There are three mountains that surround Harpers Ferry: Loudon Heights in WV/VA, Maryland Heights in MD, and Weverton Cliffs in MD. I’ve previously climbed each of these peaks separately but never linked them together into multi-peak hikes. On this occasion I linked up two peaks. In the future I’d like to try the full 3-peak challenge.
The most obvious link-up is combining Loudon Heights and Maryland Heights, being the two closer mountains. They’re also both more substantial hikes.
The day before Lexi completed this same circuit on a similarly hot day, so I knew what the conditions were like and how much water I’d need. I took 3 liters of water, which was just enough.
When I set out that morning, at 6.15 am, it was beautiful, in the 70’s F (about 21 C). By the time I got home at lunchtime it was around 93 F (almost 34 C), which made for tough hiking conditions.
Thankfully you cross the Shenandoah river on the way home (by the 340 bridge) so I jumped in for a swim before home. Glorious!
So I had unfinished business and wanted to attempt the longer walk again. Lexi suggested I go all the way along the Appalachian Trail to Raven Rocks trail head where she would pick me up, which was a great idea.
It was a 21 mile walk, the furthest I’ve gone since before we lived in Florida (when I did this long run). My knees survived and they felt great until the downhill in the last mile when they started to ache.
The scenery was typical of this area: thick forest punctuated by magnificent vistas from the handful of lookouts. It’s the exact opposite of walking in the UK where you have views from the moment you step out the car (since the mountains are so open there) and it’s just the perspective that changes as the walk progresses.
Here, the views are hidden. You progress through a tunnel of green until you’re surprised by a lookout that reminds you the world exists beyond the trees. The views from Raven Rocks, near the end of this walk, are fabulous.
I set off in the rain around 9.30 am but remembered to take my rain pants this time, so I stayed dry for a little longer. An hour later, with the rain still coming down heavily, I was wet through again, although not quite as wet as the flash flood walk day. The rain persisted until lunchtime, stopping just as I reached the halfway point of the walk at the David Lesser memorial shelter. I dried off, wrung out my socks and chatted with another hiker backpacking this section of the AT.
I enjoyed a dry afternoon along the top of the ridge, passing many thru-hikers, on my way to Raven Rocks.
7.9 miles / 1,702 ft height gain / 3 hours 4 minutes
For some time, I’ve wanted to hike one of my regular mountain loops at night. This week, the conditions aligned when I missed a morning slot (too tired!) but still wanted to get out for a decent hike. A night hike was the solution!
I set out after dinner, having kissed my kids goodnight, since I wouldn’t be home before they went to bed.
There’s something special about the light in that hour before sunset. The sun is low in the sky. It’s warm and everything glows. The world seems more relaxed, even nature feels like it’s winding down at the end of the day.
I’ve hiked this trail many times in the past two years, but it felt new doing it at a different time of day. The views were different. Maryland Heights looked magnificent, basked in the evening sun.
I reached the junction in 47 minutes, about 5 minutes slower than usual on account of the big dinner I’d eaten just before setting off. I saw a handful of other hikers on their way down, but then had the mountain to myself, another advantage of going late.
I reached the lookout around 7.20pm, about 10 minutes before sunset. I stayed through the sunset, marveling at the light show and indulging my nature photography passion.
I enjoyed another half hour of fading light, watching a beautiful orange and mauve sky slowly fade out like a puddle evaporate on a hot day.
It’s been so long since I’ve been out in the mountains at night that I harbored a little trepidation about the darkness.
When I made it back to the junction I could barely see my feet on the trail, so I donned the headtorch for the last hour home. The world abruptly shrunk to the narrow beam of light on the trail ahead. I was only spooked twice by rustling in the trees beside the trail. One of those times, when I shone my torch in the direction of the noise, I saw three pairs of eyes staring straight back at me. Deer. Gave me a fright though!
I made it home at 9pm, a little over 3 hours after setting out. A great adventure!
Next, I’d like to try a full night hike, setting out at 9pm.
All these photos were taken on a Google Pixel 5 by hand.