Upton County High Point Trip Report

King Mtn and Castle Mtn

Date: March 10, 2002
Author: Scott Surgent

From the city of Crane, I headed south on US-385 about 8 miles to Castle Gap Road on my left (east). There is an Historical Marker nearby, and a good road that leads in toward the two mesas that tie for the Upton County highpoint. Alas, about two miles in I came to a locked gate across the road, still too far out to consider walking in from there. So I backtracked out to the highway, went north a bit to Ma Earp Road on the east side again, and went in. It loses its pavement at the Crane/Upton county line, then follows a good dirt road generally southeast to near a windmill at 2,887 feet at a bend in the road. King Mountain, the larger of the two mesas, was directly to my south and I could see the FAA "golf-ball" facility on its top. A locked gate prevented me from driving in, but I did see some people milling about at some old trailers and a partially collapsed barn. So I walked in and greeted them.

An older gentleman was busy hitching his cattle trailer to his truck when I caught his attention. I introduced myself, showed him my map and explained what I wanted to do. At first he seemed skeptical but after a few minutes he warmed to me and granted me permission. He introduced himself as Mr. Sanders. He even opened the locked gate for me and allowed me to drive up the FAA access road to King Mountain's flat top, almost near the FAA facility. He drove with me to the top in his own truck to try to locate some of his cattle. He explained that the FAA facility is actually on another guy's land, but he didn't mind me walking to it and pacing the perimeter, which I did for a short bit before calling it good. Mr. Sanders then gave me a route to follow to get close to the other highpoint, Castle Peak. Here, we bid goodbye and I went on my way, back down King Mountain toward the trailers and barn. Two hunters were at the barn cooking lunch but they didn't mind me and I didn't mind them.

I took a sketchy ranch road a short bit to a pipeline road, followed that about a mile to another better ranch road, which curled around to the base of Castle Mountain. I parked at an oil pump. The hike to the top was short but moderately strenuous. The brush isn't too thick but finding a route through the rocky ramparts surrounding the mesa was the only challenge. I found a couple of weaknesses and attained the top in about a half-hour. I walked the flat top for about 20 minutes then started back down to my truck.

Mr. Sanders had given me the combo to the gate's lock so I could let myself out. I did so, and left a letter of thanks folded up into a space near the lock. I wonder if he got it. In any case, his kindness to let me drive in knocked off at least 2 hours from my itinerary. He was a very nice man who mentioned he usually allows access as long as permission is asked for; he does not live on the property but visits it regularly.