Mark James Mullins

Highpointer Page

"It's all downhill from here!" - My best friend CD (during July, 2005 "Guad Trip")

 FOREWARD: All coordinates listed below were grabbed by my Garmin Venture GPS unit. It's my goal to use it for HP'ing all 50 states if I can physically do it. Although I've used my GPS on each HP I visit, I lost 6 of the "waypoints" I had taken during a firmware upgrade in July, 2008 that improved the accuracy of the device as I had failed to save those waypoints in a file! Although I've already gotten back 2 of these on recent trips, the most important thing to me is the accuracy of dates visited (with exception of Arkansas' Mount Magazine due to dozens of visits) and this information is preserved through a written blog I keep of experiences with each journey. As you'll notice, the states below are in order that I attained their highest points. To this point in time, entries #4 through #18 have been with best friend CD (whose identity I will protect unless he says otherwise) and action figure "Woody" from the Pixar "Toy Story" series. Woody has been to every HP I've attained at one time or another, just not at the start. Some whom I've referred to this site have likely considered me an �berkook for having this action figure with me, yet when he "completes", he gets saved with the Highpointer Club archives for whatever future HP museum is planned or built, even if I can't complete the journey myself. Hopefully he'll be the first true "character" since Jakk (Just kidding!) to accomplish this. A few other HP websites have people carrying small toys on their HP and tri-point journeys, and I'm no different. Finally, you may read my opinions about specific things I've posted throughout this page. I don't want to read any emails containing philosophical arguments from anyone! Save that for Twitter or the Usenet newsgroups I frequent please. This ain't facebook or myspace, I'm the sole contact for complaining for anything on the website, and this site isn't a democracy. Arguments given me must be based on fact without exception for me to modify or delete portions of any opinions I've posted. Oh, please don't complain how this is long, like a book is. There's a lot of info I may throw at you. Since I do it freely, you might catch a tip or two that saves you issues and headaches. That's part of my point in all this, really!

 Why highpoint? I asked myself this in the early 90's while working at KCJC in Russellville, AR and allowing the curiousity of nearby AR HP Mount Magazine to draw me there. All of us have different reasons for highpointing, but once you're into it - you'll probably want to add more to your totals. It was during my first climb to the Arkansas rooftop, likely in 92' or '93, that I noticed in the registration box on the Signal Mountain trailhead where it was then sited, of the Highpointers. There was a California address and phone number on it and the party was offering tours of state highpoints. I should've stole the card as I just *knew* deep inside I had to find out more. Time went by and until 2003 when I could seize the opportunity to meet fellow HP'ers at one difficult access point, that I realized I could take this seriously.

 As you'll read in other highpointing websites, some are on (or require transit through) private property, many are on government property with some requiring a permit well before your visit. Quite a number are "drive-ups" or easily reachable by car while some require good physical conditioning and mountaineering training and skills to reach safely. Alaska's HP, Denali (Mount McKinley) is for most the ultimate HP challenge, possessing all the tough stuff as permitting required, guide required, several days to acclimate and complete, at least good physical conditioning, is dangerous, and truly an international mountain of over 20,000' being the highest point in North America. It is interesting to note that quite a few HP'ers have climbed the more difficult mountain HPs first, there are some like myself who have chosen a different approach of getting the most contentious of private property locations as first completed. Certainly I pray that all fifty locations will remain open to highpointers as one can't "fully complete" without all of them. I started this website as a personal reflection of journeys I've made to these special locations and to share at least part of these experiences to those considering joining the highpointing hobby and community we represent. Yes, some will consider us odd or even kooky, but we're the ones gaining the experiences and relishing the accomplishments each time a new HP is added. In a sense, its like a funky, yet slow version of Pokemon (gotta get em' all!) My first Highpointer "Konvention" had me enter with one HP but I joined the group climb and left with two, then bagged #3 on the way home. When you read about #4 (IA), you'll understand why I'd gladly have swapped positions with Missouri. It's about opportunity when presented and also the people you'll encounter from time to time, especially other HP'ers after that same elusive goal. As in bronc riding, it ain't easy or everyone would be doing it, yet there's achievement in both! That same 2003 Konvention had an Illinois family of several generations (well known to the Club) visit Charles Mound near the WI state line, so entire families are sometimes involved.

More on Arkansas' Mount Magazine:
 Sorry, but I don't have the exact date of my first visit to Arkansas' rooftop and the start of my highpointing experiences, brought on in part by a love for higher places due to enhanced communication on VHF and higher bands used in ham radio. At that time the Forest Service had full jurisdiction of the area, the trails were well-marked with tree markings but rough and could be difficult to climb with falls not uncommon in the sometimes thick forest floor, especially when wet. The Lodge? Burned down in 1971 with only the huge rock wall to remember it by and discussion as to when a new one would be built. Fire protection was one of the prime concerns with no local residents in the area other than USDA personnel. Still, this place was very special. From time to time, a campout would happen at the top as you would find burnt wood and ash of a campfire within feet of the topo marker. During winter months, this spot and along the northern face would have snow or ice when the valley below would be much warmer and less windy. At the first, there was no register to note your visit except at the Signal Mountain or northern trailhead. There were frequent warnings of the area being in black bear country, although encounters were very rare to my understanding.
 Let's fast-forward a decade to see how times have changed! Memorial Day weekend 2003 was the dedication of the large 13' stone map that the topo marker itself was used to indicate its location. Americorps did a fantastic job with the most difficult portion having to haul around the stones to create what I consider amongst the best-dressed highpoints in the nation. With fire control having been resolved on the mountain and a bond issue approved to build the Lodge, the rock wall from the old Lodge was incorporated in the design of the new one. I attended the ceremony in which the Lodge on Mount Magazine and associated cabins were dedicated on May 18, 2006. The pictures taken are now in archive with the Highpointers Club, my best picture of the dedication made the cover of Issue 73 (2006 2nd Quarter) of "Apex to Zenith", the Highpointer Club's newsletter. (A few extra copies will go to the Lodge when I can schedule another trip there!)
 I have been back time and time again to enjoy the different seasons at this spot. The Lodge staff are great, and so are the people who interpret and patrol this area, many being native to the area. I acted as Arkansas Liaison for the Highpointers from 2003 to 2009, in the rare event that this HP would've been inaccessable for a period of time. There was indeed a time during '04 or '05 in which I had to report a controlled burn that fell during a two-day window. My opportunity at job security in the wind energy field of which I'm passionate, combined with having been shafted by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services of most of my rightfully-earned unemployment benefits during 2008 made my decision to move to extreme northern Iowa to study wind energy as a win-win no-brainer. Two years, three scholarships, and hopefully four times on the Deans list later, it'll have been the right decision. Years ago, I discovered the true Iowan hospitality at Dubuque where I spent two nights while attending the highpointer's national "Konvention" in 2003 near Charles Mound, IL and again while visiting Hawkeye Point (near Sibley) in Osceola County as part of my 2005 "Guad Trip". The Sterlers were among the finest HP owners and are typical of the majority of Iowans. Sadly, my Midwest move means my visits to that magical spot just north of the Ouachitas will be very rare.

DISCLAIMER: I've done my best to give you some information that may or may not be of use in your highpointing quest. There are excellent books concerning this unusual hobby that you may consider, rather than reliance on what I've posted here. For that reason, I take no responsibility or accept any liability for omissions or other inaccuracies in regard on how to reach these points. As with any highpointing trek, treat it as a Boy Scout would and BE PREPARED! Medications and water are of particular concern to any remote highpoints and be sure to notify others of your remote highpoint quests.

