Clay County High Point Trip Report
spot elevation 800 ft northeast of Sugar Gap (2,235 ft)
Date: February 20, 2004
Author: Estus Hibbard
I found this one to be incredibly easy! Levi Foust's driving directions are
quite correct. On Darby's Branch Road (located in the far-southeastern corner
of Clay County) there is an old barn practically at the end of the road.
Park your vehicle there unless you have a four-wheeler or mountain bike, walk back
down the road about 500 feet, and on your left there is a four-wheeler trail
going up the hill (not shown on Topozone or Delorme). The trail itself varies
in quality from excellent for the most part to a bit bad in a couple of locations,
so take a vehicle that has rather good ground clearance (the trail,
including the beginning of it, dips down into a very shallow stream, which is
about two feet across).
Continue up the trail for about 1.1 miles to Sugar Gap, and while en route do
not get discouraged if the trail takes a sharp turn in a southwesterly direction,
it will take you directly to the gap -- trust me. Sugar Gap is a huge clearing
where about three or four four-wheeler trails intersect, and you will get
excellent views even from there. At this point, you are right below the summit,
so turn right and go up the hill.
After hiking about 200 feet past Sugar Gap, this is where this little hike
starts to get sticky, so to speak. This is the section that is guarded by briars,
but certainly not so bad that you can't get through. I just stomped
them down with my feet and proceeded on.
The HP itself is marked by a USGS benchmark that has clearly seen better days
and a U.S. Forest Service boundary marker just barely inside the wood line, the
pole of which is painted red. There is also a downed tree right beside it, with
four other trees with red paint marks on them, and a sandstone rock planted
beside the BM that is now red too, so you'll definitely know that you've hit the jackpot.
I spent some time loafing in the area around the HP, and even downed a
can of Dr. Pepper to celebrate.
As far as views go, the immediate vicinity at and around the HP (no more than
about 300 feet walking to the northwest at most), the highpoint for Clay County
is excellent! It's got some great views off to the northwest in Clay County,
and even better views into Knox and Bell counties. You can easily see the
strip mine operations in Knox County in the distance from up there.
In my opinion, this is definitely now a Class 1 hike, except for the little
portion where you have to go through the briars. It is about 10 times easier
than what I had earlier anticipated. You can certainly take your sweet time
from the beginning of the trail and not strain yourself. I even looked at a map
showing where the U.S. Forest Service owns land within the Daniel Boone National
Forest earlier, and all three points (and possibly all of the trail) look to be
on their land, so access shouldn't be much of a problem, except for the parking area.
Not to be biased, since this is my home county, but this HP is certainly
well worth the trip.