Ascent of Big Oak Mountain on 2017-04-08

Climber: Dennis Stewart

Others in Party:Marshall Stewart -- Trip Report or GPS Track
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, April 8, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Big Oak Mountain
    Elevation:2040 ft / 621 m

Ascent Trip Report

As far as I can determine, Big Oak Mountain is the 11th highest named high point in Alabama. The trailhead is located on a gravel road one mile north of Bain Gap to a locked gate just 210 feet east from the summit of Moorman Hill. From the locked gate it is .7 miles to the summit of Big Oak Mountain. Half of this distance is on the gravel road past the locked gate and the second half requires a bushwhack before reaching the steep eastern slope of Big Oak Mountain. My son, Marshall, and I took 34 minutes to reach the summit and we were puzzled by several signs on the west side of the road that read, "Danger Impact Area" and had a diagram of a boy and girl in the middle of an explosion. Since we were hiking on public land with no posted signs, we thought maybe this was an attempt by the Alabama Conservation Department to add humor to a sign that was simply trying to limit human traffic in a fragile ecosystem. Since there were no signs with information on what an "Impact Area" was and it was not posted nor fenced, my son and I left the road about .3 miles from the summit and started our bushwhack. Since it was early enough in the spring, there was no plant ground cover yet, so we were not hurting any fragile endangered flora species if there were any. We followed an old road as best we could during our bushwhack, but we had to detour several times due to thorny bushes. These unpleasant plants were actually worse on the double hump summit with the second mound having the most growth. It appeared to us that the first mound was the highest point. The summit was unimpressive with no view and we arrived back at our car in 22 minutes. The next day we learned the meaning behind the signs we found. We were told there were live military ordnances buried on Big Oak Mountain! Of course, this caused us to be puzzled even more. Why would the U.S. military bury dangerous explosives on public land in an unfenced area with no information other than a sign showing a boy and girl being blown up? In summary, I can not recommend that you visit this high point. My son and I came back with all our appendages intact and we did not see any signs of unexploded weapons, but there may be some degree of risk to visiting this spot. As I did more research On-Line, I did run across the story of a military plane crash which was loaded with live weapons, including 50 caliber machine gun bullets. Perhaps this is the site of that crash and it was impossible to be sure everything was cleaned up, since the wreckage was scattered over a very long area. The pilot of that craft did manage to parachute to the ground, but he lost his leg when he exited his plane and he sadly did not survive. During my research I discovered that there have been 13 plane crashes near Cheaha Mountain since 1940! If I ever get a pilot license I don't believe I will ever fly in this area!!
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Bushwhack

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