Sunday, August 31, 2014

Old Speck, Maine, August 30, 2014

Old Speck, Maine (4,170') via Old Speck trail (AT), August 30, 2014.

Mileage:  7.6 miles (RT)

Elevation gain:  3,073'

Trailhead: Bethel, Maine, follow Rt 2 for 6 miles to Newry. Turn left and follow ME26 to Grafton Notch State Park (12 miles). The AT parking area is on the left side of the road and is large and well-signed. There is a $2 per person park fee. 

The Mountain Mommas' reunion was held this year in Newry, ME in a cabin just outside of Grafton Notch State Park - Old Speck was chosen as this year's hike.

Rich and I had hiked Old Speck before (see previous report) and love its alternating steeps and flats, lively company (AT thru hiker season) and pretty views (although the summit was socked in the last time were here).

We invited our friends Charlie and Sandy and we all met at the trailhead around 9:30.

The trail starts out relatively flat and gets steep quickly.  But the path's wide and easy to negotiate and the going is good.  

We started out as one big group but soon fell into our own paces.  The trail is forgiving - steep sections rise up to flat, rockless areas of dirt (we looked forward to those).  

We called these rockless flats "Joe Dirts."

The first overlook is a dropoff with views of the sloping hills of Grafton Notch.

Approaching the overlook.

First views.

This slab goes down. Very abruptly.

Steeps and flats, steeps and flats, with a few waterfalls thrown in to make it interesting (all water sources are located the first mile or so in from the parking lot).   Northbound Appalachian Trail thru hikers were heading down as we were heading up (only one of the dozens we saw was headed south).  Northbounders have just over 200 miles left of their 2200 mile journey - it's fun to talk with them. The AT hikers were so upbeat, having just completed New Hampshire's White Mountains and that really tough Mahoosuc Arm!  

We topped out on a little knob that signaled the beginning of the roller coaster ride over the four bumps just north of the Old Speck summit.  Down and up, down and up, with a whole lot of nothing but the realization that we would have to go back up these little "downs" on the way back.

Just before the AT junction is an overlook that takes your breath away, that makes the hike up so worth it! 

Beautiful, isn't it?!

We gawked and cooed and took a bunch of photos.  This is the most spectacular view in Grafton Notch!  

At the AT junction the trail flattens out and it's just a stroll to the summit, where today we were treated to fine views (though one little turd of a cloud hung around, drifting over the summit area from time-to-time). 

Out came our lunch and we all took turns eating and climbing the very stable former fire tower to the observation deck where 360° views are spectacular.

She's a mighty nice tower!

Wind mills - taken from the tower.

Took a while to get everyone to stand still long enough for a photo.

Soon we headed down the mountain  - without incident.  In fact we barely acknowledged the little "ups" going back over those bumps.  On our descent we were going with the northbound thru hikers and had more time to chat with each of them as they barreled down the trail toward their zero day in Bethel.  

Later we all enjoyed a draft beer at Rooster's Roadhouse. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Campbell Hill, Ohio (State High Point #20), June 26, 2011

Campbell Hill, Ohio (1,550'), June 26, 2011.

MileageDrive up

Directions to highpoint: (from Campbell Hill is on state maps near Bellefontaine. From Columbus, take HWY 33 to Bellefontaine (about 40 miles away). Exit HWY 33 at the route 540 exit, take a right, and about a 1/2 mile down the road you will find a school on the right side of the road. You get to the parking area after you see the big career center sign, and then turn right into the school campus.  Note: college's gates are locked by 3:30 on Saturdays and all day Sundays (there was a pedestrian gate open when I visited). 

I had to be at a conference in Indianapolis and flew in two days early to visit the state high points of Indiana and Ohio (see Indiana report). 

The directions above are from Columbus - I drove here from Hoosier Hill,  the Indiana highpoint in area of Richmond, Indiana (about a ninety minute drive).  

The high point is at the local community college, aptly named the Ohio Hi-Point Career Center.   It's a tidy campus that's gated (see above for hours).  I got there early and found a pedestrian gate open.  

