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Thru-hikers can get psychological boost, essentials in Harpers Ferry

June 23, 2017
Bob Madison - For the Chronicle , Shepherdstown Chronicle

HARPERS FERRY - For "thru-hikers" on the fabled Appalachian Trail, Harpers Ferry is much more than vaulted cliffs, the confluence of two rivers and historical events from the Civil Way era.

Thru-hikers are those wanting to traverse the entire 2,190 miles of the mostly rugged, almost-always exhausting and mind-bending Appalachian Trail. These modern-day pioneers test their endurance and "can-do-this" spirit on a trail that leads them from Georgia to Maine on rock-strewn trails marked with mud, steep hills, few human amenities and infrequent encounters with nature's critters.

Harpers Ferry is about halfway between the end/start points in mountainous Georgia and more mountainous Maine.

And Harpers Ferry provides the proof that a sweat-stained, sore-all-over hiker is still among the living.

Instead of still another night spent under the stars in a now-cursed sleeping bag, the thru-hiker can find a bed - or at least a cot off the ground - in a small shelter where bathrooms and warm, running water is nearby.

Officials in the town will allow a hiker to have provisions mailed to them at the post office for claiming once they reach the little sliver of civilization. Clothing, food stuffs, toiletries, shoes, camping equipment and emergency supplies await the hiker as he descends into the town from Loudoun Heights, Maryland Heights and points sometimes best forgotten.

Once acclimated to a more-than-subsistence existence, the hiker can take note of what Harpers Ferry offers - both to him and anybody wanting to do some delving into history and nature.

Harpers Ferry is the hiker's best friend.

Located near the trail is the Appalachian Trail Conservancy National headquarters, an oasis of information and even moral support.

The National Park Service's Appalachian Trail Park Office is close by in Harpers Ferry's National Historical Park.

There is additional help around the next corner at the Trail and Town Alliance of Harpers Ferry and Bolivar.

The National Visitor Center of Appalachian Trail greets about 25,000 people a year.

It's not meant to be a secret, but not enough people know that Harpers Ferry can be the starting point for many day trips that carry the hiker along trails to Maryland and Virginia. These day trips begin in Harpers Ferry and bring the hiker back to the same starting point by day's end.

Across the Potomac River by foot bridge is the C&O Canal with its level walking path and duckweed-choked waterway. Moving southward by way of Jefferson Rock, the day hiker can eventually get into Virginia before returning to The Ferry where they had begun their "fun."

Virginius Island and Hall's Island - both sites in the Shenandoah River - can be viewed through eyes that might imagine what businesses on them were like before the never-ending series of floods and the pillaging of the Civil War emptied them of people.

The Appalachian Trail courses through 14 states and is attended to by more than 6,000 volunteers on its winding and mostly remote journey from north Georgia to rocky Maine.

It is Harpers Ferry that is a goal for most of those testing their mettle and perseverance against the most vile of outdoor thunderstorms, sometimes frosty nights and the next straight-uphill climb.

Harpers Ferry has food, clean water, clean clothing ... and even the taken-for-granted-by-most shower.

It's halfway between Georgia and Maine ... halfway from a happy-go-lucky starting point and a weight-losing, endurance-testing finishing spot that looks like the Taj Mahal or the softest feather bed ever seen by any soul.

 
 
 

 

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