Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Musing: G'Bye 4Ks, Hello Highpoints

The girls and I just hiked our last two New Hampshire 4000-Footers until October (mountains Tom and Willey -- trip report to follow).

Next up: Highpointing!

Last year, the girls and I began highpointing the USA. To highpoint, one must stand on the highest point of each state. Unlike the New Hampshire 4000-Footers, one is allowed to get to the top of a highpoint by any means whatsoever.

We began with nearby Jerimoth Hill, RI, then we traveled down to Connecticut and ascended Mt. Frissell. Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts was next, followed by a two and a half month spree in which we drove all over the country and bagged 31 more states. Last spring, we flew to Hawaii and drove up Mauna Kea. Five weeks ago, we ascended New York's Mt. Marcy. For details on any of the state highpoints we've ascended, use the search function on the sidebar to the right.

Our total now stands at 36. Our surface goal (I'll explain that term later) for the rest of this year is to bring that total up to 40. Specifically, we hope to highpoint Maine, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.

Will we make it? Who knows. After Maine and Texas, we enter unknown territory -- we've never hiked in high altitude. Harney Peak in South Dakota is the highest we've gone to date. Arizona's Humphreys Peak and New Mexico's Wheeler Peak are both above 12,000 feet. Those must be hiked. Actually, everything must be hiked from this point forward. We're out of easy ascent options; there are no more summit roads or trams in our highpointing future.

We might not even make Maine or Texas. I've an important medical procedure tomorrow that was scheduled at the last minute; I might not be strong enough to summit Katahdin during our planned trip to Baxter State Park (which requires reservations months in advance). Texas has been awfully hot of might not cool off by the time we get there. As for Arizona and New Mexico -- we will spend a lot of time acclimatizing, but someone might feel woozy during the ascent regardless. If that happens, down we will go. The mountain will always be there; I'm not going to mess around with altitude sickness should either one of the girls get a headache.

So...highpoints of ME, TX, AZ, and NM, here we come. Will we make the top of any or all of them? Maybe, maybe not. Will we at least get to travel, see beautiful works of nature, talk to the locals of each region, and visit a good handful of national and state parks? Absolutely. Highpointing is what I call the surface goal. It's the excuse, it's the impetus. The real treasure, the real value, is in visiting different parts of the country. We'll do what we can do, of course -- it's important to discover and reach one's potential -- but should we not make a highpoint or two or four, we'll still have a blast.

If we do successfully highpoint all four this year, then we'll have only ten highpoints left. I'm confident the girls can do all but three or four of them over the next seven or eight years, assuming they don't get tired of this game. Hood, Rainier, and Denali will have to wait until they are well into their teenage years (at the very least) -- again, assuming they're still interested and are genuinely enthusiastic about learning the mountaineering skills they would need to know to tackle such bohemoths. We'll take it year by year and see what happens.

I'll post a trip report of today's hike by tomorrow evening. After that, it'll be all about the highpoints until we return in October.

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