Nice tribute to the state's highpoint.


I walked the empty campus up the hill to the highpoint. Ohio has done a nice job honoring its high point. There's nice landscaping, benches and a flag pole.

I took a few photos and headed back to Indianapolis for my conference.

Ebright Azimuth, Delaware (State High Point #21), March 25, 2012

Ebright Azimuth, Delaware (448'), March 25, 2012.

Mileage: Drive up

Directions to highpoint: (from Wilmington, DE, drive north along I-95. Take Exit 8 for Highway 202 (Northbound). At 4.9 miles, turn right onto SR-92 East/Naamans Road. At 1.1 miles, turn left onto Ebright Road. At 0.6 miles, reach the street intersection with Ramblewood Drive. Park alongside one of those roads. Walk to the highpoint monument sign and USGS Benchmark disk located near the intersection of Ebright Road and Ramblewood Drive.

I flew into Baltimore on my way to DC for a work event, rented a car and headed up to visit the highpoint of Delaware.  

It's very easy to find the USGS marker for this highpoint.  The road tops out right at the sign.   Actually the high point of this area is in the trailer park behind the sign (I hear it's under one of the trailers) but the USGS markers available to highpointers are by the sign and down the small road to your right.  

Marker by the sign (construction crew once paved over it!).

Pennsylvania's border is very close to this area so if you drive by the highpoint and wind up in Pennsylvania, you've gone too far!

I got out of the car and took a few photos, walked down that small road to the other USGS marker (easy to find, its in a concrete block), then headed back to my car.

The other marker down that little road.
Just before I got in, Doreen Kupchick, a highpoint neighbor, came out to chat and had me sign a register she keeps. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Hoosier Hill, Indiana (State High Point #17), June 26, 2011.

Hoosier Hill, Indiana (1257'), June 26, 2011.

Mileage: Drive up

Directions to highpoint: (from From Indianapolis, Indiana take I-70 East 
until you get to Richmond, Indiana. Take route 227 North up to Franklin Township. Go 
about 10 miles.  Take a left on Bethel Road, follow it for about a mile and then take a right 
on Elliot Road and head north for almost a mile. There is the short trail to the top that is well marked. 

I had to be at a conference in Indianapolis and flew in two days early to visit the state high points of Indiana and Ohio (see Ohio report). 

Hoosier Hill is in the woods on the edge of a cornfield.  There's a USGS marker on the ground down (and across) the street about six feet in from the road. I traipsed around the area but couldn't find it.

Well signed.
It really IS next to a corn field!
House nearby.

Short path in.

Register :)

It's a sweet tribute to Indiana's high point.  I signed the register, took some photos and headed to Ohio to visit their high point, Campbell Hill.

Taum Sauk Mountain, Missouri (State High Point #14), March 8, 2010

Taum Sauk Mountain , Missouri (1,772'), March 8, 2010.

Mileage: Drive up

Directions to summit:  (from Head south on State Route 21 from Arcadia, Missouri for about 4 1/2 miles. Turn right onto Highway CC which is signed for Taum Sauk Mountain State Park. After a few miles the pavement ends near a fork in the road. To the left is a lookout tower, to the right is Taum Sauk Mountain State Park. Parking is at the end of the road. 

A conference in St. Louis brought me to the region and I arrived a day early to visit the state's high point.  

On the left side of the road up to the summit is a kiosk marking the trail to the tribute to Jakk Longacre, founder of the Highpointers Club ( The tribute is a pair of poles with arrows pointing to the various state high points.  I drove by it on my way to the summit.

There's a short walk to get to the official high point. The lot had just a few cars in it but I didn't see anyone. 

Here's the highpoint, plaque next to the rock.

On the way back down the road I stopped and took the path to the Jakk Longacre site. The walk was longer than anticipated and leaves blocked some of the path but I found it.  

Tribute to Jakk Longacre

Then I headed back to St. Louis.

