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Montego
03-14-2008, 21:25
I'll be SOBO from Harpers Ferry starting May 7th, however, the Amtrak from Washington Union Station won't arrive into Harpers Ferry until after 5:00 pm. Seems that I have three choices (camping):

1) SOBO from HF to the David Lesser Memorial Shelter (9.45 miles) which puts me into there well after dark (water 0.2 miles downhill from shelter + tenting sites).

2) NOBO from HF to the Ed Garvey Shelter (6.5 miles) which puts be into there just before dark (water 0.4 miles steep downhill from shelter + 2 tenting sites).

3) NOBO from HF to Weverton Primitive Camp (3.4 miles) which puts me into there well before dark (no water). Bring water from HF?

All information is taken from the Appalachian Pages Book, Southbound Edition.

What I need to know is what ideas you guys and gals have about where you might spend your first night on the AT among the three choices above and whether a small cooking fire might be permitted (since I can't bring any fuel on either Greyhound or Amtrak and everything will be closed when I arrive). Also, if #3 is the best choice among the three listed above, where would I be able to get water in HF for the night? Any permits required to camp? Any other ideas? Don't want to spend the money for a hostel or hotel on the first night!

emerald
03-14-2008, 21:37
You could click on the link I've provided and PM ATC's Information Services Manager, Lauriep (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/member.php?u=1687), and ask her. She knows Harpers Ferry, it's her job and she's good at it.

KG4FAM
03-14-2008, 21:39
You could probably find a place to camp right outside of town in the woods somewhere.

Crazy Larry #1
03-14-2008, 21:58
Listen you can camp out along the C&O canal trail with pleanty of water from the Potomac River! I did back in '01 all the time after I went to work at Ridgecrest Farm And Apple Orchard.

Montego
03-15-2008, 00:06
Listen you can camp out along the C&O canal trail with pleanty of water from the Potomac River! I did back in '01 all the time after I went to work at Ridgecrest Farm And Apple Orchard.

This is an option I hadn't thought of and may be the one I go with. Thanks.

Critterman
03-15-2008, 07:39
This is an option I hadn't thought of and may be the one I go with. Thanks.

Every 5 miles there is a campsite along the canal with tent sites, water ( other than the river). There is one at about mile 62.5 which is about 2 miles north of Harpers Ferry near locks 35,36 according to a book I have. It also shows one about 2.5 miles south of HF but says it is closed.

Mrs Baggins
03-15-2008, 08:01
I wouldn't go for the Garvey shelter or Weverton Cliffs. It's not that it's far - but there is a wicked set of steep uphill switchbacks after you cross the road from the canal. Unless you're a pretty strong hiker it's going to take a lot longer to get up that than the same distance on flat ground. The same if you head for the Lesser shelter - - wicked uphill switchbacks after you cross the river. There is a hotel (the Hilltop Inn or something like that) right there in town that a lot of hikers use.

Just for the sake of correct info - - we've stayed at the Garvey shelter and there are a lot more than 2 tent sites. We set up 3 tents, there was another much larger tent near us with room for at least 2 more tents, and other people tenting on the other side of the shelter. It's that trail down to the spring that's the killer - very steep so the trip back up is tough.

Peaks
03-15-2008, 08:04
There are a number of options, as you have discovered. There is also a hostle just off the canal in Maryland, and the Hilltop House in HF.

I'd suggest that you know your options, and make your decision when you get off the train. It might be raining, so you might want to find the closest dry place to sleep, or you could be full of energy and want to go to Ed Garvey.

mrc237
03-15-2008, 08:15
Plenty of camping on the C/O. Get fuel at the outfitter in Harpers ferry, although you should be able to carry fuel on Amtrak or the Dog. My option would be to spend the night at the Hilltop right above the station.

Yahtzee
03-15-2008, 09:38
I cringe when I hear someone told to walk in the opposite direction of their hike. In all my hiking days I have only hiked backward once, on purpose. I know it would only be a short bit back to the C & O, but he's SOBO.

