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Interview with Diane and Charlie Winger

Diane and Charlie Winger at Winger Highpoint in ColoradoWhat was your first highpoint?

Our own Mt. Elbert here in Colorado was the first highpoint for each of us.

Why did you start highpointing?

Charlie: I started highpointing by accident, really. The first mountain I ever climbed was Mt. Elbert, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I originally conceived the idea of hiking to all the state highpoints in 1983, the year I first attempted Denali.

Diane: I really wanted to see more of the country. Until we started highpointing, I had only visited a few of the Western states, and had seen almost nothing of the rest of the country, other than from a window seat on a jet. It was a wonderful way to get out to places we may never have seen otherwise. Plus, hiking was involved, which we both enjoy. Continue reading Interview with Diane and Charlie Winger

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Interview With Mary Maurer and George Vandersluis

[This interview by Roger Rowlett appeared in the 2nd Quarter Issue of Apex to Zenith]

It’s hard to imagine what the Highpointers Club would be like without the efforts of Mary Maurer and George Vandersluis who have teamed up to some of the hardest, unsung jobs in the past 10 years. Continue reading Interview With Mary Maurer and George Vandersluis

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Interview with Donna and Merrill Sterler

Merrill and Donna Sterler on the Iowa Highpoint

By Roger Rowlett
Apex to Zenith #62 – Third Quarter 2003

Donna and Merrill Sterler have a unique perspective on being a highpoint owners.

Rather than buying the highpoint, they just woke up one day and read in the newspaper that the land on which Donna was born had taken the crown from Ocheyedan Mound  (1,613 feet)  as Iowa’s highest at 1,670 feet.

Without missing a beat, the Sterlers were soon greeting visitors and meticulously keeping logs, having fun with notoriety (their pick up has “High Point” vanity plate) and above all showing Midwest friendliness, hospitality and grace to visitors from around the world.

Living on a highpoint with its howling winds and huge snows is just part of the adventure along with the quirky visits at various times and seasons of highpointers.

I personally visited the Sterlers in 1973 shortly after the farm first appeared on the Rand McNally maps.  Merrill pointed the way as my dad and I walked by a grove of trees to through the feedlot to the highpoint (the only highpoint I visited with my father).  My mother had sat in the Sterler driveway.  We were officially in the area visiting my mother’s haunts on her first teaching job nearby at what now seemed prophetically called Climbing Hill School.

Following the Illinois 2003 convention, I returned for the first time along with several other highpointers for the scattering of Jack Longacre’s ashes organized by Wendy Hecht.  The Sterlers had opened their registration book to the 1993 visit when Jack Longacre visited.  The served soda.

Buildings have come and gone since 1973 but the Sterlers remained just as gracious.  They sat in a swing by the drive welcoming visitors.  It’s a little harder getting around these days.  Merrill has to drive a cart the short distance from the house to the highpoint and Donna drives her car.

They invited me into their kitchen so I could interview them about their life 70+ years of living on Iowa’s highpoint.

 

What’s your background?
Donna
I was born on September 17, 1933,  and lived on the farm here.  My grandfather George Albers bought the farm in the 1920’s or early 1930’s.  I attended a one-room school just down the road.  In the sixth grade my parent Martin and Mattie Albers moved us to Sibley where I finished my school.  I played organ at the Trinity Reformed Church and met Merrill when he came to church.  Some friends went with us to a skating party.  We were married on March 10, 1952.  A week later Merrill went off to serve in Korea.  When he came back we moved to the farm in January 1954.  We have three children, Lori VandBrake of Orange City; Mark Sterler of Ocheyden and Kahy Eimers of Lamars.

Merrill
I was born on February 8, 1930, in rural Ashton, Iowa about seven miles south of Sibley.  After we got married I served in Korea.  I’ve been on the board of directors of my church,  the local electric and Basin Electric and Dakota Gasification board which is based in Bismarck and serves an eight-state region.

However, I’ve mostly been a farmer.

We farmed this until nine years ago raising cattle and hogs.  The water trough was where the highpoint is.   We now have somebody farming it and he raises corn and soybeans.  He does a good job and is flexible about the highpoint.  Some people think we should have torn down the silo and farmed the area but my daughter thought it makes a nice landmark and we’ve kept it.  We’re very happy with our tenant because we have crops that we can be proud of.   The standpipe that provides water for neighboring communities was put up there and they built a repeater tower for the electric coops.

How did you find out you had the highest point in Iowa?
Merrill:
As I understand it, there was never a topographical map of Iowa.  They started making one in the 1970s.  They surveyed the adjacent roads and then came in with the survey crew and actually surveyed this location and this was determined to be the highest spot.  I was out there with them when they were surveying the land because we had cattle out there.  They also surveyed a cemetery about three-quarters of a mile south and it was a foot and a half shorter.  They said they thought it was going to be the highest point in the state but we never heard officially until we saw it in the paper.

