by Bill Jacobs
Alabama has 67 counties for your highpointing enjoyment. The southern counties are mostly an exercise in map reading with minimal access issues. Northern tier counties have more difficult terrain requiring longer hikes with an opportunity to wallow in some of the South’s finest bushwhacking.
What stands out most about the five-year adventure to finish off Alabama’s
67 counties is the cooperative effort shown by our small but spirited group.
Jackson and Madison Counties were first reached in 2001 by a contingent of
nine county highpointers, all from out of state. (This county pair is a
beloved “twofer”, meaning the county line straddles a mutual highest point.
We may be overly rigid in our completion rules but we don’t require a second
visit for a “twofer”.) In 2000, eight county highpointers, all again out of
state, joined together to summit Calhoun’s Morton Mountain. Unknown to the
group, the area is an unexpended ordinance field and while descending, a
peeved Fort McClellan security officer intercepted the “gang” of eight. To
defuse a tense situation the “gang” resorted to an age-old dodge of boring
him to distraction with endless tales on the joys of highpointing. Besides,
there’s no dishonor to banishment if you have already made it to the top.
The final Alabama county, Shelby, was conquered on March 6, 2004 when (20?)
highpointers came together from all corners of the country. There, in front
of bemused property owners, all (20?) simultaneously placed their feet on
the highest point of Signal Mountain. The event was as much a celebration
in completing the state as an opportunity to personally meet fellow
highpointers whom we had only cybered with over the years.
Winter is certainly the best time to wander around the wilds of Alabama.
Snakes are in the Underworld, prickly vines are less likely to attack, and
chiggers and “no see ems” are no more. However, many approaches and county
highpoints are leased to hunting clubs. So, dress like a pumpkin and carry
a cowbell lest you be mistaken for prey. Of course, you run the risk of
becoming a bull’s eye of an irate hunter. If longevity is of a concern,
check the hunting regulations – they vary by county. Deer season is usually
over by February 1.
You need to develop certain skills to be a successful Alabama highpointer:
1. The ability to distinguish between a bull and a cow. One runs from you,
the other considers you a competitor to be dispatched. 2. How to negotiate
a barbed wire fence with minimal impalement. Be sure you and your companion
are on good terms when stretching strands for each other. 3. The eating of
undoctored grits, with a smile. 4. The savvy to intelligently discuss
Auburn/Alabama football games played over the last 100 years, remembering to
empathize with Auburn in the south and Alabama in the north. I actually saw
a Bear Bryant shrine in a gas station. If you are asking who Bear Bryant
is, you may want to start county highpointing in another state.
For Southerners, Alabama is a good place to begin your county highpointing
career. All you need are trip reports from “cohp.org”, a GPS, a set of good
road maps, a measure of guile and charm to convince property owners you are
up to no mischief, and a sense of adventure. (Don’t tell landowners you want
to check out their hill for a possible antenna lease site. Or, that your
boss is a tightwad and he only site-leases for $5,000 a month.)
An added bonus for Alabama highpointers is you get to meet some of the South
’s warmest and friendly folks. Enjoy.