Friday, December 29, 2006

Mt. Rogers, VA

Highpoint #7
5,729 feet ASL

It was time to knock off the highpoint for what I consider to be my home state. My wife and I were in Roanoke visiting her family. Mt. Rogers was only three hours away, so I found a day to go and left at 6:30am. Unfortunately, I used Google directions to get there. (While I usually am aptly pleased with Google products, their map directions still could use some work.) Their directions took me past the main entrance of Grayson State Park and up a gravel road that eventually led to a four wheel drive road with no trespassing signs. I decided to turn around and go back to the entrance of Grayson State Park, which I knew would lead me to the trailhead.

I was pretty upset with myself that I didn't originally pull into the State Park, thereby losing the extra time, but I regress. Once inside the State Park, I paid the $2 parking fee and pushed on to the parking lot. I had one last hill to climb before the parking lot when I discovered that the road, which had turned from black to white, was more slippery than I had first thought. As I neared the top, my momentum seized coming to rest on a slick icy incline. Thankfully, a ranger came up behind me and guided me back down safely. But this set back would mean an even longer hike, about an extra 1/2 mile each way. I thought I would really be pushing the time I needed to get back now. Nevertheless, I decided to try and set off at a pretty good clip.

I started up the 1/2 mile of road and into the hike. Almost immediately after leaving the road, I came across some wild ponies that roam the Grayson meadows. They were not shy at all, allowing me to come up and touch them. My time bonding with the horses was short-lived, however, as time was of the essence. I pushed on and was truly blessed by the scenery of the hike. The open meadows and bald rock tops were very picturesque.

The elevation gain of the hike was moderate. The biggest challenge I faced was wet trail conditions. Melting snow had made trail soggy in many places. By the end of the hike, my feet and pants were wet and muddy. It was, however, an absolutely gorgeous day. The air was crisp, the temperature was perfect.

I laughed at this toilet I came across near the top. This toilet was closed, another one could be found a little ways a way. I just didn't realize the Forest Service could be so blunt. After my little chuckle, I pushed to cover the last little bit of hike. The final push brought me into the land of Narnia. I entered a spruce forest, which was blanketed with 2 inches of snow. I passed rocks laden with icicles and ice steps. It was a perfect prelude to the summit. The actual summit is nothing special, it is covered with trees and there is no vista. But besides this one minor detail, the hike as a whole is one of the best I have been on. I would highly recommend my state's highpoint and consider one of the prettiest I've seen yet.

I took a slightly different way on the way back. Unfortunately, I missed my turn. By the time I realized it, the most direct route back to my trail was through a densely packed azalea grove. There were some horse/deer tracks, so I decided to take the direct route. Thankfully, after 30 minutes of ducking and moving through the grove, I emerged onto the main train and was back on track.

Near the end of my hike, I thought about mounting one of the wild ponies. I was definitely weary from the quick pace I was keeping. But wisdom got the best of me and I finished on my own two legs. I jumped in the car and was back on my way home, another grand adventure completed.

GPS Data
  • You can download a set of waypoints of a Mt. Rogers hike here. (Note: This route is different that the one I took.)
  • You can download the Google Earth Track file (.kmz) of my Mt. Rogers hike here.
  • You can download the GPS Trackpoint file (.gpx) of the hike here.
(Note: To download the file, left click on the link and follow the instructions. Right clicking and pressing save as didn't work for me.)

Video of Summit

My Route

Mt. Rogers Hike at EveryTrail

Elevation Profile

Topo Maps

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Spruce Knob, WV

Highpoint #6
4,863 ASL

With my second year of seminary completed, my wife and I made plans to visit home, sweet, home in Good Ole Virginia for the holiday season. Being up there, I thought I would make the most of the trip and visit some highpoints.

