Virginia covers 450 miles of the Appalachian Trail. In contrast, a thru-hiker has to be careful not to sneeze or they might miss West Virginia – it only has four miles of A.T. Now, in reality, it does share a few more miles than that, as the hiker tip-toes along the border between Virginia and West Virginia, but it is the four miles leading into Harpers Ferry that is the claim to fame for the West Virginia hills. And what a claim it is, because at the end of these four miles lies the headquarters for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Thru-hikers check in at the headquarters where they receive a number indicating how many hikers have gone before them during the year. Statistically ½ of the hikers that begin at Springer Mountain, GA have not made it to Harpers Ferry or they walk off the trail at the headquarters. Although not the geographical halfway point (it is only 1,018 miles from Georgia), Harpers Ferry is still celebrated as the mid-point by thru-hikers. The Conservancy takes your picture and posts your mug shot up on the display board as a genuine thru-hiker making the journey.
I really look forward to these four miles. I have hiked so many miles in West Virginia (although never at Harpers Ferry) and I grew up as a Mountaineer. I was born in PA but moved to WV when I was only four years old. I grew up in Morgantown, attended West Virginia University for three years and then graduated for West Virginia Wesleyan College. I met my beautiful wife in West Virginia (her family still lives in the Mountain State) and all four of my children were born in WV. This is a special state for me. As the saying goes, “you can take the boy out of the mountains, but you can’t take the mountain out of the boy”. I anticipate feeling very much at home at Harpers Ferry (Go Mountaineers!)
Harpers Ferry, located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, played an important part in the Civil War. Two major events occurred prior to West Virginia becoming a state . The first was John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry on October 16-18 in 1859. (check out more info at www.civilwar.org/150th-anniversary/john-browns-harpers-ferry.html) And the second was the Battle at Harpers Ferry involving both Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Stonewall Jackson. For details please visit www.civilwar.org/battlefields/harpers-ferry.html. West Virginia just celebrated its 150th anniversary of statehood this past June 20 (1863-2013).
May God grant each and everyone of you a happy Thanksgiving. “Talk” to you after the holiday of gratitude.
Harpers Ferry Picture: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harpers_Ferry,_West_Virginia