Macomb County High Point Trip Report

Twombly Mtn (1,150+ ft)

Date: December 8, 2002
Author: Bob Schwab

Today I finally got inside the Ford Automotive Proving Grounds in Romeo, Michigan where Twombly Mountain is located. I'm pretty sure this is a virgin visit, since everyone I talked to says no one has ever visited this facility with such a strange request. I think they probably decided to let me in because this was the last county I needed to complete the state of Michigan. The Operations Manager, Mike Paggi, was extremely helpful in arranging this visit, and it was well worth the wait (I started exploring how to do this one back in May). After signing some liability waivers and clearing the security gate, I met Barney, who has been a test driver there for 23 years. We hopped into his big van and headed out onto the track, where we encountered several other drivers testing new and experimental vehicles. Barney took me up the 29% grade track (eastern approach) that they've built up to a circle on the top of Twombly Mountain. This circle connects to three other tracks which come up from the west and north sides with gradients of 17%, 45%, and 60% respectively. Looking down the 60% slope is like looking down a ski jump. Only the most rugged 4WD and military vehicles are tested there. Barney waited in the van while I quickly "Martinized" the area. The top has been altered, but the highest remaining ground appears to be on the south side of the hill, right next to the guard rail. (I'll bet those drivers were surprised to see me standing there as they whizzed by!) The center of the circle and the northern rim were also checked, but they were both clearly lower than the south rim. There is quite an impressive view off to the north and east (you can see over to Canada), but most of the hill is heavily wooded. They are real touchy about cameras, but Barney was willing to snap a quick shot of me over near the 60% grade sign at the top.

Barney then took me on a brief tour of the grounds, which included another hill climb area just south of Twombly Mountain which has an impressive view of the Detroit skyline, and of course a lap around the banked oval at a modest 95 mph (he said some of the cars out there were running around 150 mph!). Obviously roaming pedestrians do not belong within these grounds, so my experience was very special. Given the 12-foot fences, remote cameras and security patrols, this is not a site you can "stealth," and certainly they don't want to deal with visitors like me very often. Contact me if you think you have a "good reason" to ask for a visit, and I'll be glad to tell you what I did and who I talked to.

This county was my last one in Michigan, so now I claim the state. My very first county highpoint (where I deliberately went out to find it) was Cass County, Michigan, in November 2000. I used Mike Schwartz's trip report and got all muddy walking in the cornfield. Now 2 years later, I've finished the entire state of Michigan and have over 600 counties to my credit. I guess I'm hooked on COHPing.