Friday, November 26, 2010

Jerimoth Hill (Rhode Island Highpoint)

As I lived in Rhode Island for about 10 years of my life, you would think I would have hit Jerimoth Hill earlier.  No worry, I still have two siblings in the area so when Turkey Day plans landed at one of their homes (Thanks, Thompsons!),  I couldn't resist the side trip.  This time I brought along Sy and his cousin Matthew.

This particular highpoint has some colorful history but I understand this is one of the locations where the club has worked hard to improve the relationship with the owners of the land access.   It appears to be working great.  The entry sign had been knocked down and vandalized but the rest of the trail (short as it is) was well marked, perfectly maintained and in otherwise great condition.  Thanks, Highpointers!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mount Mansfield (Vermont Highpoint)

I needed to scratch my hiking itch and the family was getting a little stir crazy during the first half of Labor Day weekend so Anne, the boys and I made a game time decision and headed up to Vermont on Sunday morning.  We had a great trip which included a trip to the Ben & Jerry's Factory and also to the Joseph Smith Memorial and, of course, I took in a hike of Mount Mansfield while we were in the area. You can find out more about the weekend over on the family blog but I will cover the hike here.

If you start from where the Long Trail crosses VT 108, the hike is just under 2.5 miles each way and has about 2,800 ft of elevation gain.  That made for a pretty steep but enjoyable hike. The bulk of the hike is spent under Vermont's green forest blanket which eventually thins out as you approach the tree line. The trail is your typical rooted, stoned Vermont trail so you have to have to be paying attention but when the trail is that steep, the roots and rocks make for good steps too. The only sketchy parts of the hike are the rocks scrambling and some sections of the trail which are all granite.  This wasn't a real problem today but I could see how it could be pretty dangerous when the rock is wet. I started around 7:30am so the air was still cool and by the time I got up to the Alpine zone, it was actually pretty chilly. The skies were mostly sunny but the summit itself was socked in with clouds and a stiff wind made it uncomfortable to hang out for long. As you might expect, the trip down look about half the time and I got back to my car just before 10:30am. 

On the way up I crossed paths with a couple of backpackers, one of whom was thru-hiking the LT (VT-MA border to Quebec).  Other than that I didn't see anyone until after I had taken a few pictures on the summit and a lone hiker and his dog arrived from the other side of the mountain.  I enjoyed the quiet.  I haven't been on the trail as much as I would have liked to this summer and now the summer is about over so it was wonderful to soak in the remaining green before the explosion of color and cool arrives (which I plan to soak in later, as well!).  On the way down I passed a least a dozen hikers on their way up. 

Overall the hike was good exercise for the body, mind and soul.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mount Davis (Pennsylvania Highpoint)

Getting to Mount Davis is another one that has the potential to be pretty difficult but this one has nothing to do with hiking in the woods.  It is more about the nest of country roads in the area.  Luckily both the signage on the roads and the guidebook were excellent resources in finding Mount Davis. 

During our drive we noticed that there must be a good sized population of Amish/Menonite/etc... in the area because we saw at least a few horse & buggy teams being led along the roads.

Sy really liked the observation tower on this highpoint because it was so tall.  We climbed it, snapped a few pictures and broke for the car as a rain squall looked like it wanted to get us wet.

Admittedly, I wasn't all that interested in lingering longer.  After driving almost 3,000 miles I was tired of being on the road! That being the case, I still had to make it to Vermont to drop my canoe off at a friend's house an make it back home in New York before dinner the next day.  Sy and I are both looking forward to being back home with the family.

Backbone Mountain (Maryland Highpoint)

Backbone Mountain is along the MD-WV stateline and was just a short drive (~90 min or so) from the summit at Spruce Knob.

After having hit so many "drive-up" highpoints in recent months, it was nice to go on a short hike for a change..... for me, that is.  I don't think Sy enjoyed the hike as much as I did.  It ended up being a little bit a lecture from Dad on positive mental attitude yadda yadda yadda..... I am sure he appreciated every word of it!  It is about 1 mile long each way but it is definitely a gradual climb to the ridge where the highpoint is.  The climbing along with the summer heat proved to be a little challenging for Sy.

