Dedicated to Mara's travel and hiking adventure journals as well as her words of wisdom and suggested resources for hikers and travelers.
My summer in Harpers Ferry 2005
Not traveling, not hiking, but away from home so I kept a journal of sorts to share. I was gone for about 12 weeks though the last was in Massachusetts. My counting while on the road only added up to 10 weeks so until I revamp, the week numbers are approximate, at best.
Summer, 2005, approximately by weeks
Friday, July 8, 2005 Ė Medford, MA to Pleasant Valley, NY. 60s and rain.
After breakfast and Scrabble with my friend Rod at the new local Danish Pastry House just a few blocks from my apartment, I finished packing and was about to shut down my computer and leave when I got an email from a friend on the trail. He would be spending the weekend in New York City so I wouldnít be able to find him along the trail on my way south. Too bad. I had managed to run into him in Hot Springs during my spring trip south and then again at Trail days. Normally, I would have made a point to see him in New England but with my job in Harpers Ferry, I would no longer be home in the summer as the hikers made their way north through New Hampshire. 45 minutes later, I finally got off the phone and hit the road.
It rained almost all the way the New York. Does the sweep of windshield wipers set off migraine headaches in anyone else? I had to stop for some Excedrin along the way. Thankfully, it works wonders for me and I was able to drive again with minimal discomfort.
Once in Pleasant Valley, I checked into the Skeeterbait Motel, that is, I would be crashing on Markís couch. We went into Poughkeepsie for Vietnamese and ice cream.
Back at Skeeterís place, I cracked open a game called Fluxx, so named, perhaps, because the rules of the game are constantly in flux. Some games were over in a few minutes, other lasted the better part of an hour. But, it was fun to play.
Saturday, July 9, 2005 Ė Pleasant Valley, NY to Delaware Water Gap, PA. Partly sunny to partly cloudy, showers and 70s.
Up early when Skeeter was off to the work party at RPH shelter. I went back to sleep for a while and obviously needed the extra time as I didnít wake up for another couple of hours. I ran a few errands and took a side trip off the Taconic Parkway so that I could stop on a side road at they point where my carís odometer hit 123,456.7 miles. I wonder if the picture will come out.
At RPH, I wasnít prepared to do the heavy lifting and dirty work so I hung out in the kitchen, played Fluxx with the daughter of a maintainer, and then helped make lemonade - from scratch. Do you know how many lemons it takes to make five gallows worth of lemonade? Neither do I. But, itís a lot, especially when itís being done with a fork for a pulp masher.
I stayed through an amazing lunch of chicken breasts, hot dogs, and burgers. Then, I continue south.
I stopped at Delaware Water Gap to see if I could do anything for the hikers there. I did a bit of shuttling around town and took in the craft fair at the church. It was a fundraiser for the church and they not only had good crafts, but good food. I couldnít resist and grabbed a brownie.
Eventually, a group of us went for dinner at the pizza place. We stopped at the bakery and then a few of us went to E. Stroudsburg to pick up a few things at Wal-Mart. While there, I took the time to verify that they also allow overnight parking. The Wal-Mart lot was to be home for the night.
Back at the hostel, I hung out before making my way back to Wal-Mart to go to sleep.
Sunday, July 10, 2005 Ė Delaware Water Gap, PA to 501 Shelter, Pine Grove, PA. Sunny and 80s.
I picked up some bananas at Wal-Mart to bring back to the hostel. An early morning arrival told me that Circuit Rider and Sherlock were likely to arrive that day. I did some shuttling during the morning, hung out at the hostel, and had lunch at the diner with a couple of hikers. At 2:00, I loaded up my bike and headed southwest.
The 501 Shelter had a bunch of packs but only one hiker. There had been a Billville bash in Duncannon that weekend so many hikers were in various stages of returning to the trail. Some were slackpacking back to the shelter. The weekend wasnít all fun and games however, when one hiker got killed on the railroad tracks.
I ran one hiker into town to buy some HEET after he had, unknowingly mixed white gas with his alcohol. He lit his stove and couldnít figure out why the flame was so big and smoky. Thankfully, there was no explosion but he did need some new alcohol. We finally found the right kind of HEET at the third place we stopped.
With plenty of room in the shelter, I stayed with the hikers.
Monday, July 11, 2005 Ė 501 shelter to Harperís Ferry, WV. Sunny and hot, 80s.
