4/30/2007 at 12:41 pm #7758
highpointersclubParticipant[Ed: Imported from Americas Roof ‘Summit Trip Reports’ forum][By: Karen Somers on April 30 2007 at 12:41 PM]I just returned from my third foray up into the Grayson Highlands. I summitted Mt. Rogers back on my AT thru-hike in 1998. This trip, we hiked from Dickey Gap southbound on the AT up into the Highlands via Old Orchard Shelter and then a night at Thomas Knob. The weather was extremely volatile when we arrived at Thomas Knob and remained windy, wet and foggy for the rest of that day–April 25,2007. The next morning, we waited until about 9:00 a.m. to set out. The rain had ended, but it was still windy and foggy. However, the fog was beginning to lift only to reveal more dark clouds on the horizon.
At the side trail to Mt. Rogers, we opted to skip it this time for an attempt on Whitetop Mountain. I’ve been interested in seeing its summit for three years now. We hiked down into Elk Garden where the sun finally showed itself intermittently. I took a nice nap in the grass before my husband and I headed uphill to Whitetop. Just before and within sight of the gravel road to the summit of Whitetop, we veered off trail and straight uphill, leaving the AT. However, we eventually found old white blazes and the old trace of the AT. It used to be routed nearer to the summit than it is now.
I found it very cool to be walking in the trace of the old AT, but we had to leave it when we got close to the treeline (the red spruce cap the summit of Whitetop around open land, just like Rogers, so it is a reverse type of treeline). We planned to traverse cross country to the summit, but opted to walk the gravel road when we read that the area is home to endangered/threatened wildlife that we could disturb with our bushwhacking. I’m glad they posted those signs.
However, the mountain seemed very abused. Lots of trash along the road and in the thick spruce woods. At the top is an FAA/federal enclosure surrounded by a tall chain link fence. The fence is not very secure; there were two areas where I could easily have slipped beneath. I chose not to do so in case there were security cameras. Did not want to spend that night in jail; sleeping out at Buzzard Rock was more appealing.
My husband and I took independent ventures into the very thick, dark woods around the fenced area looking for a summit marker or register. It was hard to tell what the highest point was by eyeing it, but the true summit is most likely within the ugly enclosure (antennas, radio dishes, and trailers within). We did find what appeared to be an old wooden register box at eye level in a tree and a rock cairn on the right side of the enclosure about five paces into the woods. I also found another smaller rock cairn on the opposite side of the enclosure…..but no summit marker. Lots of ugly trash, like fluorescent light bulbs, Pepsi cans from the 1970s and scrap metal, all of it scattered (no doubt by the creators of the enclosure during construction) willy nilly all throughout the beautiful and rare remnant red spruce forest. So much for the environmental concerns….government giveth or taketh at will, I guess.
I would love to know if one exists. Or at least where the true summit lies. If anyone has any knowledge or experience with it, I’d love to hear from you. I searched the Web high and low for any info on Whitetop. Not much out there.
Whitetop turned out to be a very neat adventure. Our first “Second Highest Point” (we have 33 and 35 highpoints so far).
On the way down, we discovered an overgrown and extremely steep trail off the west side of the mountain, before you reach the open areas with views down to Buzzard Rock. We followed it out of curiousity for a bit. It was once very well-maintained; someone put a lot of work into it. Huge railroad ties had been laid in step fashion. But it’s obviously in major disrepair. I’d also like to know more about it.
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