Summer vacation has always been a wonderful time to slow down a bit to enjoy sipping a tall glass of iced tea on the back porch or grilling out with family and friends.
For many of us, it is also the time we sit down, drag out the battered and outdated atlases and plan that one vacation that will sustain us until next summer arrives.
In looking back, it is next to impossible to choose just one vacation that I’d call my favorite. Perhaps it was visiting the top of the Crazy Horse monument. Grand Canyon’s beauty still takes my breath away. And who wouldn’t enjoy walking along a beach at sunset?
As we plan this year’s vacation, one trip does stand out — at least one night of that journey is very hard to forget.
Two years ago, we decided to visit Gettysburg, Pa., where we could relive the history that rained down on that tiny town 150 years ago. We could walk the battlefield, touch the bullet holes that riddled the dwellings and gaze at the place Lincoln finished writing his memorable speech. I wanted to be part of it, to imagine being there, to gaze at the names of the fallen soldiers lying in the cemetery.
I made the plans. We would visit the battlefield and stay in one of the inns close by. There would be no commercial hotels for us.
The inn we selected was recommended by a friend. Listed as a bed-and-breakfast, it was nestled in the midst of the countryside where the battle of Gettysburg first began. History tells us it was established in 1815 as a tavern and inn and was the first Confederate field hospital during the confrontation.
I learned from the innkeeper it was a safe house for runaway slaves. I saw the tiny closet where the slaves silently hid from those who hunted them down. The more I learned, the more fascinated I was of this storied place. Even more striking, I would learn from the keepers of the inn, was that this beautiful place was reportedly teaming with spirits from the past.
I was intrigued. This would be no ordinary overnight stay.
As we entered the room, its beauty took our breath away. We would soon learn from the innkeeper that our room, furnished with elements of the past, had the most encounters with the spirits of any of the other rooms in the inn.
I found a place to sit and immediately began reading the journal left behind of other guests who had stayed in our room. Many had experienced unusual happenings during their stay, from knocking at the door (with no one there) to a cook who appeared late at night. I read portions of the journal out loud. It was fascinating.
By this time, I was totally engrossed in this place. I listened carefully as the innkeeper left for the evening, turning out the lights downstairs and locking up for the night. Only a night light glimmered on the front desk.
It didn’t take me long to determine we were the only family in the inn. The ONLY family in the inn! With four rooms, all empty, we were the lone family staying in this old Civil War field hospital that was reportedly quite full of spirits.
By this time, it was late. My husband had already dozed off, as had our daughter. I, however, was wide awake. The more I thought about being alone in this vast place, the wider my eyes became. (I should have listened to my husband. He warned me not to continue reading the ghost stories far into the night, but I was determined.)
At last, I realized this arrangement was not going to work. I can’t say I was afraid of ghostly happenings, but I was a bit unnerved about being in this vast place all alone. Finally, I leaned over to my husband and said quite softly, “I think we need to go somewhere else. I can’t do this with no one else here.”
After a few minor complaints from the family, we piled into the SUV (by now it is midnight) and headed to a mom-and-pop motel just down the street. Luckily, the clerk was still on duty and had a room we could stay in for the night. We took no belongings with us, not even our toothbrushes, when we left the inn, so there was no unpacking at the tiny motel. We simply climbed into bed and slept as if we were supposed to be there all along (other than trying to explain how we ended up at this tiny, slightly outdated motel instead of the picturesque inn we had reservations for).
At 6 a.m. next day, we headed back to the inn as if nothing had ever happened. When the innkeeper arrived, we told him we had had a great night and were quite grateful for the splendid breakfast he would soon bring to us. He never knew the difference.
So now, it is time again to think about where we will go on our vacation. The beach? Maybe. The mountains? I love them! The beautiful inn at Gettysburg? Ummm, we’ll see. But only if someone else is there to share the splendor. I would hate to have such a grand experience and not have anyone to share it with.
Carol Edwards is retired after a 30-year career teaching elementary school students at Greenwood schools. Send column ideas or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.