I think if it wasn't for the guidebook and red painted "HP -->" signs along the way, I never would have found this one.  Even with all the help, we almost accidentally turned around at the state line "No. 3" marker.  It is a fairly prominent monument given its location. 

Luckily, I noticed a couple of discrepancies with dates and other descriptions of the sign and decided to go a little further because about 0.1 miles later, we found the actual highpoint.  Having achieved the goal, we snapped a couple of pictures and made our way back to the car. 

On to Pennsylvania!

Spruce Knob (West Virginia Highpoint)

Last night turned out to be a pretty big adventure in and of itself.  I wanted to get all the way to Elkins, WV so we could have a good run at WV, MD and PA before heading north and finishing our drive.  So, I kept myself awake and powered all the way to Elkins arriving around 1:00am and planned to get a hotel room and crash for the night.  Easier said than done.  The first hotel I stopped at had no vacancies.  Then the second had none.  Then more of the same at the third, fourth, fifth and sixth.  Admittedly, I hadn't anticipated that Elkins, WV of all places would be sold out!

Luckily for us, a nice lady at the Super 8 referred us to the Days Inn where they had one "interior" room.  Beggars can't be choosers so we took it.  It turns out this hotel has been converted from an old hospital. Our room literally had no exterior window but did have a window that opened into a hallway.  It was odd to say the least.  I can't say I will be recommending the accommodations to anyone else but I was grateful to have a bed nonetheless!

After a late breakfast, Sy and I drove the twisting roads to Seneca Rocks and then south to Spruce Knob park and the summit!  The drive was really nice and I was happy to be back in the wooded mountains I enjoy so much.

The highpoint has an observation tower on top that Sy and I both enjoyed especially because the views were pretty clear.  The landscape reminded me a lot of that in New England.

Sy had a proud moment when he was the first to find the benchmark after I had wandered for a few unsuccessful minutes of searching.  Good going, Sy!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Campbell Hill (Ohio Highpoint)

Campbell Hill is another "drive-up" highpoint so getting there was pretty straightforward. 

The only potential confusion point is that it is located just off a parking lot in a vocational school for adults.  Even with this added complexity, it is pretty obvious where the top of the hill is.  We just kept following the drive that went up and we ran right into the highpoint.  I imagine as long as the gates are open to the school, this should be an easy one for others to find.

One thing I liked about this particular highpoint was the historical information that was included.  If you paused to read the signage, you would learn the marble stone adjacent to the benchmark was the one originally placed there and you would also learn that Campbell Hill was once an important military site during the Cold War.

Once again, after snapping a few shots, we were on our way!

Hoosier High Point (Indiana Highpoint)

Getting to Hoosier High Point was pretty straightforward and there was pretty good signage along all the approach roads.... right up to the highpoint itself. 

It was odd that the final turnoff and highpoint itself would be so poorly marked given how good signage from the main roads had been.  It did look like there had been a sign of the highpoint at some point but there were just two signpost stumps to the east of the highpoint.  I confirmed that there was a sign there as recently as June 2, 2010 using a YouTube video so we may have just recently missed it!  No big deal, though, because the book Anne had given me gave good directions so I knew to turn off the road at the edge of the wooded area.

After snapping a couple of pictures and taking a moment to sign the register, we hit the road!  We wanted to hit Campbell Hill, OH that afternoon before heading to WV.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hawkeye Point (Iowa Highpoint)

Sy and I have been driving from Utah to New York for a couple of days with a canoe strapped on the roof of the Saturn Ion.  It has been a lot of fun... all except for the high winds in Wyoming almost blowing the canoe off of the car and the little kidney stone passing issue in North Platte, NE.  Other than that it has been great!

The important thing is that there is now way I was going to drive across the country and not hit a few more highpoints!