Something I ate yesterday didnít agree with me and I was up in the middle of the night. The odor surrounding the port-o-potty was too much for me so I made the .13 mile trek to the winter privy. It hadnít gotten much, if any, use recently and didnít smell at all. I felt much better afterwards and took the time to do a bit of stargazing from the small field I passed on the way to and from the privy. With Cassiopeia in full view, I was able to find Andromeda pretty easily. It was then time to head back to the shelter and back to sleep.
I woke up early and made my way back to my car only to find I needed a bathroom yet again. Rather than trek to the privy, I drove down the mountain to the service station. I had a couple of ulterior motives in mind.
I was planning on slackpacking six of the hikers staying at the shelter. They were going to hike the 23 miles from the 501 to Port Clinton. With my bike in the car, the car was a bit full so at the service station, I asked and got permission to leave my bike there for a few hours. Not only that, they insisted I put it in their locked shed.
Back at the shelter, everyone was soon packed and ready for their 23 mile slackpack. We loaded my car with all their gear and they were off. I drove back to Port Clinton, left their stuff at the hotel where they were planning on staying, and couldnít resist a stop at Cabelaís, just across the street from the hotel. Cabelaís, a sportsmenís outfitters, was also any game animalís nightmare. They had limited supplies of use to long-distance hikers and more camouflage clothing than at a hunterís convention. Dioramas of both North American and African scenes, complete with taxidermy animals, included tens, if not hundreds, of animals including everything from white tail deer to hippopotamus.
From there, I went back for my bike and continued to Harperís Ferry. Once in town, I got right to business, learning my way around town and settling in. I stopped at the library, the post office, and the ATC office. Then, I explored the Charles Town shopping centers and the old town, too. I got a much needed haircut but got an overzealous stylist who chopped off way too much hair. Oh well. Itíll grow back and in the meantime, itíll be a cool cut.
With a couple of hours until the nearby hostel opened, I headed back towards the ATC offices but got waylaid by an errant hiker in need of a ride. One thing led to another and I gave a bunch of shuttles to a bunch of hikers, the last of which was one heading, conveniently, for the hostel.
I hung out with the new manager, Lisa, and hikers. Then, ran out for soda and to a Chinese restaurant for an inexpensive meal of an egg roll and hot and sour soup.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005 Ė Harperís Ferry. Hazy, hot and humid. 90s.
My first day at work. It was a long day with me primarily figuring out who, what, and where all of my information resources would be for the duration.
I had lunch with Laurie and Mosey, a long term volunteer, at a nearby Subway. We picked up two hikers heading back to town Ė two of the same hikers I had given rides to the day before.
My commute is interesting this week. Itís a three state, two major river, ten minute commute from the hostel to ATC headquarters. The hostel where Iím staying is in Maryland but I have to go through Virginia to get to West Virginia. I also cross both the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers near their confluence.
The rest of the week Ė 90s with thunderstorms.
For the most part, Iíve settled into work. Some of it is rote and requires no thought (sending out information packets), but sometimes I have to deal with strange curveballs. Iíve already had requests for collectibles such as stamps and labels and have also communicated with two different parties using relay operators. There are still a fair number of thruhikers coming in so Iíve gotten a feel for the zoo-like atmosphere that can likely predominate in late June without being overwhelmed by it.
In my time off, Iíve helped some hikers run errands. While Harpers Ferry is considered the psychological halfway point and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (formerly Conference) is headquartered here, it is not the best hiker town. The services hikers like to make use of are spread out too far. The hostel is a few miles out of town, the grocery store is in the next town over, and the closest laundromat is a mile out of town. Lodging in town is pricey as are most of the food establishments.
Iím just beginning to pick up on the history of the area. (John Brownís raid on the armory here was a precursor to the Civil War.) Iím now planning on spending next weekend in town to explore both Harperís Ferry and Shepherdstown.
On Thursday, I drove into Reston to meet my host for the weekend and pick up the keys to his place. It turns out heís going to be occupied for most of the weekend so Iíll be on my own while there. On the spur of the moment, not wanting to fight the traffic I had passed as I drove into town earlier in the evening, I decided to stay in Reston and drive back to Harpers Ferry in the morning. Wise choice. It allowed me to have dinner with Karl, my host, and the drive back to Harpers Ferry in the morning was a breeze.
