What exactly is a “highpoint?” It is indeed a “best moment,” “best part,” “climax,” “the highlight” or the “high spot.” In the case of hiking, highpoints are actually all of the above, with a “high spot” closest to the real definition. “Highpointers” are people of all ages and backgrounds who seek out the highest (altitude) location in each country, state, or county. Depending on your ambition, highpointing can produce a hefty bucket list of peaks to climb. Yes, it’s actually a sport, a passion and a hobby all rolled up into one – a fever that has risen in my family over the past few years. And, to nobody’s surprise, there is also a Highpointer’s Club to join to learn more and feel a part of the growing movement. The graphic below is taken from their website and shows the locations of all the state highpoints, rating their difficulty.
A “benchmark marker” is a plaque secured on each highpoint, denoting the triangulated highpoint location as credentialed by the United States Geological Survey or other authority and includes the name of the highpoint and official altitude. Some highpoints have registries (books to document your arrival), some look like shrines, and some are just the medallion. If you are wondering, my husband has a collection of benchmark replicas from his highpoints. I have my most treasured one from Mt. Elbert on my desk to remind me never to quit.
My husband, Steve has his list of his highpoints to conquer and I’ll be a tagalong for many of them. I found my limit at 14,433’ (see my blog, “Pushing Beyond” about climbing Colorado’s high point, Mt. Elbert, rated a 7/10 difficulty) a few years ago. Steve and I just experienced some beautiful lower state highpoints in Illinois and Wisconsin last week. We started with Eagle Mountain, rated 4/10, which was a 7-mile rocky and rooty hike in northern Minnesota near Grand Marais. The lushness that is Northern Minnesota is something to experience all in itself. The depth of the forests, parks, lakes and the extreme body of water, Lake Superior are to be taken in while planning your Minnesota high point experience. We didn’t leave enough time to explore all the nearby parks, only wading into Cascade Falls State Park to see the waterfalls, so are already planning a return trip when we have more time.
My highpoint count is up to 5 so far: AZ (Wheeler Peak), CO (Mt. Elbert), MN (Eagle Mountain), WI (Timms Hill), and IL (Charles Mound) with Steve’s at 8: adding in CA (Mt. Whitney), TX (Guadalupe Peak) and NH (Mt. Washington). There are many more highpoints to look forward to and to keep us busy, so I’ll add highpointing on our official list of “things to look forward to.” Our strategy is to knock off the hardest ones while we are “youngish” and in better shape. If I decide not to climb a highpoint, I’ll happily be on the support team back at base camp. A side note: Highpointing pairs nicely with our desire to visit all the National Parks (yet another bucket list). We decided that doing what we love while we can still do it is a priority, not letting an arbitrary stage of “retirement” dictate when to get started.
Interested and want to learn more? Visit the Highpointer’s Club website and also do your homework at Summit Post. If you are going all in, you may want to purchase a National Park Pass as well and if you are on Facebook “like” Highpointer’s Club to get some inside stories. Hike on!