Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Day 7: The Battle of Antietam

July 11: My guidebook used a very rough, poorly-made map of the area around the trail. Normally, this didn't pose a problem because the canal towpath is on the side of a small road and utterly impossible to miss, but it also pointed out that the Antietam Battlefield--also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg--was just a few miles off trail near the small town of Sharpsburg. I'm very much fascinated with the Civil War. Not a "rabid" fan, perhaps--I've never dressed up in period costumes or played in any Civil War reenactments (although it certainly looks like a lot of fun), but the idea of passing by this particular battlefield and being sooo close to it.... I couldn't do it. I needed to detour off trail and explore the site of "America's bloodiest day."

Killiansburg Caves

I left the towpath near Snider's Landing, and after exploring the battlefield, I planned to return to the towpath near Taylors Landing which would cause me to officially miss 4.2 miles of trail and Lock 40. My guidebook didn't suggest that there was anything particularly noteworthy along that stretch, and Lock 40 sounded a lot like the previous 39 locks I'd already seen. I didn't think I'd be missing much with this detour, but I'd miss a major battlefield of the Civil War if I didn't take the detour. It was a no-brainer for me!

My biggest problem, though, was the lack of good maps. Once I was off the towpath, I had nothing but the most primitive of guidebook maps to follow. I'd normally just pull out my smartphone and get directions--turn by turn direction from Google!--but I still had no service since leaving Harpers Ferry. It's frustrating to be in civilization and still not get service. Even in the town of Sharpsburg, I didn't get any service. Some of the bicyclists heading in the opposite direction told me that they had gotten no service since crossing from Pennsylvania into Maryland. They all had Verizon. AT&T users reported almost non-stop service the entire distance. I didn't have Verizon--I used a TracFone wireless plan that costs me all of about $5/month. (I might have a phone now, but I still almost never use it and won't invest very much into it!) But I was pretty sure that TracFone used the Verizon cell towers, though, and where Verizon doesn't work, neither does my phone.

I made it into Sharpsburg without getting lost, but I wasn't entirely sure where to leave Sharpsburg to get to the battlefield and asked a woman I saw walking down the street if I was heading in the correct direction. She assured me that I was and just to turn left at an intersection up ahead, and I continued onward.

When I reached the intersection, a large road sign pointed the direction to the Antietam Battlefield, and I could rely on those the rest of the way to the battlefield. Although it mostly just involved following the road I turned onto which took me directly there.

Walking through Sharpsburg.
An hour or so after I left the trail, I arrived at the battlefield visitor center. I asked the rangers at the front desk if I could leave my stroller and pack there while I walked around the battlefield explaining that I'd walked in from Washington, DC, and didn't have a car or anything to store it in. I'd have wandered around with the stroller if it was required. (Actually, I probably would have hid it in the woods somewhere nearby and carried my pack, but still... if they would be willing to keep it safe while I wandered around, why not?)

But the ranger said that that would be fine and had me leave it near them. I paid the admission fee, and explored the exhibits at the visitor center to get a sense of how the battle came together and the lay of the of the land. I'd never been here before, after all. They also gave me a map of the battlefield, including a 8.5-mile driving tour. I wouldn't be driving, but I seriously considered walking the whole route. I didn't know if I'd ever be back here again and didn't want to miss anything!

Before I get into my walk around the battlefield, let me give you a bird's eye view of it for those who aren't familiar with it. In the battle, 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of savage combat on September 17, 1862--often called the bloodiest day in American history because there have never been so many American causalities in a single day of battle. Gettysburg had more casualties overall, but that was over the course of three days of battle, and none of the three days compared to the casualties of this battle. The opening day of D-Day didn't generate this many casualties, even if you include all allied forces and not just Americans. The results of this battle turned the tide of the Civil War and changed American history forever.

Tactically, the battle is considered a draw with neither side getting a decisive victory, but since the Confederates left the field of battle first, Union troops generally get credit for winning the battle. It left General Lee's army a wreck and ended the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia's first invasion into the North. And on the heels of their victory, Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves. It gave the Union forces just enough credibility to keep European powers from supporting the south during the war.

