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Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia – A Small Sampler

June 2011

Since I have not explored the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia on the motorcycle, I thought it was about time.  I have traveled through this area a few times in the car, but never had the time to stop and look the back roads I enjoy so much.  Since I only had 2 days, I wanted to see what is probably the most historical town, Harpers Ferry, as well as exploring some out of the way, hidden places.

My trip started early on Tuesday morning, but even at 7:00, the temperature was approaching 80 and climbing quickly.  It didn’t take long for both the temperature and humidity to climb into the 90s.

 

 

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Rt 50 eastbound near Cool Springs in Preston County.  Nice section of curvy road!

 

 

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I met up with a friend, Pat, at the Lazy-A Campground just west of Martinsburg.  This family-owned campground has about a dozen tent sites and about 8 RV sites with water & electricity.  The barn is used for parties and receptions.  Very nice people! 

http://www.lazyacamping.com/ 

 

 

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The tent sites are located in a cluster of trees next to a small river. 

Very peaceful, but, unfortunately, very hot today as the temperatures soared into the high 90s.  The shade helped some.

 

 

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The campsite also offers nice shower facilities. 

 

 

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It was tempting to cool off in the river, but the insurance regulations prohibit it. 

 

 

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Pat and I set up camp before going out to explore for the evening. 

 

 

 

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Our first stop was in Charles Town for a very late lunch at Subway. 

Here, we planned out the evening’s route through several towns in Jefferson and Berkeley Counties.

Charles Town is the County Seat of Jefferson County.  It has a population of about 2,900.  Named after Charles Washington, the youngest brother of President George Washington.  In 1844, the first issue of “The Spirit of Jefferson” was published.  Now named the “Spirit of Jefferson – Advocate”, it is one of the oldest newspapers in West Virginia. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Town,_West_Virginia 

 

 

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A plaque commemorating Charles Washington.

 

 

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The Jefferson County Courthouse in downtown Charles Town.

 

 

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A view to the right of the courthouse. 

 

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And, a view to the left of the courthouse.

 

 

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A view from several blocks away, looking back at the courthouse area.

 

 

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Soon, we were on our way out Rt 340 eastbound to Harpers Ferry. 

This aerial photo shows the layout of the town, with the “point” located in the bottom left of the photo. 

Located at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, it is also the meeting point of West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia.  It is probably best known for John Brown’s 1859 raid on the armory in an attempt to capture weapons and initiate a slave uprising.  This failed when then Lt Col Robert E. Lee arrived with troops and captured Brown, who was tried, convicted, and hanged.  This event was one of the sparks igniting the Civil War. 

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harpers_Ferry,_West_Virginia 

 

 

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A view coming down the hill into Harpers Ferry. 

This is usually a busy street, but not today (the day after Memorial Day).  Timing is everything.

 

 

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Getting closer to downtown Harpers Ferry.  Pat stopped ahead, leery of something wrong.  J

 

 

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The old train station also houses a museum.

 

 

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Behind the train station, Amtrak trains roll through daily. 

This is the view east across the Potomac River and through the tunnel into Maryland.

 

 

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Look closely at the previous photo, and you will see this large painted sign about 150 feet to the left and above the train tunnel. 

Faded and hard to read, so it’s a FAQ.    From the National Park Service Website:  http://www.nps.gov/hafe/index.htm 

What does the sign on Maryland Heights say?
Painted around 1903-06, the sign reads Mennen's Borated Talcum Toilet Powder.

 

 

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The abolitionist John Brown. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Brown_(abolitionist) 

 

 

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John Brown’s Fort – the Fire House

 

 

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This plaque tells the long story of this building – moved from its original location 4 times!

 

 

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Plaque on the front of John Brown’s Fort.

 

 

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This plaque shows the fire house (from previous photos) alongside the armory.

 

 

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Series of plaques along the walkway behind John Brown’s Fort.

 

 

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The Appalachian Trail cuts right through downtown Harpers Ferry. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appalachian_Trail 

 

 

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The Appalachian Trail goes east across this bridge into Maryland.  Only 1,165 miles to Maine. 

 

 

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Close-up of the train tunnel into Maryland.

