One more of the few remaining states is “in the bag”. My friend Nyasha and I took a road trip from Alexandria, Virginia to the Harper’s Ferry region. We left on Friday afternoon. It is only a 1.5 hour drive with some traffic. After a quick stop at the Visitor’s Information Center, and then another quick stop to see the Appalachian Trail Headquarters before it closed, we headed toward the oldest town in West Virginia–Shepherdstown.
Shepherdstown has witnessed some traumatic history. After the Battle at Antietam every building save the church was turned into ta hospital to treat wounded soldiers. Over 23,000 people lost their lives in that battle. It is hard to fathom. Without modern medicine and painkillers it is hard to imagine the scene of horror. And this was just the beginning.
At the Trinity Episcopal church the history marker said that it was not uncommon to have the church full of Union soldiers one Sunday and Confederate soldiers the next. The town (and nearby Harper’s Ferry) changed hands often.
Imagine being a mother trying to feed and clothe your family and keep your children safe while the war raged in your front and back yard. Soldiers confiscating your chickens. Gun battles surrounding you.
Today Shepherdstown is the home of Shepherd University and thrives on tourism. Gay pride flags were hanging on many businesses in town. We popped into the Four Seasons Books and bought a few of the staff recommendations. I picked up a book of three essays by Elizabeth Catte, What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia. You can call it a response to Hillbilly Elegy: “His use of the word ‘we’ transforms the personal reality of his difficult childhood into a universal experience.” She acknowledges that the mythology of Appalachia is powerful and pervasive and provides lots of concrete information (dare I say facts) to explain how much more complex reality is.
The staff person also recommended we try The Blue Moon Cafe. If I return to Shepherdstown I’ll try somewhere else.
We drove on to the Hampton Inn in Charles Town to spend the night. These three towns–Shepherdstown, Charles Town and Harper’s Ferry are all about 10-15 minutes apart. All surrounded by lush green forests and never far from either the Shenandoah or Potomac rivers. It is also cooler so this area is a destination for the motorcyclists and families looking for a break from the heat and humidity of the lowlands.