So, with that in mind, I headed off to see the field of battle. Generally speaking, I walked counter-clockwise around the battlefield and my first stop was at the Sunken Road, also known as Bloody Lane because of the fierce fighting that took place there. The battle unfolded in three phases, and the fighting here was the second phase. The road had been worn down from years of traffic providing a natural trench that Confederates used to defend against the attacking Union forces.
Bloody Lane, where 3,000 Confederate soldiers held off 10,000
attacking Union soldiers for 3 1/2 hours.

Approximately 3,000 Confederate soldiers defended the road against 10,000 attacking Union soldiers for 3 1/2 hours. Not great odds, but they managed to hold off the Union forces despite the Confederates losing over 80% of their force as casualties. The Union had more losses in absolute numbers, but it was a much smaller percentage of their overall force. In all, both sides reported a total of about 5,100 soldiers as casualties.

The temperatures were miserably hot again, and I sweat profusely walking around exposed to the sun. I had forgotten how much the shade on the C&O Canal had helped cool me down, but this area of the battlefield had no trees and no shade. It was hot, humid and absolutely miserable. I carried a small, one liter bottle of water that I could have finished off in seconds, but I drank from it slowly knowing I wouldn't have any easy way of filling it up until I got back to the visitor center.

I continued on to the Burnside Bridge--the third and final phase of the day's battle. At the time of the battle, it was called Lower Bridge and 500 Confederate soldiers held off 5,200 Union soldiers for 3 1/2 hours in intense fighting. Union forces suffered 500 casualties while Confederates suffered 120.

Only three bridges crossed Antietam Creek at the time of the battle, and the Union tried very hard to take this particular bridge! But it was up against a steep hillside that provided Confederates an extremely advantageous position despite their much smaller numbers.
Burnside Bridge, where 500 Confederate soldiers held off 5,200 Union
soldiers for 3 1/2 hours. Burnside Bridge was having some work done
and I couldn't cross it to make a loop of my hike like I initially
had wanted to do. =(

I had intended to walk across the bridge and make a loop around the battlefield but was disappointed to see that the bridge was closed while they were doing some reconstruction work on it. I grudgingly backtracked a bit trying to decide what to do next, eventually doing a road walk to near where the trail would have come out out if I had been able to cross the bridge. I lost time and in the hot sun, it wasn't fun, but I couldn't see any way around it.

Once I got back on the trail again, it was a lot nicer. The trail was nice to walk on, and it was in a thick, shaded forest.

The trail connected with other trails which eventually brought me to the infamous 24-acre cornfield where the first phase of the day's fighting started. For nearby three hours, Union and Confederate forces clashed leaving nearly 13,000 casualties in its wake. Hays' Louisiana Brigade suffered over 60% casualties in a mere 30 minutes.

I couldn't help but do some math in my head.... 13,000 casualties in 24 acres amounted to over 500 casualties per acre. Nearly 200 casualties per acre per hour. That's a hell of a lot.

Afterwards, Union General Joseph Hooker wrote that the firepower was so thick, "every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the [Confederates] slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a few moments before."

The heaviest fighting took place in this cornfield where there were
about 13,000 casualties in a mere 24 acres in less than 3 hours.
It's hard to imagine how chaotic the battle must have been. Today, although hot and muggy, the area seemed so quiet and peaceful. Groundhogs frolicked near the corn fields and birds chirped in the distance.

I walked back to the visitor center and there was a new ranger at the counter who chastised me for leaving my stroller and pack without leaving a name or phone number. Well, jeeze! Sorry! The other ranger hadn't asked for it when I asked if it was okay to leave it there! Next time I'll know better, not that I had ever intended to walk to this battlefield with a stroller ever again.

I pushed my stroller back in the direction of the cornfield not wanting to return to the C&O Canal where I had left it. I had probably added a solid 10 miles of walking to the day's hike with this detour, and felt no qualms about skipping 4.2 miles of the same old canal towpath.

But my poor guidebook map wasn't much help, and the battlefield map I picked up at the visitor center didn't include details beyond the battlefield, so once again I was left not entirely sure if I was walking in the correct direction.

It didn't help that my very rough guidebook map also appeared to get some of the street names wrong. On several occasions, I was left at an intersection trying to decide what to do. Go straight, or turn? Mostly, I followed my gut. I knew, vaguely, what direction I needed to go, and the C&O Canal is 185 miles long. As long as I headed vaguely in the correct direction, I was bound to hit the canal eventually--it's all but impossible to miss!