Did you have any inkling it was going to be the highpoint?
Merrill:
Not really.  We realized the trains had a lot of problems up here going north.  The train engines would unhook several cars and go up a few miles and then come back and get the others.  So that was an indication that there was quite a grade here.  An engineer wrote an item that’s at the Osceola Courthouse in 1958 in Sibley that he thought there were some places higher than Ocheyedan Mound but nobody did anything about it.

Have you climbed Ocheyedan Mound?
Merrill:
Sure.  We’ve driven by it.  Our son lives near there.  We  never walked up it though.

Have you climbed other state highpoints?
Merrill:
We would have liked to when we were younger and healthier.  We’ve been to Amidon and near Harney.  Our daughter went to Charles Mound a couple years ago and came back with pictures of chairs on top.

Donna:
I like going to quaint towns and I have an interest in quilting.  So I’ve been to Galena.

 

How did you arrive at the name of “Hawkeye Point”?
Donna
We thought it needed a name and Iowa has been called the Hawkeye State for more than 100 years.  We didn’t name it for the University of Iowa mascot.  We never really considered any other name although we did consider calling it “Hawkeye Hill” but it’s not really a hill.

Has owning the highpoint changed your life?
Donna:
I can’t say that it has changed our life but we have had a lot of activity.  It’s hard to believe there could be so much interest in our little green acre.  We have been enriched by all the people who have visited.

Merrill
It was interesting to meet all sorts of people from all walks of life and from all the different states.  To think they would take the time to stop here is kind of encouraging in our older age.  We enjoy visiting with the people.  We take a lot of razzing here because people can’t believe that somebody would enjoy doing this.

 

What plans do you have for the highpoint?
Merrill:
We would like to put a permanent granite marker up there.  There’s not even a bench mark there now.  Some veteran groups would like us to put up a flag.  It would have to be a big Perkins style flag that floats.  We get so much wind that a smaller flag would be shredded to nothing in less than six weeks.

The state is planning on replacing the highway with a new four-lane.  They put up a sign on the highway and one just outside our front yard saying the highpoint is one eighth of a mile south.  Some folks follow the trees to the highpoint from the sign but most people pull into the driveway.

We want to ensure that there is continued access and will probably put that in the deed.  We would like for our son to come back and live here.

We investigated at one time putting one of those telescopes up there but we were told that you have to have a minimum number of people using it and we couldn’t meet the minium.

 

How many visitors do you get?
Donna:
We get about 300 a year.  The most popular time is in the summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  August is our busiest month.  However, lately we’ve been getting more visitors in the winter.  The snow can be really bad here.  We get some people from overseas.  We have had visitors from Great Britain, Germany, Uruguay, Japan and New Zealand. Somebody was here just a few days ago from Dublin, Ireland.  The register makes for interesting reading.  We have two volumes that we have kept since the 1980s.

Merrill:
We sometimes get motorcyclists going to the rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.  We’ve had bicyclists who came up here during RAGBRAI ([Des Moines] Register Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa).

Donna:
There’s a couple of  busloads that regularly visit.  There’s a group of retired Iowa teachers and there’s a group of sixth graders from Rock Valley about 40 miles southwest who come and visit us before going to Ocheyedan Mound and Lake Okoboji.  We also had a group of picnickers from the IDS Insurance Company.  The insurance company picnickers all signed waivers before visiting.

Are you concerned about liability?
Merrill:
We sometimes think about that but we don’t want to make people sign waivers.  People sue each other over such frivolous matters these days.  I don’t think any highpointers would do anything.  But we do worry about it.  We considered putting a step or two on the highpoint so people could get a higher view of the area.  If we’re growing corn you can’t see much in the summer from the highpoint.  However, that would have meant people would be climbing on something and so we decided against it.  We trust that all highpointers in the future will continue to be considerate.

How far can you see?
Merrill:
At night you can see the lights of a radio tower in Sioux Falls [South Dakota] which is 50 miles away.  During the day you can see the Ocheyedan Elevator about 11 miles away although you can’t see the mound.

Is the weather different on the highpoint from the surrounding area?
Merrill:
I don’t know if it’s different.  We get lots of snow and wind and sometimes hail.  We’ve never had any problems with lightening even though we have thought about it.

We were going to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary last year on March 10th and there was a huge snow storm on the 9th.  Just as we were going out to get into our pick up.  There was a couple from California that arrived in a Lexis.  It was white out conditions and they thought it was really neat.

How cold does it get?
Merrill:
It gets pretty cold.  We got a call from somebody from Kansas City who wanted to come up and try out a new tent.  It was 18 below zero.  We told him to come up and he came up in a Subaru with no heat and camped out.  We invited him in for breakfast.  He was cold.

Have you had any problems with visitors?
Merrill:
Not a single problem.  Most of the people who visit are “in the business.”  They know where the highpoint is from the guidebooks or the internet.  So when they stop, they come to the door and ask if it is o.k. to visit.  They don’t need to be shown where to go.  Since they put the signs up, there have been a few more casual visitors.

