Revisiting Manassas Battlefield Park

We (my ex and I, and our kids) took advantage of the spring-ish temperatures this past weekend in the greater-DC area to go hiking around Manassas Battlefield Park. We’d visited there before, but the difference this time is that we weren’t really interested in it for its character as a memorial site, but in its character as a big outdoor space – a place to walk and run and breathe the fresh air. And it was great! It’s a really nice site, quite large, and (we saw) frequented by a lot of people with the same idea we had: there were dog-walkers, joggers, horseback riders and other light-hikers. More of this group than tourists at this time of year, it seemed. But it’s such a big place that, while we saw other people occasionally, we had lots and lots of time too to wander around and feel solitude. I enjoyed it! It felt so good to get outside – and the fact that we weren’t shoulder-to-shoulder with a lot of other people was really pleasant. A good antidote for cabin fever!

As I said, we didn't go for the cannons/Civil War history. But we did run into some anyway.
As I said, we didn’t go for the cannons/Civil War history this time. We went for the outdoors. But we did run into some cannons anyway…
...to the particular delight of my eight-year-old, who is fascinated by them.
…to the particular delight of my eight-year-old, who finds them extremely cool.
Here are a few more. We'd round a bend and there'd be a few - with historical info markers, telling about a particular part of the battle that took place on that spot.
Here are a few more. We’d round a bend and unexpectedly come upon some – with historical info markers, telling about a particular part of the battle that took place on that particular spot.
There are wooded areas to walk through - and some of the trees, we noticed, are marked as "Witness Trees." It wasn't clear what that was - but the staff people informed us that those are the trees they've been able to determine were actually around to "witness" the battle - probably as saplings, most of them.
We went through some wooded areas. Some of the trees, we noticed, are marked as “Witness Trees.” It wasn’t clear what that was – but the staff people informed us later that those are the trees they’ve been able to determine were actually around to “witness” the battle – probably as saplings, most of them.
A fallen tree was across the path at one point - and it had the most beautiful markings. Really interesting.
A fallen tree (not one of the Witness Trees, luckily!) was across the path at one point – and it had the most beautiful markings. Really interesting.
Here's a closer-up look. It's not very "nature" of me, but my first thought on seeing this (well, after thinking how pretty it was) was that I wished I had an article of clothing in this pattern and color. A dress...a skirt. I like the way the colors swirl.
Here’s a closer-up look. I know it’s not very “nature” of me, but my first thought on seeing this tree (well, after thinking how pretty it was) was that I wished I had an article of clothing in this pattern and color. A dress…a skirt. I love the way the colors swirl and glow.
But most of the landscape - at least, in the sections we walked through - wasn't wooded. It looked more like this.
But most of the landscape – at least, in the sections we walked through – wasn’t wooded. It looked more like this.
There were occasionally planks or stairs to help you move through the terrain with ease. Which is nice when one of the people in your group is a five-year-old inclined to trip! And another is an eight-year-old looking for every opportunity to slog through mud. (The more he can stay on dry ground, the better for the state of the car's backseat!)
There were occasionally planks or stairs to help you move through the terrain with ease. Which is nice when one of the people in your group is a five-year-old inclined to trip! And another is an eight-year-old looking for every opportunity to slog through mud. (The more he can stay on dry ground, the better for the state of the car’s backseat!)
(And he still got to slip in slide in plenty of mud - as you can see in the path behind him here!)
Happily for him, he did get to slip and slide in his share of mud, however. (You can see an example in the path behind him here!)
There was the occasional rough-hewn fence, as well as cannons here and there.
We encountered the occasional rough-hewn fence…
And some interesting wild stuff growing, even in February.
…and some interesting wild stuff growing – even being February.
But mostly we saw scenes like this. Very prairie-like. Both of my kids were actually born in Kansas, where their dad did a grad program - and it reminded us a LOT of where we lived there.
And we observed a lot of scenes like this. Very prairie-like. Both of my kids were actually born in Kansas (where their dad did a grad program), and the landscape at the park this weekend reminded us VERY much of Kansas.
I thought the landscape was pretty - but there was a certain bleakness to it. Something about the lack of color, and the lack of leaves on the trees. And then all that open space. I asked my son if he could manage NOT to smile for a picture, because I wanted to see if I could get a bleak face to accentuate the sort-of-bleakness of the scenery. He did a GREAT job here! He looks absolutely miserable - and he's really, really not at all!!
I really liked the landscape. I didn’t find it depressing in the slightest. I thought it was pretty…but there WAS a certain bleakness, if you wanted to look at it like that – because of the time of year, I think, and the lack of color. Photographically, I got a little interested in playing with its possibilities – so I asked my son at one point if he could stand still and manage NOT to smile for a picture. I wanted to see if I could get a sober face to accentuate the somewhat spartan scenery. And he did a GREAT job here! He looks absolutely miserable – and he’s really, really not at all!! It’s a great face though for the background. Very stark!

I want to visit Manassas Battlefield Park more often. I want to watch spring unfold there. I’ll bet it’s really lovely.

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