Remarkably, I made it back to the trail at Taylors Landing without taking a single wrong turn. I was actually quite surprised I had done so well!

The next hiker/biker camp was just a few miles away, and I stopped for the day fairly early at 5:00 in the afternoon. I had it in me to do a few more miles, but the next camp was 8 miles up and I wasn't sure I could make it that far before dark. It had been a long day anyhow. I didn't mind quitting a bit early for once. =)

I shared the campsite with a couple of bicyclists who showed up. They were originally from England, but now living in Pittsburgh, and they'd be the only other people camping with me tonight.

Later in the evening, after they had gone into their tent to sleep for the night, I headed to the shore of the Potomac to go for another swim, and this time--with nobody around--I took off all my clothes and skinny dipped. The water was initially cold when I first entered, but it only took a few seconds to adjust to it and I happily laid around in the water and the moonlight for an hour or so before I started getting chilled enough to get out, dry off and head to my sleeping bag. With good weather expected during the night, I planned to cowboy camp again.

I saw this bizarre site on my walk into Sharpsburg. I tell you, it grabs your attention! WTF?!
Ah, it's a protest. Against.... Verizon? Corporate America? Well, my phone didn't work here either! =) I guess it used to work 40 days earlier, though?

Antietam Creek was said to have run red with the blood by the end of the day's fighting.
Intense fighting took place near Dunker Church. Union infantry and artillery aimed their attacks towards this high ground and the church.

At the end of the day, a little skinny dipping in the Potomac really hit the spot! =)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Day 6: Exploring Harper's Ferry

July 10: The hostel provided unlimited waffles for breakfast--and I took full advantage of this fact, eating them up until I was stuffed. Hikers and bicyclists packed up for the day, myself included, but I stored my pack at the hostel for most of the day. I'd been to Harper's Ferry twice before on my Appalachian Trail thru-hikes, but I always passed through quickly and didn't explore the town or the exhibits as much as I would have preferred. I hoped to make up for it today--at least in part. I could generally skip the stuff I'd already seen on my previous visits.

John Brown's capture in the engine house, as depicted by these wax figures
in the John Brown Wax Museum. That bearded guy is John Brown,
who's cradling his son that was killed in the final showdown.

So I left my pack (and stroller) at the hostel and walked around town completely unencumbered. I walked back into town, which passed by the ATC headquarters where I dropped in and leafed through the photo albums of all of the 2003 and 2015 thru-hikers--my years! And I took photos of every single 2003 and 2015 hiker so I'd at least have a record of them if I ever wanted to contact any of them. That took a solid hour of effort and generated nearly 400 photos of over 2,000 people.

I was also curious about how much more popular the trail was between the two years. In 2003, they recorded about 740 northbound thru-hikers. In 2015, they recorded 1380 northbound thru-hikers--almost double the numbers from 2003. This year, they already had 200 more hikers that had gone through as of July 10th than they had last year on July 10th. The A Walk In the Woods movie had come out since last year and I  had heard rumors that a thousand more people started the trail at Springer Mountain this year than last, and it would appear that at least 200 of them made it as far as Harper's Ferry.

Interesting... very interesting....

After I finished with that, I continued walking deeper into town and poked my head into the John Brown Wax Museum. It looked like a cheesy tourist attraction that no self-respecting person would step foot in, so of course I had to! I asked the lady at the entrance how much it cost ($7), and asked if it was worth it--knowing she'd probably be biased towards talking it up because hey, that's her job, right? She said that it was air-conditioned inside (well that's worth the price right there! It was shaping up to be another hot day!) and that they had 87 wax figures inside.

I did a bit of quick mental math--realizing that $7.00 wasn't even 10 cents per figure! I'll take it!

This is the Shenandoah River, and that long bridge
is where the AT comes into town. Harper's Ferry marks the
confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers.
I walked through the museum quickly, taking a few pictures and reading about what each scene represented. John Brown, for those of you not up to snuff on your American History, fought against slavery first making a name for himself in the Kansas conflict when they were deciding whether Kansas should be a free state or a slave state. His most famous exploit, however, was taking over the federal armory at Harper's Ferry in 1859, wanting to give the weapons to slaves and other colored people to rise up and rebel against the federal government. He failed and was captured in the engine house located just a few blocks away. He was tried, convicted and ultimately strangled to death from a poorly executed hanging.

