Everyone knows that I have been bit by the hiking bug in a big way. As a result, peak bagging lists seemed a natural progression. I’ve pointed out some of the ones I am keeping track of in a previous post. Well, since then, I have certainly added the Catskill 3500 list into the mix.
But, those limit me to the Northeast region. And, I want to explore as much of this country as possible. And, I want to show my kids as much of this country as possible. So, a list that I’ve decided to tackle, and my children and Drea
have embraced have had pushed onto them is – Highpointing the 50 States.
I saw your eyes glaze over. It is ok. It’s the same thing that happened when I described it to Drea (that is, until she realized that Hawaii had a highpoint).
So, you are wondering, what is highpointing? Well according to wiki:
Highpointing is the sport of visiting (and finding) the point with the highest elevation within some area (the “highpoint”), for example the highest points in each county within a state. It can be considered a form of peak bagging.
- The goal is to attain the highest “natural point.” In other words, regardless of what man-made structures have been placed on top, the goal is to stand atop the highest “natural point.”
- If the natural high point is covered with a structure and that structure is accessible, even on a limited basis, entering the structure and standing over the presumed high point is the goal. If the structure is completely and permanently inaccessible—e.g. a military base or private telecommunications tower – the goal is to reach the highest accessible natural point. At times, The Highpointers Club will deem a highpoint closed due to private property issues and may allow an alternative spot very near the highpoint. But, this is only in extreme and special conditions. Some of the highpoints are open on certain dates only and the Club expects all members to abide by these dates.
- Any route to the top – walking, climbing, riding a cable car, dropping off a helicopter – is a valid means of attaining the high point. Each individual must decide what constitutes good sport. Many will prefer reaching the high point under their own locomotion, but the goal of highpointing is reaching the highpoint – means is a personal choice.
Still with me? Ok, good. As mentioned in the wiki quote that you just skipped over, I’m not alone in my desire to reach this achievement. And, just like any other subject, when there is more than one person trying to achieve a similar goal, someone formed a Highpointing Club. (So, what if the most prominent photos on their homepage seem to indicate that the average age of members is deceased!) And, there is this view point from my list-obsessed friend Steve, who’s reasons for wanting to tackle highpointing list aren’t too dissimilar to my own.
With regard to the last bullet, when possible, I fully intend on taking the hiking approach. For example, the high point of New Hampshire is the summit of Mount Washington. Now, everyone and their
grandmother could drive up there. Boring. Or take the cog railway. Really? Come on! Where is the adventure in that? Where is the challenge? Where is the journey? Not for this highpointer. I’ll be taking the long way, thanks. (Not to mention that Mount Washington is on my NH 4000 & NE 100 lists… but my point still remains.)
All right, with all of that said, it only seemed logical to tackle the home state’s highpoint as the start of this adventure. And, as I had the children for April Vacation this year, and I’ve been starving for some hiking, the time was right to dip our toes into the highpointing waters.
Now, Rhode Island’s highpoint is truly a massive summit of 812′ on the top of Jeromith Hill. Shockingly, this is not the lowest high point of the United States; that honor belongs to 345′ Britton Hill in Florida. (Of course it does, Florida gets all of the freaking rejects.) Despite it’s minor elevation, Rhode Island’s highpoint was not-too-long-ago known as one of the most difficult highpoints to achieve, due to land owners that were particularly ornery and trigger-happy. Yes, I said trigger-happy. Check that link out! Thankfully, all of that nonsense is in the past, and RI’s highpoint is accessible 7 days a week between the hours of 8am & 4pm.
So, on Sunday, April 15th, we took the drive out to Foster, RI. Upon driving up the numerous hills along Route 101, I was struck with how significant some of them seemed; a few of them had several hundred feet elevation change between them. From the East, you pass a highway sign that indicates you are on Jerimoth Hill, it even indicates that it is the state’s highpoint. However, the true highpoint is not actually on the highway. After passing the sign, we did a U-turn and found the matching sign on the other side of the road. We parked and climbed out of the van. It was only then, that I told the kids what we were there to do…. and that they had to hike to do it! This was met with some shock, guffaws, and some grumbles. All of which, I was expecting. They asked how long of a hike it would be, and I assured them, it would be the shortest hike of their young lives.
We followed the
big conspicuous red sign indicating the legendary Jerimoth Hill Trail. We labored up the pine needle riddled trail from the main road about 50 yards and stumbled upon a survey marker. But, alas, that was a false summit. Undaunted, we pressed on.
After another 25 yards, or so, we arrived, exhausted, at Rhode Island’s true highpoint. It was a beautiful sight to behold; encircled in trees was a hunk of granite protruding from the ground, with a cairn 2 or 3 feet high erected on top of it. The views were grand… Nope. There were no views. But, dammit, we became highpointers this day! One down, 49 to go.