Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Tim Reese, a local expert on Crampton's Gap and South Mountain, wrote me about Monday's post:
It's always illuminating to see "my backyard" through fresh eyes, however erroneous. Pardon me while I kibbutz a bit, well maybe a lot. (Next time print out a copy of the regional map)

The pass through which I-70 and US Rt. 40 crisscross is called Hamburg Pass, roughly three miles above Turner's Gap, so oddly named for the former community of that name situated atop Catoctin Mountain. It's all about destination. Alternate Rt. 40 (40A) runs through Turner's, also known as the Old National Turnpike. Clear as mud, right? Legions get lost every year.

Heh. I figured this out *after* I found myself in Funkstown without having crossed anything resembling Turner's Gap. I was driving without a map in hand, BTW. I tend to do this an awful lot, as I've got a good memory for geography. This means that I rarely get lost, but as a result I often have trouble finding the exact spot I'm looking for without the aid of maps.

Regarding your assessment of Bartlett's battle, you definitely need a guide... And I might add that CG is the most conspicuous notch in SM. See here. I'll spare you a dreary lecture on topographical differentiation between gaps and passes.

[Well, this was definitely a challenge, so I went and googled the difference. This source seems to suggest that the difference between gap and pass is regional, with the Western definition making a distinction based on whether the feature occurs on a watershed, or whether it was cut by water, and thus both sides are in the same watershed. Thus, by this Colorado-area definition, none of the gaps in South Mountain are technically gaps, but are rather "passes". Of course, the source goes on to say that by this definition, not even the Cumberland Gap is, technically, a gap, so clearly we're working from differing dictionaries... I can't find any other online source that makes an alternative distinction between the two terms which makes sense of how we use it up here in Appalachia.]

Now that I've pulled out my copy of TopoUSA, I can see that my reading of the Burkittsville area was pretty off. And you can get a weird impression of topography, driving country roads while trying to keep both eyes on the road. Frankly, I've read more about Turner's Gap than Crampton's, so I'm not at all surprised that I got the battle wrong.

I traverse the Harpers Ferry-Sharpsburg road as a matter of routine. It runs right by the Kennedy farmhouse where John Brown laid his plans and stockpiled arms. Like I said, you need a guide.

[It was getting dark at the time, and I had just come close to grounding out my little Korean subcompact on a railroad access road in Harper's Ferry. I figured it was there somewhere, but I really needed to be getting back home. As it was, I got home after 1 AM.]

He went on to comment:
My ulterior motive is to re-insert CG [Crampton's Gap] back into the campaign mix where it rightly belongs.

The main reason I was down there was that I had an empty car, and thus no-one to irritate with my rubbernecking, and - more importantly - no-one to leave bored, confused, and restless in the car while I toodled around some scrap of midatlantic farmland or nondescript woodlot doing God knows what from their uninterested point of view.

To be honest, all I had time for last weekend was driving from gap to gap and looking at the many, many signs. I tried bushwacking around Turner's Gap, but all I found was a bunch of campers a couple hundred yards south of the Inn.

Tim is a tour guide for that area; I might try getting together a group one of these days if I can find anyone interested locally.

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