The museum covers the entire life and times of John Brown from his younger years up until his death in 1859, but focused primarily on the Harper's Ferry raid--which makes sense since that's where we were located and it's what he was most famous for.

It was all interesting, although I can't say that I learned anything new from the walk around. I'd read quite a bit about John Brown before.

Later, I ate lunch at the Potomac Grill. Ranger Scott had suggested it the night before as a good place to get dinner, but I hadn't wanted to walk all the way back into town then. But now that I was in town, I had no qualms about stopping by for lunch. It had a wonderful outdoor patio overlooking Harper's Ferry which I very much enjoyed. In the shade, it didn't even particularly feel hot.

I wasn't done exploring Harper's Ferry just yet, however, and after I finished lunch, I walked around on the waterfront towards Virginia Island--a section of Harper's Ferry I'd never been to before. I continued following the waterfront until it met up with where the Appalachian Trail entered Harper's Ferry. At that point, I was back on familiar ground again and decided to follow the AT back up towards the ATC headquarters and back to the hostel. It was time to collect my pack and stroller and get back to the C&O Canal.

Due to the steep and narrow sidewalks around Harper's Ferry, I carried my pack on my back and dragged the stroller around empty. One guy who was passing by me in the other direction said, "Hey, umm... I think you lost a baby?"

I looked in the empty stroller with mock concern. "Oh my GOD!!!!" I picked up the stroller and looked under it. "Where'd the baby go?!"

Before quitting town completely, I did stop at the ATC headquarters one last time. There's a tradition that thru-hikers get their photos taken outside with the ATC sign. It's an AT thru-hiker tradition, but I wanted a photo of me with my stroller despite doing the C&O Canal instead. It wouldn't go in any of their photo albums which were just for AT hikers, but rather it would go in my personal collection. I asked another hiker who was lounging around outside if he'd take my photo for me, which he did after he made me explain what was up with the stroller. =)

Back on the towpath, I removed my pack and placed it in the stroller. I was done carrying my pack. For now, at least.

I was back on the trail and hiking by 3:00 in the afternoon--a very late start by anyone's standards! But I had certainly seen a good chunk of Harper's Ferry by that point. The temperatures were still very hot and humid, but they seemed considerably less than yesterday. Maybe only 85 degrees instead of 95 degrees? Definitely not as bad as it had been since I started the trail.

The rest of the day's hike was relatively uneventful. I had originally intended to stop at the Antietam Creek campsite about 10 miles out from Harper's Ferry. Perfect location considering my 3:00 start time. This was the same Antietam Creek that ran "red with blood" from the Battle of Antietam. The bloodiest day in American history with 23,000 casualties, took place about four miles upstream.

But I was disappointed to learn it was a drive-in campsite rather than a hiker/biker camp and--even worse--cost $20/night. Yikes! Thanks, but no thanks. I pushed the stroller on another 5.6 miles to the Killiansburg hiker/biker camp.

By the time I arrived there, it was dusk and darkness fast approaching. This campsite was absolutely wonderful--right on the Potomac River. When I arrived, a family had already set up camp. A dad--Brian, from South Africa--and two kids. They told me there was a wife with them as well, but she was already in the tent and I never did see her.

I set up camp. This time, no rain was expected during the night, so I decided to cowboy camp under the stars. While cooking dinner, two other bikers arrived to set up camp as well. They weren't biking together, though, and arrived all of about 5 minutes apart from each other. Mickey was out for a few days and shuttling with a car while Erik, who had started the trail just the day before, was planning to ride from DC to Alaska!

"Alaska?" I asked. "The state attached to Canada?" That's a pretty long distance, even by biking standards. I wanted to make sure I understood it correctly.

"That's the one," he replied.

"Normally, I'd tell people you're almost there... but in your case, you really aren't." I said, shaking my head.

By the time I finished up dinner and was set for the night, it was quite dark and I decided to go for a swim in the Potomac. I stripped down to my underwear and waded into the water. It was cold, but tolerable. Getting in the water was the hard part, and the first few seconds after I dunked myself took my breath away, but after that it wasn't so bad and I just floated in the shallow water enjoying the swim and washing off the sweat from the day. I'd have preferred to skinny dip, but with two other people who had also been talking about taking a swim and kids nearby, I figured it was probably better if I didn't.