COMMUNICATIONS: You shouldn't be too surprised as to the difficulty or nonexistence of service on your cellphone with several of the hikeable HP's. There are some HP's where your height along the trail will place you in range of maybe a distant cell tower or two when the trailhead is too low to make, keep or receive calls. In other instances at or near a HP, numerous cell towers may be conflicting to hand you a call because of your height and visibility to them. Being a ham with 2-meter or 2m/70cm capabilities is a BIG plus as there's usually at least a repeater or two you can hit and perhaps have another ham monitor it in case something comes up. If you're totally clueless to what I've just stated, having a good quality FRS walkie talkie and giving that information of what channel (and guardtone if applicable) you'll be monitoring when you notify others could well be THE difference if you're doing this alone in a remote or wilderness area. Bear in mind that more height will extend your radio range. Several years ago, two injured climbers on Oregon's HP Mount Hood was able to make an emergency transmission to kids about 60 miles away who were playing with their radios! Most FRS users seem to hang out on Channel 1 with no tone, so if you're using another selection, you may give that a shot from time to time. Personally, I will carry at least one additional battery and if I become lost, I will remove any guardtone so any receiveable signal will come through and will switch the radio on only a few minutes per hour at an agreed "window" of minutes to conserve them. Some of you may recall another December Mount Hood mishap where a Dallas climber used his cellphone to notify his mother that he had been injured. He later succumbed to his being trapped in that cold remote spot. Cellphones still transmit at different times to keep communication with available towers in order to manage a call you make or take! His mother lives in the same town my mother does. I would wager he didn't think it through to preserve the battery life of his device in a manner that would've maximized his chances of survival. Just sayin'.. Now for the list...

#1 AR - Mount Magazine

Unknown - early 1990s and dozens of times since then
 As mentioned above, Mount Magazine was my first highpoint and remains my favorite for many reasons. The two ways to access the Park are on Highway 309 from Paris or Havana. The southern route from Havana that the Lodge overlooks is far more scenic, but watch those switchbacks when wet or if cold enough to become icy! The Highway Department does a good job overall, but they can't guarantee the road will remain clear at any time in the winter, so keep this in mind as well. My first visit in the early 90's had a rough trail on the North or Signal Mountain Trail side. The Lodge Trail on the South side wasn't any better. The difference in the trails today makes the 170' elevation as very easy and much safer for most people, but they're not smooth enough for most wheelchairs in the half-mile distance you'll cover getting there (true of both primary trails). The highpoint is heavily wooded except for the clearing for the 13' stone map that contains the topo point marking 2,753' AMSL. There are times you'll find snow or ice on the North side when melted elsewhere in the valleys during a winter visit. For those hardy winter visitors, you'll enjoy a much better view, but bundle up for the winds. Don't let nearby Electronic Drive to your west with the numerous towers fool ya! You're still higher than that area, but not by much. If you budget extra time, a multi-mile walk or mountain bike ride down Electronic Drive can be best enjoyed during the spring or fall months, and definitely take along your camera! Generally, the peak of fall colors are enjoyed close to Halloween on the mountain.The ranger cabin on that road is the highest residence in Arkansas. The butterflies (literally over 100 species have been sighted) are fantastic from spring and throughout the summer and early fall. The Butterfly Festival is an annual event that you may consider planning your visit, but first, contact the park at 479-963-8502 for their schedule. If you're interested in making a reservation at the Lodge on Mount Magazine, their toll-free number is 1-877-MM-LODGE. The only thing I've not yet resolved is which facility has the highest restaurant in Arkansas. Rich Mountain's Queen Wilhelmina Lodge (near the second-highest point in Arkansas, west of Mena) or the Lodge on Mount Magazine? Both have a similar elevation, perhaps just a few feet elevation difference. On 11/8/08, I measured via GPS at the floor level of Queen Wilhemina restaurant, the elevation of 2,568' but not yet with Lodge at Magazine. So far, nobody from State Parks has been able to clearly determine this to me, therefore, expect an update as I have time to research. Probably a quality topo map will determine this.

#2 IL - Charles Mound

8/2/03 & 6/6/09
 I attended the Highpointers Konvention in 2003 at Galena, IL. I rented a Nissan Altima and drove there, saving much wear and tear on my pickup. I used Pricelinetm and got a good room at the Dubuque, IA Holiday Inn near the Diamond Jo casino with two upgrades! That first weekend of August was during their annual Tax Free weekend, so getting a souvenir or even the basics was less expensive. The weather worked out for the most part, although there was one severe weather scare during my stay in which several others staying there appreciated me warning them to move their cars to a covered lower level in case the hail started. The city's Wal-Mart was amongst the finest I've visited to this day and one Chinese restaurant had exceptional service for their buffet! The tri-point status of the town isn't to be ignored either, only accessable by boat since it's on the Mississippi. I visited with two long-time internet friends and we climbed a beauty of a hill with a giant "M" near Platteville, WI. I got to ride one of her sister's horses later that evening, along a neighbor's cornfield, then taking in a bonfire before having to leave. I truly wished the aurora borealis would've appeared and hated to leave such excellent company. On the day of the climb, the Lions Club of Scales Mound, IL had cooked up pancakes and sausage breakfasts for all attending Highpointers. The "climb" was about two miles or more long, starting from the heart of Scales Mound. There were several trails of various difficulty to reach the HP as the Wuebbels do not allow "rock star parking" along their driveway where the HP is located. It was a beautiful stroll with other HP'ers along rolling hills, formed by glacial deposits millions of years ago and unique for this area of Illinois. One of my walking companions was also from the South and a fellow Libertarian! This sparked one really good conversation and the contrast in emotions couldn't have been more opposite when some of Jakk Longacre's ashes were spread at the highpoint per his wishes, 1,235' AMSL. I had started to take along a toy that my nephew played with as a little kid. The "Woody" character from Pixar's "Toy Story" was a perfect compliment to my trademark cowboy hat (a remnant and fixture of my rodeo days and horseback adventures yet to come) and this also started the tradition of having this "action figure" with me whenever I made any highpoint, tripoint, or other unusual location I felt would do, including several treks to Mount Magazine as Arkansas Liaison. This highpoint is partially wooded and in the Wuebbel's driveway with a nice northern view into Wisconsin nearby. I made the first signature on p.133 of their register and after the ceremony, we enjoyed watermelon! Jakk had to have been there in spirit. His daughter wept, and you know some of the more-seasoned highpointers who knew him did as well, but this was also a celebration of Jakk's life, watermelon and all as he'd have done so himself. He had made his final Konvention in this life the year before near Oklahoma's Black Mesa. We didn't leave the Wuebbel's place all littered up. We didn't create any issues with Wayne and Jean who have been gracious to allow the club access to this special place and had almost closed access due to non-HP'ers causing them problems in the past. As with any visit to Charles Mound, do so on the Wuebbel's schedule and terms, including no pets. Again, bear in mind this is a private property HP with past problems we didn't create and don't need to begin any! They'll put out signs where you should park, and expect about a 1.5 mile hike up their driveway. Your GPS and action figures are of course welcome as they were in both my visits. The Highpointer's website has updates for Charles Mound visitation schedules when they roll out the Welcome Mat.

 CD and I visited Charles Mound on 6/6/09. As with Konvention in 2003, I took along "Woody" and situated him with the rod marking the 1,235' spot. This made CD's 20th HP and I'm proud he made this one due to the access limitations. We encountered several other HP'ers, some with noteable achievements and working other states in conjunction with their visit. I got to see my previous entry on page 133 and made a new one on 185 with "It's all downhill from here." Before one arrives at the point, the view isn't bad to the south so a look behind is a good idea, but as last time, the best view from the HP is northward to nearby Wisconsin. Again, my hat is off to Wayne & Jean for allowing HP'ers access on their property. They continue doing an outstanding job of keeping it nice for other highpointers who will visit at some point.

#3 MO - Taum Sauk Mountain

8/3/03 & 7/31/08
 Returning from the 2003 Konvention, I decided to bag Missouri. This didn't come without a delay from law enforcement as an emergency on the road between Ironton and the mountain forced me to stop for several minutes. By the time I got there, it was getting pretty dark, yet I knew this HP would be accessable by walking down the sidewalk. The camera I had simply did no justice in getting a useable picture, but "Woody" and I made it to the monument at 1,772' AMSL and signed the register, making it back to the car before all twilight was gone. This made HP #3 for both of us. I could see why Jakk loved this place and enjoyed being Missouri's highest-elevated resident while he was alive. Getting back to Arkansas was a chore since I didn't know that area of southern MO very well, but I got back with the car in one piece. The trip was a huge success in breaking the single HP barrier! As with both my visits here, there are few good ways in which to visit or exit this HP so we backtracked almost to Poplar Bluff. I revisited this HP with CD on 7/31/08 as it gave him HP #19. As of that date, I had 18 with IL the only one he didn't have in common. He had both FL & NM I didn't have in common as of that day.