Hawkeye Point, though a few hours off of I-80, was the first one within striking distance of our route.  Note: Sy and I hit Panorama Point, NE a few months ago.

This one was as "drive-up" as they come.  I understand the farm owner recently donated the land at the actual highpoint to the government (local/county/state?) and it was obvious some recent development had been done to improve the site.  Signage was also excellent on the approach roads. 

These midwest "highpoints" make me chuckle a little as the elevation is barely distinguishable from the surrounding terrain.  Guess I just need to trust the surveyors!  Regardless, it is always fun to do a little bit of route finding and enjoy the tour of a new place as I work to arrive at the goal.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mount Mitchell (North Carolina Highpoint)

Luckily our drive to Mount Mitchell was much less eventful than the drive we had just finished to Sassafras Mountain.  Anne's patience must know no limits because she was still on board with hitting North Carolina's highpoint after the South Carolina disaster.

I am glad she did too because this drive was a classic drive down a beautiful, historic highway ending with a sunset on the top of a mountain!  There is only one way to get to Mount Mitchell and it is along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a national parkway and part of the US National Park Service.  As we drove along, I felt just like I was back on the AT in Vermont.  Thick forested, damp, green mountains which hug and almost suffocate you and then unannounced lay out a spread of beautiful views for the taking.  Although it was beautiful, we didn't have a ton of extra time because the state park (and the summit) closed at 9:00pm and we were pushing the deadline.

We eventually pulled up into an empty summit parking lot at 8:45pm just behind the park ranger who was up there to close things up.  He let Soren and I walk the couple hundred yards to the summit where we snapped a couple of pictures and soaked in the sunset before jumping in the car and heading out at 8:59pm!

Although we will be within striking distance of the highpoints of West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania tomorrow, I think it would be wise to call it a week and make that trip another day.....

...... on to our family's new life in New York!!!!

Sassafras Mountain (South Carolina Highpoint)

After hitting Brasstown Bald, the family jumped into the car and headed east toward South Carolina.  Our next goal was Sassafras Mountain.  If bagging Georgia's highpoint was easy and uneventful, getting to South Carolina's was the opposite.  Admittedly, I caused most of the trouble.... as usual!

It didn't start well.... after grabbing lunch for the boys, I made a wrong turn somewhere in northern Georgia. Mistake #1.  I corrected it after about 20 miles or so but still....  From there the drive was pretty uneventful and we eventually approached the junction of SC 11 and US 178 in South Carolina about 10 miles south of our goal.

Mistake #2.... even though I had less than a quarter tank of gas I chose not to stop at the station that was right there.  I figured I had plenty.  Instead I plowed forward.  The next 10 miles ended up being very steep and loaded with very sharp turns which had to effects (a) low fuel efficiency and (b) Sy complaining of some car sickness.  

Mistake #3 occurred when I shot past the turn off to Sassafras Mountain ending up a few miles into North Carolina before turning around.... all the while, burning up the little fuel we had.  Not a huge mistake under normal circumstances but under these conditions (i.e. low fuel, sick kid, increasingly frustrated spouse) it was a dangerous cocktail.  This all leads me to my mistake of omission....

Mistake #4 - I should have just pulled over!  Look... when I am out on my little adventures, I get a little bit crazy with achieving the goal (exhibit A - Mt. Datun, Taiwan  and exhibit B - Taum Sauk MT, Missouri)

I know it can be stupid but the adrenaline rush of route finding, problem solving and sometimes just pushing through can be exhilarating.  That is fine and dandy when I am flying solo or when I am with a like minded crazy person but is whole other matter when I drag the family into it.  Anyway, needless to say, Sy eventually threw up into his blanket just under a mile from the summit.  Of course, then it was time to clean up. Anne is not happy with me. We are still low on gas (like getting past the E).

After doing some damage control, we reached the parking lot on top, finished the short walk to the summit, in a swarm of mosquitoes, and Anne graciously gave me about 30 seconds to snap a picture or two before she started heading down.  I didn't deserve more than that!  We happily made it the 7 or so miles north into North Carolina and a gas station.  I am also glad to report that Anne has decided to stay married to me!

