Monthly Archives: July 2014

EXTREME Journey Summer Camp – Loudoun’s Last Session Begins!

Monday was a fantastic day on the river! As soon as we got on the bus, the campers began to de-code their Piscataway names. One of our favorite was Etchemin which means Canoe Man. The campers also spent time de-coding a leadership word to get us started thinking about the big theme of the EXTREME Journey: leadership throughout history and today.

Once we got to the boat ramp, we met Mr. Mike and Mr. Dave, who were our river guides. We learned the parts of the boat including the bow, starboard, stern, port, and thwart. After our quick canoeing lesson, we got on the river!

The campers were so impressive – no one tipped overboard and some of us became canoe experts pretty quickly! While on the river, we saw a bald eagle, many blue heron, and a few deer. We stopped for lunch at Conoy Island where we got to meet a member of the Piscataway Tribe, Hope Butler, who arrived on the island singing a traditional Piscataway song. Hope gave a presentation on the history of the Piscataway, their culture, leadership within the group, and how they have evolved as a people. She even did a traditional dance to respect the four directions: North, South, East, and West. We were so impressed that the campers remembered their Piscataway names to share with her.

Hope finished the rest of the canoe trip with us. But before boarding the buses, we jumped into the river to cool off. When using the life-vests to float, the current would take you for quite a ride!

After boarding the bus for the trip home, we stitched and decorated medicine pouches to keep the memories of this EXTREME Journey we just started together.

Wrapping Up the First 2014 Session of EXTREME Journey Summer Camp in Loudoun

This Wednesday, we ventured north on Route 15 to Gettysburg, PA. Here, we met our amazing guide, Bob, and embarked on a 15-mile bike tour of one of the most famous battles in American history. We made several different stops at Devils Den, the Virginia & Pennsylvania monuments, the area where Pickett’s Charge took place, and even went to the top of Little Roundtop! We had time for a pit stop at the bookstore and gift-shop at the visitor’s center. I’m sure all our campers were very tired at the end of the day – I know I was!

As we approach the World Premiere of the campers’ videos, the students are working on finishing up their movies–adding credits, finalizing editing, and perfecting their titles. I know they’re excited to show everyone all their hard work. But first, we headed to Camp Highroad in Middleburg, VA. Here, students worked together as a team to complete the low challenge course and the zip line!

Summer Camp Allows Students to “Take the Journey”

EXTREME-Harpers-FerryExtreme Journey, the award-winning summer day camp organized by the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership, uses multimedia, local experts, and the region’s own historic resources to provide middle school students a chance to experience the nation’s 38th National Heritage Area like never before. A successful camp took place last month in Albemarle County and the first of three Loudoun sessions is wrapping up this Friday with the premiere of the camper’s vodcasts. The second camp has just begun and the third camp begins next week (the specific camp dates are July 7-18, July 14-25, and July 21-August 1). The first and third camps take place place at Smart’s Mill Middle School while the second camp is held at Harper Park Middle School. Due to popular demand, the third camp was added this summer and all three camps sold out with a waiting list before they began.

EXTREME-Journey-RangerNow in its ninth year, the Extreme Journey takes students on hiking, biking, and canoeing trips through our National Parks, historic sites and scenic rivers between Gettysburg and Monticello. After being recruited as agents in the “Journey Intelligence Agency, students spend time with National Park Service Rangers, expert historians, archaeologists, naturalists and educators to unlock the stories and lessons of leadership that are demonstrated throughout this region. They visit many of the nation’s most historical heritage sites, assuming the identities of those who actually lived there, and are faced with the same set of circumstances as they “walk in their boots” to better understand the choices and decisions of those who forged this nation.

The students record their trials, triumphs and lessons of leadership learned from the pre-Revolutionary period through the Civil War, using digital cameras to create a video documentary, or “vodcast,” of “What Leadership Means to Me.” The vodcasts are then shared on the JTHG Partnership website, Facebook, and YouTube, creating a “viral” effect of the student’s new found knowledge and appreciation of the nation’s heritage. The vodcasts will be premiered at an event open to the public upon completion of the camp.