Donna:
With cell phones we’ve been getting a lot more phone calls.

Do you have email?
Merrill:
No.  Our son drops off articles now and then.

Any problem with thefts?
Merrill:
Never.  We have thought about it. I suppose of somebody took something from up there they probably would need it more than we did.

What happened to the postcards?
The Bank in Sibley gave us the aerial picture and postcards.  We’ve run out of them now and a lot of the buildings are different.  We would like to do it again but haven’t found the right picture.

Is there anything the Highpointers Club can do (like pay for the marker, etc.)?
Merrill:
If anything we should make a contribution to the Club.  We appreciate the magazine.  It’s really our responsibility to provide the marker.

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Interview with Jean and Wayne Wuebbels — Owners of the Illinois Highpoint

Illinois 2003 Convention Chairman John Mitchler presents an aerial photo of the Wuebbels farm to Wayne and Jean Wuebbels. Jean Trousdale coordinated getting the photo.

By Roger Rowlett
Apex to Zenith #62 – Third Quarter 2003

Jean and Wayne Wuebbels, the first highpoint private property owners to attend and host a Highpointers convention, put on a memorable show that drew standing ovations in Illinois.

Just a few days before the convention started, they announced severe access restrictions to the summit in their front yard to just the first weekends of summer months because of problems with non-club members coming at all hours and stealing things.

Jean (the “talkative half” while she says Wayne is the silent “brainy half” of the couple) delivered the news at the Galena Convention Center along with a recommendation to vote Republican.  She got playful boos along with hearty laughter.

The Wuebbels are only the third family to own the highpoint since President Polk made it a land grant in 1848 (Elijah Charles for whom the mound is named never actually owned it).

The Chicago accountants weren’t looking for owning a highpoint when they planned to move to the country in trendy, un-glacier flattened Jo Daviess County in 1994.  They just wanted a place with a view and room to snowmobile.

Illinois didn’t want to buy one of the few hills in the state (a place where late-melting snow drifts cause the flowers bloom a week later than nearby Scales Mound) and the Wuebbels got a good price, built a home and got commanding views of Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.  They jumped on the novelty of owning a highpoint and did away with earlier severe access restrictions (and gate fee) until the accumulating problems prompted the latest restrictions.  Neighboring residents much preferred the Wuebbels to proposals for a revolving restaurant on the summit.

I personally had a wonderful evening talking to both Jean and Wayne during the convention banquet.  Wayne is not nearly as quiet or reserved as he conveys in public.  Below are answers to questions that I put to them (which arrived after the August 15 tax extension deadline).
 

What’s your background?
Wayne was born and bred in McLeansboro, Illinois, and Jean, in Dayton, Ohio. We have one son (Scott), who is lives with his wife and baby daughter in Freeport, Illinois. As of July 1, 2003, we will have been married 25 years.

Why did you move to the Charles Mound area? 
We looked all over this part of Illinois, and thought Jo Daviess county was the most beautiful part of the state. It also gets a lot of snow, and we love to snowmobile!

How why and when did you buy  the highpoint?
We bought the property nine years ago. We were looking for a small farm  with a lot of privacy and with a good view and some woods.  The farm turned out to be quite a bit bigger than what we were actually looking for. We had absolutely no interest in owning the Illinois highpoint and, in all honesty, did not realize that anyone really cared.  Ouch!

I understand the previous owner Gladys Steifel died last year.  Did she give you any advice on the highpoint?  
We visited Gladys often while she was in the nursing home for the few years before her death.  We talked a lot about the property- she was so very interested in the natural beauty of it, but never got the idea that the “high point” status was important to her. However, we have since talked with her daughter, who said it was very important to Gladys that Charles Mound be given due recognition for being Illinois’ highpoint. Gladys had at one time worked to try to get the state to purchase the property, but they were not interested. 

She wanted the property to be an Illinois landmark- and always to be kept as a nature reserve. The children of Gladys did not care so much about the highpoint. The property was their home. They all grew up in the old farm house at the base of the mound, and it holds the same sentimental values to them as any of our homes might to us.

Charles Mound was named after Elijah Charles (from Pennsylvania) who settled there in 1827. He built a home on the south base of the mound, be he never owned the property.  This land was not yet open for sale by the government.

In 1848 Charles Mound was given as a land grant by President Polk to Mr. Richard Magoon. He wasn’t particularly interested in Illinois, and the property was purchased in 1868 by Mr. and Mrs. Glanville.  Glady’s Steifel was a descendent of Seth. The Glanville family owned the land for nearly 150 years.  We purchased the property from the Glanville estate in 1994.

Did you get many people who are interested in the geology the region  (the “Driftless Region”) and lead mines.
Not really.

