This year changed us. We’re leaving 2016 more humble than we entered it, with a heightened appreciation for the effects of mountain conditions. The 11 hours of non-stop torrential rain and ice on Katahdin taught us not to underestimate mountains. What should have been a moderate hike turned into hypothermic delirium for our entire team. In the weeks that followed, we questioned our abilities and the likelihood of success on other climbs we’d already scheduled. Although shaken, in the end, we emerged stronger mentally. But, we still wouldn’t wish those mountain conditions on anyone. The year also deepened our connections further with the highpointing community. We had the good fortune of meeting Trucker Bob and his daughter for lunch as they passed through DC in his 18 wheeler. Trucker Bob drives his truck around the country and highpoints along the way with 38 successful state highpoints to date. We enjoyed sharing a relaxing meal and exchanging beta on mountains out west and somehow feel as though we’ve hiked together.
Another highlight of the year was becoming friends with Dana from Blisters and Bugbites. She joined us for camping in Maine, but had the good sense not to attempt Katahdin because of the crummy weather. Jill was able to meet Dana on her later visit to DC to see our highpoint. And, Raina may join forces with Dana for a mountain next year. We love the highpointing community and continue to feel lucky to be a part of it. Our sign at Fort Reno, DC’s highpoint, is still in the making. Paperwork to accept the donation is progressing through the proper channels at the National Park Service. But, as we’ve come to learn, the government doesn’t move at the pace of the private sector. With any luck, we’ll have an actual sign to speak of in 2017.
In 2016, I polished off the remaining easy highpoints and a few tough ones. The weather made Katahdin significantly more difficult than either of us expected. I realized it was possible for waterproof gear to stop working, but I thought that was only if you submerged yourself into a body of water. Our waterproof jackets, pants, and shoes all stopped working about halfway through the day and I can assure you none of us jumped into a lake. Add to that, the mountain claimed one of my favorite hiking poles, bending it beyond the point of usability. Mt. Borah was only a few short weeks away and would have been nearly impossible without poles. Luckily, it all ended well with a new pair mere days before Borah.
Of my eight highpoints this year, I’m most proud of Mt. Borah. That mountain pushed me mentally and physically. It was hard in the moment, but feels awesome in retrospect. Shaken from Katahdin and questioning the viability of my larger goal, I felt back in the saddle after Borah.
Highpointing aside, I love the adventure of what comes along with this travel. Feasting on homemade pie, sampling local craft beer, and adding on stops to the World’s Largest anything energizes me. This year, I attended my first state fair, complete with many fried foods on a stick. I discovered first hand that potatoes in Idaho are notably fresher than what I can get at home and that cheese in Wisconsin is worth the trip. Other adventures included adding a coat of paint to the world’s largest ball of paint, checking out the worlds’ largest Pringle, and seeing two of the three largest balls of twine. I even got to chat with the maker of one of the twine balls.
I was drained by the time I got Arizona in October. But, already, I’m feeling the pull of the mountains again. Attempt #2 on Mt. Hood is booked with friends. It’s looking like we’ll have a nice size group who will take on Utah together, complete with goats! And, Nevada (without goats) is on the docket as well.
Here’s to another upcoming successful year of highpointing, more scrumptious cuisine around the country, and quality time with family and friends. I feel incredibly lucky to have so many supportive people in my life as we chip away at this crazy goal.
The past three nights I’ve dreamt about moose, and with those dreams comes an ache to climb Mt. Katahdin again. Despite leaving that mountain feeling like I never wanted to see it, or any other mountain, again it wasn’t long before I started making plans to go back. That’s what highpointing does to you.
Aside from that memorable trip to Maine, I’ve been thrilled to spend many hours in the car with my family. Highpointing has really gone from an individual hobby for me, to a hobby that all of us are actually enjoying. This year in the pursuit of highpoints we swam in 4 out of 5 great lakes, visited numerous State Capitol buildings, and even drove out of this time zone – twice! I’m up to 19 highpoints, which keeps me on my steady pace of 4 or 5 a year.
My favorite highpoint this year? It’s a tie. I loved staying in a cabin with my family on Cheaha Mountain, and watching the sun set as we toasted marshmallows. We also had a great time in Michigan exploring the back roads, and playing in the woods.
Next year I hope to do some longer hikes with my family. Virginia is firmly on the schedule, and I’m hoping we can squeeze in a trip to South Dakota. We’d also like to return to Mt. Mitchell and summit via the Mount Mitchell trail.
We have plans for a few drive ups too. We’ll do Kansas and New Jersey in 2017, and possibly Mississippi. My family also wants to visit Jerimoth Hill. They feel left out since I visited it with Raina instead of them. It’s not high on my list of destinations I’d like to visit again, but I’d never say no to a highpoint!
May 2017 bring health, happiness, and met challenges to you all. Thanks for reading!