A Favorite Ride: Peace Light/Peach Orchard Loop (pt. 2)
by Lex McMillan
This is part two of an article written by a board member, Lex, about his favorite bicycle ride. He has a lot to tell us about history along the ride so we broke his article into two parts. If you missed part one, catch up here!
Last month I left you at the intersection of West Confederate Avenue and Millerstown Road.
Having often visited Little Round Top, I usually turn left (east) onto Millerstown Road and proceed less than a mile up to the Emmitsburg Road at the Peach Orchard, which I also like to call “Sickles’ Folly.” The story of Major General Daniel Sickles’ costly foray is well described on an interpretive marker at a monument at the edge of the Peach Orchard. His unauthorized advance beyond the Union line cost many men their lives and gained no advantage for the Union. Millerstown Road becomes Wheatfield Road on the east side of the Emmitsburg Road.
Just beyond the Peach Orchard I turn left on Sickles Avenue and proceed less than a mile to United States Avenue, an easy passage of little more than a mile across Union-held territory and the scene of fierce fighting on the second day of the battle. On this road, one will see the well-preserved Trostle Farm, which served as Sickles’ headquarters during his unauthorized advance on July 2.
United States Avenue terminates in Hancock Avenue, where I turn left and proceed toward the majestic State of Pennsylvania Monument. Before reaching that memorable point, one passes by the small sculpture of Father William Corby, CSC, with his right hand held up as if blessing the brave men whom he served during the battle. I always pause here and hope a little of that blessing may fall on me especially since Fr. Corby went on to become president of the University of Notre Dame, where I earned my doctorate. (Go Irish!)
Fittingly the largest on the battlefield, the Pennsylvania Monument stands 110 feet high and is a tribute to all Pennsylvanians who fought and died here. Dedicated in 1910, the monument features bronze tablets at its base and interior on which are inscribed more than 34,000 names of all officers and men who fought in the battle. If one has not visited before, this is surely a place worthy of a pause.
Leaving the Pennsylvania Monument, I continue north toward the “high-water mark” of the Confederacy, the scene of horrific struggle and slaughter on July 3, 1863, as the ill-fated Pickett’s Charge crashed against the well-defended Union position along Cemetery Ridge. This entire area is well interpreted and serenely presided over by a handsome statue of Major General George Gordon Meade astride his horse, “Old Baldy.” It was dedicated on June 5, 1896.
Hancock Avenue terminates in Cyclorama Dr., where I turn left, arriving within a few hundred feet at U.S. Route 15, Steinwehr Avenue, where I turn right and follow the well-marked sharrows through the commercial district at the southern edge of the town. If inclined, there are many options to explore along this road including a yummy ice cream cone at Friendly’s. Although any of the several streets on the left will serve, I often turn at Queen Street just beyond the American Fuel Station.
Queen Street takes you through the pleasant, residential neighborhood of Colt Park and leads into a parking area at the Gettysburg Recreational Park, which has a well-marked bicycle and pedestrian path that winds around to West Street at the PNC Bank.
Proceed north on West Street one block to West High Street; turn left at the Rite-Aid and travel one more block to South Reynolds Street, turn right and proceed over the handsome, new Susan Naugle bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Stevens Run. This brings you to the safe, well-marked and lighted crossing of the Fairfield Road where many drivers will stop and yield to those crossing on foot or by bike. Always best to assume that drivers will not yield despite the flashing light and signs that tell them they should!
Proceed one block north on South Reynolds Street to Springs Avenue and turn left. Springs Avenue is one of the more charming residential streets in our town with many elegant, old, well-maintained homes. Particularly notable at the northeast corner of the intersection of Springs and N. Hays Street is the Eisenhower House, where Ike and Mamie lived for most of the time he was stationed here during World War I.
I then proceed west on Springs Avenue, up the hill and back to the Seminary grounds. One option to shorten the ride is to turn right on Seminary Ridge Avenue, return to Chambersburg Street, turn left, and retrace one’s way across the battlefield on Reynolds Avenue and Buford Avenue, which will take you back to the Peace Light.
My longer route is to proceed through the Seminary grounds to the YWCA just to the west, cut through the Y’s parking lot and ride out its entrance drive, which I just learned is called Springs Hotel Drive, to the Fairfield Road. I then take a quick left and right “dogleg” to get on Woodcrest Drive and travel through the quiet neighborhood known as Confederate Woods. There are various options within this development, but I ultimately make my way further west on Woodcrest to Redding Lane where I turn left, proceed to the historic, 232-acre Brown Ranch at the end of this road, turn right on the curiously named Boycott Lane, proceed one block to Windbriar Lane and follow it to Fairfield Road where I cross over to Reynolds Avenue on the battlefield, proceed less than a mile to the Chambersburg Road and then on to Buford Avenue, where I turn left and return to the Peace Light at the Mummasburg Road. The last leg of my trip is about 1.5 miles to my home. Always enjoyable, this ride renews my gratitude for living in beautiful Adams County and having the Gettysburg National Military Park at my doorstep.
Lex McMillan is a member of the Healthy Adams Bicycle/Pedestrian, Inc. Board.