Thursday, September 11, 2014

Happy Trails

T is for Trail Hikes - Appalachian Trail area, WV/MD

 On our big history trip this summer, we did some hiking.  If you ask the kids, we did a LOT of hiking.  We went up and down mountains, over rocks, to a waterfall, along the Stations of the Cross, and through several battlefields.

School House Ridge, Harpers Ferry WV

This relatively unmarked trail once was the Confederate holding at Harper's Ferry.  It is now a nature walk.  The path takes you up and then across a ridge; bringing up the rear and doing a head count, I realized I was only a couple singers short of a Von Trapp concert.

This trail starts from the William Houck Lake-side comfort station in Cunningham Falls State Park.  It takes you up to the main parking lot and the Falls trails, two of the nine trails that are either in or pass through the park.

Looking at the steep and rocky Cliff Trail just off the main parking lot, we had opted to walk to the falls by the more gentle (and semi-paved) lower trail.   Interpretive signs, benches here and there, perfect for a relaxing walk. After about a 15 minute walk, we reached the Falls.

Cunningham Falls
Cunningham Falls - known locally as McAfee Falls

Never ones to shy away from challenges, the kids still wanted to try the harder Upper Trail.  I warned them that once we started, we were committed.  They understood and agreed; Luke took the lead and I again brought up the rear.  I told Matthew and Celia to stay within sight of me and Luke wrangled Damien, who somehow managed to consistently race ahead of all of us.  It was NOT an easy trail.  I'm impressed with how they did, especially Jude.

This is at the bottom of the hill, back at the parking area.  It doesn't do the elevation justice - the hill behind is about the equivalent of five or six stories, and at a very steep angle.

One of our stops was to the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes on the campus of Mount St. Mary's University.  Our original plan was to go to the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton nearby, but we ran out of time wandering round the Grotto.  Two main paths - Corpus Christi Path, with the Stations of the Cross along the walk, and Rosary Path, lined with scripture and mosaic depictions of the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries and interspersed with shrines dedicated to various saints (including St. Jude).  The end of Rosary Path is marked by the St. John Paul II garden, complete with the Luminous Mysteries. 

Our Lady of Lourdes National Shrine Grotto MD

We managed to hike several small sections of the Appalachian Trail as well.

Appalachian Trail midpoint

Our first steps on it were at Harper's Ferry, WV.   If you're through-hiking and make it to this sign, you're basically halfway!

Harper's Ferry NHP also is home to two other hiking trails:

On one side of the Potomac River is Harper's Ferry, WV.  When you walk across the bridge and navigate a tight spiral staircase, you're in Maryland and a different park.

Did you know South Mountain is the only place where the AT crosses a battlefield?  South Mountain is where the Union soldiers held back the Confederates heading for Washington, DC and forced the battle at Sharpsburg (Antietam).  Atop the mountain is the very first memorial monument ever completed to honor George Washington.  The path up to it converges with the AT, and then just before the peak they split again.

Washington Monument, South Mountain MD

We had a good laugh here.  A few hundred feet along the monument trail was a small picnic shelter labeled "Mount Vernon."  It reminded us of our trip to Mt. Vernon, VA and the hike up the hill from the Potomac to the main house.  On the other side of the Museum was a comfort station - a large picnic shelter and restrooms.  It was called "Fort Necessity."

We enjoyed our hiking and plan on searching out some short, easy hikes around here.

Important things to know when you're hiking:

1.  Wear the right gear.  Some people like to hike in sandals, but personally, I prefer closed shoes.  They don't have to be heavy-duty boots - sturdy sneakers are good enough for short hikes.  Ballgown-style dresses are optional.

2. Be prepared for the weather.   Always be generous with the sunblock! Even with sunscreen and overcast skies, we found ourselves a little pink.  

And if it rains? Hikes are still fun.

3.  Stick together.

4. What in the blazes??? 

Know where you're going, and watch for signs and blazes so you don't get lost, especially if trails overlap.

5.  The view is worth the climb.

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1 comment:

  1. So Cunningham Falls and Mount St Mary's are both within 15 minutes of my house. You really should have stopped by for lunch or something. ;-)


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