Gettysburg and the Killer Angels

During a recent long weekend in Gettysburg, PA , I decided it was time to read The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.  Dave and I have now been to Gettysburg on long weekend trips every year for the past four years.  Two of those years during Thanksgiving weekend, one in February and one at the end of June, close to the timing of the actual battle which took place July 1, 2, and 3, 1863.  The first time we went together as a couple to Gettysburg was also the first time I was ever there.

Dave had been to Gettysburg often through the years.  He participated for a number of years as a civil war reenactor with the 15th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, as well as being an extra in the movie “Gettysburg” which was based on the novel The Killer Angels.

What’s in a title?  Michael Shaara’s title evokes a memory from Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Chamberlain of the 20th Maine, whose regiment fought brilliantly during the second day of the Gettysburg battle protecting the Union line at Little Round Top.  Chamberlain remembers a speech from Hamlet in which Hamlet states that man is “in action how like an angel!”  Chamberlain’s father, when he heard this says that “if man is an angel, he’s most definitely a ‘murderin’ angel”.  This comes directly from a speech that Chamberlain gave after the war called “Man: The Killer Angel”.

This was so true during those three days in 1863 where over 50,000 casualties were reported.  This is where President Abraham Lincoln would give his famous Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863 in dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg where most of those that died on the battlefield those days at the end of June 1863 are buried.


Gettysburg National Military Park is a very somber place.  The Visitors Center at the National Park includes a museum and a Cyclorama of Pickett’s Charge, which occurred on the last day of the battle.  These two attractions are not to be missed and provide a nice overview of not only the battle that took place here, but of the Civil War itself.  It is worth spending at the very least a full day at the battlefield and a weekend is even better.

Walking the battlefield is peaceful now, but it does stir in one grief over the loss of life, a memory of a time we should not forget about and awe over what a beautiful place Gettysburg really is.gettysburg-sunrise





Intrepid Photographer

Dave and I just returned from an amazing vacation to Nevada, Utah and Arizona.  We took so many pictures, that it will take a bit to process all of them.  In the meantime I decided to post a couple of my pictures of what I call “The Intrepid Photographer” (or pictures of the Husband).

The first one above is a picture of the “Crazy” Photographer.  During our trip my husband was continually looking for that shot down the road, so I snapped one of him taking one of those shots.  You can see a little snow and even ice on the roadway.  This picture was taken in Arizona on the way to Monument Valley.  Looking forward to seeing what shots Dave got while kneeling out in the middle of a road where the posted speed limit was 70 miles an hour.


We started the trip by flying into Las Vegas.  We spend a couple of days there before setting off for Utah.  Here is a picture of Dave at Red Rock Canyon.  Behind the Visitor’s Center they have a platform where you can get a 360 degree view of the entire park.

We went from Las Vegas to St. George, which became our home base for a few days as we explored Zion (will post pictures of our Angels Landing adventure soon).  After Zion we moved to Kanab ( on Thanksgiving) to explore Bryce.  Below are a few “Photographer” pictures I took in Bryce at and near sunrise.

Kanab is known as the Little Hollywood of the West.  As we were leaving Kanab on our way to Page, we stopped at a few landmarks along the way, including the old Gunsmoke set.


While in Page we visited both Glen Canyon and Monument Valley before heading back to Las Vegas and our flight home.


Stay tuned for more on our November adventures.

Right In Our Backyard

We always seem to want to travel far to see new sights and experiences and forget what is in our own backyards.  My Husband and I have lived all our lives in and around New York City (in the City’s own backyard, New Jersey), but I have yet to see the view from the Empire State Building or the Statute of Liberty.  This is a real shame.

One of our Backyard treasurers is the Morristown National Historical Park.  This National Park not only encompasses the City/Town of Morristown but nearby Jockey Hollow as well. The picture above is of the Ford Mansion in Morristown, which was George Washington’s headquarters from December 1779 to June 1780.

While Washington headquartered here in Morristown, nearby his troops were encamped at Jockey Hollow.  The picture below is of the Wick House which is in Jockey Hollow and was where General Arthur St. Clair made his headquarters during that very cold and very snowy winter.  (The Photographer, Dave, is in this picture as well – a nice selfie).


There are many nice hiking trails in the park as well as a one way park road which leads you through the main encampment area.  Close by to Jockey Hollow also lies the New Jersey Brigade Encampment Site where another 900 soldiers arrived during that winter.  At the New Jersey Brigade site one can find The Cross Estate Gardens.  At one time the house on this property was known as the Hardscrabble House – not really sure why, but the owners wife, Julia Newbold Cross was a member of the Royal Horticultural Society.  The gardens here include a formal perennial garden, native plant garden, pergola covered by wisteria (as seen below at sunset) and a pathway of mountain laurel.


The original owners of this estate Mr. and Mrs. John Bensel, who was a civil engineer, and built the water tower below.  This supplied them with water and suitable pressure for the plumbing system in the house.


Remember to look in your own backyard from time to time to see the treasures you can find.

Hyde Park and FDR’s Home

In addition to visiting Saratoga Battlefield a few weeks ago, Dave and I also enjoyed a stop at the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  This 110 acre estate that sits on the Western banks of the Hudson River in Hyde Park, was purchased by FDR’s father, James, in 1867.  Franklin himself was born in this house in 1882.

