Elkhart County Highpoint Trip Report

Buzzard Hill (1,040+ ft)

Date: March 17, 2007
Author: John Hasch

Mileage zeroed at intersection of US 6 and IN 15.

0.2 - Intersection with CR 23 - turn left (north)
1.4 - Intersection with CR 50 - turn right (east)
2.5 - Drive past bungalow referred to by Bob Schwab - still well posted
2.9 - Intersection with CR 25 - turn right (south)
3.3 - Intersection with CR 123 - turn right (west)
3.9 - Road bends south - turn right onto right-most driveway and drive to house.

The notoriety of this place was spooky. One only needed to read Bob Schwab’s trip report to understand that the attempt would need to be blessed in order for me to accomplish it. So I decided to make this the first attempt of my day. The other targets in Kosciusko and Whitley Counties were expected to be easily ascended.

Traveling into the area on US 6, I surprised myself at how quickly I had arrived at the intersection with IN 15. I had driven past CR 23 without thinking about it. I turned around, took one last look at the map, and turned north on CR 23 as planned.

I followed Bob’s directions to the bungalow where the nasty old woman lived. Intending to park and ask permission to ascend the hill, I changed my mind as I noticed all the chains and signs proclaiming "No Trespassing". I moved on to Plan B - the decision to scout the area for another access up the mountain from an alternate property.

I continued east past a county highway department complex that covered the entire eastern area to CR 25. Once at that intersection, I turned south and drove past the radio tower shown on the topo map. I continued to the next road west, CR 123. The topo map shows an elevation of 923 feet here. I took a relative altimeter reading (RAR) of 863 feet.

I decided my best effort would be from a home at the foot of the hill on the southwest corner so I continued on CR 123 until the road took a sharp bend south. At this point, two driveways went north to the hill. I took a RAR of 831 feet. There were two mailboxes but I saw only one green highway department house number sign. The number on the sign was 18719, making one of the addresses 18719 CR 123. The left drive led to a red house. I chose the right driveway, leading up to a gray house. I parked in the gravel drive next to the pole barn and house.

I knocked at the front door to seek permission to climb. A few moments later, a man opened the door. I told him of my desires to climb the mountain and I asked his permission. He then told me a bit of the history of the region. His property line was up the hill at an obvious 2-stranded wire fence, he said. Above that, the property belonged to someone else. If I wanted the best view, I would need to travel a bit farther to the summit of the neighboring hill that contained the ski lift remains.

The man, who later identified himself as Phil Lindeman, told me this land had been in his family for about 100 years. The view from Phil’s front yard is already somewhat spectacular. I drove past sloping, hilly farm fields that are not common to the flat lands of Indiana. They remind me more of the cow pastures of Wisconsin. When he first moved here, Phil told me he had to "divine" to find water. The water on the hill is very hard to find because of the large content of sand and gravel. This is exactly why gravel operations have been conducted on the northern side of Buzzard Hill.

The ski lift has not been operated since the mid-1960s. At that time, the owner died and a fight for property rights began. The land was tied up in the courts for a number of years and only recently seems to have been resolved. The new owner is absentee, from New York Phil believes, but he has shown up at times recently and he appears to be friendly and cooperative. Phil told me the neighbor set off a fireworks display this past July 4th.

This friendly attitude is in contrast to the "nasty old lady" who used to live in the house. Phil told me stories about how she would surprise unsuspecting people by popping out of the woods with a gun pointing at them! I guess Bob Schwab had her image correctly understood. Anyway, the old lady was now gone, so I did not need to worry about her. I was told to enjoy the hike. I started up the hill at 5:04 pm, taking a RAR of 892 feet at my car.

It did not take long to reach the fence line marking the Lindeman property. I bushwhacked my way to this point, merely following my nose and trying to avoid as many thistle bushes as possible. I crossed the fence at a large downed tree trunk and continued on to reach the top of this hill. Remains of the ski operation were found. There was a large concrete foundation and a single rusty pole holding a pulley for the old tow rope.

From here, I located an ATV trail so I followed it down a saddle between this hill and the main highest area. I continued on the ATV trail up the next hill and soon emerged on top, surrounded by decaying concrete, poles and ski ghosts. I took a RAR of 998 feet there.

The views from this vantage were spectacular! In fact, I have lived in northern Indiana for about 40 years and I cannot think of another spot with such a view. I would rate this as my #1 lookout spot in northern Indiana. The air was cold, the skies were sunny and clear, and you could see for miles in all directions. There were few woodsy areas in the flatlands below to keep the viewer from seeing farther away. Phil told me you could see Elkhart to the north and Warsaw to the south.

The new owner has recognized the beauty of the sight. He has constructed a new (judging from the greenness of the wood) 20-foot observation tower on top of the hill. The top deck is about 100 square feet. I climbed this tower and wished I had brought my camera. The hill sloped off quickly in all directions, towering above the gravel operations that could be seen to the northeast and northwest. I would encourage anyone to take in this view and it would be nice if the owner would make this hill more accessible.

I stayed as long as I could tolerate the cold air. It was quite breezy, so the wind chill brought cold and numbness relatively quickly. I had not brought coat, gloves or hat, so I left the summit area when I no longer wanted to battle the chill. I returned the way I came and arrived back at my car about 1/2 hour after I had left. I drove away, heading for the top of neighboring Kosciusko County.