Do you get many people who think it’s an Indian burial ground?
No

You did away with the restrictions and fees for accessing the highpoint right away plus added chairs and signs making it a sort of part.  What did you  originally envision the highpoint and visitors to be?
We didn’t. We just didn’t know there was such an animal as a “Highpointer.” you know, we are not really the minority. Stop the average person on the street, and ask him what a Highpointer is. He will  say “a high what??” stop anyone in downtown Chicago and ask him what Charles Mound is? They will think it is a candy bar!

Who made the signs you originally placed on the summit?
We had a professional sign painter from Plattville, Wisconsin make our signs.

What do you do with the log books?
We keep the originals in a book in our family room for friends and family to browse through. The ones on the high point are copies.(we do this because poeple have destroyed and stolen the pages we keep on the mound)

What’s the name of your dog and cats?
Our dog’s name is “Dixon”.  Our cats names are “Friendly”,”Jason”, “Joni”,and “O.J.”(not for Simpson but for the Juice!). however, we don’t see our cats much anymore since Dixon moved in.

Do you have weather that is different from the surrounding area (e.g., more snow or lightening)?
Our weather is not really different.but we do have much higher winds.  It is really something watching a front come in from the Mound. And we have much drifting of snow. All our plants and flowers are always at least a week behind Scales Mound!

What prompted you to gradually begin reducing access so that currently it is accessible only during the first weekend of June, July, August and September?
We were having so many problems.  People were roaming around all times of the day and night.  We had lost our “peace and quite”, as well as our “privacy”. We worry about the safety of our grandchild.  We want her to be able to run around and play without worrying who she might be bumping into!  We might add, that it is our firm belief that it wasn’t members of your club that were the problem.  The real problem was the “tourist” and the occasional highpointer. We had two men in our office the other day, really rather obnoxious, demanding to go up there. I said it was too bad they weren’t here for the Highpointers convention.  they asked me what the heck  a Highpointer was?  What else can I say??

Do you have unannounced visitors in the night?
Yes.

What do your neighbors think of your owning the highpoint? 
I think our neighbors would have loved to have the state buy the property.  But since Illinois didn’t want it, they are happy with us.  There was a buyer interested in the property that wanted to build a revolving restaurant on top- and, boy, they didn’t want that.  Most of them are happy with the improvements we have made to the property.

How many highpoints have you visited?  
None, other than Charles Mound.

Have you traveled in the vicinity of other highpoints? 
We don’t travel very much. we own our own business, and getting away is difficult.  and, honestly, Jean is afraid of heights!

What was your opinion of the convention?
We thought the convention was fabulous!!  We just couldn’t get over how organized everything was. we were treated like royalty by all of those attending.  We just never expected anything like that. we thought the ceremony at the summit for Jack was very moving.  and it was a thrill to have Paul Zumwalt there! 

Did your neighbors say anything about it? 
Most of the folks in Scales Mound mentioned how courteous and friendly all those crazy Highpointers were!  

What was money raised at the Lions Club Breakfast used for?
I am not sure, but be assured it will go to a worthwhile cause!

There was a sign by a latrine saying “Better than the Bush.”  Does that  reflect your politics? 
Absolutely not! We are die-hard republicans, with a picture of G.W. hanging in our office! 

Was the latrine there before? 
Oh, yes!

The picnic tables? 
No, we brought those in –borrowed from neighbors and the Lions club.  The neighbors helped lug them in and out.

What are the pet causes you mentioned at the Highpointers banquet?
Please don’t smoke. 
Please neuter your pets
Donate generously to your local hospices 
Vote Republican!

Who painted the signs for the convention and came up with the names?
I wish i could say that my 6-year old granddaughter painted the signs- but since she is only 6-month old, I doubt I can get away with it!  I (Jean) made the signs.  Believe it or not, they were the best I could do. As I said at the convention, I am an accountant, not an artist!  Wayne thought of “steep, steeper, steepest.”. He started last summer clearing three trails of different grades. He spent so many hours in the woods clearing trails, i was afraid we wouldn’t have any trees left!

You mentioned you were considering selling the property to provide for  retirement and your heirs.  Would you consider selling it to the State or Nature Conservancy? 
I think I was misunderstood. we are not actively selling our property. but if the right price was offered, we would probably let it go.  our son never lived there, so has no real interest in it.  Many people would love to see the state  own it. personally, we think that is what should happen.but the state is doesn’t have any money!

Has the state contacted you?
No.

How big is the property? 
210 acres- with about 50 acres of woods.

Can I ask the asking price?
You can ask.

If you can’t get your asking price, what alternatives are you considering?
We hold on to the property until we get what we feel is a just price. We are in no hurry. We love living at the top, and never tire of the beautiful views we get from every window in our home.

Is there anything the Highpointers Club or its members can do to help you?
Just please ask members to adhere to the rules. we are offering 8 days, where we guarantee to be there…all we ask is that you plan your trips accordingly.  We have never allowed visitors at night, and we have never allowed pets.  Pets are a big problem  for us. We can’t seem to get people to leave their dogs at home.

