Let us begin our discussion on Civil War history and how Harpers Ferry, WV fits into the fabric of a complex war strategy……lol! Nope! Wrong channel if you’re looking for that!
We would say, however, that it is readily apparent to anyone that visits Harpers Ferry that the region is steeped in the blood of former patriots. Not just the fact that they have one of the largest national historic sites dedicated to the Civil War, but also by the fact that they’ve left the architecture and ruins of those days long past for everyone to see. In truth, you can spend zero dollars and get a really nice sense of what life was like back then just by driving through.
A little background and word from the ‘wise’ first……don’t plan to visit on a holiday weekend and expect to have anywhere to yourself! Yeah, we know, rookie mistake to go on Labor Day weekend. We really thought we won the virtual ‘lottery’ when we got the last site in the KOA at Harpers Ferry. Score! Right? Nope…..lol. While it was nice to get the chance to stay near such a great spot, the effect is that you do a little less camping and a lot more exploring. That may or may not be a good thing, depending on your point of view. However, it does make for a much less fun time when you return from a long day of adventures to find someone sitting in your site while someone on the other side is installing their sewer line next to your dining table (aka picnic table)! LOL! We made the best of it (and we ate inside!) for the three days of chaos which was our campsite area.
It didn’t start and end that way, however. We arrived on a Thursday, had the park nearly to ourselves. In true fashion, when we hitched RAINMAKER to JARVIS, the rain began….like a lot. Tornados and torrential downpours all around the area while we drove to the campground! Once we arrived, our site was, seemingly, the destination for all that water….lol! No joke, there was 9 inches of water right where our door opened up on the site. The KOA staff first said, “Don’t worry, it will drain fast. We will bring you some hay for now, though.” Uhhhh….no, sorry folks. Once they saw the state of the site, they brought three tractor loads of new gravel, which then made the site the nicest one on the ‘skid row’ of sites we got the last of. We quickly got to setting up our little (like 7foot wide) slice of heaven.
Everyone is on a virtual connection these days, of course. We reconstructed our bunkhouse a little to facilitate a desk area for both boys to attend school as well as practice music (piano, violin, guitar). The entire setup is pretty handy, really, but relies upon a good connection to the internet. Thursday and Friday we had excellent wifi from KOA, as we were parked 50yds from the office. Once the masses of RVs arrived on Friday afternoon, however, that became null and void! We’re not really newbies to RVing, but this was our first experience at the night and day effect of population on a wifi system. No matter, we’ve got a full suite of Verizon products to provide internet, right? Well, that didn’t work so well either, as it appears EVERYONE is on Verizon, so they get overwhelmed as well! Guess we really did find better connections than wifi on this trip, right!? LOL! It was good to disconnect and do some adventures together, though.
We set out for our first adventure on Saturday as we made our way to Harpers Ferry Adventure Center. There are a few options when it comes to taking a river adventure. We cannot speak to the experience at the other locations, but we cannot imagine choosing a different place. They’re the only company that doesn’t make you carry the raft or tube back up a huge hill to the pickup spot, since they own a spot to be picked up. Also, the guides are pretty awesome. Riley, our guide for the day, could not have been a more perfectly matched guide for us. She is a college student that is from the area. She came home for the weekend and was not planning to work at all, but decided last minute to take a tour on the river. She took one look at us…..imagine seeing a family of four, strapped with GoPro cameras and two young boys full of energy….and decided to guide us. Her compatriot, Liz, was left with a family of four that, how do we say this nicely, just didn’t have that ‘energy’ about them. Liz was bursting with energy, so it wasn’t an ideal matchup. We did our best to spread some love their way, though! Riley took the first 30mins of our journey along the flat, calm, slow water section, to get a sense of our adventure desires. She asked us if we were looking for a relaxing day or a great adventure. Finn looked at her and yelled, YOLO!!! We saw that she had her answer! LOL! We hit all the hard stuff when we could, surfed in the Class 3 rapids, nearly ejected a couple times and we scared the life out of Brennan a few times! All in all, though, it was an amazing bucket list checkoff. Highly recommend pinning Harpers Ferry Adventure Center to your map. The location is such a great spot with the Harpers Ferry Brewing Company right next door!
Harpers Ferry Brewing Company is a sweet location as well. They have a hilltop location overlooking the Shenandoah River valley. Five bars, food trucks and wide open seating spaces make for a top notch experience. We recommend the taco truck, as Riley told us. Get one of everything, have a seat on the overlook patio, enjoy the sights and sounds. You won’t be disappointed. Until you go back to the KOA, as we did, and find the neighbor sitting in your site and no place to park while 25 kindergartners are swarming you as you pull in to the campground in JARVIS! #serenitynow
Sunday we engaged in another of our family favorites, an escape room. We headed over to Frederick, MD for a medieval-themed escape room at Clue IQ. The boys enjoyed saving Guinevere, but were mostly concerned with getting Excalibur! The puzzles were intuitive and the guide was great. If you’re into escaping a room in 60 minutes or less, pin this one to your map!
We hit a couple other sites in Frederick, including Monacacy Brewing. They have great brews, but more importantly, they are collocated with a brewing supply store! Some of you might already know, but Mike brews beer. Throughout this pandemic, the ability to source large quantity of base grain, pale 2 row malt, has led to a shortage in our area. It can be shipped to you, but at the price tag of two bags of grain! We were able to stock up on some grain while we sipped on our beers served in a glass style we’ve not seen before. They’re probably commonplace elsewhere, but we loved them so much we grabbed one to take home.
We returned for one more night of ‘cozy’ camping with our fellow KOA campers. On Monday, we enjoyed the show as 500 camping units departed the campground in a large whoosh of wind! It was great to enjoy the amenities of the campground like mini golf and swimming without the crowd. We liked the area so much and felt we missed the chance to see more of it due to the holiday crowds, so we extended our stay and moved to a new site. With all the emptiness of the campground, we were looking forward to a neighbor-free experience at one of the premium patio sites. We checked out and in with the front desk, they assigned us a site and we were off on our 75yd moving mission. Where do you think they put us? Right next to the ONLY camper in the patio sites! LOL! The neighbors were nice, though, and laughed with us at the front desk’s choice. We spent the next 3 days in a much more comfortable situation. The wifi was better, of course, so the kids’ school and our work was much smoother. We relaxed, schooled, worked, biked and explored the rest of the area, picking out spots to come back and see. Come back to see, you ask? Why not see them now, you ask? Because, apparently, after Labor Day, Harpers Ferry closes and shutters their facilities until Fridays. Yep, that’s right, if you want to do anything in the area, it probably isn’t open until the weekend. That’s why we’ll be back! LOL!
We pulled chocks, scooted back home to Stafford, VA….in the rain, of course! LOL! We’ve decided to do a little remodeling of RAINMAKER to liven up the inside. Only fitting since it makes the outside dreary so often, we spend a lot of time in there! More to come, but it is amazing how much you can change an RV space with a little elbow grease and teamwork!
You MUST see the video of this trip -- check it out HERE!