#4 IA - Hawkeye Point
43 27.612N
95 42.537W

7/7/05 & 4/10/10
 At 8:45 that morning, severe weather was closing in on the IA HP and I told CD about it. Fortunately, these were scattered and isolated with no more expected. We tried to secure permission before visiting Hawkeye Point but Mrs. Sterler wasn't in. I wanted badly to meet her and felt awful that I had the opportunity to visit this place after 2003 Konvention but had to get back home to work. There were several kittens along the front doorstep and I would've loved to have taken one with me to give it a good home. The weather turned out nice after all. What struck me was seeing clover blossoms in July but the growing season in extreme NW IA is way shorter than Arkansas' River Valley Region. We took plenty of pictures including the first mammoth wind turbines I'd ever seen in operation. I noticed in the book registries that a visitor had earlier viewed the tallest man-made structure in the world. After the visit, we visited a nearby cemetary and took in the stories from the tombstones, hoping Merrill was buried there and we could pay our respects to the ultimate HP owners, but never found him. There was some amazing things about this HP, one I won't disclose here, however, it proves those who visit have been honest and respectful. This was the FIRST HP I started signing registers with the phrase "It's all downhill from here" after CD and I brought this up in conversation earlier. My prayer for this spot to remain open to HP'ers who want to enjoy a peaceful visit to Iowa's rooftop was answered recently with the sale of several acres to Osceola County and plans to establish an RV park and perhaps other improvements to encourage more visits. Nearby in Sibley, Iowan hospitality was outstanding at their Subway shop and we spent quite a bit of time talking with the staff since hardly anything was going on. In fact, the visit kept a perfect record of hospitality here. The people we encountered around these parts were awesome and it put Iowa on my short list of desirable places and was among several reasons I later chose to move to and attend Iowa Lakes Community College to earn my wind energy education which started with the Fall 2009 semester. By the way, we paid homage to the world's highest man-made structure of that time, the KVLY-TV tower @ 2063' in North Dakota later that afternoon. We came close to being devoured by mosquitoes and endured miles of bugs striking the car from Fargo almost to Jamestown, it sounded like sleet and required the windshield wipers several times!
 4/10/10: I revisited Hawkeye Point while attending Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville, enrolled in their Wind Energy program. It was a Saturday that I had to study for a difficult test and had visited and studied with a classmate in Spirit Lake. What incredible changes have taken place at the HP. Donna no longer lives at the farm and has sold several of the acres including the HP to Osceola County, who has significant plans for the land. Add to that, I had experienced a dandy of an Iowan Winter for myself about 60 or so miles away to the east with 2 significant blizzards during December and at least one night of over 30 below! Even today, there were two long patches of snow remaining that graced the northern hillsides along Highway 9. I decided to check out Ocheyedan Mound (pronounced o-chee'-eh-dun, it's Iowa's second highest point) and enjoyed the impressive view being around 70' to 90' higher. Before the survey which determined the Sterler's farm is the HP, it was believed the Mound had the title, and some in the region still errorneously believe it to be so. If possible, I recommend a trip to "The Mound" for the view of the small town of the same name nearby and that of the nearby expanse of wind turbines. From Hawkeye Point, head south and look for the Ocheyedan/Rock Rapids Highway 9 exit, then turn left heading eastward. Watch for the turn southward to Ocheyedan and head through town. You should see the Mound on your left after leaving town. After turning east where the sign directs you to the Mound, the parking and short walk is easy. Now back to those beautiful and majestic turbines (in other words, job security) With additional expansion planned in the region, I'd wager more and more will be constructed. As of 2010, turbines were generally viewed from northeast and eastward from the Mound.

#5 ND - White Butte
46 23.222N
103 18.154W

 Today was CD's birthday and we'd been driving, enjoying the scenery close to Montana and even tried to access the MT/ND/SD tri-point but failed miserably, almost getting stuck on Cox Ranch Road, but he kept the chariot going and we visited Baker, MT nearby. This state LOVES the rodeo sport, not only with its own PRCA circuit, but obvious to us on our drive through. I contacted the ND HP owner, Mr. Dennis and obtained permission for our visit. We paid $10 at the box and went down the old rutted road not far from the old building, taking along the cameras, Woody, tripod, cellphones, flashlight, GPS and a keen eye open for rattlesnakes that reportedly frequent the area. You should NOT attempt the road going southward from the donation box in a low rider or sportscar, and be wary if the road happens to be muddy and you're not equipped with 4WD. We hiked probably a half mile or so and the trail crossed an old rusty barbed wire fence that had just about had it, but we made it through with no disasters. The only curious critter was a chipmunk that barked at us several times along the bottom of this butte. We had one false trail but located a good one and up we went! It got more and more windy the higher we got. I took in the views of the swirling grass along the trail, very much as advertised by others who have visited that its almost like visiting the Scottish highlands. When we summited, it was too windy for me to keep on my hat and I had to weigh it down with rocks to keep it from blowing over the edge and possibly losing it forever, since I didn't have a stampede string to keep it seated this time around. I made a call to Patrick in Little Rock and discovered I was on an analog tower, one of only two I encountered on the entire Trip! (the other was at the IA HP) We signed the register as we had done in IA, took summit pictures with my hat screwed on really tight, and a decent panorama with what little light we had to work with. Heading down was a chore. I had to retrace upward TWICE! Firstly, I forgot to "shoot" the exact HP with the GPS and had to keep tradition by running back to gain those precious coordinates and elevation. Then, I discovered the damned cellphone had come loose from the belt clip and I didn't know where this happened! Fortunately, it had fallen directly on the trail and I recovered it but never again trusted the belt clip as the plastic had aged and no longer held it securely. I'll never forget how beautiful the crescent moon was that evening. The land was darkening with twilight, the outline of other buttes to our southwest made for a great contrast, and the moon stood out in its own unique way I've never witnessed before. With all that earlier drama and stark beauty out of the way, we had a new threat. We had earlier used liquid "OFF" before the journey, but not much. The DEET 100 would've done far better as we discovered the hard way at this juncture. HUNDREDS of ladies wanted to ravage us, but we wanted no part of it. The mosquitoes couldn't stay at the top with all the wind, but it was nearly calm just down the summit. I swear I'll never forget the sound made by literally hundreds of these bloodsuckers! We hightailed it down a section of the trail near a fence with a slippery surface and occasional scree under us. We almost had to sit down to safely make it but it kept the six-legged ladies from getting to us for a short time. The same barbed wire fence didn't slow us down much, thanks to coordinating the movement of everything including my cellphone so it wouldn't get lost again! I had "shot" the position of the GuadMobiletm before this journey so it could be easily located if it got dark, but we found it anyhow, loaded the stuff and got inside in record time! The air conditioner immediately went on full blast, forcing retreat of the few skeeters that made it in to the rear. If CD had an automatic hatch release, I bet he'd have used it on the dirt road headed away to rid those unwanted guests. We didn't suffer as many bites as feared, but tip our hats to the Dennis'es for allowing access by highpointers to this really rustic and unique site.

