Antietam National Battlefield: From Bloody Lane to Sherrick Farm

The end of the Tidball Trail

The end of the Tidball Trail

I’m going to preface the story behind this hike by saying that Candee and I don’t always agree regarding where we’re going to hike each week.  In fact, sometimes the debate rages for days, and generally it ends the night before or morning of the hike.  If I had my way, we would split time between the C&O Canal, Tuscarora Trail, and Green Ridge State Forest, while she has been the driving force behind our Appalachian Trail treks and many of the loop hikes in Maryland’s local state parks.  However, when the wheels of diplomacy grind to a halt, the one place we usually agree upon is Antietam National Battlefield.  It’s just a visually stimulating place with a remarkable history.  Who could possibly fight over that?

Down the tracks and through the rows: a shortcut to the Bloody Lane/tower area

Down the tracks and through the rows: a shortcut to the Bloody Lane/tower area

After a week of working outside in miserably cold weather, I reluctantly agreed to hike on Saturday.  The morning broke at a brisk eleven degrees, and as I explained above, we had no idea where we were going;, so, once again, we found ourselves at the battlefield.  We’re closing in on completing most of the trails, and with the north and south ends pretty much covered, we headed to the visitor center for a few maps and some ideas.  The most glaring trail that we’d missed was Bloody Lane, and the ranger informed us that Three Farms Trail and Sherrick Farm Trail would be nice additions for a good day’s hike. A quick hop to our parking spot at Newcomer House and the head of Tidball Trail got the ball rolling.  Tidball dead ends near two canons in a field, and the War Department Observation Tower is over the next ridge.  The sorghum between us and the tower was long-since harvested, so we followed two tracks and cut through the field.  It seems like cheating, but it was either that or walk the same stretch of Three Farms Trail twice. Besides, if we played by the rules, we would have missed a cool picture of a randomly-placed lone canon.

Canon near War Department Observation Tower

Canon near War Department Observation Tower

The tower was built in 1896 as part of an open-air classroom at the battlefield.  The views are impressive in all four directions, but I say that reluctantly because my acrophobia was in full effect all the way to the top.  It reminded me a bit of those creepy spiral steps leading to the railroad/foot bridge over the Potomac at Harpers Ferry.  Yes, heights are my kryptonite, but I’ve always felt that hiking is best  accomplished with both feet planted on the earth.  Nevertheless, I was pleased to see places in the distance that we traversed on the Appalachian Trail last year.

War Department Observation Tower

War Department Observation Tower.  Here’s where we crossed between rows.

From the tower.  Was it worth the trip to the top?  Actually, yes!

From the tower. Was it worth the trip to the top? Actually, yes!

The tower is also close to the Bloody Lane Trail, where 5,500 soldiers were either killed or wounded on the morning of September 17, 1862.  After three hours of fighting, Federal troops drove the Confederates from their stronghold, but neither side gained much of an advantage during the fighting.

A tribute to the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

A tribute to the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry

It seems that we miss something every time we go on a loop hike–even the ones we create on our own–and today we bypassed a short section of Bloody Lane when turning right onto Three Farms Trail.  This 1.6 mile trail is important because it connects the trails in the north and south ends of the park.  It goes downhill toward Route 34 and underneath the bridge over Antietam Creek before it’s junction with the Sherrick Farm trail.

Three Farms Trail--note the huge Sycamore tree on the right.  The circumference of the base is amazing.

Three Farms Trail–note the huge Sycamore tree on the right. The circumference of the base is amazing.

Sherrick Farm Trail starts in the woods alongside Antietam Creek.  It is a 2.25 mile loop that also incorporates park roads before turning right near Route 34 and heading back to Three Farms Trail.  Along this loop, the highlights are crossing Burnside Bridge and passing the Otto and Sherrick houses.  The park brochure describes the Sherrick Farm Trail as a great place see wildlife and wildflowers, but today we had to settle for a few cows along the fenceline near the creek.

Sherrick House from a nearby road.  Following Rodman Avenue led back to 34 and a downhill to Thhree Farms Trail

Sherrick House from a nearby road. Following Rodman Avenue led back to 34 and a downhill to Thhree Farms Trail

By the end of the day, the temperature reached a more comfortable twenty-five degrees, and the clear, blue sky cooperated perfectly.  It was an easy 6.5 miles, with slightly less than 300′ of elevation gain.  I’m looking forward to much longer and more strenuous hikes, but this was perfect for a day that started with a wind chill in the single digits.  I don’t know what else to say, except that Antietam delivered again.

Parting shot

Parting shot

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mrs Nelliemay Sherrick Yotty on November 7, 2017 at 12:44 am

    Very nice

    Reply

    • Posted by LevelWalker on November 9, 2017 at 4:52 pm

      I assume you have family ties to the Sherrick Farm. Antietam is one of those places where you can almost point a camera anywhere and take a decent picture. I feel very fortunate to live nearby. Thanks again for the nice comment.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Mrs Nelliemay Sherrick Yotty on November 7, 2017 at 12:45 am

    Very nice photos

    Reply

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