Artillery Ridge, Gettysburg, PA Trip Report

Gettysburg, PA October 2019

Campground Overview

Pack 802 selected Artillery Ridge campground for our trip to Gettysburg, PA in October 2019.  Artillery Ridge is the closest full service campground to the Gettysburg museum and visitor center.  The campground routinely has themed weekend events and activities that may be incorporated into trip planning including Halloween themed activities during the month of October.  For this trip, we selected the group tent area called Cedar Grove to accommodate our large group of scouts and family members.  Additional site information from previous trips to this campground are located below

Park Address:  610 Taneytown Road, Gettysburg, PA 17325

Park Website:  Link Here

Parking:  The Cedar Grove campsite is accessible for loading and unloading as well as parking for one or two vehicles.  We parked the pack trailer at the site and moved all of our other vehicles to the overflow parking area located at the top of the map.  The overflow parking area is approximately 250 yards from Cedar Grove.   On previous trips, our unit has also camped within the 200 block of sites.  Vehicles are not permitted to park directly at the field sites but there is a row of parking available directly above the sites.

Facilities:  There are multiple bath/shower houses located throughout the camp.  The closest restroom to the Cedar Grove site is approximately 50 yards from the site.  Alternative restrooms with showers are also located at the park office and at a central point on the West side of camp (close to 200 series sites).  As this is a large family campground, you should anticipate that the bathroom and shower facilities will be shared with several guests that are not part of your group.  The bath house closer to Cedar Grove is smaller but also more private than the central bath house near the 200 sites.

Sites: Artillery Ridge has options for RV sites, cabin camping, private tent sites, open field tent sites, and group sites.  Cedar Grove is considered a group site and is essentially a grassy area enclosed within a split rail fence located at the South East corner of the camp.  Outside of Cedar Grove are additional overflow primitive tent sites.  Our group reserved both Cedar Grove and some overflow sites to provide sufficient room.   On prior trips to Artillery Ridge, our unit has reserved multiple sites within the 200 block located in the North central part of camp.  This area is closer to the main part of camp and is a large field divided into 3 dozen adjacent sites.  The Cedar Grove area offers more privacy than the 200 block but it is further away from camp facilities like the office and recreation building.

Cedar Grove Site
Cedar Grove Site

Billy Yank Trail:  One of the biggest components (and most challenging) of the Gettysburg Heritage Trails program is completing the nearly 10 mile Billy Yank trail.  The trail is an approximate 10 mile loop trail that starts and ends at the Visitor’s Center and traverses the Western portions of the battlefield through several Confederate outposts.  Highlights of this trip include the Pennsylvania Monument, Devil’s Den, Little Round Top, and the field remembered for Pickett’s charge.  This is a long hike but can be accomplished by most cub scouts when broken into two shorter hikes.  Additional information about this hike is located in a separate Trail Report located here.

Program Overview

The complete agenda from our trip is located within the info sheet linked above.

Gettysburg Visitor’s Center and Cyclorama:  The Visitor’s Center is the hub of Gettysburg National Military Park and is a great place to start any trip to the area.  Our group visited the museum on Saturday morning before completing one half of the Billy Yank Trail.  Group rates are available to reduce the cost of museum entry and active duty military and their family can enter for free.  While you are at the center, be sure to check out the film New Birth of Freedom, narrated by Morgan Freeman, as well as the cyclorama exhibit.  Additional information about the visitor center is located in a separate report located here.

Flag Retirement Ceremony:  On Saturday evening our scouts conducted a ceremony to respectfully retire more than a dozen worn American Flags.  Having spent the day learning about the battle of Gettysburg and walking the battlefield was the perfect precursor to a very solemn and respectful ceremony.  Additional details about the ceremony are located here.

Camp Activities:  One of the highlights of camping at Artillery Ridge in the month of October is the Halloween themed activities available to campers each weekend of the month.  The campground typically published information about their theme weekends on their website including detailed schedules for each available event.  Example activities that were available on this weekend included a haunted fort, a hayride, trick-or-treating, and a Sunday morning pancake breakfast.