I say get a room at the motel. Relax. Eat a good dinner. Enjoy the continental breakfast then push out. Or just load up on water in HF, hike southbound for a few miles and drop at the first tentable site. If you get out of HF around 6pm, you should have time to get back into the woods between the bridge and Keys Gap. I can remember one spot where we broke, guessing it was the VA/WV state line, that was suitable for a tent.

rafe
03-15-2008, 09:56
Spend your night at HF at the Hilltop Hotel. Great views, decent buffet meals, inexpensive.

Jaybird62
03-15-2008, 10:48
I cringe when I hear someone told to walk in the opposite direction of their hike. In all my hiking days I have only hiked backward once, on purpose. I know it would only be a short bit back to the C & O, but he's SOBO.

I say get a room at the motel. Relax. Eat a good dinner. Enjoy the continental breakfast then push out. Or just load up on water in HF, hike southbound for a few miles and drop at the first tentable site. If you get out of HF around 6pm, you should have time to get back into the woods between the bridge and Keys Gap. I can remember one spot where we broke, guessing it was the VA/WV state line, that was suitable for a tent.
I camped out there thurs night. There was a real nice tenting spot just below the ridge before you get to the intersection with the Loudoun Heights trail. There was also an orange blazed trail right by the camping spot that is not on the map that I have. You will have to carry water with you. It is a little bit of a climb, but at least you will be heading the right way. Have a great time!!!:D

dessertrat
03-15-2008, 11:36
If money is not a big deal, there's the hotel already mentioned and a Comfort Inn in Harper's Ferry.

Where is the Amtrak station in Harper's Ferry? If you go over to the C&O canal towpath, as stated, you could stealth in the woods almost immediately.

Sly
03-15-2008, 11:54
IIRC you do the climb southbound out of town the ridge levels off and you could find a flat spot. Maybe a mile or two.

aaroniguana
03-15-2008, 12:02
Quality Inn was always my choice, nice greasy breakfast the next morning.

emerald
03-15-2008, 12:07
Spend your night at HF at the Hilltop Hotel. Great views, decent buffet meals, inexpensive.

My preference would be precisely what _terrapin_ suggests. I would add it might be the most convenient option too.

Enjoy Hilltop's breakfast buffet, their view of The Potomac and visit ATC before beginning your hike.

ScottP
03-15-2008, 12:10
When I was in HF last year...
1. The locals told me that the Amtrack train can be VERY late (4-5 hours) Take the MARC commuter train from Washington instead.

2. There was a hostel in construction, right near the outfitter's. You might want to call the outfitter to ask about it.

3. If you hike NOBO you can camp within a mile of HF. There's plenty of flat spots right along the canal.

dessertrat
03-15-2008, 12:21
Why not take the MARC commuter train out to HF in the morning? It runs both ways, doesn't it? (I don't know what connections you are using, but could you change your plans to get to HF in the morning and immediately head south?)

Sly
03-15-2008, 12:23
Why not take the MARC commuter train out to HF in the morning? It runs both ways, doesn't it? (I don't know what connections you are using, but could you change your plans to get to HF in the morning and immediately head south?)

It's a commuter train that goes into the city in the morning and back out at night.

http://www.nps.gov/hfc/contact/directions-train.htm

Montego
03-16-2008, 00:28
Thanks everyone for your responses. Spent most of the day checking out transportation/destination options. So far it seems that the only way to get to HF from OKC is Greyhound or Amtrak to Washington Union Station, then Amtrak or MARC to HF. Though I did want to see HF and visit the ATC, it's not a necessity.

I'm starting to rethink things over and am now looking at the idea of getting on the AT at Front Royal via Greyhound from OKC (Same number of transfers, but shorter bus time), plus Front Royal seems to have more hiker amenities versus HF which seems to be more of a tourist area. So, who is familiar with the Front Royal area and would it be more 'hiker friendly' than HF?

If I do end up going to HF, going NOBO to camp one night on the C&O Canal Towpath would not be a problem (uh, probably just my attitude in general about hiking :D).

The Hilltop sounds nice but I didn't want to spend my first night on the AT in a hotel or hostel. Heck, I can do that in any city.

Thanks for the link to the MARC. I checked their web site earlier today but couldn't find what I was looking for (viable route).

rafe
03-16-2008, 07:36
Front Royal works. I stayed at the Quality Inn; they gave me a shuttle back to the trail in the morning. Everything you need is within walking distance. The Hilltop in HF isn't much like a motel or a hostel... somewhat dingy rooms, but a million-dollar view. Obviously some "grand hotel" from yesteryear.