Leaving work on Friday, I drove directly to Glen Echo for the contra dance. I had been to the Spanish Ballroom there years earlier before the restoration. Now, the building is beautifully restored to its original art deco glory. Unfortunately, by staying true to the original plans (or to save money), they did not include air conditioning in the restored building. I had brought an extra shirt to change into but would have needed one for each dance to stay at all dry. Imagine a ballroom filled with hundreds of people, dancing energetically in 80+ degree, 90%+ humidity. Even the floor felt sticky.
Not only did I go to the Glen Echo dance and sauna on Friday, I went back again on Saturday for a wonderful swing dance.
On Sunday, I spent the day in DC taking in an old favorite (the Albert Einstein monument) and two new elements on the Mall. I stopped by the World War II monument and I took a tour of the new Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. At the Smithsonian, I actually had a date Ė or so I thought Ė with someone I had met at the contra dance. We had a nice day but then, in an email a day or two later, he let me know he was married. Sigh.
Things are already slowing down, at least in terms of the number of thruhikers coming through. Of course, that means work is a slightly less smelly place. The reality is, most of the hikers donít smell too bad. Theyíve either showered before theyíve come in or Iíve become vaguely immune.
Things went much more easily and Iíve settled into the new job. Laurie showed me the last few things I would need to make it through the next week while she was away on vacation.
While my regular schedule was to be working Monday through Thursday, I worked half of Friday this week.
Friday afternoon, I took the time to finally explore the Harpers Ferry National historic park. The lower town has repeatedly flooded over the years and thereís quite a bit of Civil War history there. John Brownís attempt to take over the armory here was the precursor to the Civil War and then when the war came to town, the town changed hands eight times over the course of the war.
On Saturday, I left early to ride my bike up to Shepherdstown. Once again, the day was supposed to be in the high 90s and I wanted to beat as much of the heat as I could. Shepherdstown, about 10 miles away, is another quaint little town with a bunch of little shops and a sizable arts community. I stopped in a local bakery/cafť for breakfast and ended up talking with some other cyclists that came in to get ideas for other places to ride.
On the way back, I found a route that largely paralleled the C&O canal for half the route. Then, it was back on the twisty windy and hilly roads. All in all a good ride of maybe 25 miles.
I stopped in the office to meet Becky, one of the people who staff the store on the weekends, and to work up a conservation angle to the Appalachian Trail for a talk I was to give later in the day.
That evening, I went back to the hostel to give a talk to a group of kids from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. They had been out all week canoeing, tubing, and earlier that day, building rock steps along the Rollercoaster, a section of the Appalachian Trail about 20 miles south of Harpers Ferry. That project was part of an Eagle Scout project and they were working with Chris Brunton, someone I know from the nearby Blackburn Trail Center.
They were all teenagers and were a fantastic group. They were fairly well educated about the Appalachian Trail already, but came up with all sorts of fantastic questions. Most of them were eager to participate and learn more about the trail. There were also a few who seemed like they might one day hike the trail.
Between the bike ride and staying up to give the talk, I think I pushed a bit too much on Saturday. I slept very late on Sunday and ended up just taking the day easy.
With Laurie out of town, I worked with Mosey all week manning the store and dishing out information by email, phone, and in person.
This would be my first four day work week. On Thursday, after work, I headed for McLean, Virginia. My hosts this weekend were a family from hospitalityclub.org. I had been in touch with Ruth and sheís the major traveler in the family. Her husband and son, however, while not adventurous travelers, were active in scouting and had done some significant backpacking. We had dinner together on Thursday where I finally had the regional specialty, crab cakes. They were delicious.
I seem to need a day to recover from work so I took it easy on Friday and took the time to write an article that might appear in the ATCís next newsletter. Friday night, I went back to Glen Echo and to go contra dancing. This time, the Spanish Ballroom was being used for another dance so we were dancing in the bumper car pavilion. At first I was concerned that the overly large spaces between the floorboards would trip me up but after the first dance or so, I realized it wasnít a problem. Plus, with the temperatures in the 70s, it was much nicer than the previous week. The only thing I hadnít planned for was the lack of water. The bumper car pavilion has no water source so you have to leave the pavilion to get water or bring a water bottle with you.
I had a great time and though it wouldnít have been a problem, I have to admit I was glad the guy who I had gone to the museum with two weeks earlier wasnít there.
With dances going until 11:30 or later, I was always late getting back to my hosts place.
I slept late on Saturday and sat around talking with my hosts for most of the morning. I finally left and went back to Glen Echo for the afternoon. Going in the evening for the dances, I became aware of many of the daytime options there but hadnít had the time to stop. On the way into the park, I stopped at the Clara Barton house and realized I had a bit of time to kill before I could get a tour. So, I entered Glen Echo and visited an art glass exhibit and a pottery studio before returning to the Clara Barton house for the tour.
