…Continued from Part III:
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park – We had beautiful weather on the day we went to Harpers Ferry. Harpers Ferry is located on the boarder of Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. It is where both the Potomac and the Shenandoah Rivers meet, becoming the larger Potomac River, rushing by the Blue Ridge Mountains. On our visit we witnessed a living history day where they were reenacting the 1860 election. Harpers Ferry has historic significance. George Washington chose this location as a site for the US Armory. The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal operated from 1831-1924, contributing to its growth. Factories and industries thrived here. There is an incident that occurred here that put Harpers Ferry on the map for civil rights. In 1859 abolitionist John Brown led 23 men to raid the town and armory, with the intention of arming every slave and sparking rebellion. His raid failed and resulted in most of his men being killed or captured. John Brown was given a trial, found guilty, and hung within weeks of the incident. Many historians claim this incident was key in starting the Civil War by increasing tensions between Northern and Southern states. Other anti-slavery activists claim that John Brown’s actions were too violent, as John Brown killed bystanders who were in the way of his cause. In fact, the first death of his raid was an ex-slave who was now a train conductor. Whatever your feelings are, his actions did start conversions and further demonstrations.
We enjoyed walking around the historic park. Here you can visit stores and museums along their main street in the lower town. A short walk away is the Potomac River and the Shenandoah River. We walked the footbridge to Maryland, and walked along the famous Appalachian National Scenic Trail. If you remember my obsession with the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail), you should realize that I would most certainly have an obsession with the “AT” as well. This 2,200-mile trail goes from Maine to Georgia, with most backpackers traveling North-starting March/April. The point in the trail we walked was where three National Park Systems areas meet: The “AT”, the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail is a 710-mile trail that connects various historical sites in Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC, and Virginia – including the Mount Vernon Trail! The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park is based on 184-mile canal that ran along the Potomac River from Washington DC to Maryland, with their main cargo being coal. Today, you can hike, bike and enjoy the towpath along the canal. There are seven visitor centers along the path for you learn about the canal.
Overall, Harpers Ferry was a wonderful visit. We didn’t hit all the museums, or many hikes. We plan on returning one day and completing some of the mountain hikes in the Maryland heights.
Shenandoah Valley – My sister’s in-laws, the Arseneau family, invited us to their family mountain cabin near Front Royal, VA. Their cabin was charming and offered us overwhelming views of nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. We took a short ride on their Gator from their cabin to their riverfront – the Shenandoah River! They have perfect trees for climbing, and the river is not too deep, but deep enough to be able to tube down. It was such a nice afternoon with great food, energetic conversation, and a view well worth dealing with all the bugs. Thank you for the invite & the wonderful brunch – Suanne, Nancy, Phil & Jan!
Shenandoah National Park – Exploring Shenandoah National Park anytime of the year can be amazing, but seeing the park in its fall colors truly makes it stunning. It is like someone took a paintbrush and painted the gorgeous scenery with yellows, oranges, and reds. We spent a day here focusing on driving the entire Skyline Drive, but have already decided another day is needed to explore the parks vast hiking trails. Shenandoah’s famous Skyline Drive has been around since 1931, and runs from the North side of the park, to the South side – turning into Blue Ridge Parkway (which connects Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Park). The drive through Shenandoah is 105 miles, with 75 overlooks from the main road. There are two visitor centers, four campsites, a few grocery stores, and over a dozen hikes all directly off of Skyline Drive. Great news – Shenandoah is a DOG FRIENDLY PARK!!! Sparky enjoys a good hike as much as us and enjoyed his day with us. You must do your research, there are some hikes dogs cannot go on – for example, any of scrambling hikes, such as Old Rag Mountain. Old Rag Mountain is a 10-hour hike/climb that Steve and I are hoping we can do when we return to Virginia.
We ended up doing two hikes: Lewis Falls Trail and Black Rock Summit Trail. The Black Rock Summit Trail is a one-mile loop, with minor elevation change. When you reach the summit, it looks like a pile of rocks – but don’t be fooled – what you are seeing is rock that once formed in an ocean. This ocean predates the forming of the Appalachian Mountains; once the mountains formed the seabed was changed into quartzite rocks. Over time, weather has changed the formation, cutting rock, and moving rocks – making it look like a river flow of rock.
Our second hike was the Lewis Falls Trail. We parked off Skyline Drive and hiked down a fire road until we reached the trail. The trail is about 1.5 mile each way – however, it is not an easy trail. AllTrails had marked this one as “hard” due to the terrain you are hiking on – rocky and unstable. Throw in an over eager pup and it became even more challenging. The elevation change is 790 feet, so as you can imagine, you will sweat. Lewis Falls are small yet impressive; we enjoyed sitting there and relaxing before the trek back to the car. This trail was fairly busy, so we weren’t anticipating seeing any wildlife, we were wrong. On our return trip, Steve thought he had heard people up ahead, when we didn’t see any, we looked around and saw a Black Bear! He was close to us – and before I could react at all, Sparky saw him! Sparky wasn’t sure what to do, was he a friend, a foe, a cow, a cat? He didn’t know. Some tail wagging occurred at first, which was almost immediately followed by mini growls and then a bark. Sparky and I quickly backed away from the bear, while Steve snapped away. Getting any photo of wild life has its challenges, and getting a shot of bear that wanted to get away from Sparky was no exception. We were on our Bear high again and walked back to the truck with a quicker step.
We didn’t stop at all 75 overlooks on Skyline Drive. We found that most of the overlooks had a similar view, so we decided only to stop when the area looked dramatically different. The North side had a different look than the South side. We took photos from various areas, the beautiful trees, and an amazing tunnel, Mary’s Rock Tunnel, made in 1932. Steve and I are planning a trip back once we return to Virginia, hopefully to camp and to hike Old Rag Mountain Trail.
**To be continued…**