Mt. Davis, Pennsylvania (State High Point #15), June 27, 2010.

Mt. Davis, Pennsylvania (3,215'), June 27, 2010.

Mileage:  Drive up

Directions to summit(from Don Holmes' Highpoints of the United States): from the intersection of US Highway 219 and Broadway Street in Meyersdale, PA proceed west on Broadway, bearing right onto State Secondary Route 2004 (after railroad tracks), for 9.6 miles to South Wolf Rock Rd (left). S. Wolf Rock Rd is .4 miles west of the Mount Davis picnic area. Turn left on S. Wolf Rock Rd and go .7 miles to Mt. Davis parking area on the left.  The large boulder near the observation tower is the highpoint.

This was destination #1 of my highpointing hat trick (see MD and WV reports).  Many highpointers choose these three in one day as each are an hour apart from the other.  I flew in from Pittsburgh for a conference a day early to explore the region's highpoints and hopefully check three off my list.

The drive to Mt. Davis seemed to take forever but eventually I reached the parking lot, which was all but empty.  

It was a short walk to the observation tower which was run down and unimpressive. 

A little rickety?  I chose not to go up there.

The USGS marker looked badly beaten.

The rock that marks the high point of Pennsylvania.
After a few photos I jumped into the rental car and headed to my next highpoint, Maryland.

Spruce Knob, West Virginia (State High Point #17), June 27, 2010

#17 Spruce Knob, West Virginia (4863'), June 27, 2010.

Mileage:  Drive up (no walking)

Directions to summit: (courtesy of Don Holmes' Highpoints of the United States) Spruce Knob summit is 13 miles SSW from the Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area. 

From the Backbone Mountain parking area (MD highpoint) in Silver Lake, WV, continue down Route 219 to WV-32 and then to US-33 E and WV-55 for 12.3 miles, then left on WV-28/WV-55 (Mountaineer Drive) to Seneca Rocks, WV.  

From Seneca Rocks follow 33/28 south for about ten miles to County Road 4 (right).  Go 1.8 miles to the junction of 4 and County Road 6, keep left. Continue on Forest Route 112 for 8.2 miles (bear right at the intersection at .6 miles to Forest Route 104 on right). Turn right on Forest Route 104 and continue 1.9 miles to Spruce Knob parking area. Observation tower is a short walk. 

This was destination #3 of my highpointing hat trick (see PA and MD reports) and though I was tired from a day of flying in to Pittsburgh and driving to Davis and Backbone Mountains, I looked forward to the views from Spruce Knob.  

Spruce Knob Mountain did not disappoint.  The drive through Seneca Rocks is beautiful with all its rock pillars; a playground for climbers.  What seemed like a long way to the summit access road gave way to just under two miles of uphill and voila! - the most spectacular sunset!

I walked up the observation tower, took a few photos, noted that the parking lot had bear-proof trash cans.  The mountain road faced west so I had beautiful pink and purple views on the way back to Seneca Rocks.

Sun just beginning to set.
Interesting dumps of talus here and there.

Dinner was in Seneca Rocks, across from the Harpers Old Country Store. I spent the night in a room above the store.  The next morning I asked the cashier how to get back to Pittsburgh and he looked at me as if to say, "Why would you want go there?!"

Friday, August 22, 2014

Backbone Mountain, Maryland (State High Point #16), June 27, 2010.

Backbone Mountain (Hoye Crest), Maryland (3360') via hiking trail June 27, 2010.

Mileage2 miles (RT)

Elevation gain: 600'

Trailhead: (from From I-68, get off at exit 14, take US 219 South. Once you pass the junction with US 50 at Redhouse, MD, continue 4.3 miles to the village of Silver Lake, West Virginia (yes, you're in West Virginia; not Maryland anymore). In Silver Lake, WV, State Route 24 junctions to the west. From the junction, continue following US 219 South for 1.1 miles. On the left side of the road you will see some trees with orange blazes. There was also a small, rough sign indicating the trailhead to the MD highpoint. There's parking on both sides of the road. 

