Tazewell County Highpoint Trip Report

BM Maiden on Garden Mtn (4,710 ft)

Date: January 2006
Author: Patrick Craft

In my quest to try new and interesting routes to highpoints, I thought I would try to summit BM Maiden and Chestnut from the west. This is a tough hike. On the USGS Hutchinson Rock topo there is a logging road, east of BM BC 31, that makes the 3400 contour and ends. I drove out US 19 to Tazewell, right on Business 19/460, south on VA 16 to Thompson Valley, left on CR 604, around on CR 602 (Beartown Road) to the end of the pavement (3000 feet) and parked. I walked up to the house at 3900 Beartown Road where I met the Sawyers, Rick and Susan. I explained my quest, we talked, then I set off behind their house.

I walked up an ever-steeper ridgeline and, at about 4000 feet, the rhododendrons got very thick, the snow appeared, and the slope really steepened. I climbed some cliffs and slowly made my way south-southeast through unbelievably thick blueberries and mountain laurel on the summit plateau. I think it took an hour to go 1/3 mile. I finally got to the previous mentioned trail with 2 inches of snow. It was cloudy, windy and about 25 degrees. Momentarily confused, I made my way to the HP and took a break. By now the sky had cleared and sun came out.

Down the ridge southeast of Maiden, I previously decided to make a straight line (130 degrees) to the gap between 4080 and 4280 feet. I made the gap between 4080 and 4280 feet close to my turnaround time (1 pm). I headed back on the aforementioned road and then left up to 4280 feet and the summit, descended steeply to the creek and back up to the ridge. I wasn't sure the road made the swag and I never could mentally picture the route on my topo from the descriptions. I did notice an interesting tree that sits on the edge of the gently sloping ridge southeast of the HP, where one drops down (left) to the swag. It is a huge sideways V shaped hardwood. I spotted the mostly open swag off to the east.

I then took the trail towards Hutchinsons Rock. I stopped at the rock overlook and the view down into Burkes Garden was great. When the summit plateau began to narrow I struck left (west-northwest) off the trail and came out at the Sawyers house! We visited and when they asked me if I needed anything I requested some Naproxen.

Previous descriptions about the Garden Mountain trail are correct. The trail trending east-northeast descends to Hutchinson Rock and the gap east of VA 602. There were signs of trimming the laurel back on the trail. I forgot to ask Mr. Sawyer how far down Clinch Mountain the west-southwest trail went. The topo shows a jeep road ascending Clinch Mountain near the Thompson Cemetery but it ends about a mile from the HP. I suspect this continues as the trail. That bushwhack would be complete misery.

The BM Maiden HP is actually the intersection of Clinch and Garden Mountains. This is a tough hike. The bushwhack up was brutal -- snow in the face, hair, back, glasses knocked around and fogging, slow progress climbing over, crawling under, and plowing forward in the laurel. The bushwhack down not too bad. If one chooses this route, ascend to the summit plateau where it is narrow, southeast of Hutchinsons Rock. The Bland county HP will wait for another day.

The area southwest of the ridge connecting Chestnut Knob and BM Maiden is the Beartown Wilderness, 5609 acres with one trail 2 miles long. This area lies between the AT on the south and Clinch Mountain on the north. Sounds like a great place to camp. I expect you may not see any other people.