After leaving the water, I headed back to my campsite for the night. The night was pleasantly cool, and it would be the first night I'd actually get in my sleeping bag. Previous days, I had draped it over me using it more like a blanket, and even then I only did that to keep bugs off me during the night.

My halfway photo at the ATC! =) Although I wasn't actually anywhere near the halfway mark.... I'd covered only about 80 miles of the 350 or so I had expected to complete.
It might not be readily apparent, but the Potomac River is getting smaller and smaller the further upstream we go. At this point, the Shenandoah River is no longer feeding into it.

A hiker/biker camp just past Harper's Ferry. I wouldn't stop here because it's too soon, and because the water pump had been disabled. (The handle for the pump had been removed.)

Overlooking the Potomac River from a culvert under the trail.

Potomac River

Antietam Creek Aqueduct, crossing over Antietam Creek. Just a few miles upstream was where the Battle of Antietam took place.

The Antietam Creek campsite was actually a very pleasant place, but I skipped it when I learned that it was designed for car campers and cost $20/night.

Shepherdstown Ford, across the Potomac, looks like a nice little swimming hole with that tire hanging from the tree, doesn't it? =) Back during the Civil War, it was called Boteler's Ford and the Confederate army crossed back into Virginia here (now West Virginia) after the Battle of Antietam. The better part of the Confederate army used this ford during the invasion of Pennsylvania (the Gettysburg campaign) and Jubal Early crossed here to begin his raid on Washington in 1864. Lots of Civil War history in this area!
Railroad trestle across the Potomac.

Sunset over the Potomac.

Mickey contemplates going for a swim in the Potomac. (Which she would do after setting up camp.)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Day 5: Revisiting the Appalachian Trail

July 9: Once again, due to the expected high temperatures later in the day, I got an early start on the trail. I woke up by 5:00 and was on the trail pushing my stroller by 6:00. =)

What a beautiful tree by lock 26!
Early in the morning I passed a large power plant--the Dickerson Generating Station. Definitely not a C&O Canal era structure! The thing I found most interesting about it was that the plant discharge canal had been reconfigured into a replica of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Whitewater Course for training purposes. A nearby sign also noted that the local fire and rescue departments have trained in swift water rescue techniques there as well.

The day was relatively uneventful and nothing particularly noteworthy happened. Mostly, I just tried to stay cool by soaking my shirt in water at every opportunity and followed along with my book about the history I was walking through.

My book described numerous instances of Confederates troops raiding the C&O Canal and damaging sections along it, as well as following the movements of the main Confederate and Union armies as they crossed the Potomac and C&O Canal during the Antietam and Gettysburg campaigns.

The trail passed a location known as the Point of the Rocks, which also saw Civil War action. Confederates burned a bridge that crossed the Potomac to impede Union soldiers from entering Virginia--pretty much all of the bridges crossing the Potomac had been destroyed during the war for this reason. But Point of Rocks was also an important part of the C&O Canal history.

The B&O Railroad and C&O Canal had an enormous legal struggle over who had the rights to this thin sliver of land along the Potomac. On one side was the Potomac River, and an the other side tall cliffs with just a thin sliver of land between the two, and both companies wanted to build through it. They spent huge amounts of money battling each other in court for four years before the C&O Canal officially won the court battle. However, the legal battles drained much of the money the C&O Canal had, and an agreement was worked out between the two companies to share the land where the B&O paid the C&O Canal for the rights to share the land. A win-win for all!

In later years, the railroad was straightened a bit which required a tunnel through the cliffs, and later still the railroad widened the tunnel further. Now there are two railroad tracks through the area, one of which that runs through the tunnel and the other next to the cliffs.
This hiker/biker campsite along the trail still had occupants
from the night before! Seems like the bikers didn't get moving as
early in the day as I did....

The tracks are still in use today, and the C&O Canal is quite loud whenever a train would pass by at a high rate of speed. I couldn't imagine sleeping in one of the campsites next to this location. It would probably wake you up multiple times during the night every time a train ran by. The tracks were close enough that you could throw a rock and hit them!

Later in the afternoon, I reached the junction with the Appalachian Trail. The AT runs for a few miles along the C&O Canal as it leaves Harper's Ferry--among the easiest miles of the entire Appalachian Trail. It was kind of special for me to reach this point having thru-hiked the AT twice now, including just last year. This was the one section of the trail that wouldn't be new for me.

