Tazewell County Highpoint Trip Report

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

Date: May 5, 2005
Author: Roy Schweiker

It was too bad that I read Ryan Richardson's trip report as it made all the roads followed by Ron Tagliapietra and Fred Lobdell off limits. While I made a good faith effort to stay off the man's property, it wasn't posted on his side on the line and I sometimes saw I had strayed only when I came back to the line and saw the faded red Forest Service (FS) blazes. In particular, his land has about a 1/4 mile by 1/4 mile portion west of the divide with the northeast corner at his cabin near Heninger Gap but there is no fence on the south side to show when you reach it. This in-holding is not shown on my old Forest map but is on my elderly ATC map which I had assumed to be out of date.

I was curious to see how this storied bushwhack compared to the spruce-fir monsters of the Northeast, and the result was no contest. I never looked at a compass or GPS all day or even the sun, which stayed in the clouds. I navigated entirely from orienting the map to the landforms and noting landmarks from trip reports.

From the Bland COHP, I headed downhill from the privy along the old fence line, soon reaching a new wire fence which kept me off the woods road. Nearing Heninger Gap, I saw the cabin and found a woods road heading west with wire fence beyond. I was headed west trying to get around the fence when suddenly I realized that I was on the wrong side of the line! I hopped the fence and went east but found another fence before reaching the woods road up the ridge so had to bushwhack. Under spring conditions, the woods were open with fortunately only one band of rhododendron. As a peakbagger, I visited the 4280 summit which is on the FS side of the line but stayed west of the grassy "swag". It was a steeper climb to the ridge starting lower but not particularly difficult.

The datasheet for GX3406 MAIDEN says it is "A STANDARD DISK SET IN BURIED STONE" and MAIDEN RM 1 is 29.975 meters away. Fortunately, I had brought a 30.48 meter steel tape so I measured in the direction of the arrow from RM1 and found myself near the base of a medium-sized tree which I had previously judged to be about the highest point around. I did not bother to dig for the BM. I did not visit the alternate bump as it appeared lower to me as well as both Fred Lobdell and Bob Packard and was shown as 4676 feet on the 15-minute quad when presumably an instrument was set up at Maiden BM (then 4705 feet).

Since the woods road along the ridge was off limits, I decided to try a different return down the brook. Although this comes out 200 feet lower than Heninger Gap, it would avoid the up-and-down of the ridge route and also stay away from private property. I'm not sure if this route is physically easier than the ridge but it is navigationally trivial. I descended to the brook at the foot of the swag and, although I didn't find the hoped-for woods road, there was a cow path that I followed downstream for some distance. When rhododendron thickets began to cover the valley bottom, I climbed back right onto the Garden Mountain ridge far enough to avoid them. Future hikers may wish to follow the right ridge all the way down.

I crossed the brook just above its confluence with the brook from Heninger Gap; the double brook crossing and the first 100 feet up the far side were thick rhododendron. I aimed for the top of Chestnut Ridge instead of the gap and came out at the new wire fence along the woods road marking the private property. I went right along this line to a small brook where there was a gate at the northwest property corner. Anyone wishing to avoid the private property will have to descend west to this corner even if they choose the ridge route.

Rather than following the property line uphill, I had a feeling and continued right on the woods road, which ascended slightly past a minor ridge then zagged left uphill past 2 small clearings. The road then makes some long switchbacks to the AT at the crest of Chestnut Ridge. The road continues downhill toward Walker Gap but I went left on the AT about 0.1 mile to the lean-to and talked to some through-hikers. Whether the zigzag road is faster than the steep bushwhack is questionable. Note also that about 200 yards of the road nicks the southwest corner of the private property but this is easily bushwhacked around. The only "No Trespassing" sign I saw was on the road facing uphill.