Kent County High Point Trip Report

Date: March 16, 2002
Author: Fred Lobdell

With the 21 areas that are candidates for the HP of Kent County, I thus became the 3rd person to complete the First State, and 2002 makes the 7th consecutive year that I have completed at least one new state. I stayed at the northern end of Kent Co. in a generic one-star motel in Smyrna, DE. [For those of you unfamiliar with the hotel rating system, I recount a scene from the British comedy "Are You Being Served", in which Mrs. Slocum asks Captain Peacock, "Just how good is a one-star hotel?" Captain Peacock replies, "Let me put it this way, Mrs. Slocum. There is no such thing as a no-star hotel."] My staying the night in that room probably erased half the benefit of my having given up smoking 19 years ago. The noise from outside and the adjacent room finally abated a round midnight, and I did manage about 6 hours sleep in spite of the semis going past a couple of hundred feet away. And I had to go out to the pay phone to make a phone call. For those of you who might wish to do this one, there are more reputable motels a few miles south in Dover.

I thank Mike Schwartz for his excellent trip report, which I found to be of great value. This report is not intended to be a full trip report; there is little point in duplicating Mike's report, which is still valid for the most part. I will just offer a commentary on some of the areas. I will take the areas in the order that Mike reported them, which is almost the same as the order I did them in.

On my way over to the first area from Smyrna, I passed a farm field that contained a couple of thousand snow geese. This was my birding high point for the day.

As a general comment, I talked with several property owners, and none of them seemed overjoyed to see me. None mentioned the pleasure it had given them to meet me. I've noticed a distinct drop-off in the respect I get from property owners since Bob Packard passed me for the lead in total counties. Or maybe it was my "Hillary for President" T-shirt. It never occurred to me to explain that I was promoting the candidacy of Sir Edmund Hillary for president of the World Mountaineers Association.

It should be noted that more than half of these areas are in farm fields. Thus, one should plan on doing this county some time between late fall, after the harvest, and early spring, before crops are planted.

Taking the areas in the order described by Mike Schwartz (see his report), I found the first three areas (the two areas immediately south of the "F" in "Farms" and the third area a few hundred feet south of those) to be exactly as Mike described them. I concur with him that the area north of Long Ridge Road is obviously higher than the area south of the road.

The next two areas, northwest of Deer Antler Road, are in farm fields that were in stubble at this time of year. There is a third area, southeast of the road, that appeared to me to actually be higher than the area northwest of the road, but it is not shown on the topo as such. I visited this area anyway just in case a future edition of the topo shows it to be over 80 feet elevation.

From there I went north to Holletts Corner Road and turned left to #4076, where I pulled into the driveway and knocked on the door. Don, the owner, let me park in his driveway while I explored the area. There are 7 areas south of Holletts Corner Road, and here I'm not 100% sure that I got to all of them. Most of this land is owned by a farmer named Les Webb, with whom I didn't speak. He has also sold off some of his land for some private home sites. I wandered throughout this area, doing the best I could to visit all the areas that looked obviously higher than the surrounding terrain. As Mike noted, relief here is rather slight. A large dog came out from one of the houses to challenge me. Observing two of the basic principles of dealing with dogs during my six years as a mailman (1. Four legs run faster than two. 2. Never turn your back.), I slowly backed off until Bowser felt I was a safe distance away. This was the most difficult of the areas to be reasonably sure where you were; it is a large area of fields and pasture, some of it fenced, some of it wooded, some of it covered with scrub, and it supposedly contains 7 areas that are higher than 80 feet. I did my best.

For the area north of Holletts Corner Road at house #4216, I exercised the time-honored tradition of driving up the driveway to the house and getting out of my car, where I was already in the highest contour. People were home but no one answered my calls, so after walking around a bit I drove out. The second area north of the road is just as Mike described it, and I did that one while my car was still parked at #4076.

The area near Seenytown is as Mike described it, except that I have some doubt if the buildings nearby are really abandoned. This was another walk into a stubble field.

This left me with the 6 areas near Hartly to go to complete the county. Here I did Mike's last one first, parking at the out-of-business package store and walking across DE 44 and into another farm field to the HP. After that I drove down Crystal Road to the high area near houses #206 and 218. I drove past the area once, turned around and came back again, noting the No Trespassing sign at #218. There was a woman coming down the driveway at #206, probably to get her mail, and we smiled and waved at each other. Afterwards I was kicking myself that I hadn't asked her for permission to go up her driveway to the high ground in her back yard, but it turned out that it was a very good thing that I hadn't.

The two areas north of DE 44 are accessed from North Street, which is the unsigned paved road referred to by Mike. Apparently signs have been put up since his visit; probably the town fathers read his report. Instead of parking at the crossroads, I drove a few hundred feet further and parked at the cul-de-sac. Here I walked across another farm field to the obvious ridge that trended roughly east-west. This is my favorite candidate for the true Kent County HP. The land rises fairly well to the ridge crest, and the area is fairly large, making it probably that this area approached 85 feet in elevation. I went on to the next area north, but I don't think it is as high as the larger area. In both instances, as Mike noted, the highest ground seems to be in or near a tree line, probably a result of the fields being lowered by wind erosion.

The two areas west of Hartly are owned by the farmer who lives at #635 on DE 44. Following Mike's directions, I drove up to the farm house where I found the farmer's wife and son working in the garden. She directed me to the shop, where I found the farmer on his tractor. After some conversation, he granted me permission to walk into the field west of the house to the high ground. The other area was back near DE 44, and I parked on the shoulder of the highway to access that point.

Now it was time to return to Crystal Road, which I did, driving up the driveway of #206 into the back yard and stepping out onto the high ground. I found the lady of the house hanging out some laundry, and when I told her what I was doing and asked her if I could walk around a bit, she told me "No" very firmly. So I thanked her and backed out of the driveway. And I was very glad I hadn't made my request earlier when I'd seen her at the foot of her driveway.

Allow 3.5 to 4 hours for doing all of these areas, including talking with property owners. There is probably about 3 or 4 miles of walking, but total elevation gain probably doesn't exceed 100 feet, and may not exceed 50 feet.

My overall impression is that the property owners were not all that pleased to see me, and access to some of these areas could become a serious problem in the future. We may get away with one person a year doing this, but not one a month.