A Favorite Ride: Peace Light/Peach Orchard Loop

by Lex McMillan

This is another article written by a board member for Healthy Adams Bicycle/Pedestrian, Inc. (HABPI) about a favorite bicycle ride. Lex has a lot to tell us about history along the ride so we broke his article into two parts. Come back next month for Part 2!

There are so many lovely options for bike riders in Adams County that it would be difficult to select a favorite, but one of the ones I enjoy repeatedly I have named the Peace Light/Peach Orchard Loop. From my house in the Ridgewood development off the Mummasburg Road just north of the Peace Light, the entire route is 13.8 miles with several options to make it longer or shorter. I generally complete it in about an hour and 20 minutes. Hopefully you can find a place along the route where you can pick up this ride.

Leaving my home in Ridgewood, I travel out to the Mummasburg Road and turn left, bearing south. Formally known as the Eternal Light Peace Memorial, this handsome monument is only four-tenths of a mile on the left. I usually turn in and pass along in front of the Peace Light to recall its dedication in 1938 by President Franklin Roosevelt on the 75th anniversary of the historic battle. It continues to be a solemn reminder of the terrible suffering of our Civil War and the hope that we might be a nation united in peace and fellowship. The vista to the west is one of the more spectacular in our area and well worth pausing to admire. Sunsets here can be breathtaking.

Proceeding on around the Peace Light loop is the first opportunity for a fast-paced, moderately downhill swoop back to the Mummasburg Road, which I carefully cross and proceed on Doubleday Avenue through the many monuments marking the grim struggle of the first day’s battle when Confederate forces descended on the outnumbered Union troops ultimately forcing them down off the ridge and back through the terrified town of Gettysburg.

Doubleday Avenue intersects with Wadsworth Avenue at a sharp right turn and leads up to the intersection of Buford Avenue and Reynolds Avenue.  Turn left on Reynolds Avenue and proceed across the railroad bridge and down to Chambersburg Road. Turn left and proceed up the hill toward the United Lutheran Seminary, turning right on Seminary Ridge Avenue. On the left side of Chambersburg Road at the Seminary is the carefully restored headquarters of General Robert E. Lee, an opportunity for a pause and some history of the battle. The shady ride through the Seminary campus takes you past its handsome neo-colonial Church of the Abiding Presence as well as its award-winning Seminary Ridge Museum & Education Center, which is well worth visiting.  

Seminary Ridge Avenue terminates at PA Route 116, the Fairfield Road. Crossing this road leads one on to West Confederate Avenue and thus through the most densely marked and interpreted section of Confederate positions leading up to the third day of battle in 1863. Many of the monuments are worth a brief pause, but especially moving and beautiful is the North Carolina monument, which was sculpted by Gutzon Borglum of Mount Rushmore fame.  

Further along on the left, one will come to Virginia’s grand monument to her sons who fought and died at Gettysburg. On a large stone pedestal stands a larger-than-life image of General Robert E. Lee astride his faithful horse Traveller gazing across the mile-wide field that was the scene of the famed Pickett’s Charge, the so-called “high-water mark” of the Confederacy. Dedicated on June 8, 1917, the monument was the first of the Confederate state monuments erected at Gettysburg. It stands 41 feet tall and features on its east-facing base the images of six representative “sons of Virginia,” a professional man, a mechanic, an artist, a boy, a businessman, a farmer, and a youth. The statue was done by sculptor Frederick Sievers at a cost of $50,000.

Leaving the Virginia monument, one is treated to an exhilarating downhill run before an almost equally steep hill up to another series of Confederate state monuments. The most recently installed is a memorial to General James Longstreet, which in high contrast to the Virginia monument, is tucked into a shady grove on the right, easily missed from the road. It is at ground level with the figure of Longstreet astride a horse that appears too small for a man of his size. It was dedicated on July 3, 1998.

Proceeding several hundred yards beyond the Longstreet monument one reaches the intersection of Millerstown Road. For the more ambitious seeking a longer and more challenging ride, one may proceed on West Confederate Avenue and follow it across the Emmitsburg Road and on through the pass between Big Round Top and Little Round Top. The climb up to Little Round Top is a good workout, but the view from the top is an inspiring reward for the effort. That adds several miles to this ride (note that this area is currently closed for restoration work). Come back next month to find how I finish the ride and access the cue sheet that will be placed on our website at https://habpi.com/lets-ride/local-routes/.

Lex McMillan is a member of Healthy Adams Bicycle/Pedestrian, Inc. Board.