Sometimes, these three are just cute.
We had been in Target to pick up dress shoes for the kids. And, somehow, they all ended up finding hats they just needed to have. (I did not advise them on how to wear these hats.)
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.
Sydney has been wanting colored streaks in her hair for sometime now. So, we have done a couple of iterations to varying levels of success. But, I think we have it down now. And, she seems to enjoy when (her words) “Scott’s Salon is open.” And, I love helping her out with it.
About a month ago, Drea & I took Syd on her first mountain hike. A month later, and I had finally convinced the boys that this was something for them to try.
So, as part of our camping getaway to Waterville, I had decided to take them on the Welch-Dickey Loop Trail. I had never hiked it, but it is “the single-most “suggested” family hike in the White Mountains.” So, I made sure to introduce them properly. They all brought their own backpacks, and they carried their own water, snacks, sandwiches, and sweatshirts.
It was a gorgeous morning, in the low 70’s, when arrived at the trail head around 10:30 am. We started the loop as the trail name suggests and headed towards Welch Mountain first. As soon as it started, the kids all had to do their first stream crossing. They got very excited to hop the rocks across the stream. The trail was well manicured, with many waterbars, and rocks/trees placed as stairs up the moderate slope. It was certainly a far cry from the weathered conditions of the Sandwich Mountain Trail.
I was really uncertain as to how Brady was going to do on this hike. He is only 5, and I was daring to take him on a 4.4 mile hike. Now, he had done a 3.5 mile hike with me when we camped in Burlingame, at the beginning of the summer. But, walking along a flat trail is completely different than taking him up a mountain, even if it is relatively small mountain. His pace was certainly slow. But, after all, he does have tiny legs! But, he wasn’t complaining. And, more importantly, he was having fun!
I had misread the guide, and a sign posted as we came upon our first overlook. It is a large rocky ledge, that has islands of low vegetation that they are trying to protect. The sign urged you to stay on the rock & trails on the way to the Welch summit. So, when we arrived, I mistakenly told the kids that it was the first summit. Oops. They knew they were going to get to two summits. This would come into play later.
At any rate, we took a break, had a snack and took a bunch of photos. The view was really nice, with Sandwich Mountain directly in front of us, Waterville Valley up the road, and the NH hills stretching towards the south. Beautiful spot.
We then started the next leg of the hike. The first portion had been in the woods, rock covered and rooted. The second portion was made up of long sections of granite which would frequently cause you to walk on all fours. It was fun, but certainly more challenging & steeper than the first section. And, it was wearing on the kids. They were getting tired. And, by the time we reached the summit… they were dragging!
As I started looking around, I began to laugh. I had made a mistake. The previous outlook we had, was not a summit at all. This was the summit of Welch Mountain. Dickey’s summit was a short distance away. It was so clear. It was a few hundred yards downhill & then another few hundred yards back up to the summit of Dickey. Oops!
But, Zack was incredulous. He kept trying to tell me that I told them we were only going to the tops of two mountains. In his mind, this was the second & he had no interest in going to a third. It took quite a bit of convincing to let him know that I had made a mistake.
We stayed there for a while recovering, eating sandwiches, and enjoying the views. For a mountain dwarfed by it’s neighbors, (Sandwich 3980′, Techumseh 4000+’) the summit of Welch Mountain (2605′) has a impressive 360˙ views.
Once I convinced the kids that it was time to move on to the next summit, I was met with a little trepidation as the first few steps off the summit of Welch are a bit steep. It took the kids a few steps to realize that they weren’t going to fall off the rocks, and then they realized that going down the trail can be quite a bit of fun. Z started to charge ahead, while Syd took her time, and I hung back with Brady.
There was a large Cairn marking the division between Welch & Dickey mountains, and the ascent started immediately after passing it. It was a moderate ascent with a couple of challenging sections where you’d have to pull yourself up on rocks. But, it was short. Zack got a blast of energy just before the summit and began to charge ahead again, eager to get back to the descent. As a result, we kind of blew over Dickey’s summit. Syd & I had noticed a ridge line of cairns looking towards Mount Techumseh, but could not see a direct way to get there. And, the kids weren’t really interested in extra bush-whacking, they only had thoughts of heading down. So, I’ll have to keep that in mind for next time… I’m curious about that.
