Few events about West Virginia's statehood and history will be more meaningful than the four memorial hikes at Droop Mountain Battlefield planned in 2013.
The hikes, scheduled for this Saturday as well as July 20, Aug. 31 and Nov. 5-6, will be sponsored by Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park in cooperation with the Pocahontas County Tourism Commission's Appalachian Enrichment Series.
"It's an honor to share the history that Droop Mountain represents in the formation of our state with verbal accounts as well as physical exertion," said Mike Smith, park superintendent. "At various points along the way, short readings of official reports, letters and diaries pertinent to that particular march will help relate the modern view to its historical context."
Smith, an avid historian, has planned and will conduct the four memorial hikes to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Nov. 6, 1863, Battle of Droop Mountain. A Confederate army route and three Union army routes used by troops gathering for West Virginia's last significant Civil War battle are charted. For safety and logistical reasons, participation will be limited and preregistration is required.
"Any person with an interest in history or just desiring some good exercise is encouraged to register and to take part," Smith said. "Descendants of soldiers who fought at Droop Mountain are especially encouraged to participate, walk over the same ground as their Civil War ancestors, and share any stories they may have."
Re-enactors with authentic period clothing are welcome to give a military air to the excursions, but period dress is not required of other participants. All hikes will begin at Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park and participants will carpool or be shuttled to the hike start points.
These four unique excursions are intended as memorial hikes, not races, and all participants are expected to remain in a single group throughout the hike. A registration form is online at www.droopmountainbattlefield.com, "Events." Preregistration is required. Registration has passed for the first hike, set for Saturday.
Registrants should be in good physical condition. Registrants will be added to each list until the limit is reached. Additional registrants will be maintained as alternates in the event of cancellations.
2nd and 3rd West Virginia Mounted Infantry Memorial Hike
Hike No. 2 will be the 2nd and 3rd West Virginia Mounted Infantry Memorial Hike with a starting point near Hillsboro. This is a 4-mile hike through some fields, but mostly privately owned woodland. The route is all uphill along a narrow ravine, at times very steep, with 800 feet of elevation change. It will involve negotiating a few large boulders, fallen trees and branches.
No support vehicle will be provided; snacks, drinks, and personal items will have to be carried by hikers. Restrooms are available at the park at end of hike; otherwise, relief relies on 1800s protocol. This will be a moderate to difficult hike and is expected to take three to four hours. It will be limited to 25 participants in good condition. Preregistration is required by calling 304-653-4254. Assembly will be at Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park office 8 a.m. sharp.
8th West Virginia Mounted Infantry Memorial Hike
Hike No. 3 is the 8th West Virginia Mounted Infantry Memorial Hike and the start point is near Hillsboro. This is a 3-mile hike through some fields, but mostly privately owned woodland, partly on old log roads. Some sections are extremely steep, possibly requiring use of hands or trekking pole. The route is all uphill and fairly steep overall, with 800 feet of elevation change.
No support vehicle will be provided; snacks, drinks, and personal items will have to be carried by hikers. Restrooms are available at park at the end of hike, otherwise relief relies on 1800s protocol. This will be a moderate to difficult hike and is expected to take three to four hours. It will be limited to 35 participants and preregistration is required. Assembly will be at the park office 7 a.m.; an early start is necessary so participants can be back to park for other re-enactment activities in the afternoon. More information is available by calling 304-653-4254.
Echols' Brigade, Confederate Army of Southwestern Virginia Memorial Hike
Hike No. 4 is the Echols' Brigade, Confederate Army of Southwestern Virginia Memorial Hike with a starting point near Lewisburg. This will be a 27-mile hike along U.S. 219, mostly at night, with 1,000 feet of elevation change and moderate grades. The hike will begin in the afternoon, with a two-hour break from midnight to 2 a.m., then continue through the night to arrive at the park near dawn, as did the Confederate army of Gen. John Echols prior to the battle at Droop Mountain.
A support vehicle with food, first aid supplies, and a porta-john will be provided. Should anyone become physically or mentally exhausted, the support vehicle will be available to allow those participants to take a rest or stop entirely if they need to do so. This will be an extremely rigorous hike, mostly at night, along a public road on a weekday in November when the weather could easily be quite miserable. It is not intended for the faint of heart. Registrants are requested to obtain a doctor's statement that they are physically fit for a 30-mile trek. After arrival at Droop Mountain Battlefield, a second extended rest period is scheduled, to be followed by a public dedication of a monument and reading of names (of battle casualties) in the early afternoon. Because much of Hike No. 4 will be at night and along a major highway, reflective arm bands (provided by the park) will be worn by all participants. Other safety measures also may be required. More information is available by calling 304-653-4254