Zoe and I got to Virginia first. We drove up with a family from our church bible study. They both had room in their van and were going to the exact place (Harrisonburg) I was going. It was honestly a great blessing from the Lord. So, we arrived in Harrisonburg and I had a few days to visit friends I hadn't seen in a long while. This was great, but Zoe and I had a taste for going high. The highpoint of West Virginia was only an 1 hour and 45 minutes away and we had a car that some other wonderful friends had let us borrow. So, we were off. The drive was very smooth and energy efficient as we traveled in a new Honda hybrid.

The road to the top of the mountain was very good. Most of it was newly paved. The very top of the drive was packed/groomed dirt. There is a very short hike, once you reach the parking lot at the top of the mountain. It was cold and windy, the car's thermometer reading in the low-30s. But for December at 4,000 feet plus, this was not bad at all. Zoe and I went down the short path to a stone summit tower. We climbed the stairs and beheld the view. It was very clear and there is a great 360 degree view.

There were also two cavers that were behind us. We made some small talk. They indicated that the caves were warmer than up here. After a few pictures, Zoe and I found one of the NGS markers. We then followed the 1/2 mile circuit trail around the summit back to the parking lot and headed home.

GPS Data
  • You can download the Google Earth Track file (.kmz) of my drive from Harrisonburg to Spruce Knob here.
  • You can download the GPS Trackpoint file (.gpx) of the drive here.
  • You can download a waypoint file (.gpx) of the Mt. Rogers Route here.
(Note: To download the file, left click on the link and follow the instructions. Right clicking and pressing save as didn't work for me.)

My Route

Spruce Mountain, West Virginia at EveryTrail

Elevation Profile

Topo Maps

Monday, September 25, 2006

Boundary Peak, NV

Highpoint #5
13,143 feet ASL

The night before my hike of Boundary Peak didn't start out as I had planned. My original plan was to come down off Mt. Whitney, drive over to Boundary Peak, spend the night camping, then wake up in the morning and hike. But altitude sickness coming down off Mt. Whitney put me in no mood to drive or camp for the night. Instead, I decided to spend the night at a motel with the four others who had summited Mt. Whitney with me that day. The was the right move, because the next morning I felt quite refreshed. I grabbed breakfast with my fellow summiters, which took longer than expected (2 hours). I was beginning to wonder whether I could even make it to Boundary Peak in time to complete the hike.

At 10:15, I left the motel and headed out for Boundary Peak, Nevada stopping to pick up an alarm clock and plenty of energy goo and electrolyte powder. At 11:45am, I arrived at Janie’s Ranch, the entrance to the gravel road, which takes you to the Queen Canyon Trail route. The road up to the 4 wheel drive road wasn't that bad, just very dusty. (However, if wet, it might be a different story.) By 12:10pm, I had my daypack on and started up the 4 wheel drive road to the official trail of Boundary Peak. However, when I arrived to the stated trailhead, all of the hike information had been stripped, leaving only an empty board and some posts.

My thought was that I would only complete part of the trip before having to turn around. I was completely ready to do so if the weather got to cold, or I felt tired, or sick, or if time got too late. As I went though, I realized I was making pretty good time, I felt physically great, and the weather could not have been better. The first three miles of the trip were fairly easy, with a long stretch of practically level ground. By 2:15, I had made it to Trail Canyon Saddle and the start of the real climb, which consists of scree, rocks, and more scree. I started up. I kept going and going, little bits at a time. It was hard, but definitely not impossible. I found that small steps on the scree worked well. Another technique that worked was to use the larger rocks as steps.

Eventually, I knew there was no turning back, I could make it to the top of Boundary. The only other difficult part of the trail is trying to stay on it, especially near the top. The trail often splits into two. There are many cairns to guide you and even some painted rocks indicating the way, but even so I lost the trail several times. Eventually, you can get back on the trail by moving towards the ridgeline, but it can be tricky in parts. At 4:15pm I made it to the apex and it was beautiful. I would even say that I enjoyed this peak more than Whitney because 1) I felt better and 2) there was no one else on top. Judging by the summit register and the fact I had seen no one on the trail, I was the only one to summit today. I found a NGS survey marker at the top of this peak. The only disappointing moment was that I could not find the geocache at the top of Boundary. However, it may not exist anymore. I stayed for about 15 minutes and started down.

