I decided Harpers Ferry was a pleasant place to take a rest day, what with
all the historical buildings to see and the convenient facilities in our
campground and nearby town.
Rest days always mean planning the route ahead for several days, deciding
where to camp, getting groceries, doing laundry, and catching up on this journal
if I've gotten behind.
They are only "restful" in that I'm not running and hiking on the Trail.
We've discovered that making reservations this close to the Fourth of July
weekend is dicey (well, duh!). Our first choice was to spend three days next
weekend at Pine Grove Furnace State Park near Carlisle, PA, which is about the
half-way point on the Trail distance-wise. However, they're already full. We
got the last site at a nearby private campground. We're still trying to find a
spot for this Thursday near Gettysburg. That's proving more difficult.
Hopefully after this weekend we won't have so much trouble finding suitable
campgrounds. This has been a real hassle for us since we began the adventure
run. If anyone who lives near the AT in Pennsylvania and all points north has
recommendations for places to camp near the Trail we'd sure appreciate hearing
from you. Other readers to the south have provided very helpful information.
HISTORIC HARPERS FERRY
Harpers Ferry is an interesting historical and scenic attraction on the AT
due to its location at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.
Many prominent citizens contributed to the town's development and history
during the 1700s and 1800s, including Thomas Jefferson, George Washington,
Meriwether Lewis, Abraham Lincoln, John Brown, Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart,
"Stonewall Jackson," George Armstrong Custer, Phillip Sheridan, Frederick
Douglass, and others.
The landscape shaped the history. The two great rivers provided a travel
route for Native Americans, explorers and settlers, and later the canals and
railroads. The rivers produced power for local mills and factories. Surrounding
hills yielded stone (still seen in many of the original buildings), hardwood for
charcoal, limestone, and iron ore for industry.
This development of Harpers Ferry into a thriving community and the site of a
large weapons arsenal in the 1800s lured John Brown to the town to help free the
slaves. Much happened here during the Civil War that brought devastation to the
people and wrecked the town's economy. Union and Confederate troops both moved
through the town and occupancy changed hands eight times between 1861 and 1865.
Today John Brown's Fort and the arsenal ruins are part of the legacy of the
nation's struggle with slavery.
Only the railroad remains as an active reminder of Harper Ferry's
transportation heritage;the rest of Harpers Ferry's 19th-century industrial heyday is in ruins. The
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal that was built in the 1830s to bypass the river rapids
ceased operations in 1924 after severe flooding.
Most of the town lay in ruins when the Harpers Ferry National Monument was
provided for in 1944 by an act of Congress. The National Historical Park was
created in 1963 and includes holdings in downtown Harpers Ferry, Virginius
Island, across the Potomac in Maryland, and across the Shenandoah in Virginia
(including the long forested mountain trail I ran down yesterday to the bridge
across the Shenandoah River).
Buildings in downtown Harpers Ferry have been restored to the 1859-1865 era.
The house of Robert Harper, the oldest surviving structure in town (1775), has
been restored by the Park Service and is open daily, as are other historical
buildings and exhibits.
It's an interesting place to visit, with activities for both adults and
children. Jim and I are both looking forward to seeing many historical sites as
we progress north on the Appalachian Trail.
The C&O Canal Towpath across the Potomac has become a popular hiking and cycling
trail. It is approximately 185 miles long, stretching from Cumberland, MD to
Washington, DC. Jim's already run on it and I get the opportunity tomorrow
morning as I head across the footbridge to Maryland. The AT follows the towpath
for a couple miles before heading up South Mountain.
What a concept! There isn't a lot of elevation gain and loss and the treadway
sounds fairly smooth. However there will be lots of stops crossing roads and
taking in the historical sites along the way.
It's the journey, not just the miles.