On our way across Virginia, traveling from the rain freshened mountains and back into the hot, humid airs of the coastal plain, we stopped at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. The park is a quiet rural site, and our early morning visit was marked by a serenity that belied the history of the place. Managed by the National Park Service, one of our Leave No Trace partner agencies, Appomattox is the site of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant. The park interprets and commemorates the chain of events that brought the US Civil War to an end in 1865.
Such monuments to history, when appropriately interpreted, help us remember the sacrifices that so many have made to preserve and sustain this noble idea of a nation. Similarly, by advocating the protection and respectful interpretation of our collective cultural heritage, the Leave No Trace ethic plays a critically important role in providing opportunities to understand and more fully appreciate places and events like Appomattox. These are the places and events that have shaped who we are, and importantly, inform what we stand for as individuals and as a society… forming the foundation of an ethic that binds us all together as a nation.