Scholarship Winner 2018 – Essay by Alison Blake

Adventure is Addicting

Picture this: Strong, tall pine trees blowing in the warm breezes, a gorgeous, sunshiny, 75-
degree day, nothing but the smell of fresh air and wildflowers around, happy birds singing their songs, and a 180-degree view of the entire state of Minnesota and more. Breathtaking! I am at the top of Eagle Mountain! I don’t want to leave. I am here with my family that consists of my parents, my younger sister, and my older, crazy fun cousin. We have set up our hammocks and are chilling, taking it all in, soaking it up. From this moment, I know I need more mountain tops.

Adventure has always been something I craved. From a young age, I always looked for
something to do and somewhere to go that revolved around the outdoors. It never mattered where, and time was always irrelevant. I was fortunate and blessed in that I had parents who encouraged my adventurous spirit. As I got older, the passion for adventure never faded. I am constantly looking for a new place to travel, a new fear to conquer, and a new view. Along with this love for adventure comes determination, perseverance, and a view on life that nothing is impossible. My mother often tells me on our mountain climbing adventures that I am fearless. I will always be the first one to walk the edge of a cliff, jump across an abyss, or make it to the top.

My first experience climbing high points was Eagle Mountain in West Cook, Minnesota. This was the mountain that sparked and inspired me and my family to continue hiking and climbing the highest points of the 50 states in the United States. Eagle Mountain is located in the upper northeast corner of Minnesota. Access and route to the mountain was an eight-hour drive away for my family from Menominee, Michigan. It was not at all difficult to find with enough signage to lead you easily to the starting point. Those who have hiked Eagle Mountain know, in comparison to other high points, it can be strenuous, especially to inexperienced hikers. We went mid-summer, so it was important along this hike to have proper shoes, bug spray, food, water,etc. The path was quite rugged at points along the hike, which was something that excited me. Jumping from rock to rock without spraining an ankle seemed like an easy enough challenge and seeing how fast I could get to the top without completely exerting myself was always motivated by the view that was to come. Stopping to dip our feet in the quiet stream running off Whale Lake along the way helped us refresh and continue our way up the moderate to difficult pathway.  This hike helped me gain appreciation for the world around me and the people in it. We talked to everyone we crossed paths with, whether it be a simple hello or an actual conversation. Everyone was willing to help us, give us direction, and smile and ask, “Where are you guys from?” Overall, friendliness and stewardship has been something that has stood out to me, not just on this hike, but at every other high point location I have visited. I have only just begun this mountain high point journey and have only been to eight high points so far. My family and I have had the opportunity to talk to people from all over the country, hear their stories, and have even met other Highpointer members that have told us about their journey. The characteristics of everyone we have met, whether they be tourists or serious hikers, have all been similar. Everyone has the same appreciation for the creation around them and it shows.

Every high point I have been to so far has been incredibly clean. It is rare if I see trash on the trails or vandalism on structures. People care about these places. It is obvious. My
generation has a reputation of being particularly earth friendly and with recent publicity to save the planet, I can only look forward to the possibilities that not just high points have, but state parks, and even local city parks all over the country. Being able to physically see change in the way we take care of our planet is amazing. It shows respect and progressiveness and enhances all the natural beauty this country has to offer. It truly proves that little things, like picking up trash, truly make a difference.

Not only have high points shown me how beautiful this planet can be, it has provided me opportunities that not everyone gets to experience in their lifetime. Experiencing high points with my family has brought us closer together. My mother has always struggled to keep up to my dad, sister, cousin, and I. It has been a long-running joke in my family that we could hike a trail ten times before she could reach the end. But all jokes aside, it has been humbling being able to see her get healthier by hiking not just high points but other trails that we have visited. At Eagle Mountain, my sister and I would go back and forth along the trail to make sure mom was still moving along. This was her first serious hiking excursion, so it was challenging for her. At one point along the hike she actually thought she wasn’t going to make it, and while that was just an exaggeration, the fact that she made it to the top and back down, was really an accomplishment. She notes often that she is always the slowest, but always finishes. Now, she can keep up with us on the trails and although my sister and I are still more agile because we are younger, it has been
an opportunity for us to encourage her and bond and grow even closer as a family.

Highpointing has taken us all over the country. Once we finish one high point, we are
already planning our next high point adventure on the way home. What a great way to learn and educate yourself in geography! We research and read about all the Highpoints and follow other Highpointer’s experiences. We now plan our vacations around Highpoints. For Christmas this last year, we all became Highpoint Club Members! We ordered the newsletter for my cousin as a Christmas gift and he was thrilled. We now all have Highpointer T-Shirts and wear them proudly. It’s a great conversation starter. We now have people following us on our adventures. We are constantly being asked by friends where we are going next. Friends often ask about our adventures and it feels great to inform and encourage others about a great organization. It’s been a ton of fun. Meeting other Highpointers while reaching a summit has been one of the most enjoyable parts of highpointing. When we first started we would always wonder if the people we passed might be club members. Now we just go right up to people and ask. We are surprised by how many we have met. Members are always willing and ready to share their knowledge and experiences and so are we. It’s been a great way to meet people. People often ask me and my family, “Why do you do this?” My answer to “why” is honest and simple in that it easily and quickly became addicting. Once you start, you are driven to want to check more off the list. I am also blessed with a family that likes to travel, travels well in long car rides together, and has a ton of fun doing it. We like to do what we call power-drive vacations. We once did Michigan to Florida and back in four days. People thought we were nuts, but we had a blast. We enjoy stopping and visiting off the beaten path attractions along the way. Did you know Kiln, Mississippi, the birthplace of Brett Favre, has a gas-station wall you can sign your name to? Yup! Look for Alison Blake from Menominee, Michigan. Another power-drive vacation was jumping in all five Great Lakes in under 16 hours. Our love of traveling was a natural fit for Highpointing. We started with attempting and conquering Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota one Memorial Day Weekend, my crazy, fun cousin’s idea. That’s all it took. On our way home, our dream of highpointing, me not yet knowing there was a club, was brewed. Another question people often ask is “How did you learn about the Highpointing Club?” As we were on top of South Carolina, Mount Sassafras, we met a couple who asked us if we were Highpointers. We said, “What club?” We then proceeded to ask them a ton of questions. As soon as they told us you only need five to join, we decided indeed we were going to be Highpointers as soon as we could get down this mountain and connect to internet. A big shout out to those people for
 introducing us to the club. As said earlier, everyone is more than friendly on mountain tops. My goal is to spread the word about the Highpointers Club.

As I stated earlier, I have just begun my highpoints journey. My points include Eagle
Mountain, Timms Hill, Mount Arvon, Brasstown Bald, Sassafras, Mount Mitchell, Mount
Washington, and Taum Sauk. I closely watch and follow others on this Highpointing quest and it’s inspiring to say the least. Sure, I would love to continue and be among the elite 50 someday. In my favor is not only my age which provides time on my side, but mostly my adventurous spirit. My family is planning a Memorial Day vacation soon where we will seek out Hawkeye Point and Black Elk Peak (Harney Peak). I am very much looking forward to the trip, the views, and more family fun. I singled out Eagle Mountain because it’s what started this beautiful and amazing adventurous dream.

I am 19 years old. I am strong, I am fearless, I am adventurous, and I am blessed.
Presently, I am a nursing major at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin. I have been blessed with a love for the outdoors, a healthy mind and body, and an amazingly supportive family. I have my future ahead of me to look forward to. I am thankful and grateful for having the opportunities of seeing God’s beautiful creation from its highest points. I know that my future includes the goal of as many highpoints as God will bless me with being able to visit. I am a Highpointer.