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Interview with John Mitchler and Dave Covill

[Published in Apex to Zenith #55 – Fourth Quarter 2001]
By: Roger Rowlett

It’s hard to imagine what the Club would be like without the efforts of John Mitchler and Dave Covill. Just take a look at their contributions:

  • Since the 4th quarter of 1998 they have been editing, publishing and distributing the newsletter.
  • They have written a Guidebook to the Highest Points of Colorado Counties.
  • The Club phone numbers and mail are referred to John’s home in Golden.
  • Dave turned lemons into lemonade by negotiating a deal to permit sanctioned visits to the actual highpoint on Jerimoth Hill. These visits have proven popular to both highpointers and the owners and have become a defacto club convention.
  • Dave and his wife Beckie organized the hugely popular 2000 convention on Mauna Kea.
  • Both John and Dave are quite active on the Club’s Board of Directors often filling in voids and always shaping the future of the Club.

It’s little wonder that John and Dave were voted to receive the Club’s Vin Hoeman which was presented at the Maryland Convention.

The story of how John and Dave wound up being so active is quite compelling and an inspiration for the old adage that you get out of something what you put into it.

John grew up in the Midwest where his dad (who attended the Maryland convention) was a state senator and one of his high school teachers is now House Speaker —– Hasert. He studied geology, got an MBA and wound up in Colorado.

Dave grew up near the ocean on Cape Cod in New Bedford, Massachusetts (where his family still lives “within 10 miles of each other”), studied a geology, got an MBA and wound up in Colorado.

Neither had much publishing experience (although John did co-author “Blasting Practices to Improve Dragline Efficiency”).

Then came that eventful potluck that John threw in 1994. He didn’t know other highpointers and took the Highpointers Club roster and invited everybody in the Denver metro area. Dave showed up and the rest is highpointing history.

I had a telephone conference in late November. My original story was 18 pages long and it still only scratched the surface. Here’s the “abbreviated” Q&A:

How did you get started highpointing?

John Mitchler:

Back in Champaign, Illinois, in the 1970s I found a copy of Frank Ashley’s guidebook. It seemed like a lot of interesting places. I had no intentions of completing the list because the monster peaks out West just seemed so far out of reach for my skill. I just wanted to see how many I could visit.

My first highpoint was Harney Peak. I was going west to geology camp and it was on the route. I didn’t climb any other big mountains then though. When I was at the Geology Camp I had a choice between going to a rodeo or climbing Cloud Peak [Wyoming] (?). I chose the rodeo. However, when the group that climbed Cloud Peak came back, it sounded like they had a lot of fun. One of the women didn’t have sunglasses and was snowblind for two days, but it still sounded like a good time. Several years later I went back.

If I was going somewhere in the U.S. I would look to see if there were highpoints nearby. As I got more and more numbers I would actually tailor my vacation around the idea.

Dave Covill:

That’s a defining moment in every highpointers life when they go from picking up the highpoint to going to a highpoint. It’s a fine line because you are going because you are highpointing.

My first highpoint was Mount Washington. When I was a child we went up on a train. Later I hiked up. I also did Katahdin my senior year. That was 1980. I started buy tube maps and put them on my bedroom wall.

I moved out West to Liberal, Kansas in the Summer of 1981. I spent all my free dollars mailing away topo maps. I had this enormous tube of about 40 states worth.

I started with Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Missouri when I was living with my good friend Steve Doppler. I soon picked up 20 or so in the first couple years.

I started picking it up when my son [Chris] was old enough to do it with me when he was six or seven. And of course I was hiking with Beckie. I’m at 45 now. It’s over been 20 years and I know it will take a few years to finish them.

How did you find out about the Highpointers Club?

Dave Covill:

I found about it in 1989 or 1990. My friend met somebody who was a Club member and gave him Jack’s address in Arkansas and this fellow was kind enough to photocopy his seven or eight newsletters for us..

John Mitchler:

I remember it very clear I was at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver. I was looking in the Travel Section and came across Don Holmes’ book. I was pretty excited about. I was going to immediately buy it of course. I looked on the back of it and it talked about a Club. and I got very excited. That night I wrote a letter to Jack Longacre and he kindly sent me a copy of the newsletters I missed. That Saturday when they arrived I spent the whole day reading them.

Dave Covill:

I did not hear of the Zumwalt or Holmes books until I joined the club in 1991. I had Ashley’s book for 10 years before that.

What’s your day job?

John Mitchler:

I attended the University of Illinois. I worked in the fossil fuel industry doing coal property valuation.

I work for Mactec. It’s a consulting firm so there’s a lot of time when I’m working my butt off but it also gives me some flexibility to take time off to plan big road trips.

Dave Covill:

I attended Bath College, got an MBA in finance at University of Colorado. Worked in oil fields. I now do acquisition work for a Colorado company Ergoresources.

