Trip Number: 13082A
Staff: Suzanne Valencia
- Assist with restoration and maintenance of the battlefield and historic
- Learn Civil War history from park rangers and re-enactors
- Hike the C&O Canal Towpath, visit the National Museum of Civil War
Medicine,or visit Harpers Ferry on our day off
- Lodging in woodland cabins with bunk beds (linens, blankets, pillows
- Cafeteria-style meals, with vegetarian options available
- Speaker fees
Photo: Suzanne Valencia
Antietam National Battlefield has many historic farmhouse buildings that were
involved in the September 17, 1862 battle here. The work of maintaining and
restoring the old buildings will continue to be the focus of our work in years
However, the week will not be all work and no play. To begin with, we will
be housed in rustic cabins in the woods at the Shepherd's Spring Outdoor Ministry
Center, which is located just 1.5 hours west of Washington, D.C. The cabins
are centered around a large beautiful pavilion with a fireplace and an unending
supply of firewood. The center is situated on 220 acres of rolling, wooded land
along the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal Towpath, which follows the winding
Just a few miles from the Retreat Center is the Antietam National Battlefield,
which commemorates a fierce battle between Union and Confederate soldiers. On
these 12 square miles was the bloodiest day of the Civil War, September 17,
1862. During this single day, more than 23,000 men were killed, wounded, or
missing with neither side able to declare a decisive victory. This battlefield
will be our work site.
Less than ten miles south of Antietam is Harpers Ferry National Historical
Park. Probably best-known from our years-ago history classes is the story of
abolitionist John Brown's raid on the United States Armory and Arsenal in October
1859. His attempt to arm an uprising of slaves ended with his capture and conviction
for "conspiring with slaves to commit treason and murder." Despite
Brown's failure to arm the slaves, his trial and execution served to focus the
nation's attention on the moral issue of slavery and led the country toward
As with all of our national parks, refuges, and forests, the Antietam National
Battlefield is always in need of work to maintain its grounds and structures.
Our work is very much appreciated by the park staff because they always have
more work than park staff alone could ever complete. Our last six trips have
focused on restoration work, primarily fencing, around the Poffenberger Farm.
We have even built work benches and shelves for a workshop. Cleaning historic
buildings, whitewashing structures, working to restore a 1700s log cabin were
also included in our chores. It is likely that we will be involved in landscape
restoration activities, such as building, repairing, or painting fences, and
planting historic plant species. Our work could also include painting or whitewashing
the interior or exterior of the historic buildings. The Cultural Resources staff
with whom we work always strives to give us a variety of tasks. We will let
the staff determine their greatest needs -- as always, Sierra Club volunteers
are willing and able to do what is necessary.
Photo: Suzanne Valencia
Day 1: We will gather at 4 p.m. for introductions, orientation,
and settling into our cabins before dinner at 6 p.m. We will go over our week's
schedule and the possibilities of after-work and day-off activities. We will
also get our day packs ready, including water, medical forms (the leader will
give you a copy of yours), a personal first aid kit, any medications you may
need for the day, a camera, flower and/or bird books, gloves, and anything else
you need for a day away from "home."
Day 2: We'll start with breakfast in the cafeteria at 7:30
a.m. Because we are in a cafeteria-style setting, all we will need to do after
eating is bus our own tables. The Center does worm composting, so there are
bins for worm-edible items and signs that explain what goes where. The park
service will expect to see us around 8:15 a.m. We will caravan to the battlefield,
a short five miles away. Lunch will be delivered to us by the retreat center
at noon. After we eat, one of the park staff will speak to us on any number
of topics -- maybe the story of the battle that ensued near our work site that
day, how research is done to recreate the landscape as it was on the day of
the battle, or the role of volunteers in park service projects. Work for the
day will end around 3:00 p.m. at which time we will meet an interpretive ranger
at the Visitors Center who will talk about the battles or maybe about the artillery
on the battlefield. You will be free until 6 p.m. dinner, which gives you enough
time to further explore the battlefield, visit the gift shop, walk the C&O
Towpath or one of the trails through the center's property, or just relax.
Day 3: We will follow the same routine as on day 1 -- breakfast
at 7:30 a.m., start work at 8:15 a.m., finish work at 3 p.m., with free time
until our 6 p.m. dinner. We can show you the Nutters ice cream store in Sharpsburg
-- great ice cream at super-cheap prices! Or maybe you would like to visit Burkholders,
a wonderful Mennonite bakery.
Day 4: Our day off! After breakfast at 7:30 a.m., you are
free to do any excursion that suits your fancy. You will be asked to "sign
off" the trip as your leader will not be responsible for you on that day.