Hike BMS (by myself) to this state highpoint as part of a highpointing "hat trick" (Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia).  This was destination #2 (see PA and WV reports).  Many highpointers choose these three in one day as each are an hour apart from the other.  I flew in from Pittsburgh for a conference a day early to explore the region's highpoints and hopefully check three off my list.

It's a little unsettling for me to be hiking in a strange area alone. I never hike alone in familiar woods.  I parked in West Virginia! - next to a little cottage across the street from the road that is the trail and followed the blazes up to the top.  It didn't take long.

I had a small backpack on - with a whistle (just in case).  A couple on their way down from the peak were the only people I saw.

My whistle would jingle and I would swing around - thinking I would find a hermit or mountain man following me.  (Sheesh, mind can play tricks on you!).

Top of the highpoint of Maryland. Peaceful. 

View from the cairn (there was also a picnic table).

Sitting on the old picnic table at the top, I called Rich.  The view was serene and aside from a bee and a few birds, the woods were quiet. 

Headed down - it took no time. Soon I was on my way to my final high point of the day: West Virginia (what a beauty!).

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Reno Hill (State High Point 13a), March 1, 2010

Reno Hill (409'), District of Columbia, March 1, 2010

Mileage:  Park and walk to.
Trailhead:  I took a cab but some drive and others take the subway. Directions courtesy of SUBWAY: Red Line to Tenleytown-AU. Once you are out of the Metro, turn left (North) on 40th St. Head to the right of the soccer field in Fort Reno Park and turn left on a gravel trail. DRIVE:1) From I-495, head south along Wisconsin Avenue for nearly five miles.2) Take a left at Albemarle Street NW. A "Tenleytown-AU" indicator is located near this intersection.3) Drive two blocks. Then take a left onto Nebraska Avenue NW. 4) Fort Reno Park will be on the left side of the road, within a few blocks.
I was at a conference in DC for work and decided to take an extended lunch break to (with the help of the cab driver) find Reno Hill, the high point of DC.  This isn't officially a state high point but was recently celebrated as the District's high point and hey, I was in the neighborhood.
The highpoint is on this hill behind the school. Photo taken from a field.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kings Peak, Utah (State High Point #23), August 12, 2014

Kings Peak (13,528') via Henrys Fork Trail to Gunsight Pass, shortcut to Anderson Pass, rock hop to summit, August 12, 2014

Mileage:  25.3 RT (7.8 to campsite, 9.7 RT to summit, 7.8 from campsite to car)
Elevation gain: 4,098'

Trailhead:  Henrys Fork Trailhead, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Evanston, UT. 9,430' (40.909115, -110.331442). 
Exit 34 from I-80 to I-80 BUS E for 5 miles. Turn right onto WY-414s for 3 miles and right onto WY-410E/W 2nd St. for 7 miles. Continue onto Co Road 283 for 8.4 miles. FR 072 and then left on FR 017 (entering Utah) for 7 miles. Continue straight on FR 077 for 3.4 miles. 

When you see the sign "Henrys Fork Trailhead" (bathrooms and parking), continue another .2 miles to the second parking lot (kiosk has a hiker register). 

Alternate Shortcut (from Gunsight Pass to summit):  At the Gunsight Pass cairn continue down the main trail 30 paces and look to your hard right.  A small cairn sits in the middle of the strip of talus (hard to see).  Walk over the talus past the cairn to a well defined dirt path which leads to the top of the plateau. Cross the plateau and descend toward Anderson Pass.

Hiked with Rich, brother Bob and his wife Peg (Bob and Peg live in nearby Park City).

Bob’s an avid hiker and just completed the Highline Trail, 78 miles of challenge - and in awful weather no less.  This was his third visit to Kings Peak (second within two weeks) and fortunately for me, he was in the mood to hike at a leisurely pace. 

The plan was to hike in ten miles and set up camp on day one, summit on day two, and hike out on day three.  