“We transform traditional text-book learning into a truly stimulating experience that exists only outside the confines of the classroom,” said Cate Magennis Wyatt, founder and president of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership. “Coupling the latest technology with creative curriculums, on-site visits, expert accounts, with the region’s breathtaking landscapes, Extreme Journey will leave students riveted by the past and ready to discover the future.”

To find out more details about the camp, to view a video about this program, or to see examples of the work of previous secret agents, visit

EXTREME Journey Camp, Loudoun Session II, Days 1 & 2

Thank you for sending your wonderful campers to us for the next two weeks! Our first day was so beautiful, as we canoed down the Potomac River. In total, we traveled 8 miles down the river putting in at the Lander Lockouse and ending at the mouth of the Monocacy River. Our river guide, Mr. Mike, taught the campers all about water safety and how to respect the river. He also gave them a lesson on how to canoe. It took some of the campers a bit longer than others to become master canoers, but they all figured it out by the end!

Along the way, we stopped at Conoy Island, where we met Hope, a member of the Piscataway Indian tribe. She brought with her some artifacts from her tribe for your campers to examine and wear. She also gave all the campers a Piscataway Indian name and they learned what their name translated to in English. Ask any camper you know if they remember what their Indian name meant. We even learned an Indian welcome dance before campers got some time to just kick back and relax in the Potomac River. They swam, floated, and created a camper train in the river. It was so much fun for us to watch them enjoy themselves and be kids!

Next up, our campers were in the computer lab at Harper Park Middle School, while they learned how to use their iPad minis to make their leadership movies. They also participated in a scavenger hunt to learn about the leaders we will profile as we make our “Journey through hallowed ground.” In the afternoon, we travelled to Morven Park, home of Westmoreland Davis, where they learned about the Progressive Era and developed skills critical for effective democratic involvement.

EXTREME Camp, Loudoun Session I–Exploring Monticello and Antietam

Hello! Last Friday, we had our longest journey of camp, to Charlottesville where we saw Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello. We hiked the 2.5 mile trail to the entrance and then enjoyed a tour detailing the daily lives of the Jefferson family. Students also had a chance to visit the hands-on Discovery Center (and the gift shop, of course).

So far this week, we’ve braved the storms in Antietam, home of the bloodiest battle in Civil War history. Each student was given a role of a solider or someone who witnessed the destruction of this battle for the day. Campers were given the opportunity to practice loading and firing a cannon and communicating the way that soldiers did during the Civil War using signal flags! We also saw a demonstration on Civil War medicine, and the difficulties surgeons faced. Then, we marched from the north, carrying our muskets to Dunker Church. Due to the impending thunderstorms, our wonderful guide was able to extend his tour an extra two hours and allowed us to tour the Newcomer House, the Sunken Road, and the Burnside Bridge; but unfortunately, we were not able to tube Antietam Creek. If you’d like to see our adventures from the last two days, check our our Facebook page.

400 Years of History on One Tank of Gas

Photos by Kenneth Garrett.  © Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Photos by Kenneth Garrett. © Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

With gas prices where they are, families may be wondering what to do this summer or where to travel. There is a place where travelers can get 400 years of unparalleled American history and heritage on a single tank of gas- that is the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area. This 180 mile swath of land that runs from Gettysburg, PA to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA includes nine Presidential homes, 13 National Parks, the largest single collection of Civil War sites in the nation, 30 historic Main Street communities to stay and dine in, many of the country’s best wineries and restaurants to enjoy, and to top it off, a National Scenic Byway with breadth taking landscapes, rivers and trails nearby to explore. And it’s all within a short drive from Washington, DC, Baltimore MD, Philadelphia, PA, Harrisburg, PA, and Richmond, VA.

