Hiking Through History
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Hiking Through History

You’ve read the books and seen the movies.  Now it’s time to journey the trails that both armies trudged during the final days of America’s Civil war. The events that brought an end to the long struggle happened right here – and the places that stood witness to history are yours to discover. Preservation has kept homes and pathways intact for you to stand where strategies were tested, great leaders came to terms, and where at long last, the war came to a close.

Don’t burn your bridges – hike them.

The first morning of your stay, wake up at Twin Lakes State Park.  Book a cabin this time – with lots of walking the next couple of days, you’ll want to get plenty of sleep!  It’s a two-mile hike to get to High Bridge Trail State Park, but you will be south of the bridge itself when you arrive.  Access to cross High Bridge will not be available until late Fall 2011, so until then walk through the Town of Farmville and pick up breakfast and a bag lunch for later in the day.  While in town, stop at the Heartland Regional Visitor Center where you can pick up the Lee’s Retreat and Virginia’s Retreat brochures to help you during today’s hike.  You don’t want to miss one single stop if you can help it!

When you pick up the trail at Aspen Hill, on the other side of the bridge, it’s still a two-mile hike back to the bridge where the skirmishes took place.  Look closely to see where newer work was done after the 900 Union soldiers failed in trying to burn the bridge in April 1865.  Four spans of High Bridge were successfully burned before the skirmish allowed the Confederates to stop further damage.  While there, look down to the right-hand side of the bridge to see the moorings from the wagon bridge that the Confederates tried unsuccessfully to burn in an attempt to stop the Union Army’s advance.  The Union Army was able to use this bridge to follow them into Farmville, preventing the Confederates from re-arming and re-supplying.

After a lunch in Farmville, drive out US 460 where you can follow the Lee’s Retreat Trail to Rice’s Depot, the Lockett House, finishing at the Hillsman House at Sailor’s Creek Battlefield Historical Park.  Spend the afternoon with Chris Calkins, who is recognized as the expert on battles fought from Petersburg through to the Surrender Grounds at Appomattox. In the evening, after a nice supper over the Appomattox River, you will choose amongst several local theater offerings and marvel at the talent in these small towns!

Shop and surrender.

After waking refreshed in your cozy Twin Lakes cabin, check out because you are going to be on the road today.  First stop – Farmville for a light breakfast.  About the time you have finished, the antique stores will be opening and you can be the first ones in today!  After a wonderful morning of rummaging around looking for that perfect piece (or pieces!!!), you decide it’s time for a light lunch at the local bistro on Main Street, then drive 20 miles to Appomattox Court House where you can finish the day at the Surrender Grounds.  The National Park Service village is an awe-inspiring place where you will meet with re-enactors, who never step out of character.

As you head on down the road back to your world, you will reflect on how much, yet how little has changed.  It will be hard to get back to your real life, when all you will be thinking about is how amazing this little corner of the world is – before you know it, you’re planning your return trip!  Because you know you did not see all there was to see!

Peaceful view of Twin Lakes State Park near Farmville, VATwin Lakes State Park

Camp in comfort at this historic park full of cultural, environmental and recreational activities – with scenic Goodwin and Prince Edward Lakes close by.

A cannon at Sailor's Creek Battlefield near Farmville, VASailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park

Sailor’s Creek was the site of a devastating battle just 72 hours before Lee’s surrender at nearby Appomattox Court House.

The McLean House at Appomattox Court House National Historic Park in VirginiaAppomattox Court House

This National Historical Park commemorates the heroic acts of April 1865 that ended the Civil War through a walking tour.

Suggested Itinerary

Day One:

A.M. Wake up at Twin Lakes State Park then take two-mile hike to High Bridge Trail State Park, and walk through the Town of Farmville.

P.M. After a lunch in Farmville, follow the Lee’s Retreat Trail to Rice’s Depot, the Lockett House, finishing at the Hillsman House at Sailor’s Creek Battlefield Historical Park.  Dine by the Appomattox River and attend local theater.

Day Two:

A.M. Check out of Twin Lakes and head to Farmville for breakfast and antiquing. Head out of town via Appomattox Court House to visit the Surrender Grounds.