It was a nightmarish forecast - all the things you don't want coming your way while hiking or tenting: never-ending thunder and lightning, driving rains, flooding, dangerous winds.  During our prep we scanned the weather reports - forecasters even recommended postponing all plans for two of the three days we would be out. 

The dates were picked months ago with no wiggle room for bad weather. Since we'd come all the way from New Hampshire we decided to chance it and hike anyway - at least the first day - in hopes we'd get one nice hike in and maybe some photos before deluged with disaster.

We drove the two hours to the trailhead and hopped out of the truck under blue skies, expecting that to change. 

Unless you have horses, park in the lot further down the road.

The Uintas are crowded in August.  We dodged horses and boy scouts the first five miles of trail (easy grades, nice views).  As day hikers we've enjoyed hiking with light packs, and our heavy backpacks slowed us.  Working hard at an altitude of 10,000' didn't help either.  

Acclimatization We'd hiked Mt. Elbert (high point of CO) two years ago (see previous report) and arrived in Colorado three days early to acclimate.  Three days is not enough time for this process but we summited without incident.
On this trip we had about 21 hours at 10,000' before summit day. Kings Peak is 900' lower but with a much tougher approach than Mt. Elbert.   I found my breathing and stamina markedly better on this hike.  I did take Diamox for a few days to prevent altitude sickness (just as insurance).

The Uinta Mountain region is breathtakingly beautiful and we took a lot of photos.

Elkhorn Crossing

The crowds thinned when we reached Elkhorn Crossing (at about 5.5 miles) and the black cloud that was creeping to our right approached with rumbles of thunder.   Our hearts sank  - we tried to remain hopeful. 

We crossed the river on a crazy little bridge of three logs lashed together and wimpy clothesline (for balance).

From here the path winds a bit with a few small ups and downs, then continues through beautiful mountain meadows, lush and in contrast to the deep orange brown hills and rock formations in the distance.

The peak way in back is Kings.

The thunder continued and across the river we could see a thick "mist." 

Bog bridges reduce slipping in the clay "slurry."

Bob turned to us and said, "Get out your rain gear."  Within minutes hail pelted us as we scurried along bog bridges and mountain scrub.  Expecting the worst, we started looking for shelter from lightning.

There was no lightning. The hail left us just as fast as it came.  The clouds parted and blue skies reappeared.

(In fact, this short spurt of hail was the only weather event during our three days.  In SPITE of the weather forecast!)

Beautiful Dollar Lake

At 2:30 p.m. and an altitude of 10,600' we set up camp outside the Dollar Lake area (on the right side of the trail just before the lake). Just 7.8 miles from the car, it was a perfect double campsite and we were able to have a campfire (fires are not permitted within 1,000' of Dollar Lake).  

A brook that feeds into the Henrys Fork tributary is located behind this spot but it's not close and involves a struggle between you and mountain scrub to get to the water.  We found this out the first day.  On the second day we just went across the path to Dollar Lake for our water.   

Armed with the hellacious forecast we'd seen before we left, we anguished over whether or not to head for Kings Peak the next day.  We decided we had to at least try to get there.

Our plan: leave real early to avoid dangerous weather and check the skies at the passes to determine whether to continue or retreat.

With the exception of an occasional cluster of trees, this hike is 100% out in the open and hikers with or without trekking poles are the ultimate tasty target for lightning!

4:15 a.m. comes early and the next morning Bob and I were headlamped and on the trail by 5:40 in hopes to bag the peak and be off of ridges, passes and the summit before the hard storms hit.  Bob had been bitch-slapped with rough weather during his Highline trip and was not in the mood to struggle with lightning and flooding again.

Peg and Rich opted to stay back and explore the trails near our campsite. 

The sun rose in a veil of whispy clouds. Dawn was still very new when we reached Gunsight Pass.  So far so good - no sign of suspicious weather.  Breathless, I stopped for a few minutes (this would be our only break before the summit).

