June 22, 2010 [LINK / comment]

Day trip to Reddish Knob

At the recommendation of fellow Augusta Bird Club member Jo King, Jacqueline and I took an extended drive up to the mountain peak known as Reddish Knob on Saturday. It was our first time there, and we were amply rewarded with sightings of many birds, as well as spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Even though the skies above were fairly clear, hazy atmospheric conditions detracted from the views of the valley from up above. We stopped several times on our way to the top, pleased that the road was paved all the way, even if it was only one lane in most places.

In the valley on the West Virginia side of the mountain ridge, we were startled to see a large complex full of giant-size radar dishes. My first thought was that it was the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, located in the town of Green Bank. We visited it about 15 years ago, but it is actually about 30 miles of where we were looking at. After doing a quick Google search, I determined that this complex is the U.S. Navy-run Sugar Grove radar facility, which apparently intercepts all incoming telecommunication signals in the eastern United States. In other words, it's a vital part of the U.S. national security system.

We spent a half hour or so enjoying the 360-degree view from the summit; the elevation is 4,397 feet, second only to Elliott's Knob in this part of Virginia. Then, we continued toward the southwest, along gravel roads. We saw lots of campers and some youngsters whooping it up in pickup trucks, but no bears, unfortuantely. Eventually, we rejoined the main road near Elkhorn Lake, which we had visited on May 23, and then we headed home.

Briery Branch Reservoir

Briery Branch Reservoir, on the road leading up to Reddish Knob; click to see the full-size version.