The top third of the descent from Dickey was on large sections of granite with cairns marking the way. I was somewhat surprised at how exposed we were to the sun & for how long. The kids legs were showing the signs of being tired as each of them took a turn with a fall here and there. Thankfully, Syd was the only one to fall on the granite ledge, and she bounced off just fine. The boys didn’t really start getting tripped up until we were back in the woods. They each slipped on loose gravel or tripped over the occasional root. But, no fall was serious.
I started bribing Brady with a victory ice cream cone once we completed the hike, if he would complete it without whining. The bribe worked. Before we knew it, we were back at the trail head. And, I was one proud Dad that my boys completed their first mountain hike & that we all completed it together.
The most important thing is that they all had fun. They enjoyed it & actually want to do it again in the future. They all thought the views were cool. I can’t wait to drag their butts back out there!
I’ve been talking to the kids about hiking mountains, lately. We had gone on a short hike while camping a couple of weeks ago & that had been met with mixed reviews. But, it was just a hike through swamp land, and over a couple of brooks. It was not challenging. Nor was it particularly interesting for a 9, 7, & 5 year old. So, I had told them about my recent hike up Mount Monadnock, and tried to gauge their interest. The boys weren’t really hearing any of it. But, Syd was interested.
As it turned out, Syd had a dance exhibition she was going to be performing in back in Gloucester, MA on a Saturday night. It was not going to be finished very early, and the boys already wanted to stay back with my parents and enjoy a party with their cousins. So, it was easy to convince the girls (Syd & Drea) to go hiking on Sunday.
But, because it was the last day of my week with the kids, I didn’t want to be away from the boys ALL day. So, the disconcerting caveat to my loves-to-sleep-in girlfriend was that we’d be up EARLY. So, on Sunday, July 17th, I was up at 5, prepping sandwiches and water bottles. (Snacks had already been put aside the night before.) At 5:20, I rousted the ladies and we were off and running by 5:45. We got to the mountain at about 7:15 and were hiking by 7:30.
Since I had some recent history with the mountain, I decided to attack the Halfway House Trail, to the White Arrow Trail for a nice, but challenging 4.4 mile hike. Particularly the last bit of the White Arrow Trail. It is steep & technical. But, Syd has been dreaming of rock climbing. So, I figured I’d give her her chance.
On the way up, we stopped for a quick water break at the Halfway House Site. Then, the fun of the White Arrow Trail began. Syd & Drea were troopers and both did excellent. Once things got technical, we stopped for a snack break. And, as these things go, we stopped about 100 yards short of a spot that would have had a nice view. Oh well.
But, after we passed that out cropping, we started getting out of the trees and into the real rock climbing. Syd was having a blast & even pretended to go “surfing” at one point. She was definitely getting tired towards the top & her and Drea began making fun of my distance estimates. For much of the way up, Drea had also dubbed me “Tour Guide Scott.” Apparently, she thought it was funny that I had read up on the mountain after I had hiked it the first time. But, hey! The mountain has an interesting history & I thought I’d share it.
Once on the summit, we found a nice spot to relax, enjoy the views, and the breeze. We ate our sandwiches and soaked up the rays. Syd explored a little bit, walking around the summit, and pulling herself up on rocks that she wasn’t sure she could.
On the way down, Syd was in rare form. It was pretty clear the endorphin high had kicked in. She was being a little comedian and making jokes at my expense with quite a bit of frequency. It was actually quite funny.
Both Drea & Syd were getting pretty tired & complaining that their legs were burning. We stopped for a water break just before the Halfway House Site. Then down onto the Halfway House Trail & back to the car. We were done & Sydney had completed her first ever mountain hike. She was happy with it. She said she liked it. And, when I asked if she would do it again with me, she responded, “Well, not right now!”
