Harpers Ferry

(Jamming in the bar. Harpers Ferry, WV. September 2007)

We began our trip back east by going to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Why Harpers Ferry, you ask?

Why not?

Usually we take a northern route, stopping in State College (or thereabouts) to spend the night and continuing our trip the next day. As it happened, Penn State had a football game that weekend and finding a hotel room within a two hour drive of State College was impossible. M had the brilliant idea to head south instead.

Heading south put us at Harpers Ferry in about the same time period it takes to drive to State College from the Bogs. I’m glad M came up with the idea. I enjoyed visiting Harpers Ferry and would like to go back again someday to do a little more hiking in the area.

We arrived in Harpers Ferry around 6:00 or so in the evening. After checking into our hotel, we went into town to have dinner and maybe a beer or two. It was the strangest thing. Almost all of the bars and restaurants were closed. On a Friday evening!

I was worried that we’d gotten ourselves into another Johnstown experience. A few years ago we visited Johnstown, Pennsylvania, taking M the Younger with us because he was doing a paper for school about the Great Flood of 1889. Johnstown is a small city and should’ve been teeming with people since it was a weekday, yet we saw very few people. The town had a ghostly feel to it. 2,200 people were killed in that flood. I suppose that could account for the eerie feeling. We all picked up on it. M the Younger made a comment about it being a Stephen King kind of town.

Harpers Ferry had a similar feel that evening, with everything closed and even the lights in the houses of the neighborhoods we drove through weren’t on. It was as if everyone picked up at once and left town.


(Even more jamming in the bar. Harpers Ferry, WV. September 2007)

One of the things we had planned to do on Friday night was attend the Hammered Dulcimer Festival being held at the Hilltop House Hotel. It’s true. We really wanted to go. Doesn’t it sound like great fun?

Finding almost nothing open in the main part of town, we decided to go up to the Hilltop House Hotel and check out their menu. Because it was already dark (and raining and foggy), we were unable to appreciate the fantastic views from the Hilltop House Hotel. We would go back to do so the following day.

The Hilltop House Hotel is usually referred to as the Historic Hilltop House Hotel. I’ll tell you more about that later.

We entered the hotel to the sounds of music from the festival. The hammered dulcimer sounds a little like a harp. The music being played when we entered sounded Celtic in origin, but it’s hard to tell since many of the ballads and reels from Appalachia sound that way (due to their Celtic roots). We peeked in on the concert for a few minutes and then moved on to the dining room.

Once seated, we were told that there was a buffet. No menus. Just the Friday night buffet. We decided we might as well go for it.

I was surprised by the buffet. I was expecting West Virginia type food: deep fried foods, overcooked vegetables soaked in bacon fat, pinto beans, etc. That’s what I get for stereotyping. In my own defense, we lived in West Virginia. That really was the typical fare at a buffet.

Harpers Ferry must get a lot of folks from Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. The Hilltop House Hotel seems to be catering to them in terms of food selections. There was a nice selection of vegetables, vegetarian dishes, salads, fish, chicken and beef. There was not one deep fried dish on the buffet. That’s just as well. M and I had stopped for lunch at Quaker Steak & Lube in Cranberry, PA, where they had a buffet of chicken wings with an assortment of sauces and a large selection of deep fried foods. My stomach couldn’t handle anymore of that sort of thing.

(Lunch! Cranberry, PA. September 2007)

After dinner we sat out in the main area where the festival was taking place and listened to some lovely music. I can’t tell you who played or if they’re famous in the world of hammered dulcimers. But I can tell you I enjoyed it very much.

Hammered dulcimers weren’t the only instruments being played. They were often accompanied by fiddles, banjos, guitars, bass, and various percussion instruments. The reels were foot-stomping, rollicking fun.

(Jamming in the bar. Harpers Ferry, WV. September 2007)

(In the bar at the Hilltop.  Harpers Ferry, WV.  September 2007)

At the break we moved to the bar area where, according to the schedule, the musicians were invited to jam after the other concerts were finished. There were already four musicians in there warming up so we decided to hang out there for a while, listening and enjoying a couple of pints of a good IPA.

Eventually some of the other musicians joined them until the whole room was filled with players and music.

(Jamming in the bar. Harpers Ferry, WV. September 2007)

I don’t remember what time we left. It wasn’t too terribly late. Maybe around 10:00pm. I don’t know how long the jam session went on that night, but it seemed like they were just getting started when we left.

(Comparing instruments.  Harpers Ferry, WV.  September 2007)

Next up: Views from the Historic Hilltop Hotel.


5 Comments on “Harpers Ferry”

  1. marimann says:

    Wow, that all sounds like you had a great find- the dulcimer festival and a great buffet! I enjoyed your pictures and your descriptions very much. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Robin says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed your visit marimann. 🙂

  3. English Nutter says:

    Although I read this earlier, I just clicked on the flood link and read all this. What a terrible thing!

  4. Alto2 says:

    What? You didn’t try to stay the night in my former residence, Lewisburg? Hmph. Williamsport, at least, but West Virginia? At least you had a good time. Happy Valley is surely hell on football weekends.

  5. Robin says:

    Visiting the town really brings that home, EN. It was one of the most depressing tours I’ve ever taken. Very informative, too.

    Alto2: LOL! We tried. Even Lewisburg was booked up. Hard to believe, isn’t it?


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