Reflecting on 2014 Highpoints
What a productive and enjoyable year. Inside of 12 months, I had the honor of seeing 21 state highpoints. I feel lucky to visit corners of our great country that I wouldn’t otherwise see, meet friendly people along the way, and share the experience with friends and family. I can’t imagine a more rewarding hobby than this – fun hiking, great views, excellent company, plus the ability to sample the local cuisine.
Each state is unique and I have appreciated every highpoint so far, whether it required 17 hours on foot or allowed my car direct access to the summit. Views, no views, maybe a register to sign, flushing toilets to no bathroom options – I’ve been excited with each visit, so it’s understandably difficult to select one favorite for the year. Instead, I’ll identify my five favorites among different categories.
Virginia earned a special place with me since it’s my home state. That aside, hanging out with wild ponies on the trail and providing the very best outhouse EVER, Mt. Rogers is a clear winner even without my home state bias.
Kansas is my favorite drive-up for the calendar year. I appreciate the representation of the state flower in both the name, Mt. Sunflower, and the TEN FOOT iron sunflower made of railroad spikes. This state takes clear pride in their highpoint. The register and covered picnic table, along with the wide expanse of Kansas surrounding you makes the trip worthwhile.
Rhode Island holds a special place in my heart because my then four year old daughter was able to join in the action for her second highpoint (Delaware was her first in 2013). With Jill and my husband’s family, we had a fun party sporting our Summit Chicks shirts among the prayer flags and cairns. And, we landed a spot on the cover of the Highpointers magazine!
New Mexico serves as my proudest accomplishment for 2014. The fierce winds, cold temperature, and high altitude made us earn the summit.
Though, if I had to select ONE winner for the calendar year, it would be Vermont. Mansfield’s light rock scrambling and gorgeous views along the ridge for nearly the entire hike made this one a lot of fun. The exercise, good company with an old friend of ours, combined with the cheese, cider, and ice cream local treats after the climb make this my favorite highpointing day of 2014.
As part of my reflection, I need to offer thanks to my supportive husband. He got genuinely excited for this post and asked if he could weigh in with his own favorite. Since he will have earned 19 highpoints by the end of this year (look for 2 more next week!) and was an awesome driver navigating long distances, he gets a paragraph as well. Hands down, his favorite was Wheeler. This was the highest altitude he’s ever attained and it made him work hard enough to feel a sense of accomplishment, but not so hard that he had to battle the urge to hole up in a cave and be investigated by marmots. My husband started the year hating highpointing, begrudgingly serving as the driver and staying 100 yards in front of or behind me. If you’ve been following along with all of the posts, you’ll notice a turn in my recaps between Virginia’s highpoint in April (which he loathed) to the New England trip in August, when he began to warm up to the hobby. By the September trip to KS, OK, and NM, he became fully excited and invigorated by the summits. Now, he’s on board to join in the fun for 2015. And, he’s really excited for 2016 where we’ll rent goats for one of the mountains…
We have many highpoints planned for 2015 – about half together with Jill. While I’m excited for every state, the one I’m most looking forward to is New York. We’re assembling a team of friends to take on the 15 mile RT attempt on Marcy. Good friends, a road trip, and a cabin rental – how does life as a highpointer get any better than that? Except for maybe the aforementioned goat trail companions in 2016.
Thanks for all of the support in 2014. We look forward to you continuing on this journey with us in the coming year.
Highpointing has opened up a whole new world for me. If it weren’t for this new hobby I would have never been heckled about a landfill, attended a party on top of West Virginia, or taken such a profound interest in the location of USGS markers. I’ve made new friends, reconnected with old friends, and enjoyed many adventures. I have been so blown away by people’s interest in our hobby, whether it be by tolerating our non-stop talk about highpoints, joining us on our hikes, driving us to remote locations, or telling us the strange things they like to watch goats doing on the internet. I’ve even faced some fears – I drove all the way to West Virginia and back, and saw a snake without dying.
It’s hard to pick favorites because each highpoint was great fun in its own way. Instead here are five favorite memories from 2014, and a few things I’m looking forward to in 2015 and beyond.
Favorite repeat mountain – I will never set a record for being the fastest person to climb all 50 highpoints, but I may get close to achieving status as the person who visits some of them the most. I get some of these mountains in my head and I just can’t stop myself from going back over and over. New Hampshire will always hold a special place in my heart since I grew up taking trips there with my family, and I was excited to go back this summer. Though this was my third time up Mt. Washington it was the first time there wasn’t cloud cover above the tree line (and the first time it wasn’t snowing.)
Favorite drive up – I visited West Virginia twice last year, and both times I was very taken by the scenery. My first trip was a winter tubing trip, and it was all I could do not to run off into the woods to follow the many trails I saw. When Raina and I returned to tackle this drive up highpoint, I was thrilled with side trips to Seneca Rocks and The Huckleberry Trail.
Favorite random interaction with a stranger – When we were in Rhode Island, a man in a pick up truck saw us reading the sign at the trail head, turned around in traffic, and yelled that a nearby landfill was the actual highpoint. That is my kind of highpoint.
Favorite dirt road – Driving the road to the top of Kentucky, if you could call it a road, was an act of faith based upon the fact that it was going uphill. I loved the spirit of not knowing exactly where we were going.
Favorite all around awesome highpointing day – has to go to Vermont. We’ve gone on and on about the awesomeness of having free samples of cheese and chocolate near a state highpoint, so I won’t cover that again here. My only regret was that we didn’t see a moose.
Next year I am looking forward to making more highpoints with my kids, including my daughter’s first trip to Mt. Mitchell and my son’s second (and my 10th at least.) Our big trip will be up Mt. Marcy which my family plans on combining with a New England road trip. We’ll visit Mansfield again, and maybe tour Ben & Jerry’s again. Maybe we’ll even see a moose this time. After that, I will continue my quest to talk Raina and her husband into doing Utah with llamas instead of goats, knowing full well that I will fail.