All is well that ends well..... errrrr, right?!

Brasstown Bald (Georgia Highpoint)

Memorial Day weekend with the Hansen family was awesome.  We hung out, had Sy & Kate's birthday party, attended Kate's baptism, went to a Braves game, and had fun swimming.  The Hansen & Anderson grandparents were both there and we all enjoyed the mini-family reunion.  

On Tuesday, it was time to continue our trek to New York.... with a few highpoints along the way, of course!

Our first stop was Brasstown Bald in Georgia.  Like many of the highpoints in the southeast, this one is also a state park/national forest with maintained facilities so driving close to the top is possible.  After taking a short shuttle from the parking lot to the peak, we paused to take a few pictures and explore.  After unsuccessfully looking for a benchmark, I finally asked a ranger for some help.  It turns out the benchmark is just behind a locked door which doubles as an entryway to private quarters for some of the park staff.  He was nice enough to let me have a look.

It was a beautiful day and the boys and I opted to hike down from the peak to the parking lot instead of jumping on the return shuttle.  It was fun to stretch our legs and enjoy a beautiful day before jumping back in the car!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cheaha Mountain (Alabama Highpoint)

We had a pretty uneventful drive from Rutledge, AL to Cheaha State Park today but it was interesting to see things change as we went north.  We left behind the coastal areas and eventually reached rolling hills and even honest to goodness mountains as we approached the state park.  The route we took from Lakewood Park in Florida required us to meander through a lot of very small towns and kept us off of freeways almost the entire time.  That made for a more entertaining drive.

This particular highpoint is much more developed than most.  There was a lodge, campgrounds, chalets, cabins, restaurant, observation tower and a number of other facilities which were all part of a state park on the mountain.  From my experience to this point, most highpoints don't have near that kind of development on them.  Well, I suppose this all made the place unique in its own right.

As you can see from the pictures, the highpoint was socked in with clouds while we were up there.  After climbing and descending the observation tower it also began to rain.  That was our signal to jump back into the car and head for Atlanta where we will be spending Memorial Day weekend with my sister, Carolyn, and her family.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Britton Hill (Florida Highpoint)

After reaching the Lousiana Highpoint this morning and making it back to the hotel, we were a little bit slow getting back on the road so I knew it was going to be tough getting to Britton Hill in Florida before it got dark.

As it turns out, the long drive, traffic in Mobile, and extended meal breaks all conspired to make us miss daylight at the highpoint by just around 30 min.  No matter though, we still arrived (a little after 8:00pm) and Sy and Soren joined me for a few pictures before jumping back in the car and working our way up north.

The funny thing about this highpoint is that I had been within a 30 min drive of this spot at least 4 times in recent years.  My family has had a couple of family reunions near Walton Beach just south of  here!  It may seem like a long detour for just this purpose but it felt good to achieve this highpoint... who knows when I will be in the area again!

Driskill Mountain (Louisiana Highpoint)

Now that I have graduated and we have a place lined up in New York, it is time to play a little!  Our moving truck came on May 24th but won't arrive in New York until June 3rd.  What do you do with all that time?  Well..... drive across the country visiting friends, family and state highpoints, of course!

Starting last Sunday, I left Provo, UT with Sy and Soren.  Anne caught up with us in Austin, TX and we spent a couple of days there visiting with friends, colleagues, and also checking in on our rental homes in town.  After a packed visit in Austin, we stopped in Houston to see my brother, CJ, and his family.  We had a great visit with them as well.

Now..... if you are in Houston and you are heading to Atlanta, you wouldn't exactly call Shreveport "on the way" ..... and even if you did, you wouldn't then head as far south as Pensacola, but that is exactly what we were about to do.  We headed north for about 5 hours and finally crashed at a hotel in Minden, LA around midnight.  Minden is about 30 miles NW of the LA highpoint.