What an amazing lady Barton had been. Constantly active regardless of her own suspect health, she started the American Red Cross after visiting Europe and finding out about the International Red Cross. She micromanaged the organization and when they eventually kicked her out, she started a first aid society. The house itself was built with practicality in mind and was not only her home, but also the offices and warehouse for the Red Cross.
After the tour, I returned to Glen Echo and took a ride on the restored carousel with its fantastic Wurlitzer spitting out the music.
Each time I had entered and exited the park, I crossed over the pedestrian bridge connecting the parking lot with the park over a stream. The previous evening at the contra dance, Stan, a NPS employee, had let us know about the project they were working on to reroute the stream from the pilings supporting the bridge back to the middle of the channel. Volunteers were welcome. Stan stayed on at the dance and did a couple of contras before the end of the evening. Each time I crossed, I could see the group of five or six working below. I stopped and talked with Stan and even recognized one of the volunteer workers from the contra dance. Had I brought my gear with me, it would have been tempting to help out, but I was already wearing the shirt I intended to dance in that night.
Anyway, I was on my way into the park to ride the carousel, I stopped to talk with the dancer. He gave me some suggestions for places to go to grab a bite to eat. As I was heading out of the park he asked if I would like company. Cool! When traveling, itís always nice to find people with whom to share a meal or any other experience for that matter. So, I hung out for a while until they were wrapping things up. We eventually went to Rockville to grab some Mexican only like the place I had gone in Reston, it was Salvadoran. Even still, I couldnít resist trying a crab Chimichanga. It was pretty good.
Back at Glen Echo, I went to the swing dance but my dinner partner, a contra dancer, went home. Iím sure Iíll see him again at least at more contra dances. At the swing dance, I once again had a great time.
On Sunday, I finally got my act together and managed to do quite a bit of sightseeing. After grabbing some bagels from a nearby bagel bakery and doing some shopping at Trader Joe's, I went into town. Once again, good parking ďcarĒma strikes and I got a spot not far from my dayís destination. I spent the afternoon visiting the Smithsonian Museums of both African and Asian art including the Freer and Sackler galleries.
From there, I made my way to the FDR memorial and now have a rival for my favorite monument. Itís now a tossup between the Einstein monument and the FDR monument. The FDR monument is a sprawling monument with four rooms, each representing the four terms he spent in office. It was designed for those with challenges in mind. I noticed that those people who took the steps from room to room rather than the wide ramps suitable for strollers and wheelchairs would actually miss out on portions of the monument. There was an entire room designed for the blind and as a seeing person who does not read Braille, I could only wonder what some of the Braille passages read. There was more than Braille to be felt in that room, there were entire walls covered with raised images designed to be felt more than seen.
There is a tremendous amount of water flowing through the monument and unlike the WW II monument, this one was not marred by a multitude of signs asking that coins not be thrown into the fountains and pools.
As I was headed back to Harpers Ferry, I stopped at the Virginia side of Great Falls. It was a beautiful cascade of falls dropping over 70 feet. It was quite unexpectedly wild for a natural setting so close to DC.
By the time I did some shopping and got back to Harpers Ferry, it was after 9:00pm.
Date: Sat Aug 27, 2005 11:47am
A rainy weekend day, cancelled plans, and finally time to send off an update.
Things are beginning to slow down here at ATC headquarters. After going gangbusters for June and July, August is a bit of a slump month before fall brings more visitors to the area. This is allowing me to work on some extra projects for the ATC. I've written an article that may appear in a future AT Journeys magazine and I've been working on a better system to ensure our entire trail store inventory is labeled.
During the last couple of weeks, we've had a few extra one day volunteers come in. These have been the key to my getting the labeling project done. With them here, I can work undistracted with headquarters visitors and emails while they concentrate on the extra projects. Finally, after wanting to find a way to print only the labels we need as long as four weeks ago, with the volunteers help, we can now do so with relative ease.
A bit about my living arrangements... After the first week at the Sandy Hook hostel across the river in Knoxville, MD, I've been living in some housing made available to me through the ATC. They have two apartments available to volunteers and interns in a renovated barn just a block away from headquarters. With only one volunteer working here until Labor Day weekend, they have rented the upstairs apartment to me for a very reasonable fee. The only hitch was that this apartment has a tub but no shower. This hitch was resolved when Mosey, the volunteer living in the apartment on the first floor said to just use her shower. We each have the key to each other's apartment, a necessary way of living as my apartment has the vacuum, hers the broom and washer and dryer, etc.
