Harpers Ferry and the Fate of the Boat

After the storm passed, I pulled the boat up on shore, into the historic area in Harpers Ferry. I left her there at the site of the old bridge, near the armory for the night.



Historically, Harpers Ferry is best known for John Brown’s raid on the Armory in 1859, as well as it’s role of being a critical, and vulnerable, strategic point in the Civil War.

I took in what history I could on the stroll up to the hostel. I actually walked into the first hostel close to the point. The lady took one look at me, up and down, dripping outside the door, and promptly told me the whole bunk house was rented out for a private party while she reached for her desk phone to make a just remembered urgent phone call… I didn’t see anyone there as I walked to a table outside a closed shop to search up the next place, about a mile further up 😁.

Harpers Ferry began in the 1750s. On October 25, 1783, Thomas Jefferson visited Harpers Ferry. He viewed “the passage of the Potomac through the Blue Ridge” (from a rock that is now named for him) as “perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature.

George Washington traveled to Harpers Ferry during the summer of 1785 to determine the need for bypass canals. In 1794, Washington’s familiarity with the area led him to propose the site for a new United States armory and arsenal.

Some of Washington’s family moved to the area; his great-great-nephew, Colonel Lewis Washington, was held hostage during John Brown‘s raid in 1859, and George’s brother Charles Washington founded the nearby Jefferson County town of Charles Town.

I finally found Chinese food! How’s that for a segue?

There’s seriously no Chinese food in any of these cities. I’m so happy.

The second best reunion in Harpers Ferry was with my new upgraded GoPro camera. All hail GoPro! He is risen, after being sunk. I just need to find a high speed microSD card that’ll work now. And I got my second preplanned resupply box. Both were waiting for me at the local outfitter close to the point.

I stayed with these guys at the Teahorse Hostel, we did dinner and resupply together. Baggins (left) had been hobbling with a sever ankle injury for some time.

He went straight from the trail to Iceland and is currently chasing waterfalls.

My buddy Mike here, we ran into each other a few times along the way.

During my time around town over the next two days, I posted a note on the boat while on a lovely date with an incredible woman I met on the river.

Hiking out of town I made a number of stops.

First the official headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (the ATC). Not to much going on here. Sign the log book, grab a cold drink and use a desktop computer in the back lounge area if you need.

I continue down the hill towards the point again, to cross the bridge and enter Maryland. Back on the AT finally.

But the smells from this place, wafting up from some, below street level, stairs captured me like a Looney Tunes cartoon. I floated down the flight and right up to the counter. I didn’t even think I was hungry. The Teahorse Hostel does free all you can eat waffles for crying out loud. This chicken parm sub, one of my favorites, disappeared. I even ate the greens, must of worked up quite the appetite…

The owner was super generous and insisted I take his signature Italian ice cream soda on the house. It was getting hot today, what a treat. There is a good deal of respect for an obvious AT hiker out there, it feels good to be back on my feet with my gear again. Everything is washed and dry, cleaned and organized. I’m not slinking along a river, half the time camping illegally, or hiding like a hobo drinking morning wine under a bridge.

This is the second run-in I’ve had with these boys along the way.

I found an accounting within my own ancestry, while researching on the trail in North Carolina, that said my ancestor was responsible for recruiting for the expedition.

Even today, it’s not hard to envision this street in the 1800s, bustling with commerce from river trade.

This is the oldest known picture of the Shenandoah river trade boats. I found this in a book while staying at Andy and Lori’s farm on the river. These plank boats would typically be loaded down with goods, then even the boat would be disassembled and the wood sold for housing construction at the end. You can still find structures made from them. That’s quite the oar system they’re rocking there. Look at those guys, they were animals navigating that whole river on those things. I can’t believe I did that, kinda…

I took a break to digest two meals and finish my giant ice cream surprise at the point, while over looking my boat, that is still there… I decided to keep quite while a park employee suspiciously viewed it, noticed the note, leans in and takes a picture, then wonders off chuckling.

Bingo, target acquired. This gal had two boys, I told her the boat is hers if she wants it. I kid you not, she responded with, “you’re the guy that was on the river for 18 days!” Pretty sure my mouth hung. She explained she was a guide for the outfitter, on a day off. She told me her boss mentioned me going down the Bulls Falls run with him. She said, “sounds like you took some janky ass lines, but otherwise he said you did great.” She finished by mentioning she knew exactly what to do with the boat, and called her husband to coordinate a pickup. It’s in good hands, I’m sure of it.

A few days and the river has dropped enough for the usual rafting traffic to resume. I watched them pass by and even spot the same guide again that I ran with, as I walked out of town. Hell, out of state, I’m in Maryland! This is state number six of a north bound trek on the Appalachian Trail at mile marker 1,025.

This bridge, or more accurately it’s predecessors, played many a pivotal role in history.

The Baltimore & Ohio railroad bridge (B&O, like in Monopoly) was where John Brown launched his abolitionist raid across to capture the United States Armory, failing, but perhaps starting a war to end slavery.

With the secession of Virginia in 1861, the bridge became a tenuous connector between the Confederacy and the Union. During four years of Civil War, the bridge would be built and destroyed nine times, four times by war, five times by floods.

Also, in the video above is a note about how “bounce boxes” actually work. Which I plan to elaborate on a larger article about mail drops and resupply at a later time.

4 thoughts on “Harpers Ferry and the Fate of the Boat

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