The observation tower at the summit of Cheaha.
Finding the right New Year’s Eve activity can drive anyone crazy this time of year. Do you want to sit at home and watch the College Football Playoff, head to a party, celebrate with a late dinner, or just call it a night early to get a jump on 2017? For highpointers, there could be one more decision to be made.
Cheaha State Park in Alabama will be in the celebrating spirit on December 31 with its annual Turkey Drop. The gates to the park will open at 9pm, and Pinhoti the Turkey will be at the observatory at the state’s highest point teaching the Turkey Trot to visitors.
At midnight, a lighted ball will be dropped to celebrate the start of 2017, and breakfast will be served in the CSP restaurant.
For highpointers, this is a great chance to make a first ( or second, or third, or….) trip to a state highpoint and mix in a little New Year’s Eve fun as well.
The following day, the park will host a First Day Hike that ends at Alabama’s highpoint. The hike will start at the Bigfoot Trail Head.
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A photo near the top of Clingmans Dome.
Highpointers have the opportunity to encounter all sorts of interestingly named places in their quest to reach the highest point of every state. Some names, such as Hawkeye Point and Hoosier Hill, make it easy for folks to know the state to which these points belong. Other names, such as Cheaha, point more to the history of places, and there is no shortage of highpoints named after people.
Once such highpoint is Clingmans Dome in Tennessee. What is interesting is how much Thomas L. Clingman’s life is tied to neighboring North Carolina and Elisha Mitchell, the man for whom the highest point east of the Mississippi River is named.
Michael Hardy at the Avery Journal dove into the topic of Clingman and his ties to the area recently in an article worth the read.
As time goes on, there will undoubtedly be continued pushes to rename certain highpoints. This makes it all the more important to learn the history behind the name to see if it really does best reflect the area.
Highpointers hoping to reach the top of Illinois will have five weekend opportunities in 2017 as the access dates for Charles Mound have been announced.
For those looking for a winter accent to the top of The Prairie State, access will be granted on February 18 and 19. However, the lane leading to the highest point will not be plowed.
After February, highpointers will have to wait until the summer months to reach the top of Charles Mound. Access to the highpoint will be available June 3 and 4, July 1 and 2, August 5 and 6, and September 2 and 3. These dates are similar to the first full weekend dates set in 2016.
Charles Mound sits on private property in Illinois, and it should be treated as such. The property owners, The Wuebbels have three firm rules for visitors:
- No cars up in our lane.
- No pets
- No visitors after dark.
Highpointers planning to attend the 2017 Konvention in Massachusetts may want to adjust their lodging plans as the Howard Johnson Williamstown has replaced the Holiday Inn Berkshires in North Adams as the host hotel for the Konvention.
The Howard Johnson has an availability of 35 rooms, so another hotel, the Cozy Corner Motel in Williamstown will act as the Host Hotel Overflow venue. The Cozy Corner Motel has 12 available rooms. Both hotels are honoring a “Highpointers Rate,” and they are about seven minutes of driving time apart from each other.
The Howard Johnson can be called direct at 413-458-8158, and the Cozy Corner can be reached at 413-458-8006.
Hotel rooms are moving fairly quickly in the region as the Williamstown Theatre Festival will be taking place during the Konvention.
For those wanting to stay on the summit of Mount Greylock, Bascom Lodge is an option. It sits next to a tower at the top of Massachusetts’s highest point. The lodge features just nine rooms. Bascom Lodge can be reached at 413-743-1591 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Highpointers wanting to get a new view from the highest point of South Carolina will have to wait just a bit longer as reports out of the Palmetto State indicate that construction on a 15-foot observation tower on Sassafras Mountain will be delayed until Spring 2017.
Sassafras Mountain has undergone extensive changes during this decade. An observation deck adjacent to a parking lot near the summit was completed in 2013. While it is not located on the highest point of the state, the deck does allow for views into North Carolina.
2014 saw a radical change to the summit as the forest surrounding the area was cleared to prepare for the construction of an observation tower and to open up a view that had been previously unavailable. On days without many clouds and low humidity, it is estimated that one can see 50 miles from the summit of the mountain, a view that encompasses four states.
Sassafras Mountain F. Van Clayton Highway or from the Foothills Trail.
With a cleared top and hopes of a new observation tower, Sassafras Mountain might be a prime spot to view the 2017 total solar eclipse.
For the first time in nearly a century, a total solar eclipse will be visible across the United States, and given the projected path of totality, highpointers may be able to head to the top of a few different states to watch the event unfold.
The Washington Post recently posted an article showing the projected path, and Eclipse2017.org gives more detailed listings of where the eclipse can be seen in totality.
Donn Fendler, who spent nine days lost on, but mostly around, Mt. Katahdin as a 12 year old, died Monday at the age of 90.
His story of being lost was later turned into a book, Lost on a Mountain in Maine.
Fendler’s death has received a good bit of media attention, especially in Maine, a state that saw many of its residents view him as a hero or a legend.
Below are a couple of more articles about Fendler.
Stories of Fendler visiting Maine from time to time, especially taking time to go to Maine to visit classrooms,
Fendler’s tale did a lot to promote the Maine wilderness and safety in the woods.
Recently, Todd Orr’s Facebook video went viral as he checked in following two bear attacks. With that in the news, the topic of bear attacks has come up in a variety of forums.
Vox recently released an article about deadly bear attacks in national and state parks. A read of the article helps put your likelihood of being fatally attacked in perspective. Of note to highpointers, Spruce Knob-Seneca Falls with three, and Denali National Park with two, rank in the top ten of national and state parks with fatal attacks since 1900.
So highpointers, use caution when you are in areas where bear encounters are possible, but remember, your odds of being killed by a bear are not as great as it might seem while the topic is dominating Facebook feeds.
Club member Ben Sutton hanging around at his third highpoint, Cheaha Mountain, in 2013.
Not that long ago, Alabama state parks felt the threats of budget cuts and closures, and for highpointers, that led to concerns about potential access to the highpoint of the state, Cheaha Mountain, which is located in Cheaha State Park.
According to this report from The Anniston Star, the past fiscal year, which ended September 30, should bring good news for all of Alabama’s state parks, including the home of the state’s highpoint, which was expected to have shown a profit.
In response to the budget crunch, Cheaha State Park raised its fees and operated its lodge at reduced hours during the winter. Greg Lein, director of Alabama’s state park system told The Anniston Star that Cheaha’s numbers looked good, even though he was unsure of the attendance for the year at the park.
Alabama voters will have an opportunity to vote on Amendment 2 in November, which would change the way that park fees can be used by the state’s Legislature.
Gearjunkie has a spectacuarly well written on article on highpointing “Highpointing: Climb To The Top Of 50 States” which really captures the spirit of the hobby. Here’s an excerpt.
High on Denali, John Mitchler took out a pencil to write a list. It was the summer of 2003, and as wind tore into the fabric of his cramped tent, he knew the end was near.
“I decided to write a list of all the people I’d climbed with over the years,” he said. “McKinley [Denali] was to be my final mountain.”
Mitchler didn’t perish on that high Alaskan peak. Indeed, his party soon made the mountain’s 20,320-foot summit.