I knew we had a full-day of driving ahead of us the next day so I woke up at 6:30am and finished the drive to Driskill Mountain while everyone was still sleeping.   While driving I reflected on how much just driving to these places is a part of the highpointing adventure.  Even the ones that don't require significant planning (i.e. Rainer, Granite, etc..) or long trail distances (i.e. Wheeler, Whitney, etc...) still bring a reward.  These places are pretty much always off the beaten path and you get a better feel for a place as you drive the country and local roads.  The directions are rarely as straight forward as they seem on paper and four wheel route finding is just part of it all.  Driskill Mountain was that kind of a highpoint.....

The trail head sits beside a graveyard and a local church in a rural Louisiana community.  The trail is surprisingly well maintained with excellent signage courtesy of a local Eagle Scout project.  The hike was about a mile each way.  Hiking it early was a good idea because even though I was in and out before 8:30am, the heat and humidity were already starting to have an impact.

In summary, it felt great to be making progress toward the highpointing goal again.  After being out west for a couple of years, it was exciting to be back in the dense forests that lie to the east.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Mount Magazine (Arkansas Highpoint)

7 hours after heading down from Taum Sauk Mountain (Missouri), I arrived at the Arkansas State Park which Mount Magazine calls home.  Other than a speeding stop near Pocahontas, AK (got a warning... phew!), the drive over was pretty uneventful.  I did briefly question my wisdom in driving as far south as Little Rock (within 20 miles) when I needed to be at the Omaha airport in about 24 hours but it was too late for backing out!

This was my first time in the Ozarks and I left impressed.  The mountains and surrounding valleys were beautiful.  They reminded me of the Appalachians to the east.  Although I didn't stick around long (just a couple of hours), I did develop a respect for the area.  I arrived at the trailhead at 4:30 and 30 min later was back in my car and on the road.  Within the hour it was dark and I was back on the freeways working my way back to Omaha!

Taum Sauk Mountain (Missouri Highpoint)

Friday morning started out with me in a suit meeting the Oracle of Omaha (Warren Buffett) and ended with me flying down the freeways between Omaha and Kansas City and then Kansas City and St. Louis.  I left Omaha around 6:00pm and drove all night while taking a few naps in rest stops along the way.  I took my last nap at a gas station in Ironton, MO and woke up at 7:30 ready to go.

(Room for the night)

I hadn't counted on so much snow in Omaha and the theme continued as I drove to the Ozark plateau that spreads into Missouri.  As I got to the last stretch of road leading to Taum Sauk State Park, I realized the last two miles of the road wasn't maintained.... the result was 8-10 inches of snow on the road with the exception of a single set of tracks in the snow made my someone before the most recent snowfall.  I was in a rented Chevy Impala and pretty much knew my car was woefully underprepared for the conditions but was willing to take the risk.  I had a cell phone and, afterall, I had come all this way and didn't really want to leave without bagging the highpoint.  So, I plowed into the snowy road doing my best to follow the one set of tracks there.

(Would you drive down this in a Chevy Impala?)

Things went well.... ALMOST the whole way!  There was one incline I got stuck on but I just threw it in reverse, then picked up more speed and tried again.  Repeat and I was up in a few min.  Then with about 100 yards to go, I got stuck in a drift that apparently was on ice even though I was in the middle of the road.  Now I was 2 miles from where the unmaintained road began and about 1/2 mile from the trailhead.  I had a strong cell signal and knew I would be able to call out when I got back so I went after the highpoint.

Although I didn't bring good footwear, reaching the trailhead and highpoint were pretty straightforward.  The recent snowfall really made the whole thing pretty amazing.

 (The actual highpoint)

Once I got back to the car, I continue to try and get unstuck eventually drifting the car to the side of the road.  Time to call for help.  After a call to 411 and a few locals, Jim Randolph showed up to help.  It ended up being tougher than it looked to get out but we were eventually successful.  He charged me $45... I gave him $50 (cheap tow, right?).

Off to Arkansas!