Before my niece’s spring break started last week, I made use of the first few days of my time on the east coast to drive up to Martinsburg, West Virginia, to visit some good friends. These are the same friends I stayed with last summer in Kotzebue, Alaska, and it’s been a whole seven months since I’ve seen them — definitely time for a visit!
On my first day in Martinsburg, the three girls in the family had school, so their mother and I spent a quiet morning at the house before going out for lunch and shopping in the historic downtown area. Pretty much every old town in the east has a historic downtown, some more historic than others. Martinsburg was fun, but we got quite a bit more history on the second day of my visit.
The girls were out of school for the day, so we packed a picnic and headed out to Charles Town and Harpers Ferry. After a walking tour of Charles Town (including the home of Charles Washington, brother of George, and the courthouse where John Brown was tried and sentenced to be hanged), we began another walking tour through Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. We didn’t realize it before we made our plans to go, but the day following our visit would be the 150th anniversary celebration for the beginning of the Civil War — and Harpers Ferry was a pretty big deal at the beginning of the Civil War. Aside from a few tents sent up for the next day’s events, the town seemed pretty quiet and subdued, and we enjoyed walking up and down the old roads and alleys and looking in the historic stone buildings at the various museums and displays.
This day trip ended up being a bookend of sorts to my trip through Oregon a few weeks back. On that trip, I went to the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park at the site of the Corps of Discovery’s winter camp on the Pacific Ocean before they returned to report their findings to President Jefferson. What a pleasant surprise to stumble upon a Lewis and Clark exhibit in Harpers Ferry, the town where Lewis bought provisions and arms for their expedition! I also got to snap a photo of this sign for the Lewis and Clark Trail that I see all the time on the highway in the Tri-Cities, Washington, area where I live. Pretty fun to have visited both the beginning and the end of the trail.
We had another fun surprise when we looked at the map of the town to plan our hiking route for the afternoon. All we knew before going to Harpers Ferry was that there are trails in the area and that we should go see Jefferson Rock overlooking the Shenandoah River.
It turns out that the trail to Jefferson Rock is part of the Appalachian Trail, and not much further from the rock is the Appalachian Trail Visitor Center at Harpers Ferry, “the psychological halfway point” of the 2,181 mile trail from Georgia to Maine. So we went to the rock, then to the visitors center, where we chatted for a while with the volunteers at the front desk. They showed us the color coded notebooks with photos of all of the hikers who have done the trail since the 1970s. They’re just getting into the peak season for the visitors center — as of April 19, five thru-hikers had already made it to Harpers Ferry from Georgia, but no one from the north yet this year. Since we had three young girls with us, the volunteers were eager to show us the photo of a 9-year-old boy who hiked the entire AT last year, halfway with his mom and halfway with his dad. Man, I wasn’t anywhere near that focused as a 9-year-old.
So, within the last month I have walked three miles of the Pacific Crest Trail and about two miles of the Appalachian Trail. Just 2,647 more miles until I finish the PCT and 2,179 for the AT, if anyone is keeping track (and I am).