It was still mid-July, and I figured I'd probably even see AT thru-hikers along the trail. During my first thru-hike, I had started the trail April 16th and reached Harper's Ferry in late June. It was a fairly late start, so I figured the bulk of the thru-hikers would likely have already passed through. But there were bound to be some stragglers or those who, as time started running short, would skip up to Maine and start hiking southbound.

Whoever I saw hiking the trail, though.... I was pretty sure they'd all be envious of my gear in the stroller. =)

It didn't take long before I saw the first thru-hikers. I could tell they were thru-hikers. They were the first people I saw, on foot, carrying heavy packs since I started my walk. They were thin, gaunt even, with well-worn gear and oozed confidence.

They were all walking in the opposite direction as myself, though, so I didn't really stop to talk with most of them. One fellow had stopped at the shore, waiting for another hiker (that I later learned was his sister), so I chatted with him a bit.

This is Corn, an AT thru-hiker who was waiting for his sister to catch up.
"Thru-hiking the trail?" I asked him, even though I already knew the answer to that.

"Yep," he told me proudly.

"Quit! Save yourself! Quit you still can!"

He looked at me, startled.

"Just kidding," I said. =)

He was Corn, and he had started the trail very early in the season. I was surprised at this--I figured the people going through now generally had very late starts to their hike. But it's not a race! As long as he was having fun, which he assured me that he was. =) I wasn't sure what his long-term plans were--or maybe he didn't have any. At his current pace, he wouldn't make it to Katahdin before it closed for the season. If he wanted to finish the trail this year, he either had to start walking faster or flip-flop eventually.

"Don't let the stroller fool you," I told him. "I'm actually a very experienced hiker myself."

Eventually we parted ways, and I continued onward to Harpers Ferry while Corn continued to wait for his sister to arrive.

The towpath doesn't go directly through Harper's Ferry. Harper's Ferry is on the other side of the Potomac--in another state entirely as a matter of fact! But it takes just a few minutes of walking to get from the canal towpath into Harper's Ferry, and that was my destination for the night. I kind of wanted to camp, but the previous campsite was about 10 miles before that--much too early in the day to stop!--and the next one was far enough that I didn't want to walk that far. It was already a solid 20 miles to Harper's Ferry, so that's where I'd stop for the night.

At least I could take a shower and clean up a bit. =)

Crossing from Maryland into Harpers Ferry, WV!
The railroad trestle that the AT crosses into Harper's Ferry goes up a short set of stairs, and I knew Harper's Ferry was steep in places and there were plenty of staircases around town I might want to use. Knowing this, I decided to wear my backpack and carry the stroller like luggage rather than push my stroller through Harper's Ferry. And good grief, my pack was heavy. Glad I only had to carry it a short distance. It definitely was not thru-hiker light!

I checked into the Teahorse Hostel--the same place I stayed the year before while thru-hiking the AT--where I met a few more AT thru-hikers and a couple of C&O Canal thru-bicyclists. I kind of felt like I had a foot in both worlds just then. Even though I wasn't currently doing the AT, I could still relate to the stories the AT hikers told and share some of my own. The bicyclists told me about the trail ahead for me--they had started from Pittsburgh a few days earlier--and I could tell them about the trail to Washington.

There was one guest at the hostel who wasn't doing the AT or the C&O Canal--he was a ranger that worked in Harper's Ferry. Ranger Scott only worked there on weekends, though, and lived in Washington. Rather than getting a permanent place to reside in Harper's Ferry or commuting between Washington and Harper's Ferry, he'd stay at the hostel during the weekend. He was a regular guest!

He told us stories about people he'd met during his work. Like the people who would tell him he's getting the history wrong. And one person who had a girlfriend in Turkey that would be moving to the US soon, started a Skype chat with her so the ranger could tell her the history of the area. The man felt she needed to know it before moving to the United States. "That was a little odd," he said diplomatically.

I had mentioned that sometimes I've met kids during my thru-hikes that seem absolutely amazed to meet me, a "real" thru-hiker! And that I like to think I've inspired them to someday thru-hike the trail themselves when they grow up, and Ranger Scott said the same type of thing happens to him.

