Washington County Highpoint Trip Report
Date: April 2008
Author: John Hasch
I drove up the mountain and I arrived at the gate where two vehicles were being
searched in front of me. There is a lot of contractor activity on the
mountaintop and today seemed to be a heavy day. The two vehicles went through
the gate and then it was my turn.
I pulled up to the gate, by now re-closed after the previous vehicles were let in.
One officer approached my truck and a second, gun-toting guard stood
nearby, finger on the trigger. No kidding. When asked what my business was,
I told the first man my name and informed him of the previous contacts I had made
with Ellen Britsch. He asked me to get out of the truck, open the hood, all
doors, and the cap door. He asked me for my keys, which I promptly turned over.
He asked me for two forms of photo ID and I only had one. I gave him my
driver's license. He then asked me to stand over next to the guard with the gun
while he went inside the guard trailer. I again promptly complied.
When the man came back, he informed me my name was not on any list and they were
not going to let me in. My heart leapt into my throat as it increased its beat.
Nervously, I mentioned that I had contacted Ellen several weeks ago to make
initial arrangements and I also had just contacted her the prior Friday to
confirm that the visit was okay. He wasn't impressed but he did go back into
the trailer to do some follow-up.
While I was waiting, some more traffic came in behind me. By now it was clear
that my truck wasn't going to be allowed inside since I did not have Dept of
Defense clearance. The man came back outside and I told him I was not expecting
to get my truck inside anyway. Ellen had told me to expect to be stopped at the
gate and asked to park there to be escorted by foot the hundred feet or so to
the top. He asked me to move my truck over to the turnaround just below the gate.
I moved out of the way so the next truck could pull up to the gate.
I opened all doors again and returned my keys to the gun-toting guard.
By now, two other guns had appeared. One man had stepped out of the guard
trailer and another had positioned himself noticeably up the hill inside the
fence next to the communication equipment. Then a breakthrough came. One of
the men recalled two hikers being mentioned in a briefing earlier that week.
They were making calls to try to clear things up. A short while later, one of
the gun-toting guards told me everything was okay. He escorted me up the hill
and then went inside the fenced-in area, presumably to tell the folks there what
was going on.
Coincidentally, I was to meet another person who had traveled from the
Pittsburgh area. At the top of the hill, I heard someone call out my name.
It was he! He had gained access because his car had DoD clearance stickers on it!
We wandered around the summit, outside the fenced-in areas, and touched all
potential HP candidates. Our choice for the highest was a set of boulders in
the woods to the northeast. Several rocks had been stacked nearby into a
4-walled sort of fort-like structure, the kind kids might make. Satisfied, we
left the summit area about 15 minutes after I arrived. The mountain was now
mine but not without adding to the folklore.
Footnote: At no time did I believe the guards acted inappropriately.
They did their jobs, professionally carrying out the task they were assigned.
While waiting for clearance, I chatted with the men who met me at the gate about the
CoHP experience and what prompts folks like me to do this kind of stuff.
They even joked about taking off work early to enjoy the beautiful day. They were
normal guys, though their guns were bigger and they knew (presumably) how to use them!
When I left, I thanked them for doing their jobs.