The descent is what I would call scree skiing. I was so thankful that I had gaiters, otherwise the descent would have been miserable. I made it down to Trail Canyon Saddle and picked up the pace. However, I began to get worried. I had remembered reading that this was rattlesnake country and I had seen numerous holes in this section coming up. However, I couldn't be sure they were snake holes. I thought they may have even been small rodent holes. I soon learned this was not the case. Soon after passing the saddle, I thought I saw a scaly head in one of the holes, but I couldn’t be absolutely sure. I pressed on with a little more caution. Nearing the last mile of the hike, I became certain that these were definitely snake holes. As I passed a hole, there staring at me was the distinct rattlesnake head. I quickly snapped a picture and finished the rest of the hike with full caution and worry. What if I got bit? Could I make it to the car, would I be able to drive? I did not know. Thankfully, I did make it back to the car with 0 venomous-filled puncture wounds. I arrived just before 7:10pm, as the sun was setting. A 10-mile hike with over 4000 feet of elevation gain in under 7 hours. Not bad, especially for someone who is used to breathing air at 100 ft ASL.

Waiting at the car were two hikers that were going to hike Boundary the next day. I had a good conversation with them. They liked to bag 14K peaks. It got cold quickly, but I was soon in the car with the heat cranked. On the way down, I nearly hit three jack rabbits. You have to watch out for those critters.
I didn’t know exactly how I would make it back to the Reno airport. I could tell I was pretty worn out. I did find a small diner and ate dinner around 8:00pm. I stayed until 9:00pm trying to sleep at the table. As I headed onto Route 120, I realized this would be a good place to catch some cat naps. The road was basically deserted. I passed no more than 5 cars on over 40 miles of road. There were also several fun dips in the road you could hit going 60mph. I made it to Reno Airport by 3:00am and was safely on the flight by 6:05am. Trip successful.

GPS Data
  • You can download the Google Earth Track file (.kml) of my ascent hike here.
  • You can download the GPS Trackpoint file (.gpx) of the gravel road drive and the ascent/descent here.
  • You can download a waypoint file (.gpx) of the Queen Canyon Mine Route here.
(Note: To download the file, left click on the link and follow the instructions. Right clicking and pressing save as didn't work for me.)

My Route

Boundary Peak via Queen Canyon Mine Trailhead at EveryTrail

Elevation Profile

Topo Map

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Mt. Whitney, CA

Highpoint #4
14,494 feet ASL

Friday, September 22 was a travel day from Orlando passing through Phoenix and finishing in Reno. My friend, Chris Winkler, who got me on the trip accompanied me. When we arrived in Reno we were given an upgrade on our car rental. We set off from the airport cruising in our aptly named PT Cruiser. The trip was pretty straight forward, Highway 395 South for 5 hours to Lone Pine, CA, the portal for Mt. Whitney. On the way there, we stopped for two Nevada geocaches right off of the road. We finally arrived in Lone Pine a few hours after dark had set in. We met most of the 11 member team at the Dow Villa motel. After a short meeting, it was time for some rest. I slept great.

On Saturday, we were up and eating around 7:00am. I had some good pancakes and a lot of water at one of the local diners. We were on the trail by 9:30. The beginning section of the hike was pleasant, but Whitney looks unreachable. So small, yet so high. We took a rest at Lone Pine Lake at 11:30, where I almost ended my trip by slipping and tweaking my knee. Thankfully, I was okay to continue. By 4:30pm, we had completed the first 6.3 miles of the trip to Outpost Camp, 12,000 ft ASL.