The estate, Springwood, was opened to the public one year after Roosevelt’s death in April of 1946.  The contents of the home are exactly as Franklin left them upon his death.  One of the few homes I can remember visiting where the interior pieces are authentic not only to the time period of the owners life there, but are the actual furnishings of the owner, in this case FDR and his family.


Also on the estate is the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, which he had built during his presidency.  I don’t have a picture here of his study in the Library, which was left in tact the way that he left it.  The buildings and the grounds are lovely, and the Library and Museum provide a glimpse into FDR’s presidency, including the depression, recovery efforts and WWII.

There are lovely trails throughout the site as well as the Hyde Park Trial.  Picnic benches are provided throughout the estate and the Visitors center is a must first stop.  Guided tours are provided of the house.

This is a fine example of our National Treasurers that are provided to us by the National Park system.  The Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt is a National Historic Site.  Nearby you can also visit the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site and the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site.  We did not get a chance to see these other two sites, but plan on a return visit very soon to do so.

It would be very easy to spend a long weekend in the Hyde Park area which is very close to the lovely town of Rhinebeck, as well as being home to the Culinary Institute of America.


Stepping Back in History – Saratoga Battlefield

Dave and I are enjoying our National Parks during the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the National Park Service.  We spend numerous times throughout every year at these spectacular places that have been set aside for all of our enjoyment.  All of these parks, including National Recreation Areas, National Historic Parks, etc are steeped in our history.

We recently spent a lovely fall weekend in New York State visiting two of these National Parks.  The first one was Saratoga National Historic Park.  About 3 hours away from our home in NorthWestern New Jersey, the Saratoga Battlefield is north of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area.  The Battlefield lies just north of Albany not very far from the SouthWest corner of Vermont.


Two battles took place here in the Fall of 1777 – one on September 19th and the second October 7, 1777.  These battles were seen as a decisive victory for the American rebels against the English Troops.  The victory here and surrender by the British troops that were in Saratoga provided a much-needed moral boost to the fledgling American army.  The final definitive battle taking place in Yorktown four years later in October of 1781.

It was at the Battle of Saratoga that Benedict Arnold operating against General Gates’ orders helped to turn the tide for the American Troops.  This was also the site where he was shot severely in his left leg, eventually leaving this leg 2″ shorter than the right. During his stay in Saratoga, General Arnold and General Enoch Poor were housed in the Neilson House shown below.


There is one way loop road through the park.  Along the way there are stops with interpretive signs, however the best way to take the road tour is to use either your cell phone or via a tour app.  Both of these options provide for a narrative of the sites throughout the park.

There are also 3 other locations that are attached to this National Historic Park and they include Victory Woods, the Schuyler House (and yes this was at one time a house enjoyed by Alexander Hamilton and his wife, Elizabeth Schuyler) and the Saratoga Monument.

The Garden State

This past weekend while I was driving a commentator on the radio was discussing the most beautiful states in the US and then noted the ugliest states.  One of the states listed as the ugliest (I think it was #7) was my home state of New Jersey.  I was incensed.  We have lived here in New Jersey all of our lives, and while I would never say we are the “most” beautiful state, I certainly would not say we are one of the ugliest.  In fact one can find beauty in all of the states if one looks.


But you don’t need to look far to see the beauty of New Jersey.  One just needs to leave the environs of the New York City-Newark airport area to find that New Jersey is truly “The Garden State”.  From rolling hills and farms, to the pine trees, to the beautiful coast line, New Jersey is a beautiful state and is worthy of its title.

I’m sharing some pictures here taken by my husband recently on a hike through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (oh yes we do have National Parks, National Historic Sites and National Recreation areas in New Jersey).  This is a lovely area where the Delaware River cuts through New Jersey and Pennsylvania.


You can hike many trails here, including the Appalachian Trail.


And some of the hikes are quite difficult.


I just wanted to share with all a little piece of where I live and the state I call home.


And finally the intrepid adventurer himself.


Railfest 2016 – Steamtown National Historic Site

It has been awhile since I have posted anything on this site.  I am sorry for the absence.  We are back and I am going to try to post at least once a week about our travels, our photos and out way of enjoying life.

Last weekend we traveled to Scranton, Pennsylvania (not very far from where we live) to attend Steamtown’s Railfest 2016.  We stumbled upon Steamtown National Historic Site a little over a year ago on our return trip from the Finger Lakes.  We have been looking forward to revisiting for some time and finally got around to it this past Labor Day Weekend.


Steamtown as a National Historic Site was established on October 30, 1986 and is the only place in the National Park System where you can find out all about steam trains and railroading.  This year I believe was the 10th anniversary of the Railfest and it is also the 100 year celebration of the National Park System.  And it was a fun time.


This is a working railroad site – trains are actually being moved around all the time.  The site provides not only short steam train rides, but on select weekends provides longer excursions (mostly with diesel engines) to the surrounding Pocono mountains.  One of the best Ranger lead tours is the tour of the repair shop where they not only keep the steam trains running, but work on restoring ones in disrepair.  For railroad buffs this site is an absolute must.


Inside the Roundhouse is not only where they store the working trains, but a really nice museum that tells the history of the locomotive and has exhibits of different types of rail cars.


You can also walk the entire yards – just be careful and pay attention, because as I said this is an active railroad yard.  Okay – this engine is not going anywhere.  Check out the “cogs” on this one.


And it you want to check out what we were doing recently to improve our health, check out this blog – Eat Free or Die(t).