Friday, July 11, 2008

Covered Ground

After leaving Mt. Pocono, PA, we traveled to Hagerstown, Maryland which is near Antietam Battlefield. Believe it or not, we are not now nor have ever been Civil War buffs, but it seems this part of the country was extremely significant during that time period, with the battle at Antietam being the bloodiest one day battle in US history. The sun set on 26,000 dead that day. The biggest loss of US lives on US soil in one day.

This small part of Maryland is very near Virginia and West Virginia so we ventured just a few miles over to Harpers Ferry, WV. We had said that if we were ever in the area we definitely wanted to visit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters in Harpers Ferry. The visit was much like we had imagined it would be. The headquarters is a small, unassuming stone building just on the perimeter of the historic district of Harpers Ferry. The ATC is the "psychological midpoint" for those who are hiking the AT which runs from Georgia to Maine. We were able to hike a short segment of the AT, which only reignited that desire to do more of it. The trail goes through the campus of Storer College which has huge significance in the history of African-Americans and all seeking an education without regard to race or creed. It now serves as a federal training center. We are in awe of those who actually walk the 2100+ miles of the AT and at least one of us hopes to one day be among those who have successfully accomplised this feat.

Harpers Ferry is a small hamlet historically recreated. The town itself was significant during the American Revolution and again during the Civil War for its industrial importance. The interpretive rangers at Harpers Ferry will argue that the Civil War began there via the insurrection by John Brown, rather than with the first shot fired at Fort Sumter, SC.
Harpers Ferry is a very interesting place. Its history pre-dates the Civil War, although that is a major focus of its demonstrations. It is a beautiful area with spectacular views. We visited The Point where the Shenandoah River and the Potomac Rivers converge. Jefferson Rock was purchased by Thomas Jefferson from King George for a sum equal to about $2.40 so that all may enjoy the view. The view from Jefferson Rock is spectacular and the verdant view from Bolivar Heights is worth the short drive. If you have the opportunity to visit anywhere in the area, Harpers Ferry is definitely worth a visit. Even if you don't care for Civil War or history, there is still a lot to see and do. A one day car pass is good for three days and includes the shuttle bus to and from town.
With the visit to Harpers Ferry as the highlight of our Maryland stay, we enjoyed the campground's beautifully flowered rock garden and view along the Conochocheague Creek. The C&O Canal historic area is nearby, but runs 184 miles in actuality.

Leaving Maryland behind, we traveled to Natural Bridge, Virginia. We fully expected Natural Bridge to be a little cheesy based on the brochures and advertising, but were pleasantly surprised. The sign at Natural Bridge says it is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. We thoroughly enjoyed the day, first hiking down to Natural Bridge, then to the reconstructed Monacan Indian village and on to Lace Falls.

We then toured the Caverns which take you on a stroll 34 stories beneath the surface, which are said to be the deepest caverns east of the Mississippi. We are in awe of the power of nature and what running water can create over time.

On the way back to the campground, we had a MUST SEE stop at Foamhenge - an exact replica of Stonehenge created in FOAM. You gotta see this one to believe it! This must beat the giant ball of yarn for wit and creativity...

The campground had a concert last night featuring Andy Brasher, a musician from Kentucky. Jerri enjoyed the live music while Kathy recovered from eating greasy fish and chips from the Pink Cadillac Diner. The food was initially tasty but not so digestible later.

Left Virginia and traveled south on I-81 to Kingsport, TN (just down the road from Bristol and the fastest half mile NASCAR track) today (7/11). We're at Rocky Top Campground which is a nice, quiet change from all the noisy children at the KOAs of the past few days. We plan to explore the area a little tomorrow and let you know what we find.

For those wondering about our travel agenda, we are heading back to Rabun County briefly to take care of some business before heading south and to points unknown. Just keep reading, it may or may not eventually make sense. It's all about the journey.