#6 NE - Panorama Point
41 00.465N
104 01.885W

 Located in extreme SW Kimball County, it's private, but kept nicely for highpointers by the owners, High Point Bison. A monument at the HP shows 5,424' AMSL. As of my 2005 visit, the rate was $2.00 per person, payable when entering. There are a number of signs leading one to the NE HP. We actually paid while leaving, but pay up we did as HP'ers will at these sites. There's a decent likelihood I may have eaten some of the bison these ranchers raise, and viewing these animals is a nice bonus to this HP. I'm an advocate of ranching (a past member of the AR Cattleman's Association) and a regular consumer of bison, finding the meat as very healthy but not gamey. If you use a bit less heat than for ground beef, the similarities are amazing and the added cost is very much worth it! Buffalo are WILD so a word to the wise not to shortcut the quarter-mile across the field to the CO-WY-NE tri-point! We visited that as well and here's how to get to it: After a visit to NE HP, the entrance road which got you there straddles the CO-NE state line, and the pay box is in Colorado. You'll head south with the road either veering right or giving you that opportunity to turn that direction heading west for under a mile. You'll then turn right again on a state highway heading northward. Start looking for the road to change texture where the state line of CO-WY crosses, before that crossing, look to your right (eastward) for a single wire "gate" with plastic handled insulator. The road is on the Colorado side and is named County Road 200. To my knowledge, there is NO state line signage on this highway, so if the general feel of the road has changed, you've likely driven a bit far. For the uninitiated, this wire is part of an electric fence, so grab ONLY the plastic insulator, do not allow the wire to touch anything you don't want electrified, don't leave it grounded to anything or lying on the ground as it will likely leave the rest of the fence as unprotected, and be certain to hook it back where its supposed to go when entering and leaving! On this road, you'll head eastward past several watering tubs and such and my GPS indicated the length to the tri-point as .72 mi. The other side of the fence is in Wyoming until you reach the fenced area protecting the CO-WY-NE tri-point. There were two, possibly three llamas in the field during the tri-point visit.

#7 OK - Black Mesa
36 55.913N
102 59.870W

7/11/05 (with CD), 3/31/13, & 10/12/14
 Cellphone service is very likely NOT available except at the summit, even then, it could be unfriendly roaming. Reportedly, Sprint works in the area, Verizon and Trackfone don't as of 2014. If you happen to live in the Oklahoma Panhandle (No Man's Land) and are a PTCI customer with their 4G cell service, you should have full signal atop most, if not all the Mesa, but ONLY ATOP IT! For the rest of you, FRS or appropriate 2-way radios are recommended for parties separated on this hike, especially in the summer!
 The Nature Conservancy owns the first four miles of the trail. We started the hike at the trailhead and knew there was some distance with the map indicating 9.4 miles roundtrip. By the time it was overwith, I had hiked well over 10 miles. CD and I drank some water before the hike, but we left woefully unprepared for the heat that would test us late in this ordeal. Along this trail in the desert on the extreme western edge of Oklahoma's panhandle in this one-of-a-kind Cimmaron County, we enjoyed views of the mesas on both sides. I took many pictures along the way. We encountered one "horny toad" lizard that I was too skittish to handle (I've never seen one directly before) and plenty of cacti for picture taking. CD had to begin resting more often as an old nagging injury put him in more pain. We made the monument and took plenty of pictures. The only cellphone service anywhere in the region at that time was available at the HP itself on a damned roaming service with no service whatsoever at the trailhead or along the trail before making it to the top of the mesa. I did my best to shade my arms and head with my hat. It made a difference but not enough. I still got badly sunburned on my arms and neck, moaning later that I should've taken along some sunscreen. Water became a big issue late in the hike. CD had to stop and rest, and I was getting concerned. I ran back to his car to grab whatever water I could fetch. I wasn't going to drink any until he was served first, and that's the way it wound up. Fortunately, he didn't pass out and I didn't either. We drank up the water I carried back along the trail and this was only the second time I drove any part of the Guad Trip 2005 in the car, the other time earlier in Raton, NM. We made it into nearby Kenton and took the most refreshing break in the "Merc", the only store for miles and miles. CD almost collapsed during this break, but we pulled through with a new and hard-earned HP. From this point forward, if we foresaw any hikes of this sort again, we would carry along water, sunscreen, and clothe appropriately against sunburn. Cimmaron County is unique for another reason. On one side of the OK HP monument, you'll read that its the only county bordering four states! NM is a quarter mile from the monument where the Cimmaron Meridian runs, CO is over 3 miles northward, TX is southward over 30 miles, and the SW corner of KS borders it for a short distance. It's a shame the monument didn't point out it's the only county with three tri-points! I visited two of them during this trip.

 Now for the revisit on Easter, 2013 - this being solo. The official distance is 4.2 miles and there are benches at the first, second, and third miles, with a granite bench donated by a Boy Scout troop in Woodward at the monument. During this visit, I resided 100 miles away in Guymon, having been a wind turbine technician and between jobs. I also was much better prepared with my ham radio 2-meter talkie, fully charged for the journey. From atop the mesa, it would not reach the Boise City repeater 40 miles away, although I know little about it, (147.350 + .600, no PL) I believe the repeater may be only local coverage as I forgot to try and key it when returning from the hike. Besides, there's a much better repeater with many more listeners throughout New Mexico, and it's line-of-sight from atop the mesa. The Sierra Grande (147.280 +.600 with 100 PL) repeater is part of the New Mexico Mega Link NM5ML with someone in or close to the Land of Enchantment listening in. Even if you possess a cellphone repeater, the trailhead is very close to the eastern edge of Black Mesa, the Mesa itself blocks your signal from Kenton, which has the nearest tower, the next closest is eastward and if you're properly equipped with directional antennas, consider yourself rather lucky as there's significant terrain to that tower at the cutoff to Lake Etling. Basically for most cell and ham users, you're effectively cut off If you're in a real mess unless you're atop the mesa. For NOAA Weather Radio, there's a 100w station on 162.550 also atop Sierra Grande to give you weather from the Albuquerque weather service office. Your jurisdiction is in Cimarron County, Oklahoma, except if you venture far enough past the highpoint monument to the barbed wire fence at the New Mexico state line where you enter Union County on the western side outside the park boundary. It's private property past that point, however, it appears the owners do not graze livestock there. I mention the barbed wire fence just barely under a quarter-mile from the monument because you can walk southward along it and enjoy an awesome view from the overlook where the fence ends, and likely cross it on foot into New Mexico not more than 100' from the edge. Be very careful as the rock at the cliff edge can be slippery if wet, its a cliff going straight down, and the winds atop the mesa are among the most consistently strong in all of Oklahoma, sometimes from the north! There are no warning signs of the overlook as there are not many who venture the extra distance there with no significant trail of any distance past the monument, so bear this in mind if you have children along for the hike. As long as you're along the fence and have gone southward toward the cliff edge, you won't get lost. The monument is visible from the fence. If you're there in the summer, just beware of the extra critters, especially any rattlesnakes. I accidentally ran over one the previous September under a mile from the trailhead while visiting the area during the Okie-Tex Star Party. I hate killing them as they're needed to control rodent populations, especially field mice. You might get to show your child a horny toad lizard, but definitely leave it be! To take one requires a state permit from the Department of Wildlife, usually for scientific study. They have special requirements and make a poor choice for a pet, except for true experts who know that harvester ants are the horny toad's favorite meal. You'll find these ants along the trail as I did this time, although it was early yet for the horny toads to appear, although small grasshoppers make a second choice. During the summer, you'll find plenty of large green prairie grasshoppers. Hopefully, the exotic fire ants won't make it to the park as that's among the factors causing population declines of these lizards. This trip had me shooting some video and plenty of pictures. A single-phase power line now overlaps a portion of the trail just before the second mile. Apparently, civilization is encroaching more and more. The old, run down house before the second mile just past the park boundary has been modernized. The view of Black Mesa these residents get is incredible, but at best, they're lucky if they get 1.5 mbps internet from PTCI internet, although they're in the service area. (I've applied for work and been a customer with Panhandle Telephone Cooperative based in Guymon, and am familiar with their offerings) I donated an ink pen and memo pad to the registration box and filled out my entry. Not many had visited yet since Spring was barely here. It can snow here until late April, so a recent entry summed it up well: "The Mesa is still asleep." but she wasn't entirely correct. Small grasshoppers and a few small harvester ant hills were noticed. There were also numerous piles of what looked like poo that had plenty of berries as content, but I didn't really study it much. Another entry from two hikers gives a request to allow bicycles. WHY? The jeep trail which makes the hiking trail in the park is no longer kept as such and portions have severely eroded. Portions are dangerous for all but expert riders. If anyone should have a horrible spill and require medical assistance, it will be a huge ordeal and experience to get that person the help they need in such a remote area, and remember - cellphone coverage is basically impossible except atop the Mesa, and more or less this applies to ham radio operators. Oh, I forgot to mention not far from the trailhead is the dinosaur tracks, preserved in a sandstone creek bed. It's on private property but allowed to be viewed during daylight hours. If measured from where the road goes north to Black Mesa Bed & Breakfast (same road as the trailhead!) you travel 5.2 miles from that intersection, past the bridge, then down the first dirt road to the right and look for the turn. You can then go down the creek bed to view the tracks. Watch out for rattlers as they are common! I can't yet say if the referenced bridge is the one immediately after the turnoff to the trailhead. I may update this listing with maybe a pic or two if I'm in the area.

