Scott County High Point Trip Report

Burge Mountain - stripmined (3,260+ ft); Guinea Hill Knob and Walnut Knob (3,240+ ft)

Date: June 16, 2001
Authors: Mike Beavers and Ken Oeser

We parked at the base of Burge Mountain, with one car at Armes Gap on Highway 116. For this area, drive north on Highway 116 about 6 miles, then turn left onto Indian Fork Road. Go 0.2 mile and turn right onto a gravel road, and follow this to its crest at a dirt road heading uphill on the left. We parked here this time due to wet conditions, but Mike drove up the dirt road to an intersection on his previous visit.

From Armes Gap on Highway 116 (also the parking area for Big Fodderstack, Morgan county's highpoint), we hiked up the gated dirt road to a point below the ridge to Frozen Head lookout tower, then bushwhacked uphill beside an overgrown (with blackberries) road to the fire tower and looked out over the surrounding hills including Burge, Big Fodderstack, Guinea Hill Knob, and Walnut Knob, surveying our route for the day. We then hiked along the good trail/dirt road north to Tub Spring junction at 1.7 miles from Armes Gap. We followed the good trail north, taking a short side trail to Panther Gap Rock Shelter, and past the Panther Branch trail on the left. The road/trail ascends Little Fork Mountain, then drops to Peach Orchard Gap. Here the trail branches, and the right trail is signed for Coffin Spring. Follow this trail to Coffin Spring where the trail splits. The Cumberland trail goes downhill left. Cross the gate and continue east- northeast, and bear left at the split (right goes to Stallion Mountain) to Cold Gap. We ascended The Garden Spot and got a nice view of Guinea Hill Knob, complete with two towers on it! Strip-mining forced us to back up and go downhill to a road skirting the cliffs, then headed north and descended to Indian Fork Gap, and finally ascended Guinea Hill Knob. This is approximately 5.4 miles from Armes Gap. The towers are abandoned.

For Walnut Knob we followed an overgrown road then bushwhacked northwest, then north to Guinea Gap, finding a wide gravel road in great condition. We then followed a dirt road north to the summit of Walnut Knob. The road comes within 10 feet of the highpoint of the knob. This is about 0.7 mile north-northwest of Guinea Hill Knob. Mike thus became the first completer of Scott County by about 2 hours. We then retraced our steps to the summit of Guinea Hill Knob. Both of these summits are wooded and fully natural. We couldn't sight any of the 3 points from these two summits due to the trees.

We hiked east along the ridge from Guinea Hill Knob and soon hit a dirt road that follows the ridge down to Bunch Gap and beyond. Another nice gravel road intersects the ridge from the southwest after 1.5 miles, and this can be followed to the base of Burge Mountain after another 1.5 miles. We looked for VABM 3062 along the way. There were plenty of large rocks, but some were apparently disturbed during the wildfire fight last summer. While searching the eastern side of the contour, I spotted a fawn about 4 feet away, lying down next to a tree and log. It lay still while we admired it, without cameras!

From the base of Burge Mountain, a dirt road ascends to the top of the mountain along the county line. This area has been strip-mined somewhere around the 3240 contour according to the map, and small rock chunks are all around on the highest areas, so we don't know how high this area might be. We walked along the high area south to north, then followed the ridge eastward to be sure to hit the county line at the highest point. We followed the ridge of Burge Mountain eastward and descended past some strip-mined areas to a dirt road that follows the ridge about a mile to Daugherty Ridge at VABM 3048 (not found). From here we followed a very overgrown logging road downhill 700 feet elevation (following a ridge) to a climb-down through a strip-mined area, then followed a dirt road downhill another 700 feet elevation to the truck, 1.4 miles from the top of the ridge.

Our route was 12.2 miles through hike trip with a 3010 ft. vertical gain. 280 ft. were gained to the Frozen Head fire tower summit, but it was shorter than the dirt road that curves east before coming back to the ridge. Alternate or one-vehicle routes would involve 18.2 miles round trip with 3940 ft. vertical gain from Armes Gap to all three summits, and 12.2 miles with 3070 ft. vertical gain from the parking area, less if driven farther up the dirt road. This is a very scenic hike. I think this is tougher than Big Frog at least, and may belong on the toughest 20 in the east list. Of course if someone can find where those gravel roads come from an easier route will be found. A private gravel road leaves Highway 116 about a mile before Indian Fork Road, just above some coal equipment and buildings, and could be investigated.

My watch altimeter readings were:

Burge Mountain -- 1010-1030 meters
Walnut Knob -- 995-1015 meters
Guinea Hill Knob -- 990-1020 meters

Clinometer readings from Burge Mountain top to both Guinea Hill Knob and Walnut Knob were +0.5 degrees, reading to the tree tops. All this information means we couldn't tell which is higher. Variation in altimeter due to wind, etc. is too much and too distant (3 miles).

Although the gravel roads encountered are in very good shape, we were suspicious of the lack of ATV tracks and ruts on the gravel road and nearby dirt roads we traveled on. We suspect gates on these roads somewhere in the lower elevations.