Ascent of Quirauk Mountain on 2008-04-17

Climber: John Hasch

Others in Party:Tom Harper
Date:Thursday, April 17, 2008
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Summit:Car
Peak:Quirauk Mountain
    Elevation:2140 ft / 652 m

Ascent Trip Report

Thursday, 4/17/2008

I was excited about leaving on this trip to the East Coast. This mini-vacation would take me ultimately to Massachusetts to join a group that was visiting the military installation that housed the Barnstable County HP. I also intended to attempt a visit of all counties in Connecticut and Rhode Island as well as several state and county HP’s along the way there and back. If successful, this would be my most extensive collection of HP’s in about a week’s time.

That being said, this trip almost did not happen. Before leaving, I needed to do some repair work on my truck. I hoped to get the work done and be able to leave by Tuesday night. If successful, this would allow me to complete some western Pennsylvania counties Wednesday before the scheduled appointment on Quirauk Mountain Thursday morning.

Specifically, the trouble I had with my truck was the cap lock. In short, the entire locking mechanism was missing! I had loaned my truck to another person, and when I got it back just a couple days ago, there was nothing there! (I never did get an explanation about what happened to the lock, bars, etc.)

It was now Tuesday afternoon, and I was evaluating what needed done to fix the lock. I decided to check a few camper supply stores in the area for parts. I believed I could fix it myself. The local stores did not have any repair parts in stock, but I was finally successful in finding the needed parts in Garrett, a city about 20 miles to the north. I drove to Garrett and picked up the parts. I would not be leaving tonight because I wanted to fix the lock, but that would be a small sacrifice if I could gain a secure truck cap.

Wednesday morning, I began to make the repairs. I drilled four holes for the replacement bar guides, and I started assembling and installing the parts. Things were going pretty well, and I was almost entirely done when tragedy struck! As I was driving one of the screws into the aluminum frame, an explosion occurred! The glass window shattered into literally thousands of pieces! Apparently, this master craftsman had drilled the hole too close to the edge, and the screw went into the glass the frame was holding. OUCH!!

I was sick to my stomach as I considered whether I would be able to make the trip. But after talking to my wife about it, we agreed that it was okay to make the trip even with the blown out back window. I would just have to be as careful as possible and let nature take its course. So I set about packing, putting the most valuable items in the truck with me. I knew I was taking a chance that things in the bed could be stolen, so I accepted that risk as I loaded the bed with sleeping bags and other needed supplies.

Finally done, I was off on the journey about 5:30pm. I would drive all night to the Quirauk Mountain area and rest when I got there. If things went well, I would arrive sometime early in the morning, perhaps 3:00am-5:00am. That would allow me to rest before the scheduled 9:00am arrival time.

Well, things went well that night, and I arrived in the Waynesboro, PA area around 4:00am, right on schedule. I stopped at a 7-11 store and asked directions to Pen-Mar. Pleasantly, the clerk told me the road just behind the store was the Pen-Mar Road! I located a Wal-Mart store, and I camped in their parking lot for a few hours of needed shut-eye. When the morning light woke me, I arose to find that I was parked just at the foot of Quirauk Mountain. I could look to the top and see the communications equipment and my destination in a couple more hours. This was another pleasant surprise! I went into Wal-Mart to buy a camping mattress and some bottled water, and I was on my way at about 8:15am.

I followed directions from previous trip reports. I drove up the mountain, and I arrived at the gate where two vehicles were being searched in front of me. There is a lot of contractor activity on the mountaintop, and today seemed to be a heavy day. The two vehicles went through the gate, and then it was my turn.

I pulled up to the gate, by now re-closed after the previous vehicles were let in. One officer approached my truck, and a second, gun-toting guard stood nearby, finger on the trigger. No kidding. When asked what my business was, I told the first man my name and informed him of the previous contacts I had made with Ellen Britsch. He asked me to get out of the truck, open the hood, all doors, and the cap door. He asked me for my keys, which I promptly turned over. He asked me for two forms of photo ID, and I only had one. I gave him my driver's license. He then asked me to stand over next to the guard with the gun while he went inside the guard trailer. I again promptly complied.

When the man came back, he informed me my name was not on any list, and they were not going to let me in. My heart leapt into my throat as it increased its beat.

Nervously, I mentioned that I had contacted Ellen several weeks ago to make initial arrangements, and I also had just contacted her the prior Friday to confirm that the visit was okay. He wasn't impressed, but he did go back into the trailer to do some followup.

While I was waiting, some more traffic came in behind me. By now it was clear that my truck wasn't going to be allowed inside since I did not have Dept of Defense clearance. The man came back outside, and I told him I was not expecting to get my truck inside anyway. Ellen had told me to expect to be stopped at the gate and asked to park there to be escorted by foot the hundred feet or so to the top. He asked me to move my truck over to the turnaround just below the gate. I moved out of the way so the next truck could pull up to the gate. I opened all doors again and returned my keys to the gun-toting guard.

By now, two other guns had appeared. One man had stepped out of the guard trailer, and another had positioned himself noticeably up the hill inside the fence next to the communication equipment. Then a breakthrough came. One of the men recalled two hikers being mentioned in a briefing earlier that week. They were making calls to try to clear things up. A short while later, one of the gun-toting guards told me everything was okay. He escorted me up the hill and then went inside the fenced-in area, presumably to tell the folks there what was going on.

Ironically, I was to meet Tom Harper, another person who had traveled from the Pittsburgh area. At the top of the hill, I heard someone call out my name. It was him! He had gained access because his car had DoD clearance stickers on it!

We wandered around the summit, outside the fenced-in areas, and touched all potential HP candidates. Our choice for the highest was a set of boulders in the woods to the northeast. Several rocks had been stacked nearby into a 4-walled sort of fort-like structure, the kind kids might make. Satisfied, we left the summit area about 15 minutes after I arrived. The mountain was now mine, but not without adding to the folklore.

Driving down the mountain, I stopped just outside the government property at the High Rock lookout point. This spot consists of several large boulders that are used as a hang-gliding launch site. The terrain drops off several hundred feet to meet the valley below. I could see several miles for about 180 degrees, and I could look across the valley to see the mountains that I descended as I entered the area the previous night. This was definitely worth the stop! The views were tremendous, hundreds of feet above the trees that grew just below me.

Footnote: At no time did I believe the guards acted inappropriately. They did their jobs, professionally carrying out the task they were assigned. While waiting for clearance, I chatted with the men who met me at the gate about the CoHP experience and what prompts folks like me to do this kind of stuff. They even joked about taking off work early to enjoy the beautiful day. They were normal guys, though their guns were bigger and they knew (presumably) how to use them! When I left, I thanked them for doing their jobs.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:50 ft / 15 m
    Trailhead:Guarded gate just below summit  2090 ft / 637 m

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