The hike to this point was manageable. The last hour was the hardest and I knew that my pace had slowed. The biggest factor for me was the elevation and lack of conditioning. While, I was out of shape, I certainly wasn't in shape, either. I had a mild headache and could tell the oxygen was thin. I set up my tent and started to prepare my MRE, however, I was only able to get the meal to a cool temperature. Nevertheless, I was hungry and the food tasted good. I also got some hot chocolate before jumping into my mummy bag. Anxiousness, no pillow, and less than my normal oxygen allowed me little sleep that night.

On Sunday, I was up at 4:00am and ready to go. Unfortunately, I was the only one in my group ready. So, it was back to bed. At 6:15ish, I was back up and as I emerged from my tent was greeted by a glorious sight. The first rays of morning creeped onto the monolithic Mt. Whitney face, God was painting his canvas with hues of pink and orange. After taking in the view, it was time to give the ole wag bag a use. It wasn't as bad as I thought, but I prefer my home toilet.

Only 5 of us were going to attempt the summit. Chris decided to go down with the two girls, who were giving him a ride back to the airport. Also, three others in our group did not have a good night and decided to head down for some more air. I was going to go up with Ryan, Jim, Yi, and Yao. Ryan and I headed out at 8:00 in front of the other three. The dreaded 99 switchbacks really were not that bad. Slow and steady, one by one, we knocked them. I propose the following song (sung to that famous classic 99 bottles of beer on the wall) for this section of the trail, "99 switchbacks on Mt. Whitney Trail, 99 switchbacks to go, take some steps, make a turn, 98 switchbacks on Mt. Whitney trail." We arrived at Trail Crest at 9:30. Ryan and I rested with about 15 others at this point. Eating was wretched. The clif bar I put down tasted like cardboard. Drinking wasn't that much better. After 15 minutes or so, we were up and ready to start hiking again as we saw the other three in our group arrive at Trail Crest.

I expected Trail Crest to Mt. Whitney to be easier, but the trail seemed longer and I was more tired than I had imagined. I certainly got slower as Ryan and I got closer to the summit. I felt woozy, but thankfully did not have a headache. About 1/3 of a mile from the top, Ryan pushed on ahead. I kept going at a slower pace, but at 11:45, after many breaks, I made it to the summit of the 48 contiguous United States. To say that I was glad to be there would be an understatement. The top was crowded, but there was no wind and it actually felt warm. I took off my daypack and felt a little more energized. I walked around and looked for a geocache, but could not find it. I was able to grab a few photos of myself at the top, some NGS survey markers and the surrounding landscape. I also signed the summit register. A little while after I had arrived, the other three in our party joined us.

I left the summit around 12:15pm still feeling okay. However, by the time I made it down to trail camp, I was hit with a tremendous headache. I really felt horrible and did all I could to pack up. It was certainly not a packing job to brag about. Eventually, Ryan and I got back on the trail. Another hiker was gracious enough to give me some electrolytes and some goo gel, which by the way is very important if you do this hike. As I continued down I began to feel much better. As it started to get dark, the other members of our group caught up. Our group decided to pick up the pace realizing that if we went a little faster we could get to McDonald’s and their yummy Big Macs before it closed. The darkness did catch up with us before we got to the bottom, so we flipped on our LED headlamps. I was starting to wonder if I would ever pick up a cell phone reception and then my voicemail ring chimed in. I gave Krisha a call and experienced the joy of talking to her. At the bottom, I got my Big Mac combo and settled into a more pleasant night at the Dow Villa Motel.

Extra Trip Items
  • If you would like to view some of my other Mt. Whitney pictures, you can do so here.
  • You can read the hiking account from another member in our group here.
GPS Data
  • You can download the Google Earth Track file (.kml) of my ascent hike here.
  • You can download the GPS Trackpoint file (.gpx) of my ascent hike here.
  • You can download a waypoint file (.gpx) of the Whitney Trail here.
(Note: To download the files, left click on the link and follow the instructions. Right clicking and pressing save as didn't work for me.)
  • A larger set of waypoints for the Mt. Whitney Trail can be found at the following location: Travel by GPS.

