Last year, I signed up for a bus tour of Braddock Road, a warpath blazed through the wilderness by British forces during the French and Indian War. Remnants of the 18th-century trail run through majestic scenery in the leafy mountainous regions stretching from Western Virginia to Pennsylvania, but the breathtaking panorama was not the main reason I was going.
Rather, I was interested in seeing the setting for a story now almost forgotten, a tale that unfolded more than 260 years ago and also happens to mark a milestone in the early life of George Washington.
I was also pretty excited by the prospect of making friends with the 15 or so others who would be going on the trip, organized through the French and Indian War Foundation, although I couldn’t quite imagine who they would be. Maybe history hipsters who do things like shun modern, industrialized meat. Or couples taking their impressionable children on an in-depth history excursion.
I picked up my rental car in the wee hours at Washington’s Reagan National Airport (like the first president, I don’t own a car) and set off toward the tour’s starting point in Winchester, Va., cruising on a chilly spring morning down the George Washington Memorial Parkway — an aptly presidential beginning.