Known as Where America Happened™, this region holds more American history than any other in the nation and can be enjoyed on just one tank of gas. As fuel prices rise and air travel becomes more unwieldy, now more than ever is the time to Take the Journey™ to discover some of the nation’s most picturesque landscapes and explore 400 years of American heritage.

Photos by Kenneth Garrett.  © Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Photos by Kenneth Garrett. © Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Visitors can discover the stories of Abraham Lincoln and Gettysburg, PA; Civil Rights and Harpers Ferry, WV; historic downtowns like Frederick, MD and Leesburg, VA; the Iroquois Indians and the Potomac River; the inspiration of James Madison and the U.S. Constitution at Montpelier; the genius of Thomas Jefferson and Monticello; as well as locally grown foods, a perfectly aged barrel of Virginia grapes and so much more.

“There are few things that match the joy of discovery when exploring the unmatched history and heritage found in this spectacular National Heritage Area,” said Cate Magennis Wyatt, president and founder of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership. “The Sesquicentennial Commemorations of the American Civil war are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and make it the perfect time walk the battlefields; explore the exceptional historic downtowns; and taste the vibrancy of the farms and vineyards. It’s only by visiting these remarkable places, that the stories of the heroic men and women who lived here during the Civil War become real.”

Photos by Kenneth Garrett.  © Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

Photos by Kenneth Garrett. © Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area contains the single largest collection of Civil War sites in the nation, including the beginning, middle and end of the Civil War. Sites include: Aldie, Antietam, Appomattox Court House, Ball’s Bluff, Brandy Station, Bristoe Station, Cedar Mountain, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Harpers Ferry, Kelly’s Ford, Manassas, Middleburg, Rappahannock Station, Spotsylvania Court House, Thoroughfare Gap, Upperville, Wilderness and many others. In fact, July 2014 marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Monocacy, near Frederick, Maryland. Plan your itinerary, request a map, and get more travel information at

EXTREME Camp, Loudoun Session | Harper’s Ferry, Smart’s Mill, and more

On Wednesday, our Loudoun Session I campers started in Brunswick, MD and biked to Harper’s Ferry, WV, making several stops along the historic C&O Canal. Once we arrived in Harper’s Ferry, we participated in an activity that demonstrated the campers’ survival skills and taught us a lot about Lewis and Clark’s preparations for their expedition while in Harper’s Ferry. Then, we learned about important moments in African American history by role playing John Brown’s raid. Later, we went up to the Upper Town to see Storer College and discussed the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement. Finally, we made the most important stop of the day–ice cream before biking back to Brunswick. All the while, several groups began shooting their vodcasts while we explored.

Thursday marked the beginning film editing for many. All our groups are filming portions of their opening scenes and thinking of creative titles during the lab day at Smart’s Mill. Any group filming today or Monday at Antietam are choosing costumes, writing scripts, and brainstorming filming locations. After lunch, we headed to The Marshall house, where students toured the mansion (more to come on that one in our next post!).

Loudoun EXTREME Camp, Session 1, Day 1

We started our first day of the EXTREME Journey Summer Camp by cracking the codes needed to discover our Piscataway names and leadership words while we travelled north to the Potomac River, where our canoes waited. Each student had a unique Piscataway name and word that was unique to them – if you meet a camper, be sure to ask what theirs is! We began in Brunswick, Maryland, and learned the basics of canoeing from our guides Mike and Shane, from River & Trail Outfitters. We then began the 10-mile canoe trip and made various stops along the way. On Conoy Island, we met Hope Butler of the Piscataway tribe, where we got to touch and see artifacts of the Piscataway people, who once inhabited the island. We also stopped at a famous Native American fishing area to swim and play in the Potomac. We saw several Blue Herons and even a couple of Bald Eagles! We finished our journey near the Monocacy Aqueduct. If you would like to see pictures from our adventures, check out the Facebook page.

