Tazewell County High Point Trip Report

BM "Maiden" on Garden Mountain (4,710 ft)

Date: May 19, 2000
Author: Fred Lobdell

This is, in my view, one of the tougher eastern county high points, especially if it is combined with the Bland County high point and both areas on Garden Mountain are visited. It involves bushwhacking and following faint trails and is an exercise in route-finding. I am indebted to Ron Tagliapietra for his fine trip report on this high point, without which I think it likely that I would have been unsuccessful. This report will quickly move through those areas where I found conditions to be identical with those reported by Ron, and give a bit more detail where I deviated from his route or experience.

The most efficient approach seems to be from Chestnut Knob, where an Appalachian Trail shelter and the Bland County high point are located. For the road approach to this area and the hike to Chestnut Knob, see my trip report under Bland county.

From the privy behind the Chestnut Knob shelter, follow a faint use trail northwest that parallels a rusty and poorly maintained barbed-wire fence. This descends fairly steeply to an old road. Negotiate the new electric fence and turn left on the road, continuing to descend to a small house. Here there are roads going off to the left and right as well as continuing straight ahead. Go straight ahead past the house, climbing over a small rise, and drop down into Heninger Gap (3,800- ft.). Continue following the road, now going northeast, as it climbs about 250 feet and passes to the left of an unnamed knob topped by a 4,080-ft contour. The road continues and passes to the right of another knob (4,280+ ft.) before ending at a large open grassy area, referred to by Ron as a swag.

Follow the high ground around to the left. The crest of the swag is shown as having a bench mark at 4,167 ft. elevation, but neither Ron nor I was able to find it. Stay as high as possible on the swag as the orientation of the crest swings around from north to west. Enter the woods and bushwhack steeply uphill, holding a generally westerly course and gaining about 400 feet elevation. Caution: you need to either mark your route on this slope or have a good memory. After attaining the ridge line, it is a relatively easy bushwhack of about a half mile through open woods to the crest of Garden Mtn. There will be an open, grassy area shortly before the crest. Following Ron's directions, I found bench mark "Garden No. 1" with an arrow on a boulder in the woods on my right, but could not locate BM "Garden".

From this point, it is another three-quarters of a mile to the other 4,680-ft contour. Walk northwest from the summit and in a short distance you will note some fairly recent (as of this writing) trails. Follow the one going northeast. These trails pass through scrub growth of 10 or 12 foot tall rhododendron and other stuff, and are not maintained. Visibility is minimal, except when you emerge onto a rocky outcrop, as noted by Ron in his report. The trail is still passable, but it involved plowing through a sea of branches in some places, while having faith that the trail was still underfoot. As did Ron, I continued on the trail over a rise until it started definitely descending. If these trails are not maintained in the future, they will rapidly become overgrown and this part of the hike will become most unpleasant.

However, slopes in this area are quite gentle, and I find it difficult to believe that the land rises 30 feet above the small 4,680-ft contour in this area. I would regard BM "Maiden" as the true high point on Garden Mountain, and of Tazewell County, and would be willing to credit anyone who attains that spot as having done the high point of Tazewell County.

From here you need to return to the true summit, then descend the southeast ridge to where you came up onto it. Hopefully, you'll either remember this spot or will have marked it. But it was on this steep descent to the swag where I went astray. I came back to the swag a few hundred feet north of where I had entered it on my ascent, and compounded my error by continuing to descend. By the time I realized I was misplaced (not lost, you understand!) I had descended much too far. In order to get back to where I should have been, I had to descend further into a small stream valley, then regain about 350 feet of elevation that I shouldn't have lost in the first place. What with figuring out where I was and taking a very circuitous route back to the old woods road, I spent an hour and 15 minutes on a stretch of the hike that should have taken only 15 minutes at most. Thus, I was an hour behind where I should have been when the thunderstorm hit.

After finally re-entering the woods from the swag, I followed the old road to the small house mentioned above. It was at this point that the thunderstorm really let loose. It was 6 p.m., and I was quite tired and was not looking forward to the 600-foot steep climb back up to Chestnut Knob. So I gambled on walking out on the gravel road (not shown on the map) that went to the left (east) from the house. (I should mention here that I had noted, while ascending Chestnut Knob, an old road that went off from the trail to the right.)

This road contoured around the north side of Chestnut Knob, losing perhaps 100 feet in a mile. There was a gate, with cattle on the other side, by two old shacks at this point. Rather than pass through the gate, you need to climb 100 feet or so to another road. Take this road to the left as it climbs gently along the north side of Chestnut Knob. After a few hundred feet it re-enters the woods and after another quarter mile or so comes out on the Appalachian Trail. This route may be a bit longer but is almost level and much easier walking than regaining the summit of Chestnut Knob. I recommend it as an exit route to anyone returning from Garden Mountain who has no need to return to Chestnut Knob. From here the descent along the trail to Walker Gap is straightforward.