Approaching Gunsight Pass

Cairn on the top of Gunsight Pass

Here's where it got tricky. The path continues down into Painters Basin, dropping about 400' then heading west (around a small plateau) toward Anderson Pass (the gateway to Kings Peak summit).  There's a cairned shortcut that skirts the bottom of the plateau, eliminating up to a mile of trail.

We headed down about 100 paces looking for a second alternate shortcut; a cairn that takes you up and over the plateau, eliminating more mileage and unnecessary elevation gain.

But, we were too far down the trail and missed the cairn.  So instead we scrambled up jittery rocks, most of the time straight up the slope.  Footing is tricky but the slope isn't steep enough to worry about falling (just about rocks falling on me!). Slow going helped my breathing but every move was calculated, which took time.

Scramble took time, watch out for rocking rocks!
At the top of the plateau we found the cairns marking the shortcut (noted for the way back).   

The cairn at the top.

The plateau is a mix of grass and strips of talus (rocky, bitchy little ankle biters that just want to mess you up).  We crossed the top and gently dropped down to the base of Anderson Pass. We saw just two hikers during this part of the hike.  

Off the plateau, Kings Peak straight ahead!

To save time (still worried about the weather) Bob took shortcuts and I did my best to follow him around small streams and patches of grass and rock. The climb to Anderson Pass was uneventful and at the top I caught my breath while Bob ditched our poles.  We started seeing other hikers heading up from the basin. Weather still looked good so we continued up.

Bob coming back from ditching our poles.

Yes, we're headed there, but not via the west side shown here.
The "path" skirts the mountain slope on the east side.

I wished I'd had those poles dozens of times on that rock hop up to the summit of Kings Peak. And I was glad I didn't have them the rest of the time!  

It was a half-mile of large summit rock, similar to the rock piles we deal with in the Northern Presidentials in New Hampshire (see recent Mt. Adams trip report) - except this rock pile is on steroids!

It's important to note that there are no real scrambles on this trip, just rock hopping. And, it's never so steep that I felt I could fall off the mountain; at the most I could've twisted an ankle or banged a shin.  

There are several false summits; we stayed low to avoid the jutting rocks of these impostors, and ascended once past them. 

I stopped here and there to catch my breath and occasionally (though he would say often) asked Bob for the best way to get up to the next rock.   After about 40 minutes we could see where we would end up. The final push to the summit was pretty steep but stable, and quick.

This is what you'll hop over.

A register of sorts at the top.  

We reached the summit at 10 a.m., took a few photos and wrote in the register.  Skies were clear, views breathtaking and I was feeling victorious.  

At 10:10 we headed down.  My legs were tired and down has never been my strength so it became a combination of butt sliding and rock hopping, mixed in with a little bit of whining.  

As we rounded the slope I was as happy to see the top of Anderson Pass again as I had been to see the Kings Peak summit. Let's get off these rocks!

Skies were still clear and non-threatening. Heading back we met a lot of hikers, quite a few looking really tired.  We marched back up that gentle slope to the plateau (and its nasty-ass talus strips), and eventually the cairns to the shortcut.

Descending via the shortcut can be challenging to tired legs (steep and gravelly). These little steep spots are close to the top and eventually the path mellows, gently sloping down, right back to the big cairn at Gunsight Pass.

Steep near the top of the plateau, gets better though.

Hopping down the shortcut path. Carefully.....

Path down to Gunsight Pass shown in the middle of this photo.

Once at Gunsight Pass we were home free. With no clouds in the sky we booked it back to the campsite, arriving at 1:30.  Rich and Peg welcomed us and we spent the rest of the day hanging out at Dollar Lake and celebrating.

The next morning we made the trek back to the truck.  Clouds started forming but temps were fine and winds were calm. It took us about three hours to get to the parking lot.

Kings Peak jutting up in the midst of this scene.

Glad to be near the truck.

Ten minutes after we left the parking lot the rain started.  There's something so satisfying about beating the weather.  

We headed back to Park City feeling victorious, looking for that celebratory draft beer.