20th September and 6th-8th October 2010


Harper's Ferry (20th September 2010)


We have one day in West Virginia on our way to Washington DC.

After leaving Shenandoah National Park in Virginia via Front Royal we get on the main road to Harper's Ferry. This little town was right in the centre of the civil war and changed hands many times. It sits at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers and was strategically important.

The National Park Service have restored the Lower Town that was ripped up in several floods. They have done a really good job of recreating the town shops, boarding house and sheriff's office.

You can also see John Brown's fort where the slavery abolitionist was hoarded up before he got caught and executed. Later on a school was set up for ex-slaves and the town became an important part of the black civil rights Niagara Movement. It doesn't feel like a Disney town, but more like a museum you can walk through.

The Appalachian Trail comes through the middle of the town and across an old railway bridge. We walk a little way on the bridge and spot a magnificent Bald Eagle swooping round the valley.

We wander some more on the cobbled streets, past the railway station, candy shop and other little shops before catching the bus back to the visitor centre car park.

Remember this song anyone?

John Brown's body lies a-mold'ring in the grave x 3
His soul goes marching on

Glory, Glory! Hallelujah! x 3
His soul is marching on

He captured Harper's Ferry with his nineteen men so true
He frightened old Virginia till she trembled through and through
They hung him for a traitor, themselves the traitor crew
His soul is marching on

New River Gorge National River (6th to 8th October 2010)

On our way inland from North Carolina's Outer Banks we stop off for 3 nights at the New River Gorge. Our journey takes us on to the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a beautiful road that stretches for around 450 miles from the base of Shenandoah NP to the great Smoky Mountains NP in Tennessee. We drive around 120 miles of it, looking over the huge swathes of forested hillside, covered in the early colours of autumn. White tailed deer jump out of the way of the car as we pass.


Army Camp

It's getting a little late by the time we cross in to West Virginia. The trees here are beautiful and showing a patchwork of greens, yellows and oranges. We get to the New River Gorge National River and find the Sandstone Visitor Centre, which is now closed. Now we have to find the Army Camp from memory. After about half an hour of driving towards a town called Prince, we see a tiny road along the river called Army Camp Rd. Driving along past these tiny ramshackle houses, Rich says it feels a bit like Deliverance. We decide to have a look and turn round if it's not very nice. After the houses we get on a gravel road in to the middle of nowhere, until we come to the campsite. It's neat and tidy, with trees and right on the banks of the New River. There is one other couple here in a little RV. So we have a choice of 14 pitches! It's really warm here in the day with deep blue skies. As soon as the sun sets it gets very chilly and the dew is really heavy. My down jacket has to come out again. The stars are amazing though and we're getting accustomed to being able to see the Milky Way everywhere we camp. It's strange to sleep without the sound of any civilisation - not even a car engine going past.

New River Gorge - Canyon Rim Visitor Centre

On our second day we drive about 30 miles north to the Canyon Rim Visitor Centre at Lansing. There are quite a few people here milling around. The new River Gorge bridge is here, which is the longest single span steel bridge in the world and the 2nd highest bridge in the USA at over 850 feet. People base jump off it.Rich spots a small tortoise in the grass and takes a few photos. He has red patches on his shell. We're not sure if they are endangered.

There are stairs down the side of the gorge where you can look back at the bridge. It's right in the sun and so hot; I can't believe it's October. The gorge is covered in trees, many of which are changing colour. We have a quick chat with an old guy from West Virginia and his younger friend. They're keen to tell us that West Virginia is greener than Colorado and way prettier. It's great that people are so fond of their home states!