My third visit to Oklahoma's Rooftop started with a nice morning at my home in Guymon. This time I took along a backpack, loaded with much hardware as I wanted badly to test the limits of the Cantenna (my Wi-Fi extender which I've sold around a dozen so far) and had plans to either receive or leech distant Wi-Fi from the cliff near the monument atop the Mesa. This didn't work out as the rains came. I knew of this possibility and prepared with a jacket and my good hat. The hat was shipped later in the month to Arizona for refurbishment as the hatband was already unraveling badly before the journey. I still got soaked throughout my pants before arriving at the monument and again on the way back to the truck. While there, I checked on a notepad I had previously left behind and read some of the entries. Lightning was a huge concern as I was the only one on the trail, and only a single tweet given on Twitter was my notification I was out here. Strikes were happening nearby in New Mexico and also to my east, and I was sandwiched between those. My Garmin GPS did a track on the measured distance, not the 4.6 miles advertised, but 5.0! I never left the trail on the return trip - the one where the track was measured. I've never seen it so wet out here. A small part of the first mile of the trail has a low-lying area to the south, usually green with grasses. It was underwater, a nice shallow lake in place. No signs of fish or frogs, but it sure looked odd in this area of usually-arid terrain. Normally, the dinosaur tracks in the creek bed to the northeast of the trailhead are viewable, but they've been underwater with the creek running at times. This has been a fantastic summer throughout No Man's Land with much more rain helping the ongoing drought. The one bad result are more mosquitoes early and late in the day.

#8 KS - Mount Sunflower
39 01.316N
102 02.233W

 This is a private property HP with a nice sheltered picnic area, fenced around the sunflower sculpture its known for, a nice mailbox with registry shows the elevation 4039 on the side, and best of all, easy driveup access, although the road is loaded with rock and large, coarse gravel so don't just fly down it! Looking at it in a panoramic sense, it appears higher to your west, but that's nearby in Colorado. You can tell in other directions that you're at a highpoint. Fortunately the HP isn't somewhere crumbling apart such as the Castle Rock formation in Gove County. This was the first and only time on the GuadTriptm that we encountered someone else during an HP visit. Russ from Washington State had his companion dog of 14 years with him and that critter LOVED attention and although slowing with age, had been well cared for. He was curious about visiting the area and just decided on a whim to journey here. He's an interesting person with a kind spirit and I pray we cross the trail again in the future.

#9 MS - Woodall Mountain

 You'll notice the road as pretty steep along the last half-mile toward the 806' AMSL top. There have been some vehicles we noticed by their tire tracks as having almost left the road and I don't doubt there have been numerous instances of people going off the road altogether! You should exercise caution if visiting while the road is wet or the possibility of ice or snow cover in the area! There is a decent view in one direction where the road comes up the mountain. This is a drive-up and the marker is in the center of the loop at the summit with the antennas. You could wind up picking ticks off you when visiting the summit during the summer, especially in shorts. You can hear the traffic of nearby US 72 from the summit with no problem. You'll see the signs leading you to Woodall Mountain when entering Iuka. We found a partially deflated helium balloon along the road as we left the summit, taking it as a passenger and leaving the area cleaner than we did before (as Highpointers do).
 We named this road trip the "Baby's Got Gas", named for a Wal-Mart incident a few months before this trip where one of us let out a silent air biscuit that a woman behind us in line with her infant child said "Awww.. baby's got gas!" and we almost lost it!

#10 IN - Hoosier Hill

 We had to redeem ourselves for not being able to bag Campbell Hill in Bellefontaine, OH earlier in the day as the Career Center was closed and gated shut! We could see the flagpole and "Top Of Ohio" but couldn't claim visiting it. Nevertheless, it remained for a future visit. Hoosier Hill was close and we would fare much better. We saw the initial signs leading us to the snow-capped summit (yah, right!) and CD had a better handle of where it was. The only people we encountered heading to the 1,257' AMSL top were those shooting skeet (or quail?) in the countryside, and we passed them twice upon figuring out by the GPS versus the existing maps that CD's hunch was correct. Basically, this is a drive-up as the hike is about 100' from where you park. The summit is heavily wooded but you'll have a minimum view toward the field to the south. The signage is non-existent where the final turn is, and as of this submission you must look for either a dilapidated bat house (part of the Eagle Scout project which improved access here) or expect that it no longer exists, then turn west into the narrow parking area. Drive up perhaps 100' and you'll see the rock cairn with mailbox containing the register. You'll see the sign as you approach it. I quickly noticed in the register where the locals are racially aware. One mention of black power, white power, and strongly anti-semetic statements including swastikas (drawn the wrong way, doh!) were noted on one sheet including an obscene rebuttal from a Jew (of which I took a picture and promptly removed and disposed of it.) The mosquitos were getting more viscious, but didn't compare to the White Bluff (North Dakota HP) departure, so we claimed a second victory on the "Baby Got Gas" trip.

#11 LA - Driskill Mountain

 This was a brief trip to occupy CD's time and my sanity. CD had visited Magazine Mountain the previous afternoon while I was at work, so he bagged one more HP than me and that remained the case through bagging LA. We left Little Rock and never left the rain. The rain would sometimes let up, only to pick up again. We had no name for this trip at this point. We ate at Arkadelphia, stopped again at Magnolia for a picture or two, then entered Louisiana. It was an uneventful drive to the Mount Zion Presbyterian Church near Arcadia where parking and two outhouses start the trail to Louisiana's rooftop. Because of the rain, the red clay mud made things a mess. CD decided early on to wear his cowboy boots instead of sandals and still wound up losing part of a sole early in the hike. I chose the wrong direction, ignoring the right arrow that would've guided us along the trail and gotten us there much faster. We instead wound up walking about 3 or 4 miles total before finding the Driskill Mountain signs. We did ask ourselves repeatedly "Why did we do this?" The last 800' got noticeably steeper with CD getting into some hip pain. My GPS unit decided to act the fool again, but I did get a good reading and locked in the highpoint coordinates as I've done consistently to date. The LA HP at 535' AMSL has been improved with a nice informational sign as part of an Eagle Scout project. The rain never got heavy during the hike but never quit for that matter. After leaving LA, we made it to Sherman, TX for the night (I had to remove plenty of mud from my jeans and boots) then traveled the next morning to Ada, OK to enjoy a Carl Jr/Green Burrito eating experience. The trip was christened the "Suddenly" trip when Trooper Goodwin of the Arkansas State Police pulled us over in Russellville during the 5pm hour Tuesday 10/16 during our return leg, at Arkansas Tech after sounding his siren at us in the Tech Curves (where one can't pull over due to the high curbs and no shoulder on that part of Highway 7) likely as either intimidation or to generate nervousness and it backfired as it didn't help my attitude toward him, especially when he had to trump a falsehood in a failed attempt to justify the traffic stop, in particular the fact we had not followed any truck too closely as he contended. It was all about CD's out-of-state tag and likely our passing him with curiousity of which trooper was checking speed (it wasn't Brenda) and of course Chris likely took those as reasons enough to stop us. He didn't realize until I started getting more and more agitated about the matter in which he stated that we "suddenly" exited the interstate highway, that indeed we had every intention of taking Exit 81 to enjoy Arkansas' only Taco Johns (of which almost the entire staff knows both of us on a first-name basis) and I countered to him on indirect, yet no uncertain terms that I have intimate knowledge of the area, having been a Russellville resident for almost a decade. I was tempted to flash him my driver's license with the Russellville address on it. He does a great job of big drug busts from what I've read in the Courier paper (and I support drug busts for big drug amounts and against trafficking of hard drugs) but he's clearly barking up the wrong tree in that respect with CD and myself, since neither of us had any drugs or use them. I can't make that point any more simple. I've never been disappointed in my State Police until now and I paid ASP HQ a visit over this matter late in October of that year. I didn't file a formal complaint as I will allow this website to do it for me. I seriously doubt an apology will be realized, but being promised that falsehoods won't be uttered to anyone else would be a nice start, spare if other Troopers are doing the same! Unfortunately, many Texas DPS troopers do this routinely, but this doesn't mean that Texans should tolerate it at least without protest. Why do you suspect that more and more law-abiding Texans want secession nowdays? My message to law enforcement is simple.. Follow the book and you'll earn my respect. Ignore the book, even in the name of the War On Drugs (which results in loss of freedom for the innocent) and expect my consistent disdain. I don't care about exercising "blind patriotism" and "waving the flag" when law-abiding Americans as myself already must wave the white flag to you when YOU ABUSE YOUR AUTHORITY!