How did you two get together?

John Mitchler:

When I started doing the highpoints. I didn’t know in any other highpointers. I decided to take the membership and invited everybody in the greater Denver for a potluck in the April of 1994. Ken Ackerman had done that in Utah. We designed an invitation and I mailed it out. About 35 people came over.

I remember Dave calling in and saying he had a softball game and that he would like to bring over his girlfriend Beckie who he had known for only a month. It was sort of a highpointong blind date. Believe me everybody that came in the door I hadn’t seen before.

Dave and I started doing some hiking after that. We joined the Colorado Mountain Club. All of us. It was pretty amazing that out of that one potluck dinner, I’ve made lifelong friends.

Dave Covill:

John made it a really special time. He photocopied a map of the states with the highpoints on each one and told everybody to post the ones they had visited on the wall. There were 35 sheets taped to the wall. Most of the people stood by the wall yakking.

John Mitchler:

I did it the next year. It was just as success.ful. I knew a lot of people then. We were going to shift it around to different people’s houses but it never quite happened.

It’s pretty easy to do. There’s not a lot you have to do. The subject of highpointing is so interesting and there’s so many interesting goofy highpointers that things take shape naturally.

How did you decide to write the “County Highpoints of Colorado“?

John Mitchler:

In January 1995 we were looking though the county highpoint list created by Andy Martin.

Dave Covill:

I had about a dozen and John had a half a dozen. We had fortuitously hiked Colorado 14’ers. We never hiked them just because they were county highpoint but because they were 14’ers.

I thought “wow,” I’ve been to more of them than John. A month letter we went out in the eastern in the dead of winter climbing them. The next thing I know, John was way ahead of me.

John Mitchler:

Even though we were goofing around, tight from the beginning we took pictures and wrote access information. Then we thought we ought to write a guidebook. We approached five publishers. Four of them laughed at us and the fifth (Falcon Press) ate it up. They gave us a contract where we could do a lot of work for very little — a conversation piece. But it took.

Dave Covill:

John in the Fall of 1996 became the first to complete all county highpoints. I was the fifth. There have been ten others. We published the book in the May of 1999.

John Mitchler:

There have been articles about us in the Denver newspaper. It gives them something to write besides hunting. We’ve given two dozen slide shows at the Colorado Mountain, REI and other places including the 1999 Missouri Convention. Of course we have never achieved the status of George Vandersluis when he completed the 50 state. There was a huge write up in the Denver Post and he was on radio.

How did you get interested in doing the newsletter?

John Mitchler:

When I first joined I would find articles in the newspaper and mail them to Jack.

At the Colorado convention. Jack came up to me. He said I’m burned out.

Dave Covill:

He wanted his life back

He had a lot of things he wanted to do. He wanted to write books and travel. While the newsletter was fun, it was overwhelming him. He did everything. He typed the newsletter, did the labels, kept the money. He said there were a lot of active of people in the Denver area and that perhaps they could help if the Club moved its operations to Colorado.

John Mitchler:

I thought it would be interesting. I knew it would be a big chore.

The 98-4 was our first issue. Much like writing our guidebook. We had no experience at what we were doing.

We hired a lady who knew how to use Adobe Frameworker and taught us the basics. How do you do publishing? How do you mail newsletters? It’s a big effort. It’s not like there are 300 newsletters and you have a labeling party. When you are mailing out 1300 every quarter you need to do it it semi professionally.

How could people help with the newsletter?

John Mitchler:

Them main thing with the help is the content of the newsletter.

Dave and I don’t want to write. We want a lot of people to supply photos, articles and columns. That was my main goal. Dave and I want to be editors editors. I’m amazed at the content get. We litterally have stacks of information that could go into a newsletter. We could have a 60-page newsletter all the time.

Just being part of it part something that is a lasting piece of.that is permanent is rewarding.

We have fun with newsletter. We try to follow Jack’s advice to include a lot of names and personal information.

IIn the compelter articles we’ll put something in there that 2500 people won’t know what it means but that one person. “There you’ve got me.”

Dave Covill:

As you know the phone calls, the email, the post offfice box come to John’s

house in Golden. John is involved with this 365 days a year. John eats, sleeps and drinks highpointers. He’s got it like Jack’s got it. I’m lucky because I get two off months. But for 3-4 weeks we put in a heck of lot of hours. First 3 or 4 issues we spent 3 or 4 weekends and two or three nights until 2 a.m. We’ gotten the system down now where we’re wiping out only one full week end a quarter.

We do a lot of stuff up front now. The newsletter is much easier when you can drop things into a template.

What are the mechanics of the newsletter?

John Mitchler:

We use Adobe Frameworker. It’s a souped up version of Word.

Convert any about any file that is sent to us.

Generally the best is text files or rtf file or hard copy photos. If somebody sends us a .jpg photo we can manipulate for the newsletter. If we scan it we can do what.

