It’s the Rock

Mount Davis


October 2011

By all means, when you visit this low profile summit, climb the steel lookout tower.  The seven tiers of steps take you about 50 feet higher than the high point, and gets you up above the trees.  Now you’re talkin’!  From the tower, you’ve got a 360° view of the Mount Davis Natural Area and well beyond.  A bronze relief plaque affixed on top of the tower features highlights within your elevated view and offers an explanation of why other nearby peaks look to be taller than where you are standing, but aren’t.

Of course we ascend the 66 steps to the top of the tower.  Now we are higher than the highest people in all of the Keystone State.  And we can see stuff.  Look to the north.  There are the windmills of the Somerset Wind Farm.  Maryland is to the south.  Numerous unnamed lesser mountains are spread throughout.  To the east are the corrugated ridges of the Allegheny Front and to the west is Ohiopyle State Park, the land deeply carved by the Youghiogheny River.

If you ignore the tower, which you can’t do, the most prominent feature at this summit is the boulder.  Many rocks here are the size of your refrigerator, or your family vehicle, but there is one perched in the middle of the clearing and, by golly, you can’t miss it.  On top of the rock is a USGS marker and I notice that it is cemented in position.  The last time I was here, someone had pried it loose, leaving it jutting up several inches from the rock on its thin stalk.

One of my hikers who is here for the first time is lounging against this rock.  She idly comments, “I wonder where the high point is.”

“You’re leaning against it, Davy Crockett.  It’s the rock.”

The top of this rock is the high point.  While our semi-clueless hiker reclines on the rock, she wonders where the ground is higher than anywhere else.  When we tell her about the marker, she asserts that the top of the rock doesn’t count.

Since starting these high point adventures, and discovering how they are similar to one another, and how they are different, I myself have wondered what the folks who do the considering consider when they consider where the high point is.  At this summit of Pennsylvania, the highest land is a small clearing.  Within the clearing is this boulder.  Did the boulder grow here?  Or was it placed here by human intervention…

…possibly in preparation for the dedication ceremonies which were in 1921, right after the United States Geological Survey established Mount Davis to be the highest point in the land.

Seems to me that you could build a high point if you wanted to.  In fact, there was a movement in Connecticut to pile up a large mound of rocks on top of Bear Mountain so that it would be higher than the current high point, Mount Frissell.  Just find and haul up 65 vertical feet of rock and you’ve got a new high point.  Nah, that’s cheating.  It’s plain unnatural!

The high point must be natural, or it can be made by humans?  Either way, in Pennsylvania, you get to lean on it.

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