My Route

Mt. Whitney Trail at EveryTrail

Elevation Profile

Topo Map

Mt. Whitney GPS Data (GaiaGPS)

Monday, May 29, 2006

Cheaha Mountain, AL

Highpoint #3
2,407 feet ASL

Our weekend at Oak Mountain State Park with our good friends, Kim and Disco Dan Jordan was over and it was time to head back home to Orlando, FL. Instead of retracing our steps back through the highpoint of Florida, Krisha, Zoe, and I decided to go back through Cheaha Mountain in Alabama.

On our way to Cheaha State Park, which contains the highpoint, the directions we had got confusing. In addition, the road signs in Alabama were very poor. Needless to say, we got lost trying to find the main road leading into the park. Several folks offered directions to get us back on the right track. I ended up going with the directions from a lady at a gas station we had stopped at. She interrupted me as I was looking at a map in her store and said she could give me better directions than the map. She was right. We were back on our way and quickly arrived to the entrace of the park.

We paid the $1 entrance fee to bag this highpoint. I again got lost. The road in Cheaha State Park is circular in nature. So, I decided to do a few laps before spotting the sign pointing to the location of the highpoint. The summit was nice minus the radio towers and some parking areas that looked like they could use a repaving job. Zoe was glad to get out and stretch her legs and sniff a golden retriever at this highpoint. (I don't think the golden retriever was as excited as Zoe, judging by the retriever's growls.)

There is a stone tower on the summit with several NGS survey markers. I climbed the tower on the summit, however, the views were less enjoyable. The skyline seemed to filled with a pretty thick smog. The actual highpoint appeared to be to the rear of the lookout tower. Zoe and I got a picture. After this summit, we were headed back home.

Final trip counts included 3 highpoints (FL, MS, AL) in 4 days, 0 miles hiked, 0 feet elevation gain, 3 NGS markers, 2 times getting lost, 1 broken down car

Topo Map

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Woodall Mtn, MS

Highpoint #2
806 feet ASL

The plan for today was a drive-up summit of Woodall Mountain Mississippi. With the reliability of our car in question (see Florida description), our friends that we were visiting, Kim and Disco Dan Jordan, graciously offered one of their cars for my summit trip. At about 1:00pm, I left Oak Mountain State Park and headed on my way to the highpoint of Mississippi. Unfortunately, I had to travel alone as Dan had to work (although he is interested in getting started on his own journey of hiking the 50 highpoints) and Krisha, Kim, and Zoƫ decided to take a day for rest.

It was a bright and beautiful day with clear skies. The drive was pleasant once I was off the main interstate. As I made my way across the Alabama-Mississippi line, I unfortunately missed my intended exit, which caused me a 15 minute delay. However, I knew I was back on the right path as I saw signs leading to the 806 foot hill.

I started the ascent up the gravel road. I became somewhat worried as my transportation was a 4 cylinder Hyundai Elantra and began to lose power in the loose gravel. But at 4:15pm, the summit was acquired. I pulled to the top and beheld the tall and majestic radio towers. Yeah, the summit is covered with multiple radio towers. There is a NGS survey marker at the top as well, which I always find interesting.

The locals seem to like it, however. Connoisseurs of Nattie Light, Bud Light, and Michelob Ultra visit the top and leave wonderful mementos of their good times. Cigar Aficionado must have had their last retreat up here as a box of premier Swisher Sweets were observed. This summit is also a popular destination for honeymooners as some packets of unmentionables were observed. The one ray of hope for this summit of sin was found in some graffiti (go figure) on a table at the top. It read “Jesus Lives.” Well, Amen to that. At 4:30pm, I had had my fill, so I jumped into the car and descended down this mountain and back to home.

Topo Map