Then we drove over to Kimball Farms & had, by far, the largest ice cream cones I’ve ever been served. We didn’t manage to get pictures of them because our hands were so full. But, trust me. We ordered the small size cones and they had to have about 4-5 scoops of ice cream piled on them. The “kiddie” size that we saw some other people get had about 3 scoops! Crazy! But, it was pretty yummy. The girls each got a mint variety. I went with strawberry. The strawberry wasn’t the best I’ve ever had. Next time, I’ll try a different flavor.
All in all, a great hike with my two girls. I can’t wait to get Syd back out there. And, Drea… she maybe hiking again before she realizes it.
Sunday: We went down on a Sunday afternoon & basically had the opportunity to set-up camp before it was time to start working on dinner. While, I prepped dinner the kids played games in the tent. I had picked up the Smokey Joe portable charcoal grill from Weber, and it was time to break it in. Plus, my uncles had given me a camp stove. So, night one was grilled chicken & red peppers, with a side of cheese tortellini. It all came out excellent (especially for the first time using any of the cooking gear). After dinner, we all began playing a game of Sorry. The night was, of course, capped off with a camp fire and S’mores.
Monday: We woke early, and hopped in the car with the kids still donning PJ’s. My sisters and I had planned to take my father golfing for a belated father’s day gift and the schedules coincided. So, breakfast consisted of Ally’s Donuts. Yum!!! Home of some of the best donuts in the world. The kids played in the pool with my mom. We golfed. And then met up for lupper (and dark & stormy’s) on the deck of the Coast Guard House.
When we got back to camp, we played some more Sorry. Then paused for some crackers and cheese. Played some more games, had some more S’mores & called it an early night. We were all beat from a long day in the sun.
Tuesday: The next morning, we feasted on cheese omelets, ham, and homefries. (Another good start to the morning.) Then we made sandwiches and got ready for our first family hike. We ended up doing 3.5 miles together, mostly on the Vin Gormley Trail (& .5 miles on the road to/from the campsite). It was a nice hike. But, for kids who are just getting into the activity, I think it would have been better to have had a destination goal (a summit, a pond, something). But, we walked 1.25 miles in before pausing on a footbridge over a creek for some lunch. Then, we pressed on another .25 before turning around and heading back. It was very flat. But, at least I had an idea of how far the kids walked before complaining.
Once back to camp, we threw on our suits & headed to the beach! Burlingame is on the shores of the 573 acre Watchaug Pond. We all cooled off and enjoyed some time in the water, before having to head back to start preparing dinner.
Together, we prepped some burgers & corn on the cob and grilled it all up. Throw in some Cool Ranch Doritos, and mmm hmmm… Good camp food. And, we roasted marshmallows for s’mores for the third night in a row. The kids swear they could never tire of them.
That night, we had our first inclement weather of the trip. It was long after bed time. And, the rain didn’t last long. But, damned did it rain HARD! The decibel level inside of the tent was amazingly loud! There were a lot of lightening flashes, but not a ton of thunder. But, we seriously had a river flowing behind our tent. The next morning, we were walking past our neighboring campsite (who were camping in a trailer), and the woman shouted out and asked how we made out last night. She told me she had been so worried for us because of how hard it was raining. Thankfully, the tent held up perfectly. Not a drop of rain in the tent at all.
The next morning, we cooked up some pancakes, broke camp and headed back to the house.
The very funny thing about the conversation I had just referenced with our neighbor is that it was the first words spoken to them in the three days we had been there. However, in ensuing conversations with my mother and sister, it was revealed that our neighbor was actually their pilates instructor and her husband. She told my mother how they were groaning when the van pulled up and three kids piled out. How they groaned further when they realized it was a single dad, outnumbered by three kids. They feared the worst.
By the end of that first day, however, the husband was convinced that I was military because the kidlets were so well behaved. Two days later, when they saw us departing for our hike, he was further convinced I was military because the kids were apparently walking equidistant in a straight line behind me. At some point, they had heard me tell them that I was going to the bathroom. They got excited when they heard Syd say, “All right. Dad’s gone! Now, we can do whatever we want!” So, they ran to the window to watch what the kids were going to do. Excited to see how they were going to act out. And, they just nicely played.
At any rate, we all had a blast. And, I can’t wait to get out there again with them soon.