This morning, wanting to see if the latest round of fixes to my leg in the form of my temporary modifications to it were going to hold up, I decided to take the Murphster up to the Old Stone Fort on Maryland Heights above Harpers Ferry.
For those who've never been, you can simulate the experience by walking up a steep hill for 45 minutes straight. Back during the War of Northern Aggression (known to many today as "the Civil War"), the Union had a large fort with massive guns up here. Abraham Lincoln actually came out to visit the troops there once after the Battle of Antietam but the climb got the better of him and he and his party turned around and went back down well short of the summit.
As I reached the top today, drenched with sweat and able to actually hear my heart tachycardically hammering at the inside of my chest, I can't say as I blame him. But then if it's not hard, it's not exercise, right?
Here's Murphy up on one of the walls of the Inner Fort, almost two thousand feet above the Potomac River below.After some water and a granola bar snack, (Always bring plenty of water for you and your furry pal on hikes like this one.) we just sat up here for a while. I read a book I'd brought, then I broke Murphy's Furminator out of the pack and gave him a good brushing, figuring after that climb, he'd be too tired to fight me and I could get the rest of his winter undercoat out. That worked for the most part, and soon there were large tufts of dog hair all around the tree we'd been sitting under.
Doesn't he just look cooler now?
After brushing him, we went over to sit on the wall and partake of the nice cool breeze blowing over the top of the mountain. As we moved, I head something and looked about 50 yards farther along the trail just in time to see this deer rise up from where she'd been lying in the grass. She'd probably been there the whole time, and it just goes to show what you can see in the woods if you're not talking or otherwise making a ton of noise like so many other hikers out here seem to do.
We weren't there five more minutes before a couple of hikers appeared. It was the all-too-typical pairing: one smoking hot gal and one slovenly-looking scrub of a guy who appears not to have had a shave, a haircut or trip to the laundromat in a long time. (Can anyone explain how that works? Maybe I've got to let my grooming go for a few months before the truly hot gals start to find me attractive? I do not get that.) They climbed over the wall, him prattling on about something and disturbing the tranquility, and they came to the flattened out spot in the tall grass where Murphy and I had just been. She looked down at the matted grass and the tufts of fur and said "What do you suppose was here?"
Her boyfriend, obviously a descendant of Jim Bridger, loudly and authoritatively stated that it was a spot where a bear had been sleeping. "Probably a black bear," he said.
"Wow," she replied, apparently impressed with his knowledge of foresty stuff.
"It looks like it wasn't here too long ago," he continued. "They can be mean, but don't you worry. If it shows up here, I'll hold it off while you climb up a tree for safety. Bears don't climb trees."
Now if he hadn't sounded like such an arrogant little prick--and maybe if she hadn't been hot enough to make me a bit jealous--I wouldn't have said anything. But I spoke up:
"Actually that's German Shepherd fur," I explained. "I just brushed my dog over there." I think I even smiled a bit as she turned and looked at him as if she was just realizing for the first time that he was full of it.
"Oh, and black bears are basically harmless, but they're also excellent tree climbers," I continued, twisting the knife a bit more. The look that she was now giving him made it all worthwhile.
My job now done, I grabbed up Murphy and we departed, heading down the trail towards the old 100-pounder gun battery. Here's more of the remains of the fort walls, all made up of stones that, like everything else, had to be hauled up the mountain from the river below by oxen or available soldiers.Heading back down to Harpers Ferry, I took Murphy to the Swiss Miss ice cream shop for his cone. Sad news there. Sharon, the long-time owner and benefactor of countless ice cream-loving dogs, is closing the place up by the end of June due to a dispute with the landlord. As of the end of the month, this Harpers Ferry institution will be no more. I'm kind of glad that Lagniappe didn't live long enough to see this. It would have broken his heart.
Oh--the leg mods seem to be working. A bit more testing and then it's back into the leg shop to have them made permanent. Yay, me!