 

 

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Looking back across the bridge westbound into Harpers Ferry. 

In this photo, I am standing in Maryland, looking across the Potomac River into West Virginia (to the right) and Virginia (to the left).

 

 

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Looking back up the street we came into town on.  Still deserted. 

I expected to see Clint Eastwood appear and the lonely whistle of “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”. 

 

 

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Where are we?  We are here.  Still in Harpers Ferry.

 

 

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On the west side of downtown Harpers Ferry, the Appalachian Trail continues southbound.

 

 

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On the hill overlooking Harpers Ferry is the Jefferson Rock. 

 

 

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These steps are actually part of the Appalachian Trail, leading up the hill to Jefferson Rock.

 

 

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Another marker along the path.

 

 

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We’re there!  Approaching Jefferson Rock on the left.

 

 

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The original rock is now set up on several small pedestals. 

 

 

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After leaving Harpers Ferry, we turned north on County Road 28, running along the Potomac River. 

This historical marker tells the story about Civil War battles in the area.

 

 

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The historical marker in the previous photo is located along this fence. 

One can only imagine the troops facing each other in battle on these fields. 

 

 

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Continuing north on CR28, the hustle and bustle of civilization is quickly traded for the quiet serenity of the backwoods. 

It was like suddenly being in Smoke Hole (near Seneca Rocks). 

 

 

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Pat enjoying the scenery along the way.   Lots of farms.

 

 

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Bethesda United Methodist Church near Moler Crossroads, south of Shepherdstown.

 

 

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One of many nice scenes along the way.  (Now on CR 31-2 and CR 17-1)

 

 

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CR 17-1 northbound along the Potomac, approaching Shepherdstown.

 

 

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Shepherd College has been a major part of this town for over 125 years.

 

 

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View of one of the original college buildings.  The campus extends for several blocks behind here.

 

 

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View up the main road (German St) westbound through Shepherdstown.

 

 

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View of Shepherdstown looking the other direction (eastbound).

Chartered in 1762 (then Virginia), Shepherdstown is the oldest town in West Virginia.

The Battle of Shepherdstown (also known as the Battle of Boteler's Ford or Cement Mill) occurred on September 20, 1862, during Lee's retreat. More than 100 Confederate soldiers died here and were buried in Elmwood Cemetery. Elmwood's hallowed ground contains the graves of 285 Confederate veterans.

 

After this it was on to Martinsburg, about 15 miles west. 

 

 

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Berkeley County Courthouse, Martinsburg

 

 

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View south from the Berkeley County Court House. 

 

 

 

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View east from the Berkeley County Courthouse.

 

 

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Since the light was fading quickly, we made a quick stop for gas and groceries (water and Gatorade to stay hydrated in the 90-degree heat) and headed back to camp.  Coming out of Martinsburg on County Road 15, we passed the Tuscarora Church with its new Historical Marker.  However, it was too dark to get a good picture.  Pat said he would get it in the morning on his way home.  We continued west on CR15 and CR18 (Boyd’s Gap Road) over North Mountain toward Shanghai.  The road narrowed to just one wide lane, and turned twisty as it meandered over the ridge.  Being pitch black and with no street lights, reading the fine print on the map proved to be a challenge for my old bifocal eyes. 

 

 

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Luckily, out in the middle of nowhere, a church! 

The large sign in the parking lot showed us that God will shine the light and lead us when we need Him.  Amen!  

We were back at the camp by 10pm. 

 

 

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The next morning (Wednesday), I walked up to the shower house and snapped a few photos along the way. 

This is the view from the campsite back towards the homes along the road.

 

 

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Sunrise over a nearby field. 

 

 

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After showering, I returned to the camp and joined Pat for a breakfast of juice and pastries we had bought the night before.  Then, we packed up and headed north a few miles to Shanghai (I kid you not), where we split up to go our separate directions.  Pat headed east back over the Boyd’s Gap Road we traveled the night before, and headed south to his home in Virginia.  I turned west onto CR7-13 at Shanghai to head north and west on back roads to Berkeley Springs.

 

 

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Here is the start of CR7-13, also known as Hampshire Grade Road. 

