A couple of weekends ago my FAVORITE travel companion, Liz, came to visit. She’d never been to DC before so we spent a couple of days doing the typical sweaty sightseeing in the thick DC humidity. Seriously, DC becomes an asphalt sweatbox in the summer. Once we’d had enough of that we decided a daytrip out of town (with a couple of my boys for company) was in order.
We didn’t really escape the heat but we did manage to get some fresh air by heading out to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. Here a rustic old Civil War town sits at the meeting place of Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. The Appalachian Trail wanders through the park, as do school children on day trips from the suburbs. I hadn’t been out there since I was a little kid, so I was curious to see what kind of charm this National Park held.
The Civil War town of Harper’s Ferry consists of several blocks of museum style recreations and actual gift shops and eateries. There’s not much to do but it’s a pleasant little place- particularly if you’re looking to buy cutesy knickknacks or antiques.
Up a treacherous stone staircase lie two churches. One, St. John’s has been in total ruins since the turn of the century. The other, St Peter’s, has been lovingly restored and is surprisingly elaborate inside. I couldn’t get over the gorgeous stained glass windows.
Past the church you can hike up to Jefferson Rock. Apparently Thomas Jefferson stood by this table shaped slab back in 1783 and declared “this scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic”
Our verdict? It’s a pretty nice view, but not necessarily worth a treacherous ocean voyage.
Sweaty as ever, we got some ice cream from one of the many cutesy shops and walked down to the water where we were finally able to find some relief from the heat. This is the spot where the Shenandoah and the Potomac rivers converge and three states meet. Leafy trees and a sweet breeze made the area actually bearable. All around us families had decided to go for a dip in the muddy water. If you arrange ahead of time you can tube down the river here, which I imagine is quite nice as well.
Harper’s Ferry is a really pleasant day trip from DC, with lots of hiking and water sport opportunities. It’s well worth a visit from DC, although maybe not on a day as hot as this one.