The Clarion Inn has one of the most amazing “free” breakfast spreads that I have ever seen. It was not just the usual waffle and danish layout (although I ate those too), but included eggs, bacon, home fries, and fresh fruit. Fully fortified, we headed back to the trailhead parking lot to begin our exploration of Harpers Ferry.
From the parking lot, the A.T. heads uphill via a seemingly endless series of stairs (ugh!). This time, at least, I wasn’t hauling a backpack with five days worth of food, but it was still plenty of work. At the top of the climb, we took the blue blaze trail through the old Storer College campus towards the ATC Headquarters. Storer College was the first notable black college in US, which operated from 1867-1955, and the lovely campus is maintained by the National Park Service (NPS).
The ATC Headquarters is somewhat of a Mecca for hikers on the A.T. The tradition is to have a staff member take your picture in front of the building and assign you your registration number. I was assigned #475 having been assigned #480 way back at Amicalola Falls. My interpretation of this is that 200 hikers that were ahead of me have left the trail and only 195 hikers that started behind me have passed me. Each of the pictures are stored sequentially in binders dating back for years. It was fun to flip through the current binder and show Sharon pictures of the thru-hikers I have met on this journey.
After taking care of business at the ATC, we started walking towards Lower Town. Way back in Pearisburg, VA, my cousin David told me that I had a distant relative that owned a shop in Lower Town, so we were on a mission to find her. After a couple of misfires, we located the Village Shop and went inside to introduce ourselves to Tammy Debruler. She had originally had her business location a few blocks up the street, but it burned to the ground a few years back and she lost everything. Recently, her current space became available and she is back in business with a cute boutique. Tammy was expecting us (the family grapevine) and we determined that we were probably second cousins. Years ago, she had actually been to my grandmother Ada’s Merle Norman store in Beckley, WV, which is probably the only piece of real estate where we had both stood. It was a lot of fun to visit with a relative that we had never before met!
Harpers Ferry is rich with American history dating back to the 1700’s. While it is all fascinating to me, the entire story is well beyond the scope of this journal. The town, however, is most recognized as the site of John Brown’s raid on October 16, 1959. John Brown, a white abolitionist, believed that if he could capture the US Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, that it would initiate an armed slave revolt. While he was unsuccessful in his attempt, he did raise awareness about the question of slavery in America.
During John Brown’s raid on the arsenal, he and his band of 22 men took refuge in a fire-engine house now known as John Brown’s Fort. After several years of being vandalized by souvenir hunters, the building was dismantled and put on display at the Chicago Exposition in 1891. The building was brought back to Harpers Ferry in 1895 and put on display on a nearby farm. Because of its iconic role in the history of slavery freedom movement, the building was purchased in 1909 by Storer College and placed on the campus. Finally, in 1968 it was moved once again and erected within 150 feet of the original location by the NPS.
After a quick break for a yummy lunch at a small restaurant and ice cream shop, we continued on our tour. On Shenandoah Street, near John Brown’s Fort, the NPS maintains several buildings with fascinating period displays including a dry goods store, a tavern, and a Provost Marshall Office. These displays paint a picture of the evolution of local industry in times past.
Following our tour of Lower Town, we continued along the bank of the Shenandoah River past the remnants of water powered industrial sites until we arrived back at the parking lot and returned to the hotel.
My daughter Rachel has a friend in Montana who is a third grade school teacher and her class has been following my blog. Ms. Luhnow had reached out to me via Messenger a few weeks back to see if I would consider a Skype interview, but bandwidth being what it is, I considered that to be impractical. As an alternative, she compiled a list of questions from her class for me to answer about life in the trail. With the end of the school year rapidly approaching, I found a spot on the lawn behind the hotel and spent a couple of hours writing a letter to her class. Greetings Ms Luhnow’s class! Thank you for your interest in my journey and I hope I was able to answer all of your questions.
After slack packing through Shenandoah National Park during his “time off”, Scar finally in arrived in Harpers Ferry and I asked my sister if it would be OK for him to join us for dinner. Win graciously drove down to the hotel where he was staying so that Scar could avoid the road walk and we all got together for a wonderful meal at the Clarion restaurant. I believe that Win and Sharon enjoyed meeting Scar and getting a glimpse of life on the trail from the perspective of another thru-hiker.
After returning Scar to his digs, we returned to the hotel where I returned to the bar for one last craft beer. It has been a long, hot day of walking but I have enjoyed every minute of time with my sister and her hubby. I’m certain it will be easy to fall asleep tonight.