When we put together. It’s about 25 megs for a 20-30 page file.

Dave Covill:

Once that’s a completed. It takes about a week . Meantime we receive the label database from Craig Noland. After we take the newsletter to the post office we still have about two or three weeks of work.

We mail photos back. We have to specially handle the newsletters to foreign countries. We send out special packages to Board members.

John Mitchler:

It takes about two or three weeks for the newsletters to be received. People and Swizerland get their newsletters before Roger gets it in New York.

Is there anything unrewarding about newsletter?

John Mitchler:

Facing the deadline knowing that you’re going to lose hiking or family time I get kind of jealous knowing about the big trips people are taking. When you’re locked up in a room sorting through mail, sorting and news items there are moments when it gets hard but then you get into it and it’s worthwhile

Do you have an overall philosophy about the newsletter?

John Mitchler:

The newsletter is a record of the hobby we are trying to record the pulse of the hobby. We can’t be as real time as a website or newspaper. We don’t try to do that.

Dave Covill:

We try hard not to interject our opinions.

What direction would you like to see the Club take?

Dave Covill:

I would like to see the Foundation get off the ground. I really think we could do some neat things if we could get that going.

Our club is mostly social. I think wee need to be partly have an education and conservation mission. You’re lying to yourself if you think the central premise is anything but social,. We are 2500 like mind souls.

John Mitchler:

The act of highponting is a pretty personal one. It’s something that you do. We’re really a social organization. It think there is some concern about the highpoint accessibility. The best thing is to try to help the owners. I don’t think we need neon signs pointing the way. There’s some adventure in finding the highpoint.

Has the newsletter changed?

John Mitchler:

We are basically only doing what Jack did — except that we’re high tech by doing it on a computer.

Dave, how did you get involved in the Rhode Island situation?

Dave Covill:

As you know I grew up near there. I was home of February of 1999 and the situation had deteriorated. It seemed like the next time we picked up the phone we were going to hear about about somebody getting hurt — Mr. Richardson or a visitor. Or somebody was going to jail or there would be a lawsuit.. My dad went to Brown. So I had a connection.

Motion detectors had been installed in the woods and there were complaints that everyday somebody was crossing the yard and as many as a dozen were visiting on weekends.

I picked up the phone and fortuitously got Ed and we talked for about two hours that morning.

I convince him if he would allow visitation half a dozen times a years that the the random visitation would drop to zero. It has worked out very well. The random and stealth visitation has dropped to nearly zero. There are still the people who don’t know about the Club or the web site. They see on the Rand McNally Atlas and want to visit.

He has agreed to keep the same dates in 2002. We’re going to try something new. We’re going to have a Saturday visitation on Saturday, July 8 because the Fourth of July is on a Thursday. We’ve always had them on Sundays of three-day holidays so people could have a day to drive to it.


Here are comments about John and Dave

George Vandersluis

I am in awe of the amount of time and effort that John Mitchler and Dave Covill contribute to the Highpointers Club. They spend long hours in preparing and assembling the Quarterly Newsletter. The quality of their work is evident in the product. In addition to the Newsletter, each of these individuals has donated hundreds of hours to other Highpointer Club projects.

Dave and Becky Covill did an outstanding job as hosts for the Hawaii Convention. Not an easy task from here on the mainland. John, before becoming an editor of the Newsletter, was one of the major contributors of information and articles for Jack Longacre.

John has compiled historic information on state highpoints and has accumulated files of material for future archives.

Dave has also been a significant contributor in obtaining open access dates for the Rhode Island Highpoint. They have each taken very active roles in the Club and have made the Club an integral part of their lives.

We only see a fraction of their efforts in the Newsletter; the rest is done behind the scenes. The Highpointers Club is extremely fortunate to have John and Dave as members who are willing to do whatever is necessary for the good of the Club.

Jean Trousdale aka Mother Merc

As I sat down this morning to compose my articles for the 4th Quarter 2001 Newsletter, I was looking over my most recent issue and a couple of things stuck me. The first, of course, is the great and timely colored photo of the U.S flag over Mt. Liberty on the front–really neat, guys! Kinda makes me puddle up. I will see to it you get a picture of my new flag over the Black Mesa before the August 31st deadline.

Let me know if there are adjacent states you need pictures of and I’ll go there and do it. The second thing I am aware of as I page through this really well put together and complete Newsletter, is how glad I am that you always remind me when my stuff is due! You are incredibly diligent about this, and I am here to tell you I appreciate it. You make me feel important to be “on the staff” of our newsletter.

And to get my columns in on time. Taking over the Newsletter from Jack means an incredible amount of work, but it also means stepping into the HEART of the organization. Do you need to be reminded that everyone knows that? We all appreciate your hard work. Even though you make it look easy…

There’s another thing about you guys that I have come to know and appreciate. Both of you have a great blend of thoughtfulness and humor, and you know when each is called for. I love it! And I see it all the time, in the Newsletters, in your e-mails and at the conventions. Keep on keepin’ on, and I’ll hug you both at OK-2002!