#12 WI - Timms Hill

 The first HP of the "Where's The Baby" trip was gleaned late in the afternoon. The area is heavily wooded and the mosquitoes were lining up to add CD & myself to their buffet. There are two towers with the survey marker below the higher one made of steel. I wondered if CD would climb to the top and am very appreciative that he did as he brought along his camera! This is likely the only HP to date I forgot to bring along something to snap pics with. It's a nice view from Wisconsin's rooftop thanks to the observation tower, and a family was there. Two teenage boys decided to climb the ladder on the metal tower. Both will go into the military. I didn't say much to anyone though. I was taking in another accomplishment of making it to where "It's all downhill from here!" although there was no registration box available that I could see for us to note that. Another thing to note is one popular website's coordinates for this location are badly off by around 12 miles. Coordinates (if listed with the entry) are those from my own GPS reading at the benchmark. Beware of splinters while climbing the wooden tower or consider wearing some good work gloves! CD got a decent sized one in his hand. I would suggest you don't climb it barefooted for that matter.

#13 MI - Mount Arvon

 Getting to visit the first HP that created the Highpointers Club was pretty cool in itself. Getting to make this visit pretty much a drive up? PRICELESS! On the way there, we visited nearby L'Anse (pronounced "Lahnse" in a single syllable) and enjoyed the view of Lake Superior at the shore of L�Anse Bay. While approaching the HP, CD chose the more difficult 4-wheel drive trail with a boulder at the end. There is yet another very short, but VERY ROUGH trail that if taken would've make this literally a "rock star access" HP of which few exist. The hike was less than 300' from where we parked, yet we noticed where some had made the rock star driveup. A comment in the HP registry reflected much disappointment that someone would do this. CD and I wished Oklahoma could've been this easy, but I'll take what I can get! The GPS was perfectly spot-on with the pre-entered coordinates so I didn't even bother updating it! Leaving this highpoint was a chore. The exit road was rough and I got badly embarassed when I took a deep swig of Alabama's own "Buffalo Rock" ginger ale. It burned the sensitive part of my throat, causing me to launch a spray all over the passenger inside of the windshield and dashboard. The truck has less than 10,000 miles and I wind up doing this because of a SODA! If you drink the stuff from a freshly-opened can, it can bite you quickly as it did me. Nevertheless, both of us, especially CD, appreciate the fact the vertical climb for both of us was less than 30 feet.

#14 OH - Campbell Hill

 If you've visited eastern Ohio, there are hilly areas with rough terrain that one would swear the Buckeye State's highest point would exist. Instead, it's located in a civilized and well-kept spot in the western part. I had learned from the helpful staff of the Ohio Hi-Point Career Center that Campbell Hill would be opened various times during the weekend. A Honda Convention was held Saturday and we decided not to come that day as we'd be charged admission. Sunday was far better as 8A-Noon would be their cleanup time and the campus open. We had almost conquered this fence-protected monster last September so we took no chances and called them in advance. We first visited Bellefontaine (pronounced Bell-Fountain) the previous September, where their other claim to fame is in the heart of downtown on Court Avenue, alongside the historic Logan County Courthouse touted as the nation's first paved road (circa 1891) and today is one-way. The fountain nearby adds character and fits the town name too! Once at the Career Center, simply park and walk up where the flagpoles with the survey marker and "X" are. If visiting on a weekend, parking is rarely an issue unless an event is happening. I wouldn't suggest this on weekdays when classes are being held, but the best "rock star access" as you can get with only a few feet to walk can be realized by simply driving past the Administration Building and head uphill, parking near Carpentry and across from Animal Care. You'll see the registration box where we signed the registry "It's all downhill from here!" A really outstanding touch were the numerous U.S. flags positioned nearby the HP during our visit as part of the 2008 tour of Ohio Flags Of Honor. As noted in Wikipedia, the HP is the former home of Bellefontaine Air Force Station, where the 664th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron maintained a Cold War early warning radar. You'll find various references to it at the HP itself.

#15 KY - Black Mountain

36 54 51.2N
82 53 38.5W

 After having chewed out a Wal-Mart associate in rural Virginia the previous evening for short-sighted comments she made, we headed out to visit the Kentucky highpoint this morning. We had prepared ourselves in advance of this trip with required releases as this location is unusual. This spot, near the KY/VA line has a long history of coal mining and the area is subject to collapse. You should be able to download the required release from the Highpointers website. We had to remain on the roadway during our visit, which was easy to conform. Before we arrived, I received a call from my former boss having interest in hiring me again! This was one call I'm glad I got as I later followed it with an interview and started earning a living again. The area looked a bit different than I expected, but all on the map indeed matched.. The FAA radar station on the way and the narrow way with fence you cross to enter it isn't for just any car! It's a drive-up if you're in a 4WD as we were, but if you drive a low-clearance vehicle, I strongly suggest you park a safe distance from the FAA radar station and not on the road, then walk. The distance from the intersection with the station to the HP is under 600'. It's an antenna farm and I could hear one broadcast station's audio plainly. My GPS grabbed an elevation of 4126' but differs slightly.

#16 SC - Sassafras Mountain

 CD told me to expect a surprise after we left Black Mountain.. We left KY and entered TN, driving along the Smokies, then entering North Carolina briefly. I *knew* we couldn't visit Mount Mitchell because it was closed this summer for renovation, but I "got it" when South Carolina's state line sign came into view. This was my first visit to the state where my ancestor Patrick Mullings received a land grant after having done his Duty in defending this young nation in the Revolutionary War. The trail isn't difficult to climb, but this isn't a drive-up either. Mosquitoes aren't all that bad, but hornets were scouting around. There is noticeable erosion at the survey marker and the registration box nearby had no paper or pencils either - still, the feeling "It's all downhill from here" was there and I had recorded the trail track on my GPS.

#17 GA - Brasstown Bald

 Before we arrived, we went through touristy Helen, GA. The town has a strongly Swiss theme with lots of bikers. The Chattahoochie flows by and people are on innertubes instead of the kayaks on the Arkansas River in Chaffee County, CO at Salida. Driving up this mountain, you'll notice some serious switchbacks and after paying $3 to park (there was a $5 fee proposal of which I commented on - restroom improvements were cited but should've been part of the notice!) You'll either have to climb the rest of the way (just over a half-mile) or pay a two-dollar fee which covers both ways. For whatever reason, there are numerous parking spots at the top which aren't being used, but it wouldn't surprise me if abuses or other issues with trailered vehicles that couldn't make it to the top were reasoned for the changes. The view is nice and so are the volunteers. You'll get to view an informative film and walk around. For those wanting the purity of the actual survey marker, it's below the "turret" (closed to the public) and very close to the stairs which lead one to the top. It requires a ranger to open a Yale lock for access and I placed "Woody" on another pedestal. Jerry and Marty (she) are volunteers with a Pope County connection to Atkins and we talked for what seemed an eternity. We left in the rain, but this was a very refreshing type of highpoint. I'll have to revisit this spot someday.