Mosey (her trail name) thruhiked the Appalachian Trail last year, turning 68 while on the trail. She's one of the three oldest women known to have thruhiked the trail. She has been a regular working with me at headquarters to meet and greet the walk-in visitors.
It turns out the key to any living arrangements here is AIR CONDITIONING. Since I've been here, I'm guessing half of the days have topped 90 degrees. There have been numerous heat advisories with at least a couple that stretched for 48-72 straight hours.
Unfortunately, this has put quite the damper on my enthusiasm for outdoor activities so I find myself going from work (air conditioned) to home (air conditioned) and to run errands to air conditioned stores. On my days off here in town, I usually manage to get out early to do something active and try to get home by mid-day. Thereafter, I take it easy, watch TV (the apartment has cable), catch up on sleep, and read.
I'm slowly trying to work through as many of the AT related books in the ATC library as I can while in the neighborhood. I either already have or will be writing reviews of these books to include on my web site book reviews page. Of course, I'm now going to have to find a way to organize my book reviews... Hmm, something to think about when I get home.
Living just a block from work, my commutes have been a two-minute walk through a wonderland of flowers and butterflies. Harpers Ferry still retains the rural feeling of the surrounding areas. Many of the houses here maintain beautifully managed flowerbeds which seem to bloom all through the summer. The wide variety of gorgeous blooms attracts an incredible variety and number of butterflies. It would be a lepidopterists dream to have my commute. Then again, if I'm as distracted as I am just trying to go to and from work, then a lepidopterist would never make it to work.
Even my apartment has visitors. Everyday, a few moths seem to find their way in. Sometimes I see them fluttering around. Sometimes I only know they're there because they are lying dead in the middle of the floor. It can get hot in the apartment during the day when I'm at work so I wonder if the heat is what's killing them. One night, I became aware that there was something moving in front of my TV. It was a large praying mantis. Having only been familiar with green ones, I was surprised to see a brown one. One quick look at a web site like http://www.insecta-inspecta.com/mantids/praying/ was enough to educate me.
Even getting in and out of the barn, err apartment, is interesting. Every day, some industrious spiders see fit to build webs in front of our door. Usually, I can duck under the webs or sometimes, I'll wipe them away from the door. If I forget and just open the door and walk out, I'm likely to end up with a face full of web. Ptooey!
A couple of weekends ago, Mosey and I spent a good bit of the weekend together. On Saturday, we went to Antietam. It's probably the first battlefield site I've been to where I really feel like I understood the story of what happened there. To make a long story short, it was the site of the deadliest day of fighting of the Civil War with over 23,000 killed, wounded, or missing.
Being quite a bit smaller than Gettysburg, it was easier to understand which sides were where, and when. What direction they were moving, etc. It's also amazing to contemplate how the Union soldiers made it across a strategic bridge when the Confederates had such an amazing advantage in the layout of the land beyond the bridge.
On the way back towards Boonsboro, We stopped for a late lunch at a restaurant obviously frequented by many locals and had a good meal at reasonable prices, something hard to come by in Harpers Ferry. Then, we stopped to buy some Silver Queen corn (my favorite) straight from a farm. Driving through Boonsboro, we stopped at a farm stand that had a great array of fruits, vegetables, and more. With about five varieties of cantaloupe, I just had to try to local variety. A few days later, when I finally ate it, it was delicious.
Finally, we took a side trip to the original Washington Monument, a milk bottle shaped, stone tower built in 1827 and located just outside of the town of Boonsboro. It's only feet off the Appalachian Trail and was fun to be there when my feet and legs weren't complaining as they had during my first visit, during my 1999 thruhike.
Back at home, I took a much-needed nap before showering and changing and heading off to Shepherdstown for a contra dance. The dance was amazing with a huge percentage of high school and college kids contributing so much energy, I heard that a few of the older dancers had stopped coming. Some of them were certainly on the wilder side but not disruptive. With so many dances trying to figure out how to attract a younger crowd, I would count on Shepherdstown being lucky. They've got a lock on the next generation of dancers and with such a large number of young dancers already there, they're sure to continue to bring their friends and propagate the young community of dancers, just as sure as the current young dancers are likely to continue to dance as they get older.
