Harpers Ferry, Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia!

So, there I was. All alone, wandering around a place I’d never been. My kind of heaven.  So if West Virginia claims to be almost heaven well then sweet Jesus musta called me home! It’s not often I’m out exploring by myself with my camera and my notepad. Just talking to people. So when this opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance of a few hours alone while the rest of my family went hiking for a Scouting event at a camp nearby.

I’m no hiker you see.

Besides, it was cold and the thought of a latte not far off was way too tempting for me to stay in the woods. Yet, many people come to Harpers Ferry year round to do just that – enjoy nature. With so many outdoor activities and two major rivers, one can enjoy adventure sports of all kinds here. Or a simple walk in the park.

Harpers Ferry is every bit bucolic as it is historic, not to mention it’s got loads of small town charm. The “lower town” area as it might be listed on a map, is where most businesses and restaurants are clustered as well as wonderfully preserved historic buildings turned museums and the train station (Amtrak and MARC trains both stop here too). What the town lacks in size it makes up for in beauty. You can also learn a lot about American history in just a few short hours. You need not work too hard to imagine what life was like two or three hundred years ago.

Whether you’re here for the history or the hiking you’ll be glad you came. But, if you’re like me, and you’re here for a hot cup-a-joe and friendly conversation, you may not want to leave. I opted to get the lay of the land so that if I were about to discover the country’s greatest barista, I would know where ALL the coffee shops in town were before sampling. But then, BEHOLD. The word “vintage.” I am completely useless at resisting this word.

I love all things vintage you see.

Enter Crystal, manager of The Vintage Lady shop. Crystal was my first friendly encounter. I was happy to be greeted by such an eager participant in my game of questions. I selected a small jar of local J.Q. Dickinson salt to add to my collection of salts (I know, I am a food geek) and Crystal asked if I’d read the story. Story? Why no, please tell me! Not only did she tell, but she also offered with a twinkle in her eye, “You want to try some? I have one open back here.” YES! While The Vintage Lady doesn’t actually sell vintage clothing or shoes or handbags, it does have a nice selection of locally crafted gifts and lots of baubles if it’s jewelry you’re after.

Time to continue my mission. Latte. There were a couple of places that looked promising but none, upon further investigation, would be able deliver the latte I had in mind. Then I realized. I was hungry. I remember  Crystal had said that The Town’s Inn, across the street, had good food. I headed back up High Street and read the sign outside the Inn: Open 6am to 10pm (and this is the important part) Breakfast anytime. Enter Brenda.

I walked into the B&B, built around 1840, and I was met with her cheerful smile. “How many?” I held up one finger and Brenda said, “Just you hon? Come on in!” I figured since the town is on the Appalachian Trail these folks are used to seeing solo travelers carrying backpacks, as was I. As if I were a guest in her own home, Brenda was the quintessential hostess. Straight away she offered to bring me hot cider or hot chocolate or coffee and I sat down in the cozy dining room, lined on two walls with sundry items and snacks for sale.  I perused the menu. When I opted for the BLT with egg and cheese, Brenda enthusiastically remarked, “That’s just what I had this morning!” At this point I think to myself, “She is awesome. She’s like everyone’s favorite Aunt.”

Again, she indulged my question-peppered conversation and offered to introduce me to Karen Townsend, the Inn’s owner and resident. Karen’s easy friendly demeanor is only eclipsed by her historical knowledge of the town and it’s goings on. I got the impression right away that she must know everyone – all 300 residents. I was grateful for her sharing and if you get the chance, ask Karen to tell you the story of how the Inn got its name. In a place that dates itself in centuries, Harpers Ferry is full of character. And characters. Enter Linda.

Linda was working at Cool Confectionaries this Saturday. I was lured off of High Street into the shop by the sign on its door announcing, “Open: 11ish. Closed: When empty.” Amused, but not expecting more than your average candy shop, I was immediately caught off guard by the bluegrass music and the sound of Linda’s voice welcoming me from somewhere inside. She got right down to business explaining that the “candy” I was looking at in the front room was historically accurate.

The origins of candy are medicinal you see.

Ginger drops for nausea, lemon to ward off a cold, peppermint to freshen your breath, gum made of resin to cleanse the blood, licorice root (yes, it looks like a tree branch and resembles nothing that you know to be licorice) to clean your teeth, horehound herb for…well, I forget what it’s for, but it sure tastes good! Who would have known that candy was originally pharmaceuticals preserved? Susan Benjamin, author and proprietor, that’s who.

Susan wasn’t in, but Linda did an excellent job of educating me on all things candy. Don’t worry about coming here for your health, there is something for everyone (remember candy cigarettes?). There were so many unique and delicious things to try, I walked out with a bunch of cool stuff to share. Just wait till I tell my kids that candy is really medicine.

Speaking of kids, I caught up with the rest of my family and enjoyed the remainder of the afternoon checking out the museums, St. Peter’s Church, Jefferson Rock, Harper Cemetery and basking in the glow of the setting sun and the natural beauty of our surroundings.

Not expecting to find anything special for myself, I ended the day at Tenfold Fair Trade Collection and picked out a really cool pair of earrings made by someone in Jordan. I put them in my husband’s hand. “I like these. I would be really happy to find them in my stocking this year.”

We’re at that stage in our marriage you see.

And just in case you’re wondering, I never did get that latte.

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