Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Harper’s Ferry


        Another easy morning greeted us.

        The night before I had asked the campground attendant, "Is there any chance of rain?"

        "Thirty percent chance," she stated. "I wish it would."

        "Having a dry spell?"


        All our gear dried out and there wasn't a hint of dew.

        We broke camp and headed for Indiana's high point. Within thirty minutes Primate parked the car near the mound, Hoosier Hill, at 1257 feet. If not marked, no one would suspect it was a high point.

        Onward we drove, south and southeast to the outskirts of Cincinnati, where we headed southwest to the confluence of the Great Miami and Ohio Rivers. The closest land approach is owned by an electric power company. We pulled up to the power station Visitor's Center. Dr. Bobo explained our goal to a security guard at the counter inside and requested permission to use a paved road that would lead us to the exact location we wanted.

        "Ok," the guard said, not as permission, but as recognition that he understood our request. He picked up a phone at his desk. "Yes, I have three gentleman here ... " He explained the whole story, then hung up and said, "She'll call back."

        I joked, "Well, that's bureaucracy at work."

        Several minutes passed before the phone ran. The guard answered. "Hello. Yeah. I see. Okay. " He hung up the phone.

        "No, we can't do it," he told us. He meant they couldn't give us permission to use their private road.

        We thanked him and left.

        "Well, I guess those bureaucrats needed to justify their pay for the day," I quipped.

        A one-and-a-half-mile drive to Shawnee Overlook, and a turn down to the boat ramp, took us to the water's edge of a slew of the Great Miami River, a canoe access point.

        We touched the water and Dr. Bobo declared, "Close enough. Call it a low point for Ohio."

        Primate pointed us northeast. More undulating country roads took us across Ohio farmlands of corn standing four feet high. We drove through Dayton, skirted Springfield, went through rural towns, much like many mid-western towns, till we turned off the county road and Primate parked the car to within six feet from the sign that read, "The highest point in Ohio, Campbell Hill, 1549 feet." Another high point reached without much more than a twenty second amble from the auto.

        Dr. Bobo laughed. "It's hard to tell which one is harder, Hoosier Hill or Campbell Hill."

        We recorded our presence with photos and drove away before anyone could have a respectable nap.

        The gentle, rolling farm landscape gradually gave way to forests as we neared the Ohio River bordering West Virginia.

        "Drive, drive ... drive ... drive, drive, drive, drive," Primate said.

        "Tomorrow should be an easier day." Dr. Bobo explained, "We have three high points close together, then a low point at Harper's Ferry."

        I quizzed Dr. Bobo, not sure I heard him correctly. "Is that do-able in one day?"


        But we were not yet done today. We settled on a campground some thirty miles beyond Clarksburg. Christopher made phone calls to deal with a problem regarding his apartment in California. The long shadows of sunset stretched across the hills as we set up camp and anticipated our meal of canned chili and instant rice, seasoned with spicy peppers and washed down with chilled beer.

        I checked the car's trip meter and noted Primate drove us another 497 miles today. 

        Low points - nine; high points - six.

        An early start got us to the parking lot at Spruce Knob. A 900-foot walk on a gravel path in a brisk, cool breeze brought us to the West Virginia's high point at 4861 feet. Thirty-six steps got us to the top of the concrete observation tower, overlooking the local mountains covered in woods.

        "Next," I heard Dr. Bobo say.

        Primate drove the West Virginia roads as we swerved around curves and slowed to a crawl up hills with 7% and 10% grades. We found the spot to park for a hike. A one-mile gravel road led us to a short trail, both with a combined 700 feet elevation gain, across the West Virginia border into Maryland, to Backbone Mountain at 3360 feet.

        Primate tried to climb the cairn piled at the summit.

        "Get off of that," I warned him, "before you tear it down."

        Christopher captured us in a group photo using a special stand someone built.

        Primate continued to drive. West Virginia forested mountains changed to open patches among rolling hills inhabited by Maryland farms. The day was going well. We went north into Pennsylvania. Clouds gathered. Would it rain?

        Another parking lot offered lots of parking. We walked the 100 yards to the summit, at 3213 feet, of Mount Davis on Negro Mountain, Pennsylvania's high point. Good weather held, although cool breezes buffeted us at the top of a metal observation tower, an additional 66 steps, that provided us views of more forested landscape.

        Our daily discussion began. Where should we camp tonight?

        "I'd like to stop early," I said.

        Primate drove us onward, heading southeast, back towards Harper's Ferry in West Virginia. We made steady progress. We agreed to stop at Harper's Ferry Civil War battle site, but the information center had closed so we read the signs posted.

        "Many captured," Primate mumbled, as we learned that 12,500 Union soldiers surrendered to 'Stonewall' Jackson, the largest number, only surpassed by the number that surrendered on Bataan during WWII.

        Rush hour traffic screamed along the road along the Potomac at the West Virginia and Maryland state line, but with perseverance we parked off the road. A search for the state line at the river's edge ensued.

        Dr. Bobo consulted his GPS device as we worked our way down the bank and stood at the river. "It says the coordinates are 100 hundred feet down there." He pointed down stream.

        We headed that direction along an overgrown path.

        I took a hard look. "Watch out, all this is poison ivy," I pointed out with a wave my hand.

        We avoided the troublesome plants as much as possible. More photos were taken to attest to our newest achievement at West Virginia's low point.

        On the road again, Christopher and Dr. Bobo searched the internet and made several cell phone calls before we agreed to Greenbrier State Park in Maryland as our resting spot for the night.

        "This is good," Dr. Bobo observed. "We'll be about one hour from DC tomorrow morning."

        We made camp and ate dinner in daylight, something of a luxury, and enjoyed our meal of canned chili and instant rice, seasoned with spicy peppers and accompanied with cold beer.

        We logged another 359 miles today. 

        Low points - ten; high points - nine.

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