Julie and I have been wanting to spend more time at our National Parks, National Park Historic sites and just historical places in general. Back in the spring she had proposed a trip that would take us to Harpers Ferry, WV where we would visit Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, the C&O Canal Trail National Historical Park and the Antietam National Battlefield. We hiked the Maryland Heights trail which provided stunning views of Harpers Ferry. Several days later we found ourselves at Shenandoah National Park along the 105 mile “Skyline Drive” slowly making our way towards Charlottesville, VA. In Charlottesville we would sip wine at Blenheim Vineyards which is owned by Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews band. Drank in the history at Thomas Jefferson’s “Mon-ti-chel-oh” along with James Madison’s “Montpelier” and had dinner with family in Culpeper.
I had no idea what to expect but I was excited for just the two of us to get away together and travel. We arrived at Harpers Ferry Historical Park Monday mid day. It was hot and humid and I was sweating standing still. We hopped on the shuttle bus and off we went. My first impression of Harpers Ferry was “Are we at Disney”? It truly looked as if it was built for their theme park. It’s like we were transported into the 1800’s. I think the newest house in Harpers Ferry is around mid 1800’s? According to 2016 voter registration there are 291 residents. Services are limited with only a few places to eat and yes they literally roll up the sidewalks at 7PM. Tucked into the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. Harpers Ferry is steeped in railroad history as well.
Charlottesville was a different story. It was a much bigger city. However once we were in the Virginia country side miles and miles of horse farms and fences lined our path as the hustle and bustle slowly disappeared in the rear view mirror. I personally loved touring Monticello and Montpelier. I cannot decided even as I pen this which I liked more.
One thing I will say is I am blown away that Thomas Jefferson wrote 20,000 letters in his lifetime all in duplicate. Yes you read that correctly duplicate. Jefferson used a Polygraph in order to accomplish this. I believe either the Library of Congress or the Jefferson Foundation have all 20,000 letters. So fascinating!
Moving onto James Madison I cannot get over how incredibly well read he was and intelligent. Madison was extremely meticulous as well. But the one thing that stands out for me is the eventual relationship between him and Paul Jennings. Jennings was a personal servant, as a young slave, to President James Madison during and after his White House years. The story continues in a book I just ordered called “A Slave in the White House”.
As a side note we both found Antietam haunting. In the bloodiest one day battle of the Civil War every second an American died, 23,000 in total. It was gut wrenching as we toured the Battlefield. I cannot even begin to imagine the conditions these soldiers faced.
All in all this was a super fun adventure and cannot wait until we hit the road together again, cheers!
Harpers Ferry, WV
View of Harpers Ferry, WV from the Maryland Heights trail overlook.
Julie & I at the Maryland Heights trail overlook.
Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, MD.
New York Regiment monument Antietam National Battlefield Sharpsburg, MD. New York’s losses on this field were 65 officers and 624 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded; 110 officers and 2687 enlisted men wounded and 2 officers and 277 men captured or missing, making a total of 3765.
James Madison’s home “Montpelier” Montpelier Station, VA.
Thomas Jefferson’s home “Monticello” Charlottesville, VA.
Brown Mountain overlook, elevation 2,840 feet Skyline Drive Shenandoah National Park.
Big Meadows Skyline Drive Shenandoah National Park. This was the halfway point where we would stop for lunch and some souvenirs.
105 miles later we would find ourselves at the end of the road so to speak.