Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I head to a website called jetpunk.com for party-of-one trivia games under the covers. I will admit, I am not good at most topics (animals and pop culture seem to be my only two strengths) but one quiz made me take a screenshot of my answers before unplugging for the night. “Virginia Facts” intrigued me because I now live here and want to learn more about my surroundings, an area so rich in history. Each time my husband and I go hiking, I am moved by the number of burial grounds and Civil War landmarks and relics that I see. We live within 10 miles of old homes and stomping grounds of our forefathers and other noteworthy citizens: It’s only appropriate that I brush off the filing cabinets in my mind that store 5th grade history literature, re-familiarize myself with my own Nation’s tales.
This past weekend boasted of a blank slate, so I asked my husband if he would accompany me for an afternoon trip to the Bull Run Battlefield in Manassas, VA. The weather was perfect, our home duties were done, and all it took was a cool September breeze to get my husband in the car. (That, and a promise of CJ Finz’ fried pickles on the way home from our excursion.) Camera in hand, a was ready to take some creative shots of a newfound place.
I highly recommend the trip to this incredible National Park. My husband and I started at the Henry Hill Visitor Center, open daily from 8:30AM-5PM. We took a brief tour of the museum and opted out of the walking tour, although they did run quite frequently. The park itself is open from sunrise to sunset, and there are no entrance fees!
There were children and puppies at play, there were leisure picnics and willful walkers scattered around the terrain. My husband and I completed a one-hour or so loop around the park, reading each literary marker and taking pictures of sites as we passed.
As I get older, I find myself more compelled to learn with purpose, really memorize facts instead of just glossing over bits of information. It pains me that I have done so much in my life already, have walked through french museums and have witnessed the “Changing Of The Guards,” and still have trouble articulating why they do so or recalling how the Mona Lisa took her place in Le Louvre. If I thought I’d learn by osmosis, the notion certainly failed me. I therefore have been writing down useful, fun tidbits lately, making flashcards like I used to in grade school, to ensure that there is more than brain goo between my two ears.
I learned that the First Battle of Bull Run was named by the Union forces and was fought on July 21, 1861. The Confederate army called the fight, the Battle of First Manassas; It was the first battle of the Civil War and was quite sloppy, as both parties were ill-prepared. It was so interesting to walk the attack and retreat paths of both armies, sit on the rebuilt porch of the Judith Henry’s House, learn that she was the first civilian killed in battle. I touched cannons from both forces and climbed a tree beside the grave of General Francis Stebbings Bartow, the first Confederate Officer to fall. I took a photo next to the stately monument of Stonewall Jackson and happily snapped dozens of other pictures from behind the camera: The rural landscape was a true feast for my creative senses.
Once again, whether you are looking to teach your children about early US history, brush up on Virginia facts, whether you are looking to picnic in different surroundings or take a walk with furry loved ones on sacred soil, whether you crave cool photo opps, behind or in front of the camera, this park is definitely worth the drive, near or far.
GPS: 6511 Sudley Road Manassas, VA 20109