#18 AL - Cheaha Mountain
33 29.125N
85 48.514W

This was my first trip deep into 'Bama. Driving to this HP is a scenic one. Taladega isn't that far from Cheaha (pronounced Chee'-ha) and the building is at the highpoint. The exact HP itself is just outside the front door. You can walk inside the building and climb the stairs to get better views for your camera. You'll also notice numerous broadcasting towers near the HP. Cheaha is a state park campground with assorted activities.

#19 MN - Eagle Mountain
47 53.849N
90 33.618W

 What an interesting HP this turned out to be on the only new HP I achieved on the "Got The Technology" trip, fashioned after an office joke. Two days earlier, most of my large furniture had gotten moved into my Midwest pad and we decided to bag MN's rooftop.. CD and I arrived at the trailhead and we figured bicycles might be a possibility on this trail.. This is true of maybe the first 400' as it gets very rocky very quickly. Not only are bicycles an impossibility, this trail isn't at all for flip-flop wearers as hiking boots or shoes you don't mind getting really dirty or dingy are strongly recommended! For that matter, the trailhead signage warns you should prepare for the possibility of wet feet, and I agree the wetter months will increase these chances. The trail requires you to file for a permit at the trailhead because of a wildlife watershed you'll cross, but it's free and allows the US Forest Service to track activities and likely plan for future improvements. There were a lot of people at different points on this 3.5 mile trail. Some I didn't talk to and some more talkative. A few were chasing highpoints but some enjoyed the spectacular lake views and had their families along. If you're there in the summer, absolutely take along your DEET to repel the mosquitos, your camera, your hiking boots, and your cell phone will likely work in the higher elevations of Eagle Mountain as I used my Alltel (now Verizon) to call family, but I'll wager you'll have no service at the trailhead. FRS or appropriate 2-way radios recommended for lone-wolf hikers as you'll later read.

 CD was very tired due to my snoring, so he chose to nap and didn't join me at the start. I rode my bicycle on the lot before embarking on the trail with it. After almost a mile, I ditched the bicycle, moved it about 10' off the trail with a note saying I was O.K., then marking the location with my GPS and continuing on foot. I heard my first natural elk call. I was familiar with the sound from all the hunting shows that I aired at work. I came across other hikers who had been to the top after crossing one of the many boardwalks over the many creeks. There was one group of three guys who weren't sure if their camera worked. I was able to snap a picture and got one with my own. One of them was curious about his home state's HP. Nebraska's Panorama Point was my HP #6 and I gave him detailed instructions on what to expect there and the nearby WY-CO-NE tri-point. I continued up the trail then took in the beautiful lake views. Eventually, a sign points you to the left and you'll trek higher. Another great vista comes in the picture and you're getting pretty close to ending the hike, but there isn't good signage to tell you to continue and look to your right for where the trail continues after the smoothed rocky surface you're on. The mosquitos, buffalo gnats and other no-see-um's were waiting for their next victim when I arrived at the large boulder that marks Minnesota's rooftop and the DEET I used was put to the truest test at that point, almost eclipsing our White Butte (ND HP) experience. Although 2,301' is considered official, there is a 2002 marker that indicates 2,298'. I'm thankful for the camera's autotake timer and the fact the batteries held as well as they did. The real ordeal was to begin as I returned to the trailhead, having bagged this beauty.
 One of the families had been talking to two California guys who listened in to what I was saying. It's interesting how people can perceive things one says SO wrongly. As far as the Highpointer's Club is concerned, I was formerly the Arkansas Liaison of Mount Magazine. In other words, I simply assist in communicating important events which can affect access of the Arkansas highpoint if notified by State Parks personnel who know me and how to reach me. One family thought I actually had ownership of that property.. NOT! I do communicate this to others I suspect are HP'ers as I've attended one "Konvention" in the past and have even contributed an article and pictures used in the organization's Apex to Zenith magazine. The two guys reached the trailhead long before me and decided to take advantage of CD's snoozing to pull a prank. It should be noted they had hung around the trailhead and had obviously known I was with CD, so they devised the prank somewhere along their journey. They told CD that I was hurt, that I had cut open my head and bleeding, and gave him other basic information which identified me. CD did ask some questions and didn't immediately buy their story but decided not to chance it. Because cell service was unavailable at the trailhead, he bolted down the trail ditching his own bicycle and leaving everything unsecured to check on me. I had made it almost a third the way back when CD was pretty much out of breath and surprised me with his appearance. I thought he wanted to grab the HP but he needed to rest after realizing I was o.k. after all. He had gotten punk'd!

 I began asking about our property being secure and all. He realized nothing was secure, concerned instead about my welfare. We decided to hightail it back and decided on a plan of action since I had taken pictures of the vehicles on the trailhead before starting! A wierd experience on the way back had both of us hearing what sounded literally like our own heartbeats that increased with tempo then suddenly ceased. CD heard this too but said nothing at the first. I suspected it to be a Grouse "drumming" and confirmed later that the male of this species does this during mating season with these sounds heard some distance. I recalled taking pictures of other vehicles at the trailhead and realized the ace-in-the-hole I had could've turned out to be a mammoth reverse-slam dunk punk'd if anything was missing. I searched my camera's massive memory card and found the picture of their red Toyota Tacoma with California tags. We got back pretty tired, drank water, then searched and found nothing out of place. Heading back to Grand Marais to eat, we decided not to report them after nothing was found missing, even with nearly everything unsecured! If just one item had been taken, even by someone else, we could've caused both these dim bulbs real Federal jail time for willingly having communicated a false emergency on Federal property in addition to a suspicion of theft. Because of the close proximity of the Canadian border, we suspected they could avoid questioning by authorities including Forest Service personnel in the vicinity of Grand Marais or authorities in Duluth, so we were prepared to have the rangers notify Homeland Security to alert all the land border points, Thunder Bay, S.S. Marie & Detroit in particular, to at least question them upon reentering the United States although they could well have been detained and jailed, then having to face a Federal judge. Without giving out too much of my past background, I know such an alert is usually easy to implement if someone commits a Federal crime. I would pray if they've somehow searched through the internet and read this message to count their blessings and realize how razor-thin close they were for their plan to backfire.
 Some would argue that their vehicle was a rental. Most rentals are obviously marked and not many will rent such a vehicle with not-so-good power or fuel economy for a road trip of these distances as 4-WD is not required anywhere on the route to the trailhead, nor are there many vehicle rentals available in the region, especially this close to the border. I also remind readers that the trail required registration. If they failed to complete the form and submit it, that's another fine (and charge) that could've been levied, yet they likely complied and the Gunflint - Grand Marais Forest Service has their information from 6/5/09 on paper! (hint, hint!)

Finally, CD and I devised a powerful anti-punk'd measure that will be used if something of this nature ever comes again, although we and several others in Grand Marais we spoke with are at a loss to understand why people would blatantly lie about anything construed to be an emergency. Let this be a strong heads-up to any two or more people whom are separated and cannot communicate, especially due to remoteness and lack of communications.

#20 SD - Harney Peak
 This was my first HP without CD in a long time. He has a business to run and wished he could've made it. I wished he could've made it for the experiences and near sensory-overwhelming scenery you'll find in the Black Hills. I had a five-day weekend because of teacher training at my college and wanted to bag this unique spot before the first snows arrived. The weather for the climb could not have been better. Mostly sunny skies with just a few high-level cirrus dominated my entire stay in nearby Rapid City and the closest town of Custer.