Oh yeah, and I’m really glad you got the Vin Hoeman Award. Even though you made that look easy, too.

Andy Martin

John appears to be a pretty happy go lucky guy, but once he gets started on something you would be surprised at the dogged determination and steadfastness he applies to the task at hand. You may know that he has a special interest in former state high points, such as Rib Mountain in Wisconsin. This led to a memorable debate after he noticed that Rib Mountain was listed in third place on the Wisconsin county high point list. In fact, John has probably taken his copy of the list, cut it to pieces, and physically moved Rib Mountain to its proper place. Luckily for us, John applies this same determination to promoting and participating in the State High Pointing hobby. John is also a loyal individual. He has lived outside of his home state of Illinois for many years, but is a a fervent Illinois University booster, and maintains an active interest Illinois. John collects post cards of high point locations and is fond of visiting state HP, county HP, lighthouses, and vineyards.

On Dave Covill – Don’t know him as well, but he’s always been veryhelpful with county HP stuff, and have enjoyed talking with him on our few meetings. Have found him to be a very generous individual, and as with John, believe the State HP club is lucky to have him (and his family as well – wife Beckie and son) contributing to the sucess of the organization. He has been active with John in the Colorado Mountain Club, and they have led CMC hikes to several county highpoints. Imagine some of these folks caught the state HPing bug by way of Dave and John.

Gene & Lillian Elliott

It is overwhelming to us when we look at what Dave and John have done. Not only did they take over the newsletter and have been doing a fantastic job but have had the pleasure of doing all of the fourteeners in their beloved State of Colorado.

Then they were able from these experiences write their first book of their accomplishment. Then to add to that other county highpoints at conventions and others throughout their travels. It is amazing to watch how Dave has worked and spent hours upon hours in negotiating with Mr. Richardson, now passed away, and still continuing this role for open dates in the future.

To John, not only putting in long and hard hours with Dave doing the quarterly newsletter but getting himself involved for the convention in IL in 2003. What dedication Dave and John have given to the club.

They are both truly an absolute asset and we thank them for their continued work with the newsletter and wait to see what else they put onto their plate. No matter what it might be no doubt they will succeed.

Mary Mauer

I am glad we are honoring John Mitchler and Dave Covill because , while we gave them the Vin Hoeman award, there are probably a lot of members who aren’t aware of the heroic efforts these two put forth to make the newsletter and the Club a success. If you haven’t seen these two at work, drop by John’s house sometime and see the various Highpointers’ projects under ‘construction’. Without the efforts of John & Dave, our Klub wouldn’t be what it is today.

Diane Winger

Of course, everyone is aware of the awesome job John and Dave do on the club newsletter. I suspect that many of our members renew each year BECAUSE of the newsletter. However, they both do so much “behind the scenes” that Ioften wonder how our club would function without them.

From working with owners of private highpoints (example: Dave’s work on Rhode Island open visitation dates) to working on annual conventions (example: John’s work to build a team for the 2003 Illinois convention; Dave & Becky’s work on the 2000 Hawaii convention); to managing the “completer lists” (John); to coordinating board elections (Dave); to coordinating updates to the club’s bylaws (John); and so much more: these are the guys who are always there to make things happen.

Jack Longacre

They do a spectacular job. I am grateful that they took it over. I just couldn’t do it. I never did understand any technology. I don’t understand computers and I have a hard time with phones. When I did the newsletter I had to retype the mailing list each time. When they started they computerized the whole thing and the Club membership took off.

When they started I gave them a three page guidebook.

Page One, it said “Have Fun.”

Page Two, “Put in as many names as you can.”

Page Three. “See page one.”

Posted on

Highpointer Summa Cum Laude Award presented to Paul Zumwalt

[Published in Apex to Zenith #54 – Third Quarter 2001]
By: Roger Rowlett on the occasion of Paul receiving the club’s top award during the convention in Maryland.

Paul Zumwalt scattering Jakk Longacre’s ashes on August 1, 2002, at Charles Mound, Illinois

Paul Zumwalt would hardly seem the type of man one would expect to receive the Highpointers’ Club’s first “Highpointer Cum Laude” award for a lifetime of meritorious service.

  • Paul never traveled further than 30 miles from his home in Emden in the flatlands of Illinois until he was 26 (and still lives that close to his birthplace).
  • He’s not a 48 or 50 completer (he lacks Alaska, Washington, Montana and Wyoming — although he adds “I made it to timberline on all of them”).
  • He didn’t publish his famous book “Fifty State Summits – Guide With Maps to State Highpoints” until he was age 76 in 1988.

Yet, Paul’s kindly presence has graced almost every highpointers convention and been the inspiration for countless highpointers. At 76 he climbed Mount Hood (“my