The land we call Harpers Ferry, West Virginia is a focal point of nature, gathering force and resources at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. Harpers Ferry is also one of the most significant of all our special places, important as both inspiration for and site of some of the most pivotal movements and moments in our nation’s history.
That’s not why apc9296 and I went to Harpers Ferry on the eve of our nation’s birthday celebration. As Virginia geocachers we were looking forward to finding our first West Virginia geocaches; Harpers Ferry extended itself into our part of Virginia and beckoned us to come on across, so we did. Once there we each found more geocaches than either of us had ever found in a day and in doing so we discovered many historic and beautiful places in Jefferson County, West Virginia.
July 3rd’s late morning sky was hot, low and hazy. We managed to find a parking spot in lower Harper’s Ferry on Potomac Street near Hannah’s Train Depot, which we passed on our way down to Shenandoah Street. Our initial search for our first West Virginia geocache had us looking for ExploreWV Geocoin Challenge #20 – Harpers Ferry (GC2F3PC).
This geocache is just a step or two from the Appalachian Trail, in a courtyard formed by the backs of some of the historic buildings at the intersection of Potomac and Shenandoah Streets. We don’t know this personally because we simply couldn’t find it. We put in a good 20 minutes or so with National Park Service employees in period dress swirling all around us through the heat haze until we decided to let this one go. Our next objective was up the Trail itself in Harper’s Cemetery.
First we decided to duck into the Harpers Ferry Historical Association Bookshop on Shenandoah Street. Did I mention it was hot? It was the kind of hot humid sweaty day that makes each step a journey and each breath a sodden chore. The late morning sky seemed to hold potential for cleansing afternoon rain but no natural help was coming in that moment. Fortunately this fine bookshop was also a nice cool way station on our way to the Appalachian Trail.
We made the vertical climb up from High Street, past St. Peter’s Church, past Jefferson Rock, all the way up to Haunting Hides The Harpers “You Can’t Take It w/U” (GC1WNNE). This geocache was tucked away in a very picturesque part of Harper’s Cemetery. We worked hard in the damp heat getting up the side of this climb so we felt finding this, the first West Virginia geocache for us both, was a just reward. This find was our first of 19 consecutive successful searches for West Virginia geocaches that day.
Finding The Harpers “You Can’t Take It w/U” somehow reminded me of Morgan Freeman’s character in The Shawshank Redemption — you know the scene — when he’s out of prison, made the decision to live, and goes to find That Special Box in That Special Place. Once you’ve been geocaching awhile you realize there are geocaching scenes all through some of our favorite movies.
After laboring to reach the heights in Harper’s Cemetery we giddily oozed downhill to our next find, Haunting Hides “Screaming Jenny” (GC1WNR6), taking in the beautiful old houses and cars along the way.
We ate a nice lunch at Canal House Cafe and then set out by car to find as many geocaches as possible. One of our goals for the day was getting apc9296 to 350 geocaches found. We accomplished this by mid-afternoon, gradually making our way towards Charles Town.
One of our last finds of the day was Narnia’s Light (GCYBH8) on the beautiful grounds of Zion Episcopal Church. When the rain finally did come we’d just signed the log for our last cache of the day.
Our geocaching day trip to Harpers Ferry put us briefly on the Appalachian Trail, gave us a soldier’s eye view of a crucial Civil War landscape, and showed us enough beauty to last us a long, long while. No matter what draws you to this special place you’re sure to leave enriched by the experience.