Monday, June 21, 2010

Harpers Ferry, Soft-Shell Crab, and Canals

Saturday we went to Harpers Ferry in West Virginia.  Harpers Ferry has a little something for everyone! I first visited in 1989 and fell in love! I was quite excited about sharing this unique town with the kids for their first trip!

Harpers Ferry is a great place for Civil War buffs. Infamous for its role in the Civil War, a national park is located here.  We'll come back in cooler weather to do the Civil War stuff.  There are trails to hike of varying difficulty levels.  There are also museums and things to walk around and see.  With difficulty in finding parking in town, we parked at the national park, using our national park pass to get in. We left the car there and took the shuttle bus into town.  It took a while to get to our destination but it gave us an opportunity to see the variety of things to see in the Civil War category.

Harpers Ferry is a terrific place for food. Once we arrived in town, we had lunch. I decided to be different and my daughter followed my lead.  We ordered soft shell crab sandwiches. We had never had these before.  It was definitely an odd experience to eat a sandwich that had appendages dropping out.  I'm not a big fan of fried food but this was well done, cooked light and crispy, not at all greasy.
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After lunch you can pretend to be a mountain goat in town, because the town is literally built into the side of a mountain. The friendly shop owner I had talked to explained to me that Harpers Ferry is not in the mountains.  That was news to me!  Harpers Ferry is the lowest spot in West Virginia, around 400+' altitude.  Well, true, I'm used to 7000'-14000'+ in Colorado!  She told me their winters are usually mild, like we normally get in the Washington DC area, with the exception of last winter with 3-4 blizzards amassing a record breaking 60"+ of snow! 

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This is an actual working train station, as in not tourist but passenger. We don't have those in Texas!  We watched mountain climbers rappel on the face of the mountain.

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Below the train station, we walked to the John Brown's fort from the pre Civil War days.  Like I said, we'll come back another time to do the Civil War stuff.  This was mainly a trip  to scope out the town. Besides it was a hot and humid day.

Harpers Ferry is on the Lewis and Clark trail! This is the frame of a boat that Meriweather Lewis was going to use in the West.  Below us is the Potomac River.   There is a museum across the street on the Lewis and Clark expedition.
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Here is a better view of the Potomac River.

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Harpers Ferry had a canal!  The Shenandoah Canal is somehow linked to the C&O Canal (which I think is nearby), according to this article. This is the confluence  of two rivers...the Potomac is to our left and beyond. To our right is the Shenandoah River.  We are in West Virginia.  Across the Potomac is Maryland.  Across the Shenandoah is Virginia! This area was so important in the 18th century, that a town and ferry was built to carry goods across the river.  Later in the 19th century, a railroad and canal paralleled each other. We are in the canal area now and I think that is the railroad bridge across the way.  I am a huge canal fan and have been so since I first discovered a real canal on my first trip to upstate New York.  We have been to so many canals, we can now recognize a historic canal without the need for a sign.

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We started walking to the right, along the Shenandoah to return to the park to our van, about 2.2 miles away.  On the way, we walked alongside this railroad.

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Further down the road, we started walking alongside the canal on the old towpath. The canal was built because the river was full of rocks. Today tubers enjoy the whitewater. (Harpers Ferry is a great place for tubing!) Although it's great for recreation, it is not at all convenient for transporting goods across the country.  Hiking the canal trail was definitely at the top of our list for the day.  There is too much scope for the imagination to simply drive by!

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These are the remains of an old pulp factory.

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Raspberries...

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Harpers Ferry has great hiking trails! Our hiking path to the visitor center took us up this mountain...

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that had a stream with waterfalls trickling alongside these great rocks and boulders.

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Here's one of the waterfalls, not quite as large as what we saw in the Rocky Mountains. Yet, very soothing nonetheless.

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There's still more to do.  There's a hike above town we didn't do this time (too hot) but my husband and I did it years ago.  As I recall there is a Jefferson Rock with a great view.  I'm sure we'll be back.

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