I wouldn't camp on the towpath. Too busy, no way to "stealth," at least not anywhere near the town. It's a very popular venue for day hikers, joggers, strollers, bicyclists, etc. You're better off heading south if you want to spend the night in the woods.

Rainbow_Brite
03-16-2008, 08:33
Because some people camp out right before they cross the bridge into Harper's Ferry (going NOBO) to do the four-state challenge, there are definitely a few very small tentsites just past Harper's Ferry (SOBO). I also know that I stopped for lunch last year about a mile before Keyes Gap, and while it wasn't perfect for tenting, I definitely could have made tenting work in the area. I would say, if you decide to still go to Harper's Ferry to start, just plan on camping in the woods before Keyes Gap that night.

JustLee
03-16-2008, 21:00
From the Hilltop Hotel website
Recently purchased by SWaN Investors, the Hilltop House Hotel is currently closed to the public in order to undergo restoration to its public spaces and 75 guest rooms.
The restored Hilltop House Hotel is projected to re-open as a First-Class Destination Hotel and Spa in 2011. Until then we invite you to consider the following local establishments.

rafe
03-16-2008, 21:49
The restored Hilltop House Hotel is projected to re-open as a First-Class Destination Hotel and Spa in 2011. Until then we invite you to consider the following local establishments.

That's almost certainly bad news for thru-hikers wanting to stay there. It sounds like the new/improved version will be priced way beyond typical thru-hiker rates. (IIRC, it was about $45 last summer.)

Skyline
03-16-2008, 22:15
I don't believe Greyhound serves Front Royal. In fact, we lost all Greyhound service in the Shenandoah Valley from Waynesboro to Winchester in 2005.

The campsite along the C&O just before the climb up to Weverton Cliffs has been closed for a few years. It needed to be; it was a dump and the Potomac River water highly suspect.

You might consider a shuttle from HF to FR. If a shuttle provider in HF isn't able to do it, check out: www.mvshuttle.com (http://www.mvshuttle.com).

Montego
03-17-2008, 01:09
I don't believe Greyhound serves Front Royal. In fact, we lost all Greyhound service in the Shenandoah Valley from Waynesboro to Winchester in 2005.

The campsite along the C&O just before the climb up to Weverton Cliffs has been closed for a few years. It needed to be; it was a dump and the Potomac River water highly suspect.

You might consider a shuttle from HF to FR. If a shuttle provider in HF isn't able to do it, check out: www.mvshuttle.com. (http://www.mvshuttle.com.)

Thanks for the link Skyline and your right, Greyhound and Jefferson Bus lines no longer service Front Royal - using old info - my bad :cool:. Still researching since I have about three weeks before I acually have to purchase my travel tickets.

So far, it seems that it will be Greyhound to Washington Union, then Amtrak or MARC to HF (will figure that out when I get to Wash).

Montego
03-17-2008, 01:18
Plenty of camping on the C/O. Get fuel at the outfitter in Harpers ferry, although you should be able to carry fuel on Amtrak or the Dog. My option would be to spend the night at the Hilltop right above the station.

Thanks for your response to my questions. Just for current informtion, combustable liquids (fuel) is now prohibited on both Greyhound Bus Lines as well as the Amtrak Train in both carry-on and checked baggage.

rafe
03-17-2008, 07:25
Thanks for your response to my questions. Just for current informtion, combustable liquids (fuel) is now prohibited on both Greyhound Bus Lines as well as the Amtrak Train in both carry-on and checked baggage.

I took Amtrak on the way to the trail last summer, from Boston to NY City. Nobody looked at my pack, or asked about its contents. Ditto for the bus ride from Port Authority to Allentown, PA.

dessertrat
03-17-2008, 09:10
From the Hilltop Hotel website
Recently purchased by SWaN Investors, the Hilltop House Hotel is currently closed to the public in order to undergo restoration to its public spaces and 75 guest rooms.
The restored Hilltop House Hotel is projected to re-open as a First-Class Destination Hotel and Spa in 2011. Until then we invite you to consider the following local establishments.

