What would a vacation be without a National Park? Of course, a Spring Break-ation is not quite a vacation, but a National Battlefield is not quite a National Park. So it works out.
We spent a gorgeous Thursday morning at the surprisingly local (and yet never before visited by Dohls) Petersburg National Battlefield. You Civil War history junkies will remember this as the site of the Battle of the Crater. Between it being a local battle and featuring Pennsylvanian troops in a mining-related campaign, my Civil War-enthusiast husband had already enthusiastically told me about this site long before we ever visited.
The NPS grounds are really nicely set up. The Visitor’s Center has a nicely done little museum that is kid friendly. There are stations to work on Junior Ranger activities, including period clothes to dress up in and flags for practicing flag signal communication. They even have GPS and compasses for orienteering and geocacheing based JR activities, and that sounded fun but a little advanced for our kids and our available time.
Right outside of the visitor’s center was a short trail through earthworks (marked by unmowed grasses in places where the mounded earth was undetectable otherwise). We happened to come just as some interpreters were setting up a demonstration of firing a Napoleon cannon. They faked us out on their practice setup, but then loaded for real and provided a loud (and Kourey says “smelly”) actual firing.
Since our time was limited before Keith had to head to work, we mainly kept to the road running through the battlefield park. It did afford several forts and earthworks viewing areas, and a more comprehensive exhibit and reconstruction at one fort. Near the conclusion of the road was the crater, along with the tunnel (entrance) used for the explosive lines and a short hike to a viewing area of the start of the campaign (I was expecting a scenic viewing area as opposed to a historic viewing area, but I really should have thought about the location!)
There are lots of trails for hiking, biking and even horse-back riding, and I’m sure we will come back soon to check them out. $5 covers a carload admission for up to 5 consecutive days, and annual passes are just $15. Or, if you have a National Parks Pass this is one of your perks (and if you have a National Parks Passport, this is a stamp location – my first of the year, believe it or not).