 Now for the planning. Will you bring along the whole family, your dog(s), horse(s)? You can on this HP, but this trail ain't for everyone. Parents should be ready for paying quality attention to their kids here. Some areas, especially at the summit, present significant danger to unsupervised children. Wheelchair access is simply impossible, and I seriously doubt the nearby helicopter charters could help, even with lots of $$. Now consider your intended access route. Before arriving at one of the Harney Peak trailheads, what type of vehicle will you use to get there? (I discovered you can save some distance by using another nearby trailhead on Trail 4, rather than the primary Sylvan Lake one, however, parking there isn't quite as plentiful) Furthermore, will you or your driver get squeamish in navigating both single-lane bridges and single-lane tunnels? If you're taking the SD 87 access from 16A after going through Keystone to access Custer State Park through the Black Hills National Forest, you'll find a belly-squeeze of a tunnel whose width is a mere 8' 4" and requires both a honk of your horn and your committed attention while transiting it. Another single-lane tunnel I drove was wider, but two bicyclists were going through and I had to yield in order to prevent a dangerous risk. Have your camera at the ready when you first enter the Black Hills National Forest, especially in the morning hours. One beauty of a 12-point buck deer was within ear-scratching distance of my vehicle and didn't seem to mind my passing it. I could've backed up and grabbed the camera for a true no-telescoping lens shot, yet decided to forego it this time around, thanking God for this very brief closeup with no issues I enjoyed. I followed the signs to Sylvan Lake after registering at the self-service permit stop. It's $6 per person, but lasts almost a week, something to plan future trips around as this park is worthy of a few days stay. Bear in mind that if you're sensitive to altitude, a stay at a lodge or camping may be what you need, at least the night before your hike. The lake's elevation is just over 6,200' and your climb to South Dakota's rooftop will add another 1,000' gain to it. Be prepared for frequent breaks if you're not in shape or accustomed to the altitude, and for goodness sakes, bring enough water! This altitude and the climb you'll make will drain quite a bit of fluid. I was overweight with no health issues or meds of any kind, yet had to take numerous breaks and was breathing hard during much of the climb since I wasn't acclimated and it's about twice the altitude of Rapid City. There's nothing wrong with this, since you'll get to take in so many vantage points for your camera. No need to push yourself to try and impress others as they won't be impressed anyhow. Apparently, there are quite a number of people in the region who love this park and purchase annual permits for frequent visits, so don't think you have advantage unless you're in shape already. Nuff said!

 If you feel thirsty, satisfy with your water! I'm so thankful I brought two filled water bottles along. If you visit while the park's facilities are closed, you likely won't get fresh water. I had filled my bottles before I left Iowa, so there was no question of the water quality I'd enjoy as there are no facilities along the trail. You will find non-flushable facilities at the trailheads. It also goes without saying that if you're on any meds, do bring along what you need in case of a vehicle breakdown or something else unexpected. You'll be quite a distance from Rapid City and much of nearby Custer (twenty miles down 16A west) seems to roll up their sidewalks at night. This was my first HP where I took along a backpack, the one I use at school. It's now a HP veteran with bragging rights. Of course, I brought along "Woody" for the traditional camera shots and some extras I've not taken before. An FRS/GMRS radio was turned on and tuned to Channel 4 throughout the hike as I had noted on my CSP permit, in case of emergency. My 2-meter handie-talkie also came along for the trip, so hailing someone for help if I were alone wasn't that big a chore, despite no cell service at Sylvan Lake.

 With everything accounted for, the first half-mile was uneventful but scenic. a large number of trees had been felled due to a beetle infestation. Mother Nature had dished a dry spell on the region for a number of years and this caused the native beetles to really take a toll in the area. Throughout select portions of the trail, this was noticed, but didn't take away from my positive impression of the hike and purpose of why I came. I passed through another trail head, wishing later I'd parked there! The scenery gets better while you walk closer to Little Devil's Tower's trail that breaks off #4. There's quite a number of switchbacks you'll encounter and I'm quick to criticize the few impatient morons who shortcut around them "because we can" but they're breaking the trail rules and are causing damage, gradual at first, but becoming additive nevertheless. With others witnessing this behavior and following suit, this will only accelerate because of apathy. Why is it that many city folk bring their city problems and attitudes to the countryside, often talking and weighing it down? If they can't respect what's right, perhaps they should stay home, satisfied with running on their treadmill like a happy hamster, and leave this land to those who WILL respect it! Just ask yourself "Does the ____(fill the blank with your favorite trail name or swear if you must!)____ Trail need paving as the highways that got us here?" Not only is that such silly city-think for a place like this, but it'll cost a pretty penny to make and keep fixed, ya know! Just as the wagon ruts of the 19th century did to the terrain of the Santa Fe, Mormon, Oregon and other Western routes of that time, the careless footsteps (where they don't belong) of 21st centurians will add up too, in-shape or not! Just venting, y'all.

 The trail goes on for miles, what seems to be eternity. Be patient as Trail 4 continues into the Black Elk Wilderness Area, and you must get a permit too - but this one's free! Continue the trail and it will split again, taking the Harney Peak route. Since this wilderness area is shared with horsemen (a horse camp is nearby), watch for horse poo as you'll encounter some, even up the Harney Peak Trail 9 for the remaining mile. Eventually, Trail 9 splits where horse riders can tie their mounts and hike the short distance. The greatest elevation and enhanced viewing is on that trail, so look back and around often. The "castle" as I call it is sited at 7,242'. What a view you'll get just before your arrival. The guard rails on your right as you approach the building will prevent a likely-fatal fall. Many visitors are satisfied with staying on the main level and having pictures taken along the wall. Some who aren't as intimidated by height will take the narrow steps upward to the limited access afforded by the top level. It can accommodate a few and looking northeastward from the fully-opened window view can give you vertigo if you aren't prepared. The downward view from here is unlike anywhere else in the Midwest. Parents should be with their kids if going to the upper level as there are no protective windows if a child is the climbing type. It's a LONG ways downward! nearby Mount Rushmore can be seen, but the dead Presidents are hidden from view, although portions of the parking deck are noticeable. Now for the lower level.. Some visitors ask "How can I get to the other nearby summit?" and the steps down to the lower level is the answer. If the weather is great, you'll likely find plenty of chipmunks amongst the people. What a different world it is below the "castle" and along these rocks. If you're really obese, you may want to skip the lower level. It can be a belly-squeeze for big people on the very narrow passage that gives access to more of the rocky top. The chipmunks can navigate near-vertical areas, hopping along with ease. If you want a close camera shot of these creatures, you must have it at the ready or miss the opportunities given you. I also got on the 146.85 repeater and moved to Rapid City's 146.94 system, both with no PL required. I gave hams monitoring in the area the opportunity to work me simplex on 146.52 and successfully worked another op back in Rapid City on the 5 watt signal. Just before arrival at the summit, I had to scold someone from the summit on the radio for his language on FRS/GMRS #4, although I suspect he was operating at GMRS power. I am licensed to operate the ZA or GMRS service and was prepared to use it as emergency backup for communications. I chose the channel well in advance for it's expected clarity, not counting on hearing such stupidity. The channels on these services are not private, no matter what you think.

 It takes about 90 minutes for most people to go back down the trail. It took me longer.. Like North Dakota, I forgot use the GPS to shoot the HP, per tradition. I had to climb back some of those stairs, straining me further, but by golly I did it! I also grabbed some additional horizon shots, but the real ordeal was beginning. Tendons just below my knees began to strain and I had to slow down, especially the stairs, to keep from crying out in pain. It was tedious and slow to get down, but not so bad where I didn't have stairs or going downward at significant angles. Because the sun's angle was getting lower much faster at this time of year, I didn't have much time for any breaks I took, lest the sunlight should go entirely. Fortunately, I didn't have to worry as the moon's phase was slightly better than half, and few clouds to mask the reflected light was also in my favor. Now to keep an open ear and eye to wildlife as I had this trail to myself. Apparently, I was the last man down Trail 4! Hearing traffic as I approached the closer trailhead was a blessing, but another grueling half-mile awaited me to Sylvan Lake and my pickup truck. I was SORE! To add insult to injury, the Razorbacks lost to Auburn in what had been a nail-biter on Auburn's home turf, and CD kept me posted through numerous texts before cell service went blank.

 After such a hike, I felt good enough to try and drive back to Iowa, but was discouraged and I agreed to accept a room. Next morning, I was "happy as a clam" that I did. My expected soreness was a mere one-third of what it had been on the descent. It took most of the day to drive back to Iowa and settle down after such an effort. Was it worth it? Absolutely! I want to go again!