 

 

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It turns out to be a nice road with lots of nice scenery. 

 

 

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Over the hills and through the woods……..

 

 

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Throw in a few hairpin turns to keep it interesting. 

 

 

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More nice views when the road tops a ridge.

 

 

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At Stotler’s Crossroads (about 12 miles south of Berkeley Springs), the road widens back to 2-lanes.

 

 

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Nice view to the west from Stotler’s Crossroads.

 

 

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Berkeley Springs is the County Seat of Morgan County. 

It is noted as an artist community, with a population of about 660.  There are many arts & craft shops, as well as local musicians performing at local restaurants and bars.  Berkeley Springs was a popular resort area during the early years of the United States. The mineral springs drew many visitors from metropolitan areas. Notable visitors to the area included George Washington.  The area continues to be a popular resort area with tourism the main industry in the county and four full service spas using the mineral water.  The original name of the town was Bath.  Bath became known to the world as Berkeley Springs in 1802 when the Virginia postal system was established and there was already a Bath, Virginia in Bath County. The waters were known as Berkeley Springs because the protocol was to name springs after the county in which they were located. At that time, Bath was part of Berkeley County named after colonial Governor Norborne Berkeley.

 

 

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Morgan County Courthouse in downtown Berkeley Springs.

 

 

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The springs are located to the left, around the white bath-house.  To the right are some of the local artisan shops.

 

 

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The bath-house.

 

 

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Historical Marker.

 

 

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This couple was enjoying the cool spring water. 

 

 

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Nearby, in the city park, a time capsule was buried in 1963.  If you happen to be in town in 2063, stop by when they open it. 

 

 

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This 12-inch plaque marks the spot of the time capsule.

 

 

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View north on Rt 522 passing through Berkeley Springs.

 

 

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They even have their own “Berkeley Castle”, located on Rt 9 just as you are leaving town westbound.

 

 

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Just a few miles from Berkeley Springs on Rt 9 westbound is this nice overlook.

 Below is the Potomac River, and Maryland sits on the other side. 

 

 

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Rt 9 continues westbound, providing lots of curves for an interesting ride. 

Not too much farther along, though, and Rt 9 mellows out and offers a relaxed ride to Paw Paw.

 

 

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About 20-25 miles west of Berkeley Springs lies the town of Paw Paw.

(From Wikipedia):

Paw Paw is a town in Morgan County.  The population was 524 at the 2000 census. The town is known for the nearby Paw Paw Tunnel. Paw Paw was incorporated by the Circuit Court of Morgan County on April 8, 1891 and named for the pawpaw, a wild fruit which formerly grew in abundance throughout this region.

PLEASE NOTE:  At the bottom of this hill, the speed limit drops to 25MPH.  There is a young police officer who will be glad to remind you of the speed limit should you choose not to obey the sign.  I actually stopped and talked with him awhile, since I was taking some photos next to where he was sitting.  He rides a Kawasaki Ninja and loves to ride.  He seemed very interested in our Historical Markers project. 

 

 

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Historical Marker in downtown Paw Paw. 

 

 

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View of the main intersection in town. There is a nice Veterans’ Memorial to the left.

 

 

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A better view of the Veterans’ Memorial. 

 

 

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Paw Paw City Hall. 

 

 

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Rt 29 south from Paw Paw down to Rt 50 is one of the straightest 2-lanes in the state. 

Still, the scenery more than made up for the lack of curves. 

 

 

From here, I circled around down to Petersburg, grabbed the West Virginia Tag (sort of an online photo scavenger hunt) at Smoke Hole, and headed back to Clarksburg.  Coming across the mountains between Seneca Rocks and Elkins, it suddenly turned dark and within minutes it was pouring the rain and pounding me with marble-size hail.  The road was covered in ice!  Just 15 minutes earlier, it was in the 90’s. Visibility was about 30 – 40 feet, and I had a large truck not too far behind me coming down the mountain.  I found a safe place to pull over and clean off my glasses, and a few seconds later the truck roared by.  Within 15 minutes, the sun was out again.  What a day! 

 

Hope you enjoyed the WV Eastern Panhandle Sampler. 

 

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