I hope everyone is having a nice Memorial Day weekend! Let us not forget the reason for the holiday and the sacrifice made by so many individuals and their families. Freedom doesn’t come free.
I thought this weekend would be a good time to share my recent trail run at Manassas National Battlefield Park. The weekend before last I was up at my dad’s house for my little sister, Rachaels, college graduation. On Saturday morning I was able to sneak away for a short trail run at the battlefield. It was something I had wanted to do for awhile!
It was already fairly crowded in the parking area when I arrived that morning, although that was to be expected because it was a gorgeous morning. Parking was free, and I wandered into the visitor’s center to get a park map. The employee there gave me a few pointers on following the trail and sent me on my way. My day began on Henry Hill, at the spot where General Thomas J. Jackson earned the name “Stonewall.”
His nickname was given to him by General Barnard Elliott Bee. While attempting to rally the shattered Confederates for a final push that ultimately caused the Union forces to retreat he said “Form, form. There stands Jackson like a stone wall; Rally behind the Virginians.”
From there I began my trek around the First Manassass Trail, just over 5 miles in length. I ran past some cannons, pictured above, that mark the primary battle lines where the Union and Conferederate armies squared off on a warm July day in 1861. Not long after that, the trail led into the woods.
I meandered through the woods for the first mile or so. It was fairly crowded near the Visitor’s Center and the main attractions. But the further down the trail I went the quieter it got. I saw a couple of horseback riders and a hiker here or there, but that was about it for awhile.
Around 1.5 miles I ran on a long boardwalk section through a marsh area. For whatever reason, I always love running across bridges and boardwalks, so I thought this section was really neat.
I then arrived at Stone Bridge, where Union forces advanced in an attempt to distract the Confederate army from their main advance further upstream.
From here, the trail meandered through the woods along Bull Run stream. I enjoyed views of Bull Run and wildflowers. As I reached the halfway point I encountered a few short, but steep, climbs as the trail wound up through the woods and back through farm fields.
Overall, the run was not super hilly. It was primarily rolling hills with a few short, steep climbs about halfway through, with one long hill towards the end.
Just before mile 4, I was running through a field and came to an intersection. The trail wasn’t marked, so I took my best guess based on the map and following the loop in a counterclockwise direction and turned right. My guess turned out to be wrong, though, and after running down a hill I arrived at a parking area. I pulled out my map, but had a hard time matching up the four different trails I could see leaving the parking lot to the two I saw marked on the map. Finally, I realized my mistake and saw I should have turned left at the intersection. After losing 5-10 minutes, I made my way back uphill and back to what I now realized was Matthews Hill. The cannons lined up here show the Union’s artillery positions, pointing across the battlefield toward the distant Henry Hill where I had begun my run.
Matthews Hill also overlooks Stone House, which was the next point of interest on my tour. On any other day, I would have stopped to walk through the house. But on this day, I was starting to run short on time for Rachael’s graduation party (thanks to getting lost) so I had to keep moving.
I ran up the long Henry Hill as my watch hit 5 miles, and then ran by the final point of interest along the First Manassas Trail – Henry House. The cannons near Henry House mark the spot where fierce artillery clashes took place. Henry House (which can be seen in the distance below) was caught in the middle. An elderly woman named Judith Carter Henry refused to evacuate her home during the battle, and was killed by cannon fire. She is buried nearby.
Just shy of 5.5 miles, I arrived back at the Visitor’s Center to conclude my run. Manassas Battlefield was a really neat place to run, and I’d love to explore there again. There is another trail, Second Manassas Trail, that is just over 6 miles long. But that will have to wait for another day. On this day, I had to hurry home to celebrate Rachael’s graduation!
Have you ever gotten lost while running/hiking/biking on trails?
Do you enjoy historical sites and tours?