Valley Forge

My two week trip to US was decided at a very short notice over what was supposed to be a regular status review meeting on a Monday evening. I was asked to be present in US office the following Monday to finalize 2010 budgets and plans for a newly kicked-off project. Flights were fully booked for the weekend and hence I was forced to leave a day early on Friday. I considered it as a good omen for my secret desire of getting a weekend free for shooting the autumn colors in US. October was over and so was the fall season. Though my colleagues from US had already warned me that I was reaching a week late to witness the colorful autumn, I still had hopes to catch at least some glimpses of colorful foliage of the passing autumn and I was hoping to spend some time over the weekend shooting for the same.

We landed at Philadelphia airport around 3:30 pm on the Saturday. It was drizzling outside. The skies were dark and the forecast for the next day was same – overcast skies with no sign of sunshine and intermittent drizzles were to be expected. Temperature was rushing downwards to cross the zero degree C mark. It was a tell-tale sign that winter season had already set-in. It became dark by the time I checked-in to my hotel room an hour later. Yet my hopes were still alive.

Like an obedient child the Sunday behaved exactly as forecast by the weather bureau. My colleague called me around 10:00 am to say that given the weather forecast I should forget my plans to go out for the autumn shoot and instead visit the King of Prussia Mall that was a few blocks away from my hotel. I was left with no choice but to spend my time in what is termed as one of the largest shopping malls in the US with over 400 stores spread over 2,793,200 sq feet of retail space.

My cell phone rang at 3:00 pm while I was sitting in the food court nursing my tired feet and bored eyes after the three hours of aimless walk around the King of Prussia mall and feeding my empty stomach with the second six incher veggie-lover subway. My colleague’s excited voice over the phone told me that weather bureau had just announced that there will be bright sunshine for about two hours beginning 4:00 pm and therefore he is coming over to the mall to pick me up and take me to the Valley Forge for the autumn shoot. My heart almost jumped into my mouth and I rushed to the exit of the mall and waited there for my colleague to arrive.

Valley Forge is a National Historical Park in the state of Pennsylvania. While we were driving towards the park, the cover of clouds started dispersing and the sunshine was spreading over the park area.

We were greeted by the colorful boundary wall of trees as soon as we turned right on Valley Forge Road from the expressway and were approaching the visitor’s center.

There was vast open grass land on one side of the car park.

On the other side were well maintained walking tracks for joggers and bicycle lanes for bikers.

Valley Forge National Historical Park is the site where the Continental Army spent the winter of 1777–1778 near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, during the American Revolutionary War. The National Historical Park preserves the site and interprets the history of the Valley Forge encampment. Originally Valley Forge State Park, it became a national park in 1976. The Park contains historical buildings, recreated encampment structures, memorials, museums, and recreation facilities. (Please refer http://www.nps.gov/vafo/historyculture/index.htm for more details).

We took the driving directions from the Visitor’s Center and started moving over to the recreated encampment structures.

We soon reached a site where Gen. Peter Muhlenberg’s Brigade anchored the outer line of defense.

The park authorities have recreated the log huts and young people in military costume are posted there to recreate those times.

Army records and eyewitness accounts speak of a skilled and capable force in charge of its own destiny. Rather than wait for deliverance, the army located supplies, built log cabins to stay in, constructed makeshift clothing and gear, and cooked subsistence meals of their own concoction. Provisions, though never abundant in the early months of the encampment, were available.

Women followed the army to be with their husbands and contribute actively to the cause. The women present at Valley Forge included hundreds of enlisted men’s wives who followed the army year round, and some general officers’ wives on extended visits. The army compensated full-time women followers for rendering such valuable services as sewing, laundering, and nursing.

Under the direction of military engineers, the men built a city of 2,000-odd huts laid out in parallel lines along planned military avenues. The troops also constructed miles of trenches, five earthen forts, and a state-of-the-art bridge over the Schuylkill River.

We were amazed to see how meticulously the National Park Authorities had re-created the historic times in such a manner that the young generation can really see and feel the history. At the same time they had ensured that the young generation gets attracted to the park by creating sports facilities such as jogging, hiking, and biking.

Soon the two hours of sun-shine were coming to an end. We decided to visit a deer park on the way and then get out of the park before it started getting dark.

We left the park soon after we spotted the deer but my heart was still roaming in the park.

Thank you God for giving me those two precious hours of sunshine and such an amazingly beautiful park nearby the hotel I was staying in.

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