Strictly speaking, Valley Forge is not a battlefield, since no shots were fired in anger there. But far more soldiers died during the winter encampment of 1777-78 than in any battle of the Revolutionary War, and George Washington's ragtag army never faced a tougher test. By all odds the British had beaten down our rebellion; against all odds, the Americans persisted. Defeated, grotesquely under- equipped, sick and starving, the Continentals retreated into the Pennsylvania countryside after the loss of their capital at Philadelphia in December of 1777. What Napoleon called "two o'clock in the morning courage" carried them through. Retrained and finally resupplied, they marched forth six months later to win a strategic victory at the Battle of Monmouth. Valley Forge National Park's 2,500 acres embrace virtually all of the natural fortress where the Continentals licked their wounds. See the film and/or slide show at the visitor center and then take off by tour bus ($3 adults, $2 seniors and children), car, bike or foot with map in hand. The three must stops are the re-created log huts of the MUHLENBERG BRIGADE, WASHINGTON'S HEADQUARTERS beside Valley Creek and the WASHINGTON MEMORIAL CHAPEL. The park is essentially a rectangle; afoot, you can take all sorts of shortcuts. If you ride the tour bus, you can get off at any stop and linger as long as you like (they run every 20 minutes on weekends). Avoid the snack bar near the headquarters where they sell such things as a putative apple strudel that ought to be illegal in Pennsylvania and coffee that would have made the Continentals mutiny. Save your appetite for the CHAPEL CABIN SHOP, where gracious Episcopal ladies serve wonderful homemade shoo-fly cake for 25 cents a slab and offer such other delicacies as tangerine marmalade. The CHAPEL MUSEUM ($1, under 10 free) is an endearing jumble of everything from "Mad Anthony" Wayne's soup ladle and Lafayette's campstove to a section from an elm tree "to which George Washington tied his horse while attending services at St. Paul's Church, New York City." The chapel is a miniature Gothic cathedral, heavily inscripted by the Daughters of the American Revolution. VALLEY FORGE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK -- Four hours (150 miles) from Washington via I-95 to Wilmington, Delaware, and U.S. 202 north. Local accommodations: 215/278-3558.