Expect it to reopen at $150 per night plus? The Comfort Inn (I think?) is just down the hill at $80-something, still not a great deal, but you get cable tv and a continental breakfast.

dessertrat
03-17-2008, 09:10
I took Amtrak on the way to the trail last summer, from Boston to NY City. Nobody looked at my pack, or asked about its contents. Ditto for the bus ride from Port Authority to Allentown, PA.

Never mind the fact that they have that rule for a reason?

aaroniguana
03-17-2008, 09:21
AMTRAK has stepped up security to comply with DHS regs. Or so they say. Is it worth the loss of $1 of fuel and an hour while they tear your stuff apart and question every safety pin?

Skyline
03-17-2008, 10:15
I took Amtrak on the way to the trail last summer, from Boston to NY City. Nobody looked at my pack, or asked about its contents. Ditto for the bus ride from Port Authority to Allentown, PA.


Amtrak beefed up its security on 2/19/08. I posted the press release at that time, but the thread turned confrontational surrounding government policies, and the moderators moved it to Politics. You have to jump through hoops to get to it now, so rather than post a link to the thread, I'll re-post the press release below.

BTW, we were at DC's Union Station just yesterday (3/16/08), and there were more security agents. They were randomly searching baggage in both the waiting area and the baggage claim area. Not that many, but some.

The press release that started the 2/19/08 thread...




New Amtrak Security
Many hikers travel via Amtrak to Atlanta or Gainesville enroute to Springer, and a smaller number use Amtrak in Portland ME or other points along the way to get to or from the Trail. Today, Amtrak announced some new security measures that will be phased in starting this week. This will involve unnannounced random stops and possible searches, especially if the technology used thinks it detects explosives.



Here's the complete story:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Amtrak will start randomly screening passengers' carry-on bags this week in a new security push that includes officers with automatic weapons and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolling platforms and trains.

The initiative, to be announced by the railroad on Tuesday, is a significant shift for Amtrak. Unlike the airlines, it has had relatively little visible increase in security since the 2001 terrorist attacks, a distinction that has enabled it to attract passengers eager to avoid airport hassles.

Amtrak officials insist their new procedures won't hold up the flow of passengers.
"On-time performance is a key element of Amtrak service. We are fully mindful of that. This is not about train delays," Bill Rooney, the railroad's vice president for security strategy and special operations, told The Associated Press.

Nor will the moves require passengers to arrive at stations far in advance, officials said. Passengers who are selected randomly for the screening will be delayed no more than a couple of minutes, Amtrak chief executive Alex Kummant said.

"We're very conscious of the fact that you're in an environment where commuters have minutes to go from train to train," he said.

Concern about Amtrak security has been mounting since the 2004 bombings of commuter trains in Madrid that killed 191 people. Trains also have been bombed in London, where 52 people were killed in a series of blasts in 2005, most of them on subway trains, and in Mumbai, India, where 200 people were killed in 2006 on commuter trains. Russia also has had several bombings on subway, commuter and long-distance trains.

The new procedures draw heavily on measures being used in the New York City subways, Rooney said. That model has been upheld in court challenges, he noted.
Amtrak plans to roll out the new "mobile security teams" first on the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston, the railroad's most heavily used route, before expanding them to the rest of the country.

The teams will show up unannounced at stations and set up baggage screening areas in front of boarding gates. Officers will randomly pull people out of line and wipe their bags with a special swab that is then put through a machine that detects explosives. If the machine detects anything, officers will open the bag for visual inspection.
Anybody who is selected for screening and refuses will not be allowed to board and their ticket will be refunded.

In addition to the screening, counterterrorism officers with bomb- sniffing dogs will patrol platforms and walk through trains, and sometimes will ride the trains, officials said.
Tim Connors, director of the Center for Policing Terrorism at the Manhattan Institute, said rail systems require a completely different approach to security from the one used in aviation.

"Rail moves a lot more people than air does," he said. "It's designed to be an open system that can move a lot of people fast."

One of Congress' biggest advocates for passenger rail, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the security initiative makes sense as long as it doesn't cause delays.

"Given that terrorists have chosen passenger rail as one of their targets of choice, provided this doesn't slow things down or require additional longer lines and waits, this plan is certainly worth trying," he said in a statement.

Connors said random screening could be effective.

