.  I would not attempt to claim much retention of elementary-school knowledge of the Battle of Gettysburg beyond the most rudimentary information.  This post is meant to speak to the generosity of a couple and the passion clearly felt in the stories John shared with us, a man who clearly has a love for the history of this wonderful country.  He brought the landscape alive for us, bringing the past into the present.  His eyes danced as he shared stories at various stops along the battlefield grounds.

I must admit that as we approached the town of Gettysburg, I felt a hush descend over the landscape as I looked out over the myriad statues, monuments, and markers dotting the countryside, symbolizing the events that felled so many those three days. Since this day was all about our nation’s history, please allow me to throw out a few facts, to bring the full import of Gettysburg to light and to let John know that the hours of sharing his love of history were not spent in vain. 😉

For those who may not remember, the Battle of Gettysburg, fought between Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil Way, continued over a three-day period, from July 1-July 3, 1863.  After the fighting ended, it would be known as the battle carrying the largest number of casualties of the entire war, estimates ranging from 46,000 to 51,000 on both sides.  Although the Civil War continued for another two years after this fight ended, the Battle of Gettysburg is often described as the “turning point of the war”.  Given that this battle took place in the streets of Gettysburg and surrounding hillsides, it is rather remarkable that there is only one documented civilian casualty, Ginnie Wade, a 20-year old hit by a stray bullet while making bread in her kitchen. Bullet-riddled brick walls can still be seen today outside the Farnsworth House restaurant in town, where we lunched.

Not unlike our last meeting with John and Pam, rain and grey skies followed us, although not even the weather could put a damper on the day.  We parted with the hope of beautiful hikes together out west later this year.  Given the drought conditions in the southwest, certainly with our track record we could bring some much-needed precipitation to the area! 🙂

We can’t thank you enough John and Pam for the incredible day.  Your generosity will not be forgotten and we will come back for more before we leave DC.

70 thoughts on “Bringing the Past to Life

  • There is no one better than John to lead you through the battles at Gettysburg. You were one of the fortunate few, lucky indeed. Sue

    • We felt very fortunate to have John and Pam as our guides. John’s love of this country’s history shines through in his stories.

  • John sounds much like my hubby. He would learn everything he could about the places we lived and loved nothing better than to share that knowledge. One of the best moments I remember is when we lived right on the Pony Express Trail in Utah. Hubby did a talk at the local school. At the end of the talk, one of the kids asked hubby if he had been one of the Pony Express Riders. His quick wit came back with the answer that he only “looked that old”!!! 😀

    • It sounds like you had some great adventures with your hubby Gunta. Having someone like John share Gettysburg with us was so much better than a guide just regaling us with facts and dates. He really did make the battlefield come alive!

  • I am ashamed to say that with all the traveling we have done, we still haven’t made it to Gettysburg. I hope when we do, John is available as our tour guide. I can just imagine all the fun you four had.

    Thanks for volunteering. We need good people to take care of out National parks.

    • This was my very first visit to the state of PA so it took me a while to get there as well. I must admit to history not holding my attention very well in the past but having someone like John share it with you makes all the difference. I found it a dry subject in school but not anymore. We are in the perfect location for soaking up some of our country’s history.

      When we hit the road I knew I needed to find ways to give back, as volunteering has always been very important to me. This is one small way to do it if you enjoy the National Parks.

  • Thanks, LuAnn and Terry for a wonderful day! We had such a fun time. Thanks for all your kind words about our tour guide:) He most certainly was in his element and really appreciated his attentive audience!! Hope to see you again real soon!

    • John is an excellent tour guide and we are fortunate to have had him for this visit. Please let him know we are doing our homework as promised and have already gotten the book “Fallen Angels” and the film Gettysburg is arriving today. 🙂

      Hope to see you both again soon!

      • Oh-oh! Thanks for the heads up. We will have our notepads handy when we watch the film tonight and when we do our reading. 🙂

      • P.S. I fear I will need to do more studying as I didn’t pay attention as well as Terry did the other day. I had other topics to cover with you. 😉

  • Weee! I love John and Pam. I’m so glad, as always, to see two of my favorites in one blog. What really impress me here are the pictures (of course), and John. It’s nice to hear how awesome of an instant tour guide he is.

    • We love Pam and John as well Rommel. John’s history background and love for this topic made it a very special day. One of these times we will have sunny days when we meet up with them (lol). All my photos have blown-out skies! 😦

  • I loved this post and John sounds a real expert…
    I must ask, what does a camp hosts at Greenbelt Park do? Sounds so good ….

    • There is really not much to do as camp hosts in this park. We tour the campground a couple of times during our shift, making ourselves available for questions and lock the park gates after dark…a pretty easy gig for a paid campsite right outside our nation’s capitol. 🙂

  • Wow, having been there last year with another passionate tour guide, I would say you and Terry got the BEST! I can feel John’s enthusiasm. You were very fortunate! Did you ride in a car or did you bike around the Battlefield.?