On Sunday, Mosey and I hiked up Maryland Heights, a hike that brought us to the most famous view of Harpers Ferry with a view of the town nestled at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. We were sitting on the cliffs through which the train tunneled on its way east from town. With the train traffic through town being high, we watched both east and westbound trains go through.
It was a nice hike but I was glad we went early. While it had been a comfortable temperature when we started, it was HOT by the time we got back to the car.
The next weekend was also a hot one. With the help of Mosey and a friend of hers visiting for the weekend, we spotted my car at one end of the Appalachian Trail portion of the C&O Canal and they brought me back to the Maryland Heights trailhead parking area across the river from Harpers Ferry. From there, I walked back to my car. I normally wouldnít choose such a flat walk, but this time, I was measuring the distance between the new blaze posts that had just been installed along the trail. I had a measuring wheel from the ATC and my own voice recorder. I also brought along a pencil and paper in case I had problem with the recorder.
The wheel apparently measures each mile as the thousands counter so I was effectively measuring the blaze posts to the ten thousandth of a mile. It was interesting to be wheeling the trail though a noisy activity given the metal wheel against all the gravel on the towpath. I was occasionally surprised by bicyclists coming up behind me as I couldnít hear them coming. I got at least one comment from a passing bicyclist that two wheels (i.e. riding a bicycle) would be a faster way to make time on the path. Smart alec!
I stopped by ATC headquarters on my way home to type in all of the distance information. Of course on Monday, I realize that I probably missed one of the blazes so Iíll go back and redo one end of the trail. Sigh.
When I stopped by headquarters, I had a chance to meet Heather, the other weekend worker at headquarters. I had met Becky, the other weekend worker during my first weekend in Harpers Ferry.
On Sunday, I took it easy, finished another book, watched TV, and tried to catch up on some much needed sleep.
The mornings are getting cooler so on Tuesday, I went out in the morning and used the wheel to measure the stretch where I thought I had missed a blaze. I hadnít missed the blaze. Itís just not where itís supposed to be. Sigh.
Iím now working Fridayís so the next weekend, I didnít get to D.C. until I went in for the Friday night contra dance. Itís finally cooling off just a little bit (80s instead of 90s) but I still need multiple shirts to get through the dances in the Spanish Ballroom. I forgot my swing dance skirt in Harpers Ferry so on Saturday, I paid a visit to Tysons Corner which has one of the 10 largest malls in the country.
I made my first visit ever to a Nordstroms and was happy to find that they carry, in stock, shoes up to a womenís 14. I bought a pair of 13s. As womenís shoe sizes get larger, they seem to converge with menís sizes. I wear a menís 12.5 or 13 and now I wear a womenís 13 shoe. Smaller sizes usually differ by up to two full sizes.
The mall also had a ďTall GirlĒ shop, one of a chain of clothing stores that cater to tall women. (Unlike menís Big and Tall shops, finding tall shops for women is almost impossible. There is only one womenís tall store in New England that Iím aware of.) I tried on a few things but didnít find anything. It is always nice though, to once in a while, try on pants that are too long. For the most part though, the inseams are 38Ē and are the right length for me. As a matter of fact, I laughed when I saw a sign on a rack of pants advertising only a 34Ē inseamÖ Theyíve gotten some shorter pants in for those in-between women who are too tall for most stores but donít like having to hem everything from the tall shops.
I finally found a suitable skirt for the swing dance at a nearby Marshallís.
I took a nap, went out for a nice Greek dinner with my host family, and then made my way to the swing dance back at the steamy Glen Echo Spanish Ballroom.
On Sunday, I stopped at Trader Joeís and then went into town to take in some more museums. This time, it was the American History museum and the Postal Museum. I had some interesting experiences in the American History museum. After having been traveling this past spring and taking in a lot of the historical information associated with areas of the south, seeing a small display on the Selma to Montgomery march, for example, just didnít do it justice. This was also true for some other aspects of the museum. It was also strange to see a Commodore 64 in the museum. When items that have been a part of my own life end up in museums, I wonder if I should feel old?
This week has been rather busy. At the dance on Saturday, I found out about a couple of swing dance practice sessions in Frederick during the week. Earlier in the evenings, the instructor gives first a beginners and then an intermediate lesson. From 9-11, they have DJ dances. On Wednesday, itís primarily Lindy Hoppers. It was a fun time. On Thursday, it was primarily West Coast Swing though they mixed in a few Latin and waltz dances.
