Russell County Highpoint Trip Report
Date: January 12, 2005
Author: Patrick Craft
Purchased the quads from the USGS for the Beartown Mountain and took my son on a little adventure.
First we drove up VA 80 to Hayters Gap to scope out the "Great Channels". The channels are owned by the
Nature Conservancy and are a maze of crevices a few feet wide and between 20 and 40 feet deep, in a tract
of land almost 5000 acres. There was an article in the Bristol News about the Channels last year that piqued
my interest. The Channels and surrounding land were purchased to prevent large-scale development of a
unique area. Access may be obtained through the Nature Conservancy or by staying at Raven Ridge Bed
and Breakfast up on the mountain, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kennedy. We had an nice visit and tour
with Mr. Kennedy. A real nice place for an escape. He concurred with my presumption that the Channels
were like slots in Utah, though not as deep and a lot greener.
Previous trip reports to Beartown Mountain only speak of eastern access by way of Tumbling Creek,
on state forest game land. I drove over to the west side and found the jeep road that goes up to Mutter Gap.
I made a few inquiries and found the owner of the land traversed by the road. Estil Stilwell is a 74 year-old
retired coal mine owner and bear hunter. We had a nice visit and he had no problems with anyone hiking up
to Mutters Gap, as long as people were respectful of the land and others. Though he never said exactly
those words, that was the feeling I got. We left with 2 dozen fresh eggs and an open invite to his cabin near
the Great Channels. I learned that Mr. Stilwell and Mr. Kenndey knew each other but not on a social basis.