Start

  • Additional trips to complete Heritage Trail Guide
  • Flexible options for scouts that want to participate in camp programs
  • Verify site information on phone before arrival (see notes below)

Stop

  • Rearrange schedule so flag retirement is not concurrent with haunted house
  • Campground is expensive (alternative McMillian Woods Youth Group Site)

Continue

  • Long weekend allows for more programming options
  • Efficient meal prep to reduce camp chores
  • Completion of Heritage trails program (patches)
  • Older scouts led group discussion during hike
  • Successful fundraising enables pack to offer expensive trips like this at low out of pocket costs!

Cubmaster Notes

This trip to Gettysburg in October 2019 was the most ambitious as well as one of the most memorable trips our pack has done in my tenure with Pack 802.  For the last several years our pack has followed a strategy to offer a somewhat easy/accessible camping option in September to cater to our new families followed by a larger premier event in October.  This trip easily qualified as our premier trip both on the expense required by the pack and the sheer amount of programming included in a short period of time.  We scheduled this trip over a three day weekend in October to allow an extra day to complete our hike segments.  This also left Sunday open for scouts to continue exploring Gettysburg, including other elements of the Heritage trail program, after breaking camp.

By design this trip was intended to cover a lot of activities in a short period of time and did not leave a lot of room for free time.  One of the ways we “created” extra time over the weekend was by reducing the amount of time required at camp to prepare meals by planning ahead and using a crockpot to heat part of dinner while we were out hiking.  Additionally, we had a few adult leaders return to camp early so they could finish dinner preparation before the scouts arrived.  I am a huge advocate for involving scouts in camp chores but that was traded off for this event to make our schedule more efficient.

The primary focus of this trip was to enable scouts an opportunity to visit Gettysburg and learn about the the historic events that happened here during the Civil War while also working on completing the first two of five required elements of the Gettysburg Heritage Trail Guide.  The first requirement of this Historic trails program requires scouts to visit the Gettysburg Visitor’s Center and National Cemetery and discuss about a dozen questions located within the handbook.  The second requirement of the Historic Trail requires scouts to hike the approximate 10 mile battlefield hike known as the Billy Yank trail.  The historic trail guide does not offer a map but rather requires scouts to navigate by following the step-by-step directions provide within the trail guide.  To make this hike accessible for Cub aged scouts I chose to divide the hike into two approximately 5 mile segments and performed a majority of the navigation to keep the scouts on track.  The Webelos scouts that attended the trip took turns helping with navigation using a map I created ahead of time and facilitating the group discussion by reading the several passages located in the book.  If you are interested in learning more about this Heritage Trails program, please refer to the additional posts on the site that cover each requirement in significantly greater detail.

The secondary programming for this trip was intended to take advantage of as much of the campground’s halloween themed activities as possible.  The campground scheduled trick-or-treating very early in the afternoon on Saturday, which was the prime time available for our hike so we opted to skip the treats and made up for it by conducting our own trick-or-treating on Saturday evening.  A few of the RV campers in our area still had some leftover candy and the pack purchased enough candy so that each family in our group could also pass out candy.  Our schedule did permit us to take advantage of the campground’s hayride and the haunted fort after dinner and before we completed the flag retirement ceremony.  Additionally, we planned to have a light continental style breakfast on Sunday morning to allow us to pre-pack most of our pack equipment into the trailer on Saturday evening.  Families that were interested in having a hot breakfast were able to take advantage of the free pancake breakfast offered by the campground.

Finally, we took advantage of our location and incorporated a flag retirement ceremony as a way to close out the long and eventful weekend.  While the ceremony went better than expected, it possibly could have been improved by deconflicting it from the haunted fort.  Since our campsite was within earshot of the haunted fort we could hear other guests laughing and screaming during our otherwise solemn ceremony.

One of the best parts about a place like Gettysburg is there is so much to see and do that it is possible to make return trips without having to repeat the same activities.  This trip plan could be modified to incorporate more in camp activities or alternative requirements from the Heritage Trail guide.  I try not to camp at the same location two years in a row but think this is a good candidate for a return visit perhaps every 2nd or 3rd year so that an interested scout has the opportunity to complete the entire Heritage Trail program over the course of his or her Cub Scout tenure.  Additionally, it is worth mentioning that this trip was by far the most expensive camping trip we have had in recent years.  Between the higher than average cost per person for camping at a full-service campground, the cost of admission to the visitor center, and the cost of patches for scouts that completed segments of the Heritage trail it really adds up.  I strongly recommend packs plan events like this well enough in advance so that it can be properly budgeted for with fundraising.

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