Jim, Sue, Cody, and Tater at Springer Mtn., start of the Appalachian Trail Adventure Run


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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
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Start: Harpers Ferry, WV                                     
End:  Harpers Ferry, WV
Today's Miles:                        -0-
Cumulative Miles:          1,012.2
"You stand on a very high point ...On your right comes up the Shenandoah ... On your left approaches the Potomac, in quest of a passage also. In the moment of their junction, they rush together against the mountain, render it asunder, and pass off to the sea ... This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic. Yet here, as in the neighborhood of the Natural Bridge, are people who have passed their lives within a half dozen miles, and who have never been to survey these monuments of a war between rivers and mountains ..."
- Thomas Jefferson, "Notes on Virginia," 1782, describing the
confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers at Harpers Ferry

Jefferson Rock

Pedestrian bridge across the Potomac River between WV and MD         6-27-05

I decided Harpers Ferry was a pleasant place to take a rest day, what with all the historical buildings to see and the convenient facilities in our campground and nearby town.

Rest days always mean planning the route ahead for several days, deciding where to camp, getting groceries, doing laundry, and catching up on this journal if I've gotten behind.

They are only "restful" in that I'm not running and hiking on the Trail.

We've discovered that making reservations this close to the Fourth of July weekend is dicey (well, duh!). Our first choice was to spend three days next weekend at Pine Grove Furnace State Park near Carlisle, PA, which is about the half-way point on the Trail distance-wise. However, they're already full. We got the last site at a nearby private campground. We're still trying to find a spot for this Thursday near Gettysburg. That's proving more difficult.

Hopefully after this weekend we won't have so much trouble finding suitable campgrounds. This has been a real hassle for us since we began the adventure run. If anyone who lives near the AT in Pennsylvania and all points north has recommendations for places to camp near the Trail we'd sure appreciate hearing from you. Other readers to the south have provided very helpful information.


Harpers Ferry is an interesting historical and scenic attraction on the AT due to its location at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.

Many prominent citizens contributed to the town's development and history during the 1700s and 1800s, including Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Meriwether Lewis, Abraham Lincoln, John Brown, Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, "Stonewall Jackson," George Armstrong Custer, Phillip Sheridan, Frederick Douglass, and others.

The landscape shaped the history. The two great rivers provided a travel route for Native Americans, explorers and settlers, and later the canals and railroads. The rivers produced power for local mills and factories. Surrounding hills yielded stone (still seen in many of the original buildings), hardwood for charcoal, limestone, and iron ore for industry.

This development of Harpers Ferry into a thriving community and the site of a large weapons arsenal in the 1800s lured John Brown to the town to help free the slaves. Much happened here during the Civil War that brought devastation to the people and wrecked the town's economy. Union and Confederate troops both moved through the town and occupancy changed hands eight times between 1861 and 1865. Today John Brown's Fort and the arsenal ruins are part of the legacy of the nation's struggle with slavery.

Only the railroad remains as an active reminder of Harper Ferry's transportation heritage;the rest of Harpers Ferry's 19th-century industrial heyday is in ruins. The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal that was built in the 1830s to bypass the river rapids ceased operations in 1924 after severe flooding.

Most of the town lay in ruins when the Harpers Ferry National Monument was provided for in 1944 by an act of Congress. The National Historical Park was created in 1963 and includes holdings in downtown Harpers Ferry, Virginius Island, across the Potomac in Maryland, and across the Shenandoah in Virginia (including the long forested mountain trail I ran down yesterday to the bridge across the Shenandoah River).

Buildings in downtown Harpers Ferry have been restored to the 1859-1865 era. The house of Robert Harper, the oldest surviving structure in town (1775), has been restored by the Park Service and is open daily, as are other historical buildings and exhibits.

It's an interesting place to visit, with activities for both adults and children. Jim and I are both looking forward to seeing many historical sites as we progress north on the Appalachian Trail.

The C&O Canal Towpath across the Potomac has become a popular hiking and cycling trail. It is approximately 185 miles long, stretching from Cumberland, MD to Washington, DC. Jim's already run on it and I get the opportunity tomorrow morning as I head across the footbridge to Maryland. The AT follows the towpath for a couple miles before heading up South Mountain. What a concept! There isn't a lot of elevation gain and loss and the treadway sounds fairly smooth. However there will be lots of stops crossing roads and taking in the historical sites along the way.

It's the journey, not just the miles.

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil