Frank and I are in South Jersey now … less than 5 miles from the Atlantic Ocean as the crow flies. We arrived this past Thursday. The campground … our second Thousand Trails location … is really nice, although it’s nothing like Circle M. This has more of a “campground” feel to it. Even then, it’s not really what I expected.
I was thinking we’d be resting on sand, with little shade. As it turns out though, there are lots of trees and we’re pretty well protected from the sun. While there’s no sand, the campsite is pretty much all dirt. Frank loves it … he rolls on the ground what seems like 283 times a day. Me, not so much (either loving it or rolling in it)! After each rolling episode, he wants to get back into the Nutshell. He’s funny – when he wants back into the cabin, he patiently sits next to me until I can take him off his lead and let him hop in. He has a street urchin look about him. His muzzle is smudged with dirt, he’s got dirt clinging to his ears, and dried up leaves all over his back! I’m fondly remembering when all I had to do was release him from the tree or bush that he had wrapped his lead around. Much easier!
Anyhow, I was finally able to download a number of photos off my broken phone (long story). I took a lot more than I’m posting – simply put, most of them suck,. Because the phone was intermittently pulling up some sort of Google search page, it was a fight to get it to stay in camera mode … and when it did, it seemed to decide on it’s own when to click the shutter, leading to a lot of blurry photos. It’s really disappointing … especially the shots I took at Antietam / Sharpsburg. I wanted to share those, especially (I’ll get into why later on). That said, here we go:
The Susquehanna Valley
Otter Creek campground is situated right along the old Susquehanna Canal, which was built back in the early 1800’s so that barges could bypass a section of the river that was so rocky that it was impassable. The campground was pretty much out in the boonies, which gave us a chance to see some really pretty farmland. But as you got closer to the camp, the farmland gave way to woods. It reminds me a lot of where I grew up in northern Passaic County, NJ. The sunlight dances through the trees, creating a mystical feel as you drive down a two lane road that disappears around a bend in the distance.
The area is steeped in history. About 500 yards before the camp entrance, there were three historical markers all bunched together. The first gave a little history of the canal itself. Another mentioned that we were at the site of the “Old Furnace Bridge – last of the old wooden bridges erected across the Susquehanna River between Harrisburg and Tidewater.” A couple of the other bridges were burned down during the Civil War to impede the progress of General Lee’s army. Not this one though … it was destroyed years before the war by an ice jam.
The last marker referenced an old stone building right on the canal. When it was first built, it was used as a store house for materials being barged up and down the canal. Later on, it was taken over by a group of well-to-do businessmen up in Harrisburg. They formed a group called the Tucquan Club and ostensibly used the building so they could escape the city and return to nature. In doing a little research I also discovered that the club escaped Prohibition during the 20’s, thanks to the addition of a few doctors to the club … who then prescribed alcohol for “medicinal” purposes. You know the old saying – “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day: teach a man to fish and you give him a reason to sit around and drink beer!” :o)
The club is still active today. I can think of few places better to escape for a weekend! Here are a couple of shots of the river, taken about 1/4 mile north of the Tucquan Club at a little picnic area with a boat launch.
Here’s one last shot of some farmland we passed coming in to Otter Creek. It was overcast that day and some storm clouds were moving in. The photo really doesn’t do the countryside justice.
We’re backtracking here just a bit. While we were still at Circle M, Frank and I took a day trip over to Gettysburg, which was only a little more than an hour west of camp. I hadn’t been there since I was a kid. I have to say it was considerably more meaningful going there this time. You know, you learn about things like the Civil War in school, but to actually visit some of these battlefields is an entirely different thing. The only thing I wish was that we had been able to go at a time when it wasn’t so crowded, being Memorial Day weekend. I was just one of what seemed like thousands of tourists. After the visit, Larry asked if I had felt the “Ghosts of Gettysburg”. I hadn’t – I’m sure any that were there were too busy dodging all the cars to make themselves known … or felt!
We spent a lot of the afternoon at one of the battle’s focal points – the site of Pickett’s Charge, a key event that took place on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Having not had much success during the first two days, Lee had ordered Pickett’s division to attack at the center of the Union defense line. The bloodiest fighting took place along a stone wall, near a place where it took a 90° turn and has been referred to as “The Angle”. Next to it was a small grove, now called the “Copse of Trees” which, according to tradition, was the focal point of the charge. The Confederates were repelled by the Army of the Potomac, under the command of Maj. Gen. Wilford Hancock. It proved to be a near-total disaster for the Confederates. Out of the nearly 12,500 soldiers involved in the assault, over 1,100 were killed and another 4,000 wounded. On the Union side, about 1,500 soldiers were killed or wounded.
Near the copse of trees stands a monument, erected on the site of what’s called the “High Watermark of the Confederacy”, marking their furthest penetration into Union territory. That’s where Frank and I sat for about an hour, feeling the juxtaposition between the low murmur of tourists and passing cars to the chaos and upheaval of 150 years ago. For me, it was painful to take in … I had done a lot of reading about the three days of battle before coming here and sitting there, I remembered one quote I had read from an officer from Ohio:
They were at once enveloped in a dense cloud of smoke and dust. Arms, heads, blankets, guns and knapsacks were thrown and tossed into the clear air. … A moan went up from the field, distinctly to be heard amid the storm of battle.
Try letting that register in our mind as you’re sitting in the spot overlooking where that carnage occurred.
The whole area is filled with monuments , statues and markers. Across the road from the Angle stands a tall statue of Maj. Gen. Hancock, astride a horse. He had been wounded during the charge when a bullet ricocheted off his saddle and went into his thigh, carrying shards of wood and a nail along with it. Further down the road I found a marker indicating where a regiment from New Jersey was positioned.
From there, Frank and I drove south to see Big Round Top and Little Round Top hills, another area of fierce fighting that took place during the second day of battle. Below them stood the Devil’s Den and what has become known as the Bloody Wheatfield, where another 6,000 casualties total were incurred by both sides. Here are a few more photos we took. First looking up onto Big Round Top from below.
Next is the rock-strewn Devil’s Den, which was used by Confederate snipers while attacking Little Round Top:
Last is a photo of the Bloody Wheatfield
It was a quiet ride home. Normally, Frank and I carry on a pretty good conversation in the car. Sometimes we sing … only when we can agree on the music, though. I like folk and country, while Frank’s more of a hard-rock listener.
I have a few more photos, but I’m trying to shorten individual posts and make them more frequent. I’m going to stop here and add the rest in the morning. All I can say is that the last few weeks have been incredibly enjoyable and both of us are looking for more of the same. :o)