I had a phone call from Ranger Stan McGee, advising me that the kids from Harpers Ferry Middle School were going to be in the Park for a hike up to Loudoun Heights. The Middle School mascot is the Tiger….so, I would be walking with the Tigers! So, I was up, had my Wheaties (well, some Special K…will that do?), a cup of coffee, and I was out to meet the bus!
About 20 Tigers arrived at 8:30am, along with Mr. Sturgiss, their retired principal. Apparently, he comes back for the fun stuff! There were a couple additional teachers, plus our own Ranger Stan. We headed out toward Virginius Island, and then crossed the tracks and walked the Appalachian Trail for a while, paralleling US Route 340, then crossing under the highway (what a cool idea! Stairs!) and then began the climb to Loudoun Heights.
To make a long story short (what do you mean, it’s too late?), I never quite got to the top. I was walking “sweep” with Mrs. White, and one or two students that weren’t quite ready to run up the mountain. We eventually met the leaders on their way back down, before we had reached the summit. Rather than make them wait on us to go on up and then back, we graciously decided to accompany the leaders back to the Park. (This is MY story)
It was a great morning, cool but beautiful! Ranger Stan said that this event was just the latest in a series of hikes. They have been a joint venture among the Middle School, the Park and Shepherd University. The goal is to provide exercise for the kids, since West Virginia has been identified as having a large percentage of overweight children.
After a restful lunch (with my feet up – smile), I headed out into Harpers Ferry for some additional local photography. I found Ranger Creighton doing an excellent job on the daily historical presentation. He was explaining that, while visitors were, indeed, looking at the original John Brown’s Fort, it was not sitting in its original location.
As my personal photo tour continued, I found the Harper Mansion, the home built by and for Robert Harper, for whom the town is named. Harper worked on the house several years, but died without ever having lived in it. It became known as the Mansion, and was built on the hill above the Lower Town.
The following day, I headed out early, and stopped for an Internet fix at the Boliver-Harpers Ferry Public Library! Hello to Lisa, Tess & Gretchen. Gretchen Fry is the Director, and we talked about what I was doing at the Park. She commented that it would be nice to have a photography program at the Library. Well, I agreed, and before I left, we decided to do a version of my “A B Cs of Improving Your Photography” at the Library on Wednesday, April 8, at 5:30 pm! Be there!
While I was on that end of town, I took the cameras out to Boliver Heights. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, there was a major battle over Harpers Ferry during the Civil War, in addition to several smaller ones. The Union troops initially held their Boliver Heights position, but were overrun when their Maryland Heights position was taken by Confederate troops.
I’ll be doing a pair of photo walks on Saturday, for interested Park visitors. It is the same theme as the one I’ll be doing next week for the Library, but will be taking the visitors through the Lower Town, out to the Point, and across the bridge to the C & O Canal Towpath. To prepare for these walks, I did some dry runs through those areas, and also worked on what I would share.
Once that was done, I was ready to get out with my cameras again! I had been told about sightings of a red-shouldered hawk. So, once again I shouldered my Sigma 150-500 lens, and headed out. I talked with Susan, my wife, later that evening. I told her I had seen several flocks of small birds in the trees, a robin, a pair of Canada Geese, a blue heron, six turtles, and a squirrel…but no hawks. You may view some new photos at www.WVFinePhotography.com .
Have I mentioned that I’ve been doing a LOT of walking? Yes, a LOT of walking! If I keep this up, some of those clothes in the closet may fit again! I was walking back from my hawk-hunting excursion, and heard the train whistle. It was growing dark, and I turned to see the great bright-eyed steel beast coming toward me! I pulled out my trusty Nikon and was able to get off a couple shots as it churned past me on its way to the Harpers Ferry tunnel.
No hawk, but I did catch a train!
Ron Gaskins, Artist in Residence
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
(written on April 3)