How We Visited Washington DC from Harper’s Ferry
Day 106: Zero (-ish)
(Does 20,000 steps count as a zero day?)
I use the app FarOut and Erik uses the digital AWOL guide to track the trail. The two different guides have been really helpful for us to each see different things associated with the trail. When we had been planning out our upcoming week on trail, Erik saw in the AWOL guide for Harper’s Ferry that there was a train that goes from Harper’s Ferry right into downtown Washington DC! I have been there a handful of times over the years, but Erik had only been there once when he was too young to appreciate it. It was a quick and easy decision: we were going to DC!
We saw there were two train options: the Amtrak and MARC train. We read the Amtrak train was finicky with being on time, but the MARC is a commuter train that would take us into Union Station. There were three MARC trains we could catch in the morning and three in the evening to come back. We planned to take the 7:00 a.m. train there and the 6:30 p.m. train back.
I purchased our tickets ahead of time using the CharmPass app. The MARC website had a really good FAQ that told us exactly what we needed to do. I could purchase both of our one-way tickets there and back on my account I quickly created in the app. At $13/ticket, we each had a $26 round trip into DC. We thought that was a steal!
There weren’t any employees at the train station that morning. The train got there and a conductor checked for our tickets as we boarded. The tickets I purchased weren’t time-sensitive; you buy the tickets and then activate them in the app when you see the train. Simple.
We rode the double-decker passenger train for about 90 minutes as we made our way to Union Station. It was a stark contrast to our normal mornings with just us around and traveling by foot. Some passengers were talking while others worked while still others tried to sleep.
We got to Union Station and headed straight for Chick-Fil-A after a quick stop for coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. It was a day for all of the treats! After satisfying our hiker hunger for the time being, we headed over to walk through the Botanical Gardens for a couple of hours.
I had made a reservation to tour the Capital building a few days before our arrival. Between the security check time and the tour itself, another couple of hours had passed by the time we left and it was time to eat again. Back to Union Station and Chipotle!
It was getting well into the afternoon and our time was running short. How do you see the National Mall quickly when you don’t feel like walking? Scooters! We figured out the scooter rental system and spent an hour riding around the National Mall. Riding around this epicenter of democracy and history on scooters had smiles on both our faces.
Hiker hunger never ends, so when our scooters told us we ran out of money we found an overpriced gelato shop for dessert. $8 for what would barely pass as a small at most ice cream stores. Note to self – big cities aren’t the best place to be when you’ve got hiker hunger.
I love the DC subway system, so instead of a 20-minute walk back to Union Station we took the Metro back. The evening rush on the train was pretty crowded and almost overwhelming, but we made it back to Union Station without incident.
Erik and I got a Jamba Juice to share and hopped on the MARC train to head back. On the way back right before we got off I saw where the AT would cross the tracks when we got back on trail. I had enjoyed our day in the city but was looking forward to getting back out on the trail!
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