Ascent of Briar Hill on 2019-07-23

Climber: John Hasch

Date:Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Briar Hill
    Elevation:1706 ft / 519 m

Ascent Trip Report

1706 ft.

Tuesday, 7/23/2019

This was the highpoint that almost wasn’t. I was traveling north to the Highpointers’ Kovention, collecting counties along the way. I had just completed Lake County, and I was on my way to Benzie County. It was then that I noticed that I was passing through Wexford County.

I had previously decided to skip Wexford County, home of the highest elevation in the Lower Peninsula. Although it is listed at 1706ft, which is 3 feet higher than nearby Grove Hill of Osceola County, Grove Hill has a sign that proclaims it to be the highest hill in the LP. For now, I will go with the listed measures. Being this close, and having trip reports for all Michigan counties, I suddenly had a difficult time justifying any omission of this peak. I decided to drive the approach and see what was there.

I should interject here that the roads traveled in the area near Briar Hill were some of the most testing of my entire Michigan trip. Roads were sandy and bumpy, and many low spots were filled with mud and water from recent rains. Driving in, there were a couple of spots that gave me anxious feelings as I knew I would need to return through them on the way out. A high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle is strongly recommended for all.

I intended to try to follow the Fred Lobdell trip report because it was (relatively) recent. Like Fred, I failed to make a detailed recap of the roads I traveled to get there. I started into the area on the major highway east of the peak, MI-115. From here, I recall seeing N19 ½ Road and N19 ¼ Road. So I must have left MI-115 somewhere near here, perhaps the N21 ½ Road. I was driving on N19 ¼ Road, which started SW but eventually bent NW to what appears to have become N17 Road.

I recall making a sharp left turn near the end where I parked. This would be consistent with the topo map that shows a road between N17 Road and N15 Road. It was along this road that I noted my GPS as saying the HP was about 0.5mi due N. I drove farther west, hoping to find the Lobdell TH. I do not recall why I did not recognize his parking spot. But something caused me to turn around and return to the point where I parked. I recorded the GPS waypoint there (N44.36007 W85.67474), which ultimately shows to be about 700ft east of the Lobdell TH (N44.35950 W85.67736).

With GPS in hand, and with the car parking spot recorded, I bush whacked uphill and basically due N toward Briar Hill. I initially thought I was following a faint trail. But the trail disappeared, and I just pushed on, following compass and GPS.

I went up and down a few hills along the way, and my wandering cost me. I eventually found the summit approach, which I easily identified as a trail that was leading uphill. Sure enough, it was not very long before I arrived at the summit. My arrival was confirmed by GPS and by the spotting of a couple of the old tower footings. The summit region was engulfed in weeds that were waist-high or higher, but it was easy to see that others had recently been there and trod down some paths around the top.

Near the second tower footings, I looked down into the weeds, and I spied a gallon-sized baggie with contents. The contents were: a small flashlight that I first mistook to be a flash drive; a green “Michigan Jeep” lanyard; and a large sticker that also promoted the jeep. Some have suggested this bag was a geocache. I can neither agree nor disagree. But I made the decision to take the baggie to the Konvention on the chance that this was something that was indeed lost by a previous hiker.

On my way back to the car, I decided to stay with the trail to see where it went. I suspect now that this was the Lobdell trail. Near the end, it took me farther away from my car, so I abandoned the trail in favor of the bush whack again.

I got back to my car, and I was glad I decided to hike to Briar Hill. But in hindsight, I would probably been better off to try to find the Lobdell TH. Total round trip for me was 1.77 miles, with about 1.1mi on the way in and 0.67mi on the return – certainly much more efficient on the return trip. Total time about 50-55 minutes.

On the drive out to Benzie County next, my GPS took me a different, more direct way that avoided the road spots that had made me anxious. Also, this county was memorable for another reason: on the way out, I spotted my first black bear in the wilderness. It had crossed the road in front of my car about 150-200ft ahead of me. When I got to the area, I slowed down to look around. But the bear was long gone and not to be seen again.

Later, I found that two other HP friends had visited this same HP on the same day! I thought this was interesting because this HP is in the LP several hundred miles away from the Konvention that was held in the UP. Too bad I missed you, Dave and Beckie.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:283 ft / 85 m
    Total Elevation Loss:283 ft / 85 m
    Round-Trip Distance:1.8 mi / 2.8 km
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:180 ft / 54 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 77 ft / 23 m; Extra: 103 ft / 31m
    Loss on way in:103 ft / 31 m
    Distance:1.1 mi / 1.8 km
    Route:From road due S of peak
    Start Trailhead:1629 ft / 496 m
    Time:26 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:180 ft / 54 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 77 ft / 23 m; Extra: 103 ft / 31m
    Gain on way out:103 ft / 31 m
    Distance:0.7 mi / 1.1 km
    Route:From road due S of peak
    End Trailhead:1629 ft / 496 m
    Time:26 Minutes

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