Plus the heat has finally broken. It's only been in the 80s during the day without too much humidity. Once I use the A/C to cool off my apartment in the evenings, I'm able to turn it off and sleep through the night now that nighttime temperatures are in the 60s. With the cooler temps, I'm thinking about hiking again.
Yesterday, I shopped for some backpacking food and spent a quiet evening at home. Unfortunately, the forecast for good weather over the weekend has deteriorated and waking up to rain, I bagged the backpack and went back to sleep this morning. With the exception of the fourth Saturday contra dance in Frederick tonight, this may be a quiet weekend.
Date: Wed Oct 12, 2005 11:24am
Subject: Harpers Ferry to Boston - Weeks 8 to 10
Iíve been back in the Boston area for over three weeks now but am finally finding a moment to send out the rest of my journal.
I also hope to send out one more hiking report soon.
Itís been really nice to be home again and able to relax.
As for whatís next, I have no current plans but Iíll be sure to keep you informed when and I decide where to go next.
During the week before Labor Day, I made an effort to use up the remaining food in my apartment. Knowing I would be packing up later in the week, I wanted as little to pack up as possible. I retained an overnightís worth of backpacking food but for the most part, managed to finish the rest of my staples.
With my move day pushed out to Sunday, I was able to enjoy my last week in the apartment. Mosey and I finally played a couple of mean games of Rummikub. On Wednesday, Mosey made dinner for Laurie, Dick, and me. Between the upstairs and the downstairs apartment, we had enough chairs, silverware, glasses, etc. for everyone. On Thursday, I made it back to the West Coast Swing dance in Frederick.
On Friday, I joined Mosey and a friend of hers for the ďGhost WalkĒ in the Lower town. The walk was an interesting mix of history and legend, but for me, was somewhat spoiled by our guideís diatribe on her own belief system at the end. It would have been fine had she told people she was going to share her beliefs in case anyone would like to leave, but I was with friends and so could only do my best to look bored and disinterested. Had I been alone, I probably would have made a point of walking through the middle of the crowd and leaving while she was in the middle of her diatribe.
On Saturday of Labor Day weekend, I started packing up in preparation for moving out of the apartment the next day. That night, I went to Shepherdstown for a dance. On Sunday, I did my last load of laundry, packed, cleaned, ate the last of my food, and dawdled in the apartment until mid-afternoon when Karl showed up. I handed the keys over and went to the ATC offices to catch up on email. It was dinnertime when I finally left there so I went to Charles Town for dinner and finally made it to the Weaverton trailhead just after 6:00.
I walked up to the cliffs with a woman who drove a car chock full of dancing bumper stickers. We had probably been at some of the same dances over the summer. Not only was she a dancer, she had also thruhiked the A.T. a couple of years before I had. We stopped for a long break at Weaverton Cliffs and then it was time for me to head further up the trail to the Ed Garvey shelter. By the time I got there, it was after dark but I still made my way without a light.
There were a bunch of people there but many were camping so there was still plenty of room in the shelter. There was one long-distance section hiker who wasnít out for the distance so much as the cheap living. He was just going shelter to shelter on the trail. One group of guys who had been hiking together since their scouting days 25 years earlier was drinking too much. And the last group was a couple of Dads with three children ranging from eight to eleven years old or so. They were doing most of Maryland over the weekend.
I didn't sleep well that night as the guy next to me (with well over a foot of space between us), kept rolling into me or hitting me. No amount of poking, prodding, pushing, or hitting back on my part would wake him up. Of course, he was one of the heavy drinkers and I'm pretty sure he was also the man who had complained about how hard the shelter floors were the night before. No wonder, I don't think he spent more than five minutes on his pad before rolling off onto the shelter floor for the rest of the night.
When the long-distance hiker who was on the other side of me got up at 5:30 and made no effort not to shine his light on people or keep quiet, I asked that he at least move to the near side of the table so his light would shine away from us. When he packed up his own stuff, I moved further from the drunk and got a few minutes more sleep before the crimson sunrise caught my attention and I was awake for good.
With only a three-mile hike to the trailhead, I dawdled at the cliffs again on my way out. Then I went back to the ATC offices to catch up on more email.
I cleaned up and changed while there, had lunch in Charles Town, went back to the office, then to a picnic. Someone I met at the contra dances invited me to a little gathering of friends they were having that day. It was a really nice afternoon and evening on the shore of the Potomac north of Harpers Ferry.