Until next time, find joy in the small stuff.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Deja Vu, Sort Of

The July 4th weekend was upon us before we knew it and we found ourselves in search of a campground that wasn't full for the holiday weekend. We were very fortunate - as we have been throughout our travels - to get a campsite at Mt. Pocono Campground in Mt. Pocono, PA. After leaving Connecticut, we arrived in Western Pennsylvania on the 3rd and stayed until the 7th. Spending July the 4th in the Pocono Mountains was not a bad deal. The 4th was a combination of rain and fireworks, a pool with lots of kids, lots of dogs, and the aroma of grilled food. The area is beautiful and looks a lot like Rabun County, with lush green mountains and morning fog. FYI, the Pocono Raceway (NASCAR track) was about 8 miles from the campground. The campground had a nice nature trail with a small waterfall.

We ventured out on one of our days to visit Ringing Rocks Park in Bucks County. We learned about this park, after leaving Pennsylvania the first time, while watching a PBS special. Having the opportunity to visit this state again, we could not pass up the chance to visit this unusual park. This park was comprised of a huge open area full of nothing but rocks of all shapes and sizes. These rocks were of a composition that, when hit with a hammer, various tones were produced that resembled musical sounds. When a group of rocks are hit by several people, the combined sounds resemble a song of sorts. Definitely a strange, must-see kind of place.

We said good-bye to Pennsylvania for a second time and headed to Williamsport, Maryland today (7/7), which is near Hagerstown. Antietam Battlefield and Harpers Ferry State Parks are nearby as is the C&O (Chesapeake and Ohio) Canal. This area is filled with history.

Our campground is on the Conococheague Creek. Maybe we'll find time to explore a little of the area before we leave Wednesday.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

All Hail Connecticut...

Connecticut has been a blast! In spite of being touristy, Mystic Seaport was interesting and definitely one of our fave places. We went back yesterday evening (7/1) to have 'a slice of heaven' at the original Mystic Pizza. Their claim to fame is Julia Roberts' debut movie, 'Mystic Pizza,' from the late 80s, but prefer to say they're the pizza that made a movie famous. The pizza was delicious and we had leftovers for dinner again tonight. Right down from Mytic Pizza on Main Street is a draw bridge that is raised every quarter hour to allow boats to pass through. We enjoyed riding over this for another view of the river.

While at the campground we've been able to bicycle and paddle boat. Jerri's had a nice place to run and a mountain to run up and down (just like home only a shorter mountain).

Yesterday we daytripped to Essex for a ride through the Connecticut River Valley on board the steam railroad, then a trip on the Becky Thatcher paddle boat up and down the Connecticut River, and back on the train to return to the station. We thoroughly enjoyed the entire trip. From the river we saw Gillette Castle, osprey nests, Canada geese, cormorants, swans, and a pair of nesting bald eagles. We passed marinas and boatyards and also passed the home Doris Day rented when she filmed a movie back in the 1960s. We also met Bob, and 85 year-old train conductor who had a small (very small) role in the latest Indiana Jones movie. The train was also in the movie, as well as the Yale library. We saw pictures of Harrison Ford and Stephen Spielberg in the train gift shop.

So, of course, we went to the movies today to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. We did see the brief train scene (near the beginning of the movie), which took three days to film. This afternoon we rode over to Foxwoods, which claims to be the largest casino in the world. On the way to Foxwoods, we ran through some rough weather and large hail, which at first appeared to have broken the car windshield. After the rain quit, we found the hail marks on the windshield were spatters of tree sap, not broken glass as it appeared from the inside. Never seen anything quite like this. Unable to tell at this time if there are any dings in the car body or not (needs washing too badly). After losing our designated amount at Foxwoods, we came out and the sun was shining.

All in all, Connecticut has been a very nice trip. Just don't buy gasoline here, cause the cheapest we've seen is $4.39 per gallon. Hopefully we'll find it less expensive in PA when we get there.
We leave for Mt. Pocono, PA tomorrow to spend the 4th of July weekend, then head further southward.

Until next time - life is short, enjoy the journey.