Bell County High Point Trip Report

Date: May 5-6, 2001
Author: Ken Oeser

BM Chadwell

From the intersection of Highway 25E with Highway 58, go east on Hwy. 58 for about 10 miles and turn left onto VA 690. Follow this to VA 688 which goes north to the Chadwell Gap trailhead at about elevation 1600 ft. Hike north 1.8 miles to the Ridge Trail, then west (left) 0.2 mile to Chadwell Gap. Continue west along the ridge another 0.4 mile to the trail crest (and a faint trail on the right) before the descent into Hensley settlement. Leave the trail and follow the ridge 0.3 miles west, descending a small saddle, then climbing a short distance to the summit. BM Chadwell was not found, but there are several small stacks of rocks, and trees have fallen on some of these.

two areas 1000 ft west of BM TWW9

From VA 690 and Hwy. 58, drive east on Hwy. 58 about 4 miles to Ewing and turn left (north) onto VA 724 to the Civic Park at the end of the road. Park in the grassy field just below the picnic shelter, then hike north 0.6 mile to the horse trail junction, 1.9 miles to the White Rocks trail, and continue straight 1 mile to the Sand Cave trail junction. (Of course we hiked the 0.4 mile round trip to Sand Cave, which is a huge sandstone cave.) Hike west along the ridge another mile to the third hill that the trail climbs (BM TWW9 was not found on the second climb). At the large, impressive conglomerate sandstone block on the left, leave the trail and hike uphill to the right to the first knob. There is an impressive dome-shaped rock that is higher than the others, but no easy way up. This is definitely a class 4 or 5. While Annette and Alexandra snacked, I built a makeshift ladder out of felled limbs nearby and climbed up this with the help of a standing dead tree next to the rock. There are lichens on this rock, which has a nice hump on top. (This one may have actually been a true virgin point.) The others climbed up and down quickly, then we continued to the last area. Hike west down a short saddle, then climb up the ridge to its crest about 300-400 feet from the dome rock (Oeser's Dome). This one turns out to be quite nice, with the best view of the three points, with Highway 58 and the valley visible below, and the main ridge of Cumberland Mountain heading west to BM Chadwell, Hensley settlement, and eventually Cumberland Gap. On the way back down, I hiked up to the old lookout tower site and found BM White Rock elevation 3513 (Letcher and Lee counties), which may or may not be the highpoint of Cumberland Gap National Historic Park.

We saw a deer, a baby ring-neck snake, a newt, wild turkey, several millipedes, toad, and plenty of gnats on these two hikes. We took a combined trip of 14.6 miles and 4080 feet of gain to do this county, but it can be done as a single trip from Chadwell Gap trailhead. The totals for that route would be about 7.3 miles round trip and 2340 feet of gain. That may not be enough to make the toughest in the east list, but it may be the toughest in Kentucky.