Stepping into Narnia

With Zoom University coming back in session, a couple friends and I decided it would be best to kick off the semester with an outdoor adventure! We settled on a cute little campground in West Virginia. Being broke college students, we found a $60 Airbnb for a no-heat/no-running-water cabin in the middle of nowhere. We shrugged off the cold forecast with the thought that we’d just bring intense winter sleeping bags (except me, who brought a summer one :/) and comfy layers.

We packed up the trunk to the brim with sleeping bags, clothing, and most importantly, snacks, and left our lovely Baltimore home. Pit stops are an essential part of any road trip, so we used Atlas Obscura to find cool, COVID-conscious things to see.

Our first stop was Harper’s Ferry, at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers! On a walk through history, we strolled through an old cemetery and hiked to Jefferson Rock (Thomas Jefferson stood here in 1873 proclaiming that the view was “worth a voyage across the Atlantic”). Continuing on the little segment of the Appalachian Trail that passes through the historic town, we ventured through charming streets full of history. Making a quick stop at the “True Treats Historic Candy” shop, we browsed through sweets chronologically arranged from the 1600s to today! A few I remember are cranberry sugar, Goo Goo clusters, crickets, and Turkish Delight (like from Narnia!). Continuing along our adventure, we next climbed up the Maryland Heights Trail to a gorgeous overview of Harper’s Ferry. The trek was a little rough but the view was totally worth it!

Getting late in the afternoon, we continued on our adventure to our Airbnb. Our second stop was George Washington’s bathtub. We found this gem on Atlas Obscura and though we learned the President didn’t actually bathe in this modern replica, we of course had to stop. Despite the cold and windy afternoon, we took off our shoes to dip our feet in the water. Surprisingly, it was a lukewarm temperature and quite nice to the touch. The water is fed by an underground spring underneath the quiet town of Berkeley Springs, WV.

We still had about an hour’s worth of time till we’d reach our cabin, so we continued on. Arriving at the campground in the middle of a considerable snow storm at night, it took some pushing and shoving (dang it two-wheel drive!) but we finally reached our cabin! Being an intelligent student at Hopkins, I stood right behind a rear tire while attempting to push the car uphill. An onslaught of snow and mud splattered the front half of my body which was lovely since there were no showers to wash off the mess. Finally, we reached our cute little cabin! Inside, there were some old mattresses, a quaint little table, and a sofa. It was almost perfect for our little weekend trip! With falling temperatures outside, we decided to rent a propane heater from the campground host for our numb toes. Turning the heater on full blast in the little cabin was a wonderful accompaniment to a tasty mac n cheese dinner. Tired from a long day of travelling around, we called it an early night and dug into our sleeping bags. I stuffed my winter coat at the bottom of my summer sleeping bag and wore a thick pair of socks and two hoodies to bed. It was honestly a very comfortable and cozy setup!

The next morning, we made tea and oatmeal for a quick breakfast to warm us up fast. Looking outside, the ground was littered with a fresh, beautiful layer of snow. Unsure of our car’s ability to handle the weather, we decided to spend a day at the cabin instead.

With the glinting snow, it was impossible to stay inside so we ambled around the campground along Abrams Creek. We made a baby snowman, had snowball fights, and reveled at the scenic, Narnia-like landscapes. A couple hours later, we returned to the cabin for some hot chocolate and games!

We went through rounds upon rounds of Exploding Kitten and Hearts. For dinner that night, we made some tasty burritos and more tea. Then, we settled down to read for a few hours in our sleeping bags. I brought a book surrounding the natural history of Antarctica, so I read about various research projects across the sprawling continent and, of course, penguins and wildlife. Random fact: Notothenioid fish in Antarctica have evolutionarily developed proteins that function like antifreeze in their blood. This way, when the ocean temperatures drop below freezing (the briny water pushes it to -2 degrees Celsius sometimes!), the fish don’t freeze! I got very invested in my book on Antarctica in case you can’t tell and worked through a good chunk of it over the weekend.

With the weather turning again and having our fill of the cold, we decided to head out the next morning back to Baltimore. On the way, we got takeout at Waffle House (tastyyy!) and blasted Taylor Swift. My new favorite song is “New Romantics” thanks to my comrades’ undying love for the artist.

All in all, we had a great weekend and can’t wait to get back to West Virginia!

-Leo Busse, ’22, Canoeing Instructor