Monday, September 21, 2020

Appalachian Trail or towering achievement? It's not a close call

The original Washington Monument was built by Boonsboro, Md., citizens in 1827.

The spectacular view of the Hagerstown Valley from near the base of the monument.

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"Hiking the Appalachian Trail" has a whole different meaning for my wife and me than it might for most of you. Remember this guy?  For the Bankses, those four words are a euphemism for something (wink,wink) "sneaky" and always make us chuckle. And so when I had the choice over the weekend to turn right to hike the Appalachian Trail (wink, wink) or left to visit a really neat monument with a Civil War connection, well, it wasn't a close call.

For this blogger, the monument visit was the right call.
The tower at Washington Monument State Park in Maryland wins hands down!

Atop South Mountain, where the often-overlooked Civil War battle was fought Sept. 14, 1862, stands the country's first monument to our first president. On July 4, 1827, according to a period newspaper account, many of the 500 citizens of Boonsboro, Md., marched two miles up the mountain to construct a 15-foot, cannon-shaped stone monument to honor the guy with the wooden teeth. Upon completion later that day -- a towering achievement --  the Declaration of Independence was read and a salute was fired by three Revolutionary War veterans.  Later that year, workmen enlarged the monument, making it 30 feet high. (You can read much more about its history on this National Register of Historic Places Registration form.)

My takeaway: Sheesh, what a fabulous view of the Hagerstown Valley below. (Squint and you can see the Antietam battlefield.)

By the Civil War, the Washington Monument had been victimized by vandals and nature, turning it into a pile of rubble. During the Battle of Antietam in 1862, the Union Army used the site as a signal station, and it served the same purpose post-Gettysburg as Lee's Army of Northern Virginia  retreated back into Virginia.

The tower was rebuilt in 1882, but it eventually fell into disrepair again. It was rebuilt from 1934-36 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Washington Monument stands near the Appalachian Trail, where if you ever see a certain former South Carolina governor, tell him we said hello.

Also, don't feed the bears! (See below.) 

At the monument site, a brief history. 

Stairs lead to the top of the monument, but the interior is closed because of  you-know-what.

To the east of the monument, you can hike the Appalachian Trail if you dare.
In Washington Monument State Park, a sign warns about serving wild beasts.

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