Monday, November 25, 2013

Harpers Ferry - Day 3

Obviously, if you've been following the whole Harpers Ferry trip thing, you'll realize that I've been back for some time. We spent far too much time away from the hotel on our trip that when we would get back in the evenings I was too tired/busy plotting my next move to keep the posts updated, and when I got back home I was immediately vortexed back into the swing of work and my niece's teenaged dramatics. We've also been renovating, and painting, sanding, etc etc etc is a time thief - albeit a productive one.

Day three:

The plan was to explore Lower Town, and explore we did.

Saint Peter's Church:

This is the view from the street below. The steps are actually from the 1800's! (There's signage to prove it!)

That's my roomies butt, which you may disregard. She does not follow instructions well, and didn't use the handrail. Her jacket is seriously awesome, though...

I'm not sure why my finger is in this shot. I was using an iPad as a camera and there's no excuse for stray phalanges... Despite the finger, this shot does a better job at showing the stairway than the butt photo...

Those stairs seemed never ending and I used them as an excuse to not feel guilt about missing a couple days at the gym. 

Almost there!

You can't see him to around the corner is I suppose what they call a period actor - he was dressed in 1800-era attire. I didn't snap a pic because he was chatting with some people and I wasn't prepared to interrupt. I'm not rude like that. And I don't talk to people anyway. He was dressed like this though:

Minus the voting signs and the beard... (This is a photo of a postcard that I picked up in the visitor center).

And we're there! Unfortunately, the church was closed. It was a Saturday. We were thinking about attending the Sunday service but didn't for a few reasons.

1. Roomie is Jewish, and while she was up for anything on the trip the look on her face when I suggested attending a Roman Catholic Sunday service was equivalent to the look she gets when her daughter starts to talk about One Direction. Or opens her mouth at all. Yeah, she was pretty horrified with the idea.

2. While I born into a Roman Catholic family and was baptized and confirmed, I haven't been into a Catholic Church since 2003 when my son was baptized. I'm awesome like that. I was probably more horrified at the suggestion than she was. And I was the one who made it.

But anyway.

The view:

Spectacular view. 

The church was started in 1830 and finished in 1833, consecrated on May 5th 1833. It was reconstructed in 1896.

During the Civil War the town of Harpers Ferry changed control fourteen times, and this church was the only one that was not extremely damaged with the devastation that both sides wreaked on the town. Apparently Father Costello, the Priest, flew the Union Jack in an effort to prevent the Confederates from levelling it with artillery.

Train coming out of the mountain!

There's a ghost tour that starts at the church - highly recommend. According to residents around Charles Town, Harpers Ferry is the most haunted area in all of West Virginia. I'm not sure if this is true or not, but there was one really creepy incident back at the hotel that I'm saving for a later post...

So yeah. If you're in the area and you see this sign, make it a point to go. Very awesome. You'll hear all sorts of neat and creeptastic things. Like the disappearing priest. And the baby who was killed by a mortar shell. Both of these stories are associated with the church.


Instead of taking the stairs back down - wouldn't have been as strenuous but there is that tiny gravity thing and roomie and I are unbalanced on good days - we looped around and walked past root cellars and stairs built into the walls. 

Plaque erected for John Brown and his raiders (1859).

And the memorial for the United States Marine killed at Harpers Ferry during the raid:

This is actually down by the train station, but who's really keeping track.

Roomie and I stopped in to most of the shops just to take a peak, then meandered down to the point for the breathtaking view of where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet.

The Shenandoah on the right.

The Potomac on the left. There was a train going by when I snapped this and you can see the reflection on the water. We walked across the footbridge as well, but I was far too panicky to take a lot of photos and spent most of the time looking down to make sure my feet were on something stable-ish. 

The point where both rivers meet

Another of the Shenandoah.

This is off the bridge that goes across the Potomac River. It's one of two shots I took, the second being at the end, right as I realized that I still had to cross back over. Heart in throat. I so hate heights, but I did it!

Last photo on the bridge, lol. The entrance to the train tunnel that goes into the mountain.

St. Peter's Church from below. 


John at the visitors center sent us to check out Bolivar Heights and Camp Hill, and he recommended that we see Antietam before we left. It was getting late in the afternoon by this time so we headed to Camp Hill - specifically Storer College. We were going to check out Bolivar Heights (the trenches are still there!) but ran out of time. The problem with going so late in the year is that the days are short and it started getting dark just after five. Camp Hill was a Union camp back in the day. Obviously a lot has changed in 151 years. The photos we took are on the camera and I'm not sure where that is at the moment (still haven't fully unpacked!). 

Day three ended after a ghost tour and a trip in to Charles Town.

If you're ever in Charles Town, by the way, this store is haunted! According to employees, the strip plaza is built on what used to be farm land, and the family burial plot was dug up. One of the women we spoke to said that she was working late and suddenly felt the right side of her face heat up. A man demanded to know what she was doing there. She says they have also heard a young woman, an older woman, and a baby calling for mama...


St. Peter's church circa September-October 1862 during the Battle of Antietam.

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Harpers Ferry - Day 2

I'm late on my post. A day late but better late than never, I suppose. Frankly I was too tired to write/post/brain last night. Until I went to bed, of course. Then I just tossed and turned and laughed and laughed until roughly two in the morning. Ridiculous, I tell you. But anyway.