"A random approach is actually more effective than a constant one," he said, adding that when procedures don't change, it's easier for would- be terrorists to find weak spots.
Amtrak hopes the new force can serve as a powerful deterrent to would- be terrorists.
"What we are trying to do is make sure the bad guys know we're out there but don't know where we'll be, or when," Rooney said.

Amtrak did not provide figures for the program's cost, but said its total security budget—including police, security strategy and emergency preparedness—is about $60 million. The railroad has about 400 security personnel, including about 300 sworn police officers, Kummant said.

Amtrak's previous passenger screening consisted of sporadic identification checks by train conductors, which the railroad says it plans to continue. Passengers also are required to show ID when buying tickets from station agents, though there is no such requirement from passengers buying tickets from self-serve kiosks.

The Transportation Security Administration is also expected to continue sporadic deployments to stations around the country.

Amtrak has received a number of federal grants aimed at boosting security, but officials said there was no specific mandate to implement the changes.

"There is no new or different specific threat," Kummant said. "This is just the correct step to take."

Montego
03-17-2008, 17:25
I took Amtrak on the way to the trail last summer, from Boston to NY City. Nobody looked at my pack, or asked about its contents. Ditto for the bus ride from Port Authority to Allentown, PA.

I don't know about the Eastern Corridor, but both Amtrak and Greyhound substantially increased their security measures here after the Oklahoma City bombing of the federal building by McVay & Nichols. Carrying prohibited items just wouldn't be worth the hassle at the stations here. Even an item like "Purell" alcohol hand cleaner is no longer allowed in either carry-on or checked baggage and will have to be mailed along with my lock-back knive, cutical scissors, toenail clippers (attached toenail file), tweezers, P-38, and needle (as per phone conversation with the local Greyhound Customer Rep this morning). A bit ecessive IMO, but welcome to the the 21st Century Homeland Security paranoia.

emerald
03-17-2008, 17:40
A good hike isn't an accident. Maybe the MSR stoves that burn anything aren't all bad after all, nor are wood-burning stoves either? As ethanol becomes more widely available, transporting fuel might not be as much as an important issue as it now seems.

It always pays to seek the advice of local hiking enthusiasts and get current information. So the question now may be, can you purchase fuel in Harpers Ferry?

jamarshall
03-17-2008, 19:06
http://www.brunswickmd.gov/Campground.htm

This is another option not too far from Harpers Ferry. We stayed there before heading south on the AT. There's a train station nearby.

Peaks
03-18-2008, 18:49
When I was in HF last year...
1. The locals told me that the Amtrack train can be VERY late (4-5 hours) Take the MARC commuter train from Washington instead.

.

Maybe late going east, since it starts in Chicago. But, no excuse for being late coming out of DC going west.

Mrs Baggins
03-18-2008, 19:22
We took the DC metro from Rockville station to DC Union Station and then Amtrak from DC to Gainesville GA last March 2007. NO ONE looked twice at our packs at any point along the way. NO ONE. We didn't see anyone else's bags checked either. We had fuel and knives and we kept our packs in the overhead bins right by us, not checked away under the cars. All the same, it was the train ride from Hell. We seemed to be the only people who desperately wanted to sleep (overnight ride). Everyone else was on their cell phones ALL FREAKING NIGHT, phones ringing none stop, a group of geezers with a portable DVD player watching every season of "I Dream of Jeanie" ever made and laughing uproariously (it was NEVER that funny), loud conversations, snorers. I'd rather walk than ever set foot on Amtrak again - ever.

weary
03-18-2008, 20:24
The hostel in Maryland is within easy walking distance of ATC headquarters. Or just take a taxi or bus there. In 1993 I spent three nights at the KOA campground a couple of miles in the opposite direction, while I waited for my grandson's other grand father to bring him to meet me for the hike north.

A plus was a very pleasant bar and tap room half way between ATC headquarters and the campground. I had suggested to a woman I had been sharing shelters with for two months that we split the cost of a hotel room. But you know these women.

Weary

rafe
03-18-2008, 20:30
It always pays to seek the advice of local hiking enthusiasts and get current information. So the question now may be, can you purchase fuel in Harpers Ferry?

Yes, absolutely. There's a great outfitter there.