Day 5: Another great workday, beginning with breakfast at
7:30 a.m., then meeting our Cultural Resources staff at 8:15 a.m., and working
until 3 p.m. You are free until dinner time at 6 p.m. The leader expects to
have the Civil War re-enactors in authentic battle gear tell us what their days
were like during the war.
Photo: Max Alin
Day 6: We'll continue with more work, with the same schedule
as above. We will have an evening wrap-up around the pavilion fireplace. S'mores,
Day 7: After breakfast, we'll say our sad goodbyes.
Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) and Dulles International Airport
(IAD) are each about 1.5 hours from Shepherd's Spring. If you are flying, you
can "MapQuest" the directions or email the leader for more complete
details. It has been suggested that BWI may have less traffic congestion than
Washington, D.C. A roster of the trip participants will be sent to you before
the trip so you may be able to coordinate with others to share a rental car.
It is your responsibility to get to Shepherd’s Spring.
From I-70 east or west, take exit 29, MD 65 SOUTH toward Sharpsburg. Drive 7.5
miles to Taylors Landing Road and turn RIGHT (west). Follow Taylors Landing
Road 2.3 miles to the Center's entrance on the left.
From I-81 north or south, take exit 1 and go east on MD 68 until you come to
MD 65. Turn RIGHT (south) and drive 3.5 miles. Turn RIGHT (west) onto Taylors
Landing Road and go 2.3 miles to the Center's entrance on the left.
Accommodations and Food
The Shepherd's Retreat Center has a main building that houses the administration
offices, meeting rooms, motel-like rooms, and cafeteria. We will be lodged in
the "Seasonal Village" -- woodland cabins in a rustic, natural setting.
The seven cabins, each with a restroom, shower, and bunk beds, surround an open-air
pavilion and a campfire circle. We will have the Village all to ourselves, which
means that we will be able to spread out and no one will need to climb into
a top bunk. It is a pleasant 10-minute walk to the main building where we will
eat, or a few minutes to the C&O Canal Towpath. Meals are served cafeteria-style
and include a great salad bar. Vegetarian options are available if requested.
We will not need to pack lunches as they will be delivered to us in the field.
Photo: Suzanne Valencia
Antietam National Battlefield is located a short distance (driving, not walking)
from the retreat center. The land on the battlefield is quite level so we don't
have to worry about altitude gain. The work should be only moderately strenuous.
However, everyone will be encouraged to work to the level of his or her ability
and endurance, and to take water and/or shade breaks when necessary. On all
of my trips, my primary concern is to work safely, then to have fun doing it,
and lastly, to accomplish a good job.
Equipment and Clothing
We will be housed in cabins with the linens provided, so no camping gear is
needed. You will need work clothes that may get stained, torn, or paint-splattered;
no fashion plates need apply. Thrift stores are good places to get work clothes
that you don’t need to worry about. After-work and/or day-off clothes
can be anything in which you are comfortable. You will need a simple day pack
for carrying water, hat, sunscreen, personal first aid kit, camera, and whatever
else you need to be comfortable for the day. A complete equipment list will
be sent closer to the time of the trip.
The leader encourages you to check out the following:
- www.nps.gov/anti (Antietam National Battlefield)
- www.nps.gov/choh (Chesapeake and Ohio Canal)
- www.nps.gov/hafe (Harpers Ferry)
- www.npca.org (National Parks Conservation Association)
- www.civilwarmed.org (The National Museum of Civil War Medicine)
- McPherson, James M., Crossroads of Freedom, Antietam.
Photo: Max Alin
Your volunteer leaders have a long-term dedication to the Sierra Club mission
-- "to explore, enjoy and protect the wild places of the earth." We
hope to impart to you some of our love for this area and for the work of the
Sierra Club. We believe that the Sierra Club's outings program provides an excellent
opportunity for members to enjoy the fruits of past conservation victories and
to learn about current concerns. While on this trip, we expect you to share
the local conservation issues from your area. Above all, we will have discussions
on what each and every one of us can do to lessen our impact on the earth. Be
prepared! The leader has a checklist of things that she does and that other
participants have added to. Let's see if you can match them!
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Suzanne Valencia has been leading local group outings since 1992 and went on her first national Sierra Club trip in 1997. Her love of the out of doors led her to becoming a national leader herself. She has led over fifty trips since 2001, from Florida to Colorado, New Mexico, California, Maryland, and Utah. Most of these were service trips. She loves sharing the wilderness experience with others and especially working to help in the National Parks and Refuges.
Roger Straw has been leading service trips for the Southeast Subcommittee for 15 years. The trips have included trail maintenance in the Caribbean National Forest, Puerto Rico and vegetation removal in St. John National Park, US Virgin Islands. A current trip involves working with the Pine Mountain Trail Conference on a section of a new long-distance trail that will serve as an alternative to the Appalachian Trail. His interests also include hiking and canoeing.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips