Sunday, June 20, 2010

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia is not the actual mid-point of the Appalachian Trail, but it is the psychological mid-point for many hikers, probably because it’s close to the actual halfway mark and because it’s where the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters is located.  I hiked north again today because I wanted to hike, like the majority of thru-hikers do, down the mountain into Harpers Ferry.  As it turned out, the trees were so thick and covered in leaves that I couldn’t even see the Shenandoah River until I was at the bridge.

Ramp to the bridge

Hiker lane to cross the bridge

Harpers Ferry is the site of the convergence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers.  With the construction of the C & O Canal and the B & O Railroad, Harpers Ferry became an industrial and transportation center in the early 1830s.  However, it may best be known for John Brown’s raid in 1859.  Following the Civil War, Harpers Ferry never fully recovered and was basically in ruins when the National Park Service designated Harpers Ferry National Monument in 1944.  It gained National Historical Park status in 1963 and the downtown area has been restored to the Civil War era.

The Appalachian Trail enters the National Historical Park on the mountain on the south side of the Shenandoah River.  It makes a steep 700 food descent to cross the river along a pedestrian lane on US 340.  This is a busy 4-lane highway and I was a bit nervous about walking along the bridge.  I was greatly relieved to see a concrete barrier between myself and the traffic.

Thomas Jefferson stood on this rock

After crossing the river, the trail re-enters the woods and follows along the cliff above the river until it reaches the historical district of town.  It then meanders between the old buildings until it makes a zig and a zag over to the footbridge across the Potomac.

trail passes through Storer College Campus

On my journey through town, I wanted to stop at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters to have our picture made.  As a tradition, thru-hikers stop to register as thru-hikers and have their pictures made.  Copies of these photos are placed in an album for all to view.  We looked up the photos of those hikers whose journals we read.  When a hiker registers, they are numbered for statistical purposes.  The first of June saw the numbers in the mid 100s.  Today, they were registering numbers in the low 400s.  Section hikers can have an “official” photo made if they fully intend to finish the trail.  Those pictures also go in the album.  We didn’t want to promise to finish the trail sometime in the future so we didn’t have an official photo made.  However, Dave, was happy to use my camera and make our photo for us.

The ATC building is two-tenths of a mile off the trail (generally uphill, of course).  Gene met me there and purchased the guidebook and maps for Pennsylvania.  If we have time, we may hike as far as Pine Grove Furnace State Park which is the official half-way point.

C and O Canal towpath

With our business taken care of, we went back to the trail, I continued north across the Potomac and down the flat as a pancake C & O Canal towpath for 3 miles to the parking lot and the truck.  This was a fine Sunday afternoon and just about all God’s children were on or near the footbridge over the Potomac.  In the confusion I failed to get a picture of the Welcome to Maryland sign.

There is more to today’s story, but it will have to wait until tomorrow.  No hiking tomorrow--just rest and laundry.  Oh yea, 9 miles is a whole lot better than 14.

That’s it for today.

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