May 25, 2003, around 1:00 pm
Ryan Cragun, Debi Cragun
Debi and I needed a break from school and all of the things that tend to take over your life when you’re at home. When Memorial Day came around and we had a three-day weekend we decided it would be the perfect opportunity for that break. I had pretty much visited every other state high point that was within a day’s round trip driving distance from Cincinnati other than Kentucky’s, so we decided to visit Black Mountain.
I actually began the planning a bit earlier than most on this one because I knew that you have to fill out a waiver in order to visit the highpoint. The highpoint is owned by a coal company and they request that you fill out a waiver to visit it. You can find the waiver here. Either way, it just takes a couple of minutes to download the waiver, fill it out, and send it in. I actually printed two copies to take one with me in case someone actually stopped me on the mountain but didn’t need it.
We left Cincinnati at around 8:00 am. The drive was pleasant and not many people were on the road. I listened to a book on CD while Debi worked on our laptop. The time passed pretty quickly and we were driving through very rural Kentucky before we knew it. We had pretty good directions and drove directly to the highpoint (see my directions below). There are a lot of roads around that area, so make sure you have good directions.
We did actually see some other people on the summit. There were some people parked at the FAA radar tower who I don’t think were there to visit the highpoint but were working at the tower. There was also an SUV parked just below the summit at the entrance gate. The people in that SUV were also there working, but they were working on one of the towers right on the summit. A second SUV pulled in while we were getting our shoes on (can’t drive five hours with shoes on!) with some people in it who were actually headed there for the highpoint.
Once we got our shoes on and our camera ready, we walked the very short distance from the FAA tower (it seemed like the best place to park our Honda Civic) to the summit. The summit is pretty nearly covered with antennae towers. I didn’t actually count them because there were so many, but there are a lot – between 10 and 15. They were buzzing with activity. Some of them had support buildings and one even had a danger sign on it citing high levels of radio frequency; that was a little unnerving.
But I wasn’t really too worried about being harmed by the radio waves because we had no intention of being on the highpoint for long. When we got to the actual highpoint (underneath the tower), there were two men working on one of the nearby towers and a couple with their dog that was visiting the highpoint. One of the workers introduced himself. He was from Tennessee and was very congenial. We didn’t talk for long; I think he had work to do. We also talked with the other couple. They had each done a number of other highpoints. The man (I didn’t catch their names but found out they were from near D.C.) had done most of the more difficult highpoints (Rainer, Mt. Hood, etc.) and now they were doing some of the easier ones. They took our picture for us, preventing us from having to set up the tripod, and then they left.
I can’t really blame them because there really isn’t much to see on the summit other than towers and antennas; it really is pretty ugly. There isn’t even much of a view because the summit is pretty flat with rather tall trees surrounding it. We spent a few minutes walking around and snapping pictures just to get a good feel for it. Without all of the towers, it might be a nice place for a picnic seeing as how the highpoint is in a nice little meadow with wildflowers, but it just isn’t the place you’ll want to sit and take in nature’s beauty. The USGS marker is near the southeast corner of the tower cemented into a slab of cement. Directly beneath the tower is a mess; there are slabs of concrete and most of the space is taken up by what appears to be a rather haphazard fire pit. It didn’t make for a very picturesque vista. We didn’t bother climbing the tower, which is supposed to be off limits anyway, said goodbye to the workers, and headed back down the trail.
We did see some pretty butterflies and some of the surrounding area is probably pretty nice, but we didn’t make much of an effort to see it. We headed back the way we came, stopped at Taco Bell on the way home, and made it back by around 6:30. Overall, not a particularly beautiful highpoint, but another one down (or should it be up for highpoints?).
Couple other things to mention. Coming from the Kentucky side, after leaving Lynch, the road headed toward the summit (160) winds a lot with some very sharp curves. It also seems to take forever to get from Lynch to the summit entrance road but you get some sense of how close you are by looking at the surrounding terrain and seeing how high you are relative to it. It’s about 11 miles from when you first get on 160 to the summit. There also aren’t many places to eat or many services very close to the summit, so be sure to have sufficient gas and something to snack on (perhaps there are some non-vegetarian places, but we tend to completely overlook them).