Craig County Highpoint Trip Report

White Rocks on Potts Mtn (3,940+ ft)

Date: September 20, 2008
Author: Fred Lobdell

This was a re-ascent for me after someone, in his trip report of September 19, 2006, raised doubts as to whether or not I had gotten to the correct point. In a recent conversation, he noted that the county lines are all straight lines and that the tri-county junction (Craig County's probable HP) lay on the south side of the summit contour. Having re-visited the area and giving the matter some thought, I will discuss this below after recounting my hike.

Follow previous trip reports to get to the trailhead. I hiked the Appalachian Trail uphill to Wind Rock, a promontory with excellent views to the north. Here I found a dozen or so college students camped for the weekend. Just below Wind Rock the AT descends to fall a short distance below the ridge of Potts Mountain, while the Potts Mountain Trail goes east. I followed the latter. About a mile east of Wind Rock the trail appears to descend through a meadow before re-entering the woods. Here I made a mistake because I didn't think it was the right way to go but it was. So I bushwhacked several hundred feet east before picking up the trail again but I stayed with the trail on my return trip.

About another mile into the hike, maybe halfway down the final descent into the saddle below White Rocks, I saw a bear a couple of hundred feet in front of me, on the trail. A few seconds later I saw a second, smaller bear; it may have been a half-grown cub born this spring and accompanying its mother. I backed off another hundred feet or so and gave some thought to abandoning the hike altogether but having come so far I was reluctant to do that. So I started talking loudly and after a short interval I saw the bears going off into the woods on the north side. I slowly resumed my hike while scanning frequently in all directions, including behind me. At the saddle I saw a third bear, also in the trail. It, too, moved off at a leisurely pace at the sound of my voice and I made the final ascent to White Rocks.

Having apparently stopped short of the goal on my last attempt seven years ago, I over-compensated this time. When I first checked my position by GPS unit, I was a couple of hundred feet too far east and had to backtrack.

A word about GPS coordinates is in order. Those provided by Acme have had their accuracy questioned recently and in some cases don't seem to agree with those gotten from Topozone. However, Acme was all I had because I had originally done this hike in my pre-GPS days. Mike Schwartz was kind enough to provide me with the Topozone coordinates that he had used. His report stated that he thought the CoHP was about fifty feet downhill (south) from the rocks at the south edge of the ridge. The Acme coordinates I had pretty much agreed with that position but my GPS unit and the Topozone coordinates placed the tri-county junction a few feet north of the pointy rock at the ridge edge. If this is accurate, then the pointy rock itself is in Craig County and the point is the CoHP, so I put my hand on it to be sure.

To explain why I think the latter interpretation is correct, I will point out that the tri-county junction is clearly within the highest contour, albeit near the south side of that contour. The summit ridge itself is highest along its south edge in this area. This particular map uses a 20-foot contour interval, so one doesn't have to descend very far down-slope before passing out of the highest contour. I rather suspect that the Craig/Giles county line was drawn to intersect the state line right at White Rocks. It would be educational to find a legal description of that county line. It is also possible that there are rocks a little further east on the ridge that are in Craig County and slightly higher than the pointy rock. Not having thought this through completely when I was there, I didn't really investigate this possibility. I guess Mike and I will have to re-visit this one again.

My return hike was uneventful, being entirely bear-free.