  • We are really excited for the two of you. What a wonderful opportunity to explore our country’s history in a hands on way. Nothing could be more fun and educational. Enjoy every minute. Roger & Gayl

  • Wasn’t the Gettysburg Address at that battle? I am not up on my American Civil War history, but my sister is. She did that in school in the 80’s.

    I hope ticks tock tacky tails tumultuously totally trashwards 😉

    It’s a great place for you to stay with so much history. Any chance of there being re-enactments while you are there?

  • I almost get to visit Gettysburg when I was in PA last summer. Glad to see these photos here. Volunteers have contributed so much to our national parks. Thank you, LuAnn!

    • My pleasure Amy and if you ever get back to PA, I would recommend a visit to Gettysburg. I understand there is a driving audio tour available at the visitor center.

  • What a fun bonus to an already interesting are to have your own personal tour guide! And, so cool you’ll see each other again this summer.

    Fingers crossed you manage to avoid the ticks…and have fun hosting!

    • Thanks Lisa. It was most definitely a bonus to have our own private tour guide at Gettysburg. Any chance you and Hans will be out west later this year? Would love to get a chance to meet the two of you and perhaps all 6 of us could do some hiking, although from what we’ve heard, I’m not sure we could keep up with the two of you! 🙂

  • How wonderful to have such a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide. I’m sure that as you walked around the battlefield, you must have felt as though you were on hallowed ground. I would love to visit there one day. Kudos to you both for volunteering, and I wish you a tick-free experience. 🙂

    • Thanks Sylvia! We certainly did feel as if we were on hallowed ground, and we had the perfect tour guide. We have relegated our hiking to the paved paths in the hopes of avoiding those tricky little ticks. 🙂

  • Hi LuAnn. You should have your own show on Cable. It would be a hit for sure with you guys as the host. So many great adventures of our wonderful country that you share so well with all of us. Love it, Love the post and of course you, dear sister! 🙂 xo

  • How fun that you got to have shared adventures with John and Pam! We’re looking forward to meeting up with them at some point, just as we’re looking forward to meeting up with you two. (Looks like it will probably be out west, somewhere.) 😉 Having John as your personal tour guide sounds like it really brought the history of Gettysburg to life. That’s my favorite way of learning — on location, with someone enthusiastic sharing their knowledge. I spent far too many hours with boring teachers and textbooks zzzzzz……which means I have a lot to relearn in the realm of history as we travel this country.

    • Laurel, it does appear that west will be where we meet. Once we get back out there, I may just have to track you down (not in the stalking sense, mind you). 🙂 As to the history of our country, I found it to be mind-numbing in school and many times these past couple of years I felt I was hearing some facts for the first time. Experiencing it first-hand has made the difference and having such a passionate tour guide was the best! Safe travels to you two.

  • I’m so glad you got to Gettysburg, as planned, and that you had such a good time with your new friends. I hope you two will consider hosting at other national park campgrounds, as well. Hope to see you soon.

  • History sure has a whole new picture when you are there have such a wonderful guide/friend to share the story!

    Your “job” sounds awesome! Enjoy…..

    • John truly brought the past to life in Gettysburg. He has hooked us with his love of history. We started watching the film Gettysburg last night. 🙂

  • I am ashamed to say we have spent so little time in Pennsylvania that I have never been to Gettysburg. Sure wish I could have gone with you guys for what sounds like a wonderful experience. It was great to talk with you today. See you soon.

  • LuAnn, I hope you are enjoying your new summer home and your hosting duties. You and Terry will be wonderful hosts, I am sure!
    Remain Tick Free!

  • Sounds like you had a fabulous tour…with some great friends too! Now, will you bring out that sun & stay out of the ticks please 🙂 Thinking of you both! Hope you enjoy your camphosting job.

    • We are working on both. What would make the camp hosting job better is if it were out west. I really must quit beating that drum or I will never make it through the summer. 🙂

  • Ah, nothing beats a place weighted down with history of monumental proportions. It’s great to get a passionate enthusiast guiding you around bringing history to life. Schools can learn a lot from that attitude.

    • It was a special treat for us. John was a teacher and school principal before he retired so we were in good hands. Hope all is well with you Ste J. 🙂

  • Beautifully written LuAnn! 🙂 It makes such a difference to have a knowledgeable guide and friend explain the terrain and circumstances of that area. Enjoy your time in a beautiful area of the country … and stay tick-free. ~Terri

    • We had a wonderful day and we are told by the rangers that to remain tick-free in the park it is best to stay off the trails. As I walk the paved roads, I look longingly at the trailheads as I pass by. Thank goodness there are lots of interesting paths and bike trails just outside the park.

  • Thank you for the evocative description of your experience LuAnn. Have to agree with Terri, being shown around by someone passionate about a place and its history is unbeatable. .

  • Nice pictures of the battlefield! Been to Gettysburg several times and I love taking pictures there:)

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