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Here’s a tip for you: don’t go hiking in flip-flops.

July 7, 2013, 11:58 PM

First of all, I hope everyone had a lovely July 4.  I know I did.  I got together with my friend Pete (whom you may remember from the Confirmation Demonstration and White House to Quantico photo sets), and we went on something of a road trip.  We both figured that with living in the Washington DC area, and considering how July 4 is in DC, that was a good day to get out of town.

So we decided to go on a trip to Harpers Ferry and Winchester.  Prior to this trip, I had only been to Harpers Ferry by train, and then only passing through.  As far as Winchester went, I had only been to Winchester once prior, and that consisted of driving around at night trying to find the downtown area, and a stop at the Apple Blossom Mall and the local Walmart.  So this was going to be fun.

I met up with Pete at Glenmont Metro, and then we were off.  To get from the Aspen Hill area where I live to Harpers Ferry, you drive up I-270 to Frederick, and then from there, you take I-70 for about a mile, and then take US 340 (yes, that 340) the rest of the way to Harpers Ferry.  The drive is beautiful.  The first bit of beauty is just outside Frederick, where there is a “Scenic View” wayside on 270.  We wouldn’t ordinarily have stopped there, except that was a good place to stop and put the phone into GPS mode for the remainder of the distance to Harpers Ferry, since we were both kind of fuzzy on the exact way to get there.  While we were stopped, I got a few photos of the area:

The view from the Frederick overlook.  Yes, it is flat for some distance away from the parking area.
The view from the Frederick overlook.  Yes, it is flat for some distance away from the parking area.

Lower view of the same thing, showing all of the flowers and grasses in the area.
Lower view of the same thing, showing all of the flowers and grasses in the area.

Close-up of the flowers.  The bees love these little white flowers, but I still have no idea what they are (leave a comment below and fill me in!).
Close-up of the flowers.  The bees love these little white flowers, but I still have no idea what they are (leave a comment below and fill me in!).

Then getting on 340 at Frederick, it was a pretty uneventful ride, right up until we reached the Potomac River.  There, we were confronted by a beautiful view of the river.  We stopped at the Patoma Wayside to get a good look at the view.  This was what we saw:

I was taken back by the number of spider webs that were strung across the pedestrian crossing.  I felt like I was hitting a new spider web with every step, and I certainly had to brush a lot of web off of my legs when I was finished here.

And then from there, we drove the remaining little bit to Harpers Ferry.  Parking was a bit of a challenge, however.  We couldn’t find parking near any of the areas that we were planning to go to, so we ended up parking about a mile or so away, in a neighborhood, near Park Service headquarters.  That seemed fine, though.  We were both in good shape, and could handle a little walk.  However, my choice of footwear was less than ideal.  I figured that we’d be doing some walking on this trip, but I figured it would be somewhat short distances on sidewalks and paved paths.  So I wore flip-flops on this particular day.  Made sense.  But I brought other shoes in case we were planning to do more intense walking.  Surprise: we were doing some hiking.  But since I didn’t find that out until it was far too late, I ended up doing the hike in flip-flops.  And the funny thing about that was that a year ago, after seeing the one girl hike up to Humpback Rock in flip-flops, I pledged in this space that I wouldn’t ever do that.  So this was my hiking footwear:

Hiking wearing flip-flops.  Yes, I sure did.

Yeah, I looked really cool doing that.  But thankfully, though, it worked out.  These are thicker than the average flip-flops, and the trail was not hard at all.  In other words, I was fine.  In hindsight, I would have worn the real shoes that I brought along just in case, but now I know for next time.  And I wasn’t the only one who didn’t realize that they would be hiking, as I saw a few other folks in flip-flops, sandals, and other shoes that you wouldn’t want to wear to go hiking.

However, the hike was fun.  We got to see a few things on the way, like Harpers Ferry Cemetery:

Pete reads a gravestone

Jefferson Rock:

A beautiful view:

The remains of an abandoned church:

St. John's Episcopal Church

And some very steep, uneven, and grammatically incorrect stairs:

Spot the grammatical error.

From the stairs, I also got a great view of the big church steeple from below:

View of St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church from the stairs

From there, we were on the street at the bottom of the hill.  After spending a few minutes cooling off in the gift shop, we headed over to the railroad bridge.  As I mentioned earlier, I’d been through Harpers Ferry before on the Capitol Limited, and so I was interested in seeing the same things that I see from the tracks from the ground.  There is a footpath along the railroad bridge, and so we took it for a walk.  I got photos of the bridge, the view, and the tunnel portal:

The bridge as seen from a distance.
The bridge as seen from a distance.

Builder's plate.
Builder’s plate.

View towards the Route 340 bridge from the railroad bridge.
View towards the Route 340 bridge from the railroad bridge.

Harpers Ferry tunnel portal.  The Capitol Limited and MARC trains go on the tracks to the left.  The track closest to the camera is not used for passenger service.
Harpers Ferry tunnel portal.  The Capitol Limited and MARC trains go on the tracks to the left.  The track closest to the camera is not used for passenger service.

We also stopped to check out a small tunnel beneath the tracks that was closed to pedestrian traffic:

A small tunnel beneath the railroad tracks.  Anyone know what this was used for?
A small tunnel beneath the railroad tracks.  Anyone know what this was used for?

Then we headed over to the train station.  The Harpers Ferry station is a little more than just a platform along the track, but much more.  It has two tracks with a platform on each side (connected by an underpass), and a climate-controlled waiting room with ticket booth.  I got a few photos while there…

The tracks and tunnel as viewed from the eastbound (towards DC) platform.
The tracks and tunnel as viewed from the eastbound (towards DC) platform.

The tracks and tunnel as viewed from the westbound (towards Martinsburg) platform.
The tracks and tunnel as viewed from the westbound (towards Martinsburg) platform.

View towards the tunnel from between the center of the tracks.
View towards the tunnel from between the center of the tracks.

View towards the tunnel while standing in the middle of the westbound track.
View towards the tunnel while standing in the middle of the westbound track.

View from between the tracks, facing the westbound direction.
View from between the tracks, facing the westbound direction.

From here, we headed back to the car.  That was a long, hot walk uphill.  On the way up, Pete and I discussed the Hilltop House, and how it was a beautiful hotel that was built on a cliff.  Pete indicated that when he left this area a decade ago, there was discussion about rehabilitating the hotel, as there had been indications of structural problems that would eventually need to be remediated.  Even though we were walking near the hotel, considering the temperature and how far we had walked, we opted to go back to the car and drive over.  We needed the air conditioning.  Pete was hoping to see the hotel restored and in operation, but instead, we found the hotel fenced off, abandoned, and in pretty bad shape:

Note the sagging structure and missing facade in the middle of the building.
Note the sagging structure and missing facade in the middle of the building.

However, the view from here was gorgeous:

What a shame that a building with this kind of a view is closed up and abandoned.  However, in doing a little research about the Hilltop House afterwards, I discovered a few things.  First of all, I found out that after an engineering survey, it was determined in 2009 that the building was too far gone to remediate.  The building also suffered a partial collapse in 2010.  I also found interior photos of the building from 2012.

From here, we headed out, and caught US 340 again to leave Harpers Ferry on our way to Winchester.  I’m also going to end here for now, since this Journal entry is getting really long.  So when we reconvene, I’ll share my photos of Winchester, along with a few areas where we stopped on the way there and back.  See you soon…

  • By the way, I found out what the flowers are. Turns out that they’re clover. I was surprised, since I didn’t realize that clover was a flowering plant.