Several years went by before I ever paid a visit to Manassas National Battlefield Park, despite living within ten miles of it and driving through it often. I always figured it would be flat, treeless, and boring – basically a huge, empty field. And perhaps a good portion of it is flat, treeless, and boring, but after being lured there by the prospect of the ephemeral and enchanting Virginia bluebells last spring, I discovered that parts of it are wooded, slightly hilly, and exciting. In fact, the primary goal of most of my hikes is to look for wildlife, and although I’d long dismissed the battlefield as empty and likely devoid of interesting wildlife, it was on my second visit there that I saw and photographed a barred owl in the wild for only the second time, which I found extremely exciting.
Since then, the First Manassas Trail and Stone Bridge Loop are on the short list of places I go to have a walk after work, particularly on days I don’t drag my camera gear to work with me and need to go home to retrieve it before heading out for a hike. It’s a lovely place to watch the sun set, and if you’re lucky you’ll see some deer, and if you are really super-lucky, an owl!