Cattaragus County High Point Trip Report

USGS BM Clare (2430 ft)

Date: August 17, 2000
Author: Mike Schwartz

This one is nasty. First, I must report that Bill Schuler's trip report is erroneous. BM Clare in not south of Knapp Creek, at or near the PA line. It's actually about three miles north of Knapp Creek. Secondly, the oil and gas drilling that generated the jeep trails on the mountain has long since been discontinued, and the "jeep trails" are overgrown, eroded, and very obscure.

My approach to the mountain was from Olean. Take NY 16 south across the Allegheny River, and quickly turn right(west) onto county 60, West River Road. After 3.5 miles, go left(south) on county 61. Bear right onto West Branch Road at 4.0 miles, and left onto Richards Road at 5.9 miles. There is a small parking area on the left at 6.5 miles, with the dead-end gate visible ahead. I hiked up the overgrown track road and went right at the first fork. The path climbed steadily, but rapidly became extremely overgrown, blocked by fallen trees, and very muddy. As I got high on the mountain, I left the northward trending path and bushwhacked uphill to the west. I soon intersected another overgrown path, slightly better than the first, but still trending northward. I left this path to go uphill to the west, and this time started passing the house-sized rocks mentioned in the USGS Data Sheet as being within 0.2 miles of the summit. Several hundred yards more bushwhacking brought me above the rocks, and the ground ahead was obviously sloping down. Here, on what passes for open ground on this mountain, was BM Clare, in a standard 3-4" inch-high, square concrete base, with a witness post nearby, minus the sign. It was now 7:30 PM, and I started pushing downhill to beat the darkness. After a while it became obvious that I had gotten turned around and was heading down the jeep trail shown on the topo heading SW toward Chipmunk Road. It was too late to retrace or bushwhack back toward Richards Road, and a rapidly improving dirt road down the wrong side of the mountain beat a night in the woods. This descent route is that used by the USGS in its 1964 station recovery described on the "Clare" data sheet. At that time, it was possible to drive the entire route to the summit. Today, a "cat" would struggle to make the trip. When I finally reached Chipmunk Road, I started walking north, hoping the walk around the north end of the range back to my car would only be 5-6 miles. As I passed a private home and greeted the owner, he took pity on me and volunteered to drive me back to my car. The trip was about 10 miles. This was truly an "act of random kindness."

Notes: This mountain is very damp and overgrown. Unless you are a masochist, wait until the underbrush dies off to attempt a climb. Don't start two hours before sundown, like I did. The mountain is complicated, with several ridge lines descending in all directions. All the jeep trails I found were in terrible condition, and if I ever revisit, it might be easier just to pick a good bushwhack route from the start. The shortest approach is from Richards Road, but the routes on that side of the mountain are the worst. The Chipmunk Road approach I used for descent is better, but the road peters out into a field about 100 yards from Chipmunk Road, and would not be easy to spot from the road. Compass and GPS would be a major help. Once you find the house-sized boulders, you are on the homestretch to the summit. Look for the signless witness post to spot the benchmark.