Sunday, May 22, 2011

Geology of Harpers Ferry: May 21, 2011

     Rapturous weather and enthusiastic students on Saturday, May 21 made for a successful Geology of Harpers Ferry field trip. The one-credit Northern Virginia Community College course led by Beth Doyle explores the region's geology and how terrain shaped the human and military history, a topic covered by Beth's loyal assistant Michael Doyle.
     We convened at the visitors center at 9:45 for a brief orientation, followed by a bus trip into Lower Town. The park service handles the bus trip well, with a pre-recorded introduction to the Harpers Ferry accompanied by some atmospheric folk music.
     The Armorers House and museum provided an overview of the geology and history. We then trekked up a steep hill and challenging steps to Jefferson Rock, for a magnificent overview. Jefferson Rock is a great location from which to admire Loudoun Heights, the Shenandoah River and the overall terrain. 

 Jefferson Rock

    The trip back down from Jefferson Rock offered a close-up view of St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, constructed with beautiful stone.
     Back in town, we visited what's now called John Brown's Fort for a discussion of John Brown's Raid. At the nearby Point, we could observe the dramatic coming together of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers and start our first detailed discussion of the Maryland invasion of 1862.

The confluence of Shenandoah and Potomac rivers

     Following lunch, we ventured over the Potomac River to the C&O Canal Towpath and a hike to the trail up Maryland Heights. The Maryland Heights trail offers excellent rock exposures and a bracing challenge. The work of Northern Virginia Community College assistant professor of geology Callan Bentley was very useful in helping shed light on the Maryland Height dynamics.

Rock Exposure on Maryland Heights

Rock Exposure on Maryland Heights

  From Maryland Heights, it's all downhill! We re-crossed the Potomac River and convened at the Point to recapitulate the day's lessons and observations. A well-done to the Northern Virginia Community College students who challenged themselves with this day at beautiful and illuminating Harpers Ferry.

The class

Monday, May 9, 2011

Maryland Heights, from the town

From Harpers Ferry town, we see Maryland Heights looming above.

Climbing up Maryland Heights

The trail  up Maryland Heights provides a first-hand look at the challenge facing Civil War artillerymen, who had to haul up heavy cannons; it shows, as well, some of the region's intriguing geologic features.

Maryland Heights

Looming Maryland Heights were the key to control of Harpers Ferry during the Civil War.

Jefferson's Rock

Jefferson's Rock.

Harpers Ferry Field Trip

Geologic forces built the stage at Harpers Ferry. Man provided the drama.

As we ready ourselves for the May 21, 2001 field trip to Harpers Ferry, we are reminded again of what an extraordinary place it is. From Jefferson's Rock, above the town, we see the coming together of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers.