Highpointing (Confessions of a Peak Bagger)

No political views are expressed or implied by this map

According to Wikipedia, the first person to successfully climb to the highest point in each U.S. state was A.H. Marshall, who completed the task back in 1936.  Of course Marshall missed out on Alaska and Hawaii since they didn’t become states until 1959.  The person with the distinction of first climbing the high points in all 50 states is Vin Hoeman who accomplished this in 1966. Thus was born the sport of highpointing.  Some might dispute whether “climbing” is a necessary descriptor, since, according to at least one classification system, 21 of the 50 state highpoints are attainable via your car.  However, once you throw in Denali (AK), Mt. Rainier (WA), Gannett Peak (WY), and Granite Peak (MT), the difficulty ante is upped considerably.  Important factoid: there have been about 20 times more summits of Mt. Everest than people bagging all 50 state high points.

But, things really didn’t take off for the state highpointing phenomenon until around 1986 when a guy named Jack Longacre decided that it would be a good idea to form a club called the “Highpointers” to encourage people in this pursuit.  Once this became an organization, the idea of standing on the high points of as many of the 50 states as possible became an obsession for some.

I know this because I am one of them (the obsessed that is).  I currently have 20 in my bag, so to speak.

Continue reading “Highpointing (Confessions of a Peak Bagger)”

Bagman

I was rummaging through a box the other day.  It is filled with junk from what one might loosely describe as my “formative” years.  Why the rummaging?  Well, we are still dealing with COVID, the weather was bad and I was really bored.  Anyway, I came across an old scorecard from the Newfoundland Golf Course where my family played a round of golf.  Was this a memento from an epic family trip to the hinterlands of Canada? Unfortunately no, this Newfoundland is actually in Pennsylvania, somewhere in the Poconos.

Why did I save this scorecard?  Well, it is documentation of the only time in recorded history that I every beat my brother at golf.  Early on, we were both obsessed with golf.  We played incessantly around our house, primarily using wiffle golf balls to minimize the number of windows we broke.  Still, we drove our Dad crazy with the number of balls that ended up in the gutters.  We also decimated our small yard by taking huge divots after each shot.  It is a tribute to my parents’ tolerance that this behavior was allowed to continue.  Maybe they thought we’d end up making millions on the PGA tour.  Regrettably, that never happened.

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The Quest for Arbter Lake

At 4:40 p.m. Nov. 26 in Coloma Township in Waushara County a 26-year-old female was walking on the Ice Age trail when she was struck in the thigh by a bullet. The 51-year-old male shooter thought he was shooting at a deer (as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 11/28/2020)

This quote illustrates one of the challenges associated with hiking in Wisconsin.  To be sure there are other challenges, but when autumn arrives, a time of the year that is perfect for walking in the woods, knowing which hunting season is currently active is definitely worthwhile.  Curiously enough, some hikers are blissfully unaware of this.  I once gave a hiker a ride to the eastern terminus of the Ice Age Trail.  It was a lovely day, late in November, perfect weather for a hike.  Unfortunately it was also opening day for the gun deer hunting season in Wisconsin.  This is a date that a lot of people here take very seriously.  But this guy was from Illinois and had no idea that it was opening day.  He was not wearing a stitch of blaze orange but the park where he was starting his hike was crawling with deer hunters.  I tried to talk him out of his plan but he resisted.  I eventually gave up and just left him at the trailhead, insisting that he text me after he (hopefully) safely completed his hike.  Thankfully he did.

Continue reading “The Quest for Arbter Lake”

War Games

You’re made to sit in a chair.  There are bright lights on, all around you.  A man comes up behind you, puts his hand on your forehead and pulls it back.  You notice he is holding what looks to be a switchblade and he moves it close to your exposed neck.  Your jugular is not too far away.  Have you been captured by terrorists?  Is this a particularly bad dream?  Well, instead, let me shamelessly misappropriate a metaphor, invoke Occam’s Razor and suggest that the most likely scenario is that you are sitting in a barbershop about to get your neck shaved.

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Dodging Bullets

The view from 270 Overlook on the Canadian Border of the Superior Hiking Trail
The Sawtooth Mountains as seen from Lake Superior


“The visible crest line thus presents a remarkable profile, resembling the teeth of an immense saw.”

So says Wikipedia about the Sawtooth Mountains which form part of the Lake Superior escarpment in Minnesota.  What they don’t say is that for the first 160 of its roughly 300 mile track, the Superior Hiking Trail often traces the ridgeline of these mountains paralleling the shoreline of Lake Superior, occasionally plunging down to lake level, before rising up again.  From what I’ve read this is an ancient mountain range. We’re talking a billion years old, in contrast to the Appalachians (500 million) or the various ranges on the West Coast which come in at an adolescent 100 million years or even much less.

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Be Superior

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Back in the summer of 1976, big things were happening in my home town.  It was the Bicentennial and Philadelphia was trying to capitalize on this event as a tourist opportunity.  To me, this seemed a bit of a stretch because at the time Philadelphia was in a close race with Baltimore for the title “armpit of the east coast” (I can say such things because I was born and raised there).  For me though, the Bicentennial was a job opportunity.  I had just graduated from college and was planning my immediate future.  My primary objective was getting accepted to graduate school in Portland, Oregon.  Failing that, my back up plan was getting on my bike and cycling across the country.  Back then lots of people were interested in doing this.  It was referred to as the “Bikecentennial”.  Clever, right?  Anyway, note that both plan A and plan B involved getting pretty far away from Philadelphia.  Either way I was going to need cash. Continue reading “Be Superior”

Covid Personality Disorder

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What would you do?

These days we are all familiar with the mantra of social distancing.  As is the case with many of you, I have taken to daily walks in the outdoors to relieve the tedium of our current predicament.  With various restrictions on access to parks, often this leads to an afternoon walk through town.  This presents certain dilemmas.  You are walking down the sidewalk and ahead of you see a couple walking in your direction.  What do you do?  Well, the socially acceptable, indeed responsible, action these days is to cross to the other side of the street and resume your walk, safely distanced from your neighbors.  Perhaps you wave to them from across the street and wish them a good day.  Your actions aren’t perceived as anti-social or passive-aggressive.  Indeed it is proof of you being a responsible member of society.  I’m very comfortable with this new reality. Continue reading “Covid Personality Disorder”

Requiem for a Thru Hike

requiem

(former) PCT  Preparation War Room

In the grander scheme of things, as we navigate the COVID-19 universe, this blog concerns a minor blip, less than a blip.  The real picture: A lot of people are getting sick, some are dying, a whole bunch are scared, and some have lost their jobs or their businesses. Peoples’ lives are completely disrupted.  We all know it.  If nothing else, the current situation reminds us that as much as we would like to think otherwise, we live in a global community and what happens around the world matters in practical ways, for what happens next door even if we don’t want it to be that way. On the brighter side there are now some people with enough toilet paper and hand sanitizer to last them until the next millennium.  I congratulate them on their foresight. Continue reading “Requiem for a Thru Hike”

Numismatics

mercury dime

WARNING:  As happens occasionally, this blog entry has nothing to do with hiking.  You have been forewarned.

Are you a one or a two cookie kind of person?  Many years ago a Stanford social psychologist, Walter Mischel, set out to answer this important question.  He recruited a bunch of 3 to 5 year olds from the Stanford Nursery School.  It was a pretty simple idea – the kids were presented with a cookie and told that they could eat the cookie right then but if they were willing to wait for 15 minutes, they could have two cookies instead.  Being a careful researcher he later replicated this experiment but this time the choice was one or two marshmallows.  What would you do?  Continue reading “Numismatics”