Ascent of Flagpole Knob on 2008-05-11

Climber: Scott Surgent

Date:Sunday, May 11, 2008
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Flagpole Knob
    Elevation:4360 ft / 1328 m

Ascent Trip Report

The goal for this morning were two summits nearby one another on the Virginia-West Virginia state line: The Flagpole (actually, just inside Virginia), and Reddish Knob. The highpoint for Rockingham County is called “The Flagpole” for some reason. In reality, the summit is a gently-rounded hump along a ridge called Slate Springs Mountain, located in the county’s southwest corner. The map shows a road leading to the highpoint, although its condition (especially for small rental cars) might be questionable.

Nearby is Reddish Knob, the summit for this immediate section of the Appalachian Mountains and a border-line 2000-foot prominence peak. Reddish Knob is about 35 feet higher than The Flagpole, but it lies in neighboring Highland County. A paved road leads to that summit, and both peaks can be reached from the same junction of forest roads at Briery Gap.

After our arrival in Millwood VA, the rains had come on strong but the weather forecasters were calling for a break in the systems for about a day (mid-day Saturday to mid-day Sunday) so we arranged it so that I could take the car early Sunday morning and visit (hopefully) both peaks. I left Millwood before 5 a.m. for the approximately 100-mile journey to these parts. I followed Interstate-81 south for 70 miles past Harrisonburg, then took highway VA-257 west through the towns of Bridgewater, Dayton, Ottobine and Briery Batch toward the forested range. The weather so far was holding steady. There was fog and heavy overcast skies, but no rain, yet.

The highway I was on becomes more narrow and rural, and turns into a George Washington National Forest Road, which I followed another 7 miles to the range crest, a small pass called Briery Gap at the Virginia-West Virginia boundary. The right (north) gravel and dirt road goes to The Flagpole and the left (south) paved road goes to Reddish Knob, while straight ahead leads into West Virginia.

I got out briefly and immediately got knocked back by the cold and the brisk wind blowing ominously and making quite a roar as it blew through the trees. The car’s outside temperature gauge read 41 degrees, and I didn’t have my jeans with me. I hoped our little Chevy Malibu rental would handle the three miles to the summit, so I gave it a try. I eased the car up about a mile but had to park early, as the roads were way too muddy for my comfort. So I put on my sneakers and started the two-mile hike to the top.

I was cold (I had a good jacket, which helped), but as long as I kept moving I stayed warm. I followed the road north then east, gaining 500 feet in two miles to the top. I was concerned all hell would break loose with the rain, so I didn’t lollygag. I arrived onto the summit hump and snapped a couple quick photos. Without stopping, I started the walk back to the car, jogging some of the route. The whole time, the wind blew steady with gusts about 40 m.p.h., and the sky was a dark gray ... but no rain ... yet. I was back to the car within 90 minutes. I drove back down the road onto the pavement.

From here, I went south up the paved road for three miles to the summit of Reddish Knob. The road is very steep and narrow but in good condition. It has blind curves and oncoming traffic could pose a problem, but I was confident there wasn’t anyone else up here this blustery morning. I arrived on top of Reddish Knob after 10 minutes.

What a disappointment. The top is the parking lot, and there is ugly graffiti everywhere. I got out for a moment to tag what I thought were the highest points and to snap a photo or two, but I did not linger. This was just a peak to check off my list.

Back on the interstate the rains came with a vengeance, slamming me all the way back to Millwood. I was back by about 9 a.m., and it rained the whole rest of the day.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:500 ft / 152 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4 mi / 6.4 km
    Trailhead:3860 ft / 1176 m
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike

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