History Lesson On The Appalachian Trail

If you’re looking for a history lesson on the Appalachian Trail, I have just the section for you!

The journey begins in picturesque Harpers Ferry, WV. This tiny little is town is perched on the point where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet.  Everything from the Lewis and Clark expedition to John Brown’s raid and ever changing military occupation during the Civil War shaped this town into the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park it is today.  This is one of those places I wish I had more time to explore but the trail was calling and being a tourist while wearing a huge backpack is simply awkward.

We crossed the river into Maryland and hiked our next 3 miles on a perfectly level path along side the Potomac. At one point this was the tow path for the old canal that ran parallel to the rocky and sometimes shallow Potomac. It was really great to put some miles behind us with a minimum effort, the trade off was bike traffic that had no regard for personal space.

From here it was up and into the mountains again, well mountain at least, this section of trail runs through an area with long ridge lines. It makes the hiking pretty easy once you get up there because there is very little elevation change along the way. To top off the easy trail grade, Maryland knows how to keep their hikers happy, our second day we stayed at a campground operated by the state. I know this is only a big deal to us but they had free hot showers, and there was a pizza place nearby  that delivered to us.

The next morning the first thing we passed was the Washington Monument. Not the one in the middle of D.C. but rather the first one dedicated in his memory. Constructed in 1827 this milk bottle shaped tower offers views of the surrounding countryside, and was even used during the Civil War for just this reason. In fact looking out to the west you can even see the Antietam battlefield, where one of the bloodiest battles of the war was fought.

After a quick evening rainstorm on our third day, which took us by surprise and soaked just about everything I own, we learned of another chance to order pizza! At Penn Mar County Park, just a little picnic area with a jungle gym and swings, we again stuffed our faces. I could really start getting used to this.

The next day were over the border and into Pennsylvania, and then before we knew it we were picked up by one of Alex’s friends for a quick overnight stop in Gettysburg. I hope I don’t have to point out the historical significance of this particular place, but needless to say the battlefields are worth a road trip to go see on their own. The town itself is a welcome non-trail town oasis, and I feel compelled to once again thank everyone we encountered for their hospitality. So once again, off we go looking to push more 20+ mile days and get another state behind us.

From Alex:  “Gettysburg! The historic town I called home for four years…

Since the trail runs near town, I was thrilled at the possibility of seeing familiar places and faces. Despite the fact that our decision to go to Gettysburg was a last minute one, friends rallied to offer us transportation and a place to stay! The AT goes through Caledonia State Park, fifteen miles from Gettysburg so I spent quite a bit of time here in the past…but never saw a Timber Rattlesnake like he one we saw two days ago!

We were picked up in Caledonia and brought to Gettysburg by George, an avid outdoorsman and college friend who has been following our travels. When we got to town, we immediately hit the laundromat and The Pub for a good meal. We then went to the home of Kris Nessler, the Associate Director of the Gettysburg Recreational Adventure Board (see video at bottom of this post), who offered to let us stay for the night.

What followed was a blur of friends, professors, familiar haunts and lots of food! We were able to do a first aid and food resupply courtesy of the GRAB closet. Everyone was interested in the hike and having the opportunity to articulate what I have gotten out of the experience thus far really solidified what I have learned.”

Though it was difficult to leave Gettysburg, the trail called so we hiked out in between bouts of rain…after all, we are halfway there!

Check out the pics from our hike so far:

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