They have a Jr. Ranger program for kids, and the kids will be so overjoyed to be a Jr. Ranger, and he likes to tell them that they too could be a "real" ranger when they grow up because he too was once a Jr. Ranger--which was one of his inspirations for being a real ranger. (Even if it's just on the weekends!)

I had a really good time chatting with all the people, though. At the campsites along the trail, although I didn't mind the peace and quiet and solitude, it's still fun to have company around at times as well.

For dinner, I headed up to Mena's Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant where I ordered a pizza all for myself and a bottomless soda that I may have set a new record for the number of times I had it refilled in a single sitting.

The rest of the evening, after everyone else went to sleep, I pulled out my laptop and got some work done. It was my first wi-fi connection since leaving the hotel near Washington. I even fixed a small bug on Atlas Quest before I called it a night. =)

I hadn't been totally out of touch or offline all this time, though. I did have my smartphone and was able to call Amanda with updates on my progress on a nightly basis and get online to check some email, but I was a lot more limited with what I could do on a smartphone than my laptop. Interestingly, as soon as I entered Harper's Ferry, my cell phone stopped working. No signal! For days I'm walking through the "wilderness" and had a strong signal pretty much everywhere, and in Harper's Ferry--IN the city--absolutely nothing. I vaguely remembered having this same issue in Harper's Ferry the year before but had forgotten about it until it happened again.

But I was still able to call Amanda using Skype with the wi-fi connection at the hostel. All is well!

Dickerson Generating Station

The Monocacy Aqueduct is by far the longest aqueduct on the C&O Canal (560 feet long), and on September 9, 1862, Confederate troops spent several hours attempting to destroy the aqueduct but were stymied by its "extraordinary solidity and massiveness." There was no seam or crevice to insert a crowbar, and the drills they had brought to make holes for blasting powder were too dull to make an impression on the hard rock. As Union troops approached, the Confederates gave up and left.
View from the top of the Monocacy Aqueduct, looking out towards the Potomac River.

Occasionally the trail would pass an access point to the Potomac River, such as this boat ramp. The colored line on the boat ramp is to warn boaters of dangerous water. If it covers up to the yellow line, "caution" is advised. If the water level is up to the red line, nobody should really be going into the water. It's calm and placid right now, though!
Potomac River

The railroad by Point of Rocks. A major 4-year legal battle between the C&O Canal and B&O Railroad was fought over this section of land.

If you ever wanted to spend the night in a lockhouse, there are several that are available to rent overnight! I'd love to have spent the night in one of these, but I wanted to keep my schedule flexible and reserving one for a specific night makes that difficult. Perhaps someday, I'll come back for a weekend visit or something! =) Anyhow, you can see a list of the lockhouses available for rent on the Canal Quarters website. This one is one of them available for rent. It's Lockhouse 28. Just $100 per night! (At the time this post was written.)

The Catoctin Aqueduct is 100 feet long and crosses over the creek with the same name. It was often called the "Crooked Aqueduct" because the path of the canal zigzagged here so that the aqueduct would cross the creek at a right angle. Two of the three arches collapsed in 1973, and for many years, the towpath traffic crossed on a metal truss bridge across the creek. Almost miraculously, divers retrieved many of the original stones (459 of them) and pieced it back together by measuring and matching them to old photographs. New stones replaced the missing pieces that had washed away, and molded concrete was used to fill other gaps. It's quite an accomplishment!

A couple of miles of the trail followed an actual road that cars could use. Booo! No cars! No cars!

The trail passes right by Brunswick, MD, but I didn't stop in this town wanting to reach Harper's Ferry instead.

Lock 30 near downtown Brunswick. The lockhouse is no longer around, but it was probably located under the concrete bridge pier for Route 17 (seen in the background).

The stroller is still hanging in there! I still had concerns if it would hold up all of the way to Pittsburgh, though....

The flower still wears a happy face, but I tell you, the palms of my hands were so sore.... *shaking head* (And get your heads of out of the gutter!)

Highway 340 bridge over the Potomac
There must have been some sort of tubing event going on, because near Harper's Ferry, I saw hundreds of people tubing in the Potomac! And there was one guy speaking over a loud microphone or something as if he were the MC of an event. No idea what it was all about, though.

The engine house at Harper's Ferry, where John Brown's raid came to an inglorious end.