We left Frederick, Maryland, yesterday morning around nine, after MAKING OUR OWN FRESH WAFFLES! (So delicious, in case my all caps wasn't indicative of this fact.)

In about half an hour we had been in three states. That was pretty stellar. It happened so fast I didn't even get a chance to take a picture of the "Welcome to Virginia" sign by the Exxon station. Hell, I don't even know if that's what the sign says. It could say "Get the hell outta Virginia", for all I saw.

Hotel check-in was at three. Not ones to waste time on vacation (although we will proudly do this in every other situation), we went to the park.

The visitors center at the park entrance was our first stop and is also where we met John - a seventy-five year old park ranger who struck up a forty minute long conversation with us because he noticed the poppies we wear on our jackets for Canada's Remembrance Day. His granddad was a WWI vet and he remembers a time when poppies were worn in the US for Armistice Day.

We chatted with John and heard some awesome stories. He gave us the skinny on the war of 1812, the civil war, Harpers Ferry, Gettysburg, Antietam and the current push by the FDA to ban transfats. I swear this man must consume history books for breakfast - so much knowledge! We then hopped on the shuttle down to the Lower Town.

Let me be perfectly honest. I came out here with zero expectations about Harpers Ferry. In fact, the only expectation that I had was that the weather would be warmer because we were in the south. Yeah. That was a fail. Shot down. Immediately. Crash and burn, baby.

Keep in mind that this is my first ever visit to a civil war battlefield when I say that Harpers Ferry blew my mind. Blew. My. Mind. 

Buh bye mind. Bye.

We walked through the ruins along Hamilton Street, came up Market Street, strolled behind an 1800's version of a strip mall (haha) and came face to face with John Browns fort.

A covered wagon marked "US" was sitting out front of it. A fricken covered wagon, laddies!

And poof! There goes the mind. Again.

For some reason we didn't get in a lot of "sightseeing" in the three-ish hours that we were there. We chatted with rangers and volunteers. I made a bunch of lame jokes. We answered a lot of questions about our crack smoking mayor in Toronto. Everyone really loves our Niagara Falls. Etc, etc. Poppies are great conversational pieces, apparently, lol. We did see a short film called "A Place in Time".

About that.

There are these markings on the wall in the building showing water levels from floods that have dealt devastating blows to the town. Example: the record flood of 1936 had thirty six and a half feet of water in Lower Town. Again, the mind... It was crazy.

We left around one-ish, went into Bolivar and had lunch. Managed to check into the hotel thirty minutes early and promptly took a nap. Went to Charles Town that evening to get some supplies from the Walmart. 

On our return I sat at the table and poured over all the information that the park volunteers had given us. Call it my homework. Because honestly I came here with very little knowledge of the civil war. All I really knew about Harpers Ferry was that it was a confederate victory led by Lee and Jackson. Lame right. I'm Canadian. My public school system in suburbia didn't cover American history in the curriculum. I felt much more intelligent after a series of google searches and the provided literature. Yeah, this was something I should have done before leaving. But what the hell. All is not lost. I hope.

Clearly I was also drinking Ultra Light Cider. Lovely, crisp and not sold in my neck of the woods.

Funny story about last night.

I went to the car to get the charger out of the glovebox that I had stuffed in there after realizing that having it out served no purpose. The car was parked in front of a window with the curtains partially open - exactly the way I had left them. The lights were dim. Roomie was half asleep when I left her. Who got the brainiac idea to creep up to the window and smack on it to scare the hell outta her? This girl, right here.

So I'm slowly and quietly sneaking up to the window, grinning the way a peeping Tom presumably would, and just as I'm about to jump at the window it dawns on me. Our room does not overlook the parking lot. 

What a fail.

Thankfully I managed to realize this before I was arrested for being a creeper. That would have been not so awesomely fantastic.

I blame the cider.

More to come, unless I'm in jail. 

Cheers, laddies,


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Harpers Ferry - Day 1

A few months ago the bestie and I decided that we were gonna go on a road trip to Harpers Ferry. I'm a total nerd, so I naturally badgered her into this location. 

Anyway, after months and weeks and a plethora of sweat, blood and tears, we finally left this morning to a chorus of angels singing. I know what you're thinking. Yeah, right, Keeley. A chorus of angels? B.s. Think what you will. I heard it, and that's all that matters.

So in the midst of NaNo - which I of course ended up signing up for - we are on day one of six of Operation: Geek Vacation. 

We headed out of Toronto at 10 am, waited at the Peace Bridge for Border Security to open our luggage and rifle through our panties - very awesome, I might add, made even MORE awesome by the fact that the officer was a dude... He was kind enough to leave our bags wide open with clothing unfolded and hanging out. Thankfully my wardrobe is far cooler than my besties so we can not possibly get our undies mixed up.

Who am I kidding? I waited until the last possible minute - read: 9:24 this morning - to stuff all my crap into my gym bag, so there was no way anything was actually folded to begin with...

But I digress.

Driving was good. Just made it to Frederick, Maryland, where we have stopped for the night. We have some time to kill before our hotel check in tomorrow so we are debating on going to Gettysburg. As mentioned above, I'm a total nerd, so it's more like I am saying, yo, dude, let's go to Gettysburg and she is saying: shut the hell up about the American Civil War, Keeley, or I'll run your ass over in my rental... 

Stay tuned to find out where we end up, and if I'm walking back to Canada :)


Look! A Tim Hortons in the US of A!