Sketchy Bits

A Blog of Code, Art, and General Doodlings



Highpoints GO™

18 Jul 2016

Some time ago I made a decision entirely out of the blue. Without much logic or reasoning to do so, I decided to personally visit the highest natural point of all 48 contiguous US states.*

*Currently sticking to 48, because Alaska’s mountain is a bit too far right on the graph below

"Well folks, I see the infamous Steffey Leg up ahead, so that means we're just past 3/4 of the way to the highpoint! Once again we thank you for choosing RCI for your Rhode Island tour this afternoon."

I’ve been asked many many times since this plan began, “Why?”. Admittedly it is an arbitrary goal. I first stumbled upon the concept of highpointing after discovering that the Colorado mountain I had hiked many years ago was 16 feet shy of being Colorado’s tallest point. This mildly annoying fact snowballed into a curiosity on a larger scale and eventually the uncovering of a small but significant society of people that I had never heard of: Freemasons Highpointers. Members from age 8 to 98, all intent on visiting the highest natural elevation in each US state. A super interesting group with super bland web presence.

This was fascinating of course, but why would I be interested?

Yes I realize the device is spelled "Segway".  Get off my puns

This month, I took a road trip with a couple of friends to hit 6 state highpoints. In the final few days of this trip, Pokémon GO (tm) released; this fact resulted in me and Eric ambling about the streets at midnight, in the middle of a thunderstorm, at a Holiday Inn Express in Fort Smith, Arkansas. We had a blast, but the magic was far less to do with the game itself than the situations it left us in. The Pokémon are ultimately an entirely meaningless digital pile of nothing; an impetus to explore.

The actual fun is found in the moments of searching. The bits of climbing over a drainage ditch because that Bulbasaur is within 20 meters. Of splitting up and wandering through the empty cineplex parking lot in a grid pattern to try and narrow the range down. Of failing to catch the flipping thing because the servers dropped and realizing that you should probably get back to the hotel because those storm clouds are rolling in fast.

We left the hotel ostensibly to catch Pokémon, but in reality to run around and be idiots for a night.

Drawing storage belts around stick figures is a lost cause

That’s the beauty of a discrete checklist.

I’d always planned on seeing every state, but without individual endpoints that goal is incredibly easy to keep in the realm of “tomorrow”. Without a purposeful reason to see a state, that airplane ticket becomes far harder to book. The highpoints themselves ultimately become this checklist - an often beautiful checklist, to be certain, but of little importance. Woodall Mountain, Mississippi is a bump with an abandoned radio aerial. Florida’s Britton Hill is literally comprised of a rock and a magnolia tree twenty feet from the road. Clearly not an attractor for any qualities other than novelty.

But the journeys that these points involve are full of slices of the country that I never would have otherwise seen or experienced.

I’d never have spent the night in my hammock by an abandoned New Mexico ski resort, watching the stars and listening to a rushing creek. I wouldn’t have gotten to spend my 23rd birthday seeing the massive organization that is the Kansas City Airport and their fleet of rental cars. I never would have discovered Spangles and that salt & vinegar fries are a viable side. I wouldn’t have gotten to experience the bleak monotony that is driving across Oklahoma, and the 400+ vows from Eric to never return. I would never have known that living off the grid in earthships was a thing, or gotten to walk around the inside of a model one. I never would have known about the hectares of oil pumps dotting eastern Colorado, or seen the wind turbine sentinels in stormy Nebraska, blades dipping down from the clouds like shark fins.

If I could recommend one thing to everyone reading this, it would be to make the exact same kind of arbitrary travel list. Not necessarily in state highpoints, or even states as a whole. If you are still able to make time and travel cheaply in your life, pick one random catalogue of thing that is within your power to search out. Take trips that you otherwise never would have. Visit the top rated steakhouse in every state. Watch movies in 50 US drive-ins. Absolutely anything you find interesting can be applicable.

"I'm trying to spend a night in jail in every US State!"

The point is that it doesn’t matter what you pick or even where it is. The world is overflowing with people and locations you’d never have known existed without stumbling upon them yourself. It just takes an initial reason for getting out there.

Whatever that random facet of the world you choose to focus on, I promise it will be worth it.



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