While there, I met two men, over the course, of our conversation, when they realized I was working for the ATC and had thruhiked, they asked if I knew a friend of theirs. Sure enough, we had a friend in common and through him, we had almost met when I first got to town. We all hit it off and I ended up at their place on Wednesday for dinner. We all lamented how we hadn't met when I first got to town rather than when I was just leaving town.
On Tuesday, I went out to eat with a group from work. It was a really nice appreciation dinner for two volunteers and myself.
Thursday, I was back at the WCS dance.
After moving out of the apartment on Sunday, I went back to the hostel and once again, enjoyed the three state, two bridge, 10 minute commute from Knoxville, Maryland to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. On Friday, my last night there, I met a bunch of AMCíers from Pennsylvania. Realizing some were gearheads, I handed them a few of my www.BackpackGearTest.org cards.
On Saturday, I drove to King of Prussia and went to the Philadelphia Grotto picnic with Camo. It was a lot of fun with a great group of people. I also learned that cavers have a different definition of ďsqueeze boxĒ than musicians. They have a large contraption set up so that cavers can figure out the smallest opening they can squeeze through in safety rather than finding out the hard way while in a cave. There were also a few people trying out some new ascenders.
On Sunday, after a delicious brunch of lox, eggs, and onions at Michaelís, Camo and I were trying to figure out how to spend the rest of the day. A few phone calls later, and Camo found himself hosting a Micro-Ruck. Six area hikers were able to make it: Mule, Tricks, Redhead, Jester, Camo, and myself.
Mountain Roamer was also in the area (relatively speaking) so on Monday, I backtracked to Lancaster County and spent the day with her. I got to see the camp where sheís working and we ended up having dinner at the Pinnacle overlooking the Susquehanna River. What a beautiful spot. She was heading back to Maryland that night but got permission for me to spend the night on the camp property. It was nice to grab a shower in the morning before heading out. It was early but I needed a place to kill some time before getting to the libraries. I also needed breakfast so when I passed Lappís family restaurant and saw all the local cars pulling in, I knew I found a place for breakfast. For $2.99, I had the special that included two eggs, a huge portion of home fries, toast, and a juice. You just canít get that in Boston.
Having just heard from Unknown on Monday morning that he was back in the area after summiting Katahdin on September 2, I now had another reason to backtrack. Heís already back at work though so Iím taking the day to catch up on journals and email before meeting up with him after work.
The Quarryville Library is the first library Iíve been to with a hitching post. And it isnít for show. The bucket and shovel there as well as the pile of horse crap could attest to that. I am in the heart of Amish country here and very much away from the tourist areas. Looking up from my computer, I wasnít at all surprised to see an Amish family, but I was a bit surprised to see an Amish girl carrying a sequined handbag.
There were a few other things that raised my eyebrows. I seem to remember a big to do when the Amish were encouraged to put orange safety triangles on their buggies. Now, most buggies have lights and turns signals. I presume they are battery powered.
I also saw them using modern scooters and riding bicycles.
My visit with Unknown was great. I got to meet his parents and hear a bit more of the rest of his thruhike.
I crashed at his place and the next day, made my way to the Quakertown area to visit with Mule. Once again, it was nice to hang out, catch up with each other, and this time I got to meet his son. It was here I beat the deal I got at Lappís Family restaurant two days earlierÖ A small breakfast place in Quakertown had two eggs, home fries, and toast for just $.99 but with no juice. Still, what a deal!
From there, I made my way to Connecticut and visited with Michele, my three times over roommate, now married and living within walking distance of the beach in southern Connecticut. Then, I spent time with family in central Connecticut before continuing my trip.
I had one last stop before getting back to the Boston area. There was a swing dance in Northfield, Massachusetts that Saturday night and my friend Benson was going. Since I was planning on crashing at his place for a few days before a hike we were planning, he took the bus out to the dance and I drove us back to Boston afterwards.
I had sublet my apartment for the summer and didnít feel like invading my own place so I stayed with Benson for a few days and then we went back to western Massachusetts to hike a portion of the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail. I had hoped to finish the trail but didnít quite manage to on that trip. See my separate trip report for more details of the hike.
Back in town, I spent one more night at Bensonís, then one night at my sisterís, and then I went back to my own apartment. My tenant was still in there but agreed to have me come back in before the end of the month.
Last updated, November 27, 2005.
Tips and Tricks
Gear Reviews and Discussions
AT FAQ and Stats
Trip Reports Gear Lists Mail Drops About Me Acknowledgements Photos Updates Fun Email Mara