Over the next couple of days, the students will select the leaders they wish to research for their camp vodcasts, and will begin to truly focus on what leadership means to them. We will venture just a little ways from our host school, Smarts Mill, to visit the mansion at Morven Park and learn about Westmoreland Davis, a former governor of Virginia. Then, we will begin in Brunswick and bike to Harper’s Ferry, making four stops along this route. We will learn about one of America’s most famous leaders, George Washington, and the role he played in connecting the Potomac River with the territories west.

Monocacy National Battlefield 150th Anniversary Celebration

Courtesy of the National Park Service

Courtesy of the National Park Service

This weekend Monocacy National Battlefield will kick off activities commemorating the 150th anniversary of “the battle that saved Washington.”  As the Civil War sesquicentennial enters its fourth summer of events, we are very excited to be on tap.  Along with two other National Park Service sites, Harpers Ferry National Historic Site and Fort Stevens, Monocacy will commemorate events associated with the third and final Confederate invasion of the north, which was undertaken with the ultimate goal of attacking the nation’s capitol and diverting Union attention and resources from the Richmond-Petersburg campaign.

For Monocacy, the sesquicentennial represents a unique opportunity.  It is the first big anniversary to arise since the park fully opened to the public in the early 1990s. As such, there is an extra level of excitement and anticipation among park staff and partners, who share a sense that this is more than a commemoration.  It is also an opportunity to throw open the gates and introduce the park to a large number of visitors, including what we hope will be many first time visitors.

As such, in addition to planning a wide variety of programs and events to be held on July 5-13, we have been working hard to improve trails, roads, signs, waysides, buildings and other infrastructure.  Because many of the programs are being offered for the first time and will introduce visitors to new stories and new areas of the park, we find ourselves collapsing what would normally be years of work into a matter of months.  In a short amount of time, the park and its partners have completed a remarkable number of improvements within and around the park.


Courtesy of the National Park Service

I started to compile a comprehensive list before realizing it would be ludicrously long.  Instead, I’ll mention the following highlights:

We have installed 22 new interpretive waysides throughout the park, most of which are located within newly constructed viewing platforms at key points of interest in the park. One of the waysides is located within a newly created vehicular pull-off, which now serves as an additional stop on the park’s auto tour.

We’ve installed a six rail fence along MD 355 in front of the park’s visitor center.  This fence recreates an historic fence line and helps to define the boundary of the battlefield to visitors and passing motorists.

Thanks to the efforts of a local Eagle Scout, visitors can now follow numbered wayfinding signs that clearly demarcate the park’s auto tour.

With the cooperation and assistance of the MD State Highway Administration, new road signs have been installed along MD 355 providing direction from the visitor center to different areas of the park.

On a larger scale, MD State Highways Administration worked closely with the Tourism Council of Frederick County to design and install new highway signs on I-70 and I-270 that provide, for the first time in the park’s history, a comprehensive network of signs directing motorists to the visitor center.  The value of this improvement cannot be overstated.

We have cleaned out the Thomas Barn, the basement of Worthington House, and the first floor of the Best House to accommodate new programs planned for the 150th.  After 20 years of preservation and rehabilitation work, these areas were understandably a mess.  Now that they are cleaned out, we hope to use them as regular program venues.

We improved access from the Best Farm to the NJ Monument to allow visitors to trace the path of advancing Confederate troops.  We also improved access from Gambrill Mill across Bush Creek to allow people to visit the Union rifle pits along the southeastern bluff of the Monocacy River.

We have opened up access to the entire Thomas Farm by removing fencing and vegetation that blocked views and access to the Thomas main house and tenant house.

All of these changes relate directly to new programs being developed for the 150th.  However, we expect they will continue to pay dividends well beyond the next two weeks by opening up new opportunities for visitors to experience the park.  We hope you can come join us for one or more of our sesquicentennial events.  If you do, please take note of some of the changes we’ve made.  We’d like people to recognize that even as we look back on 150 years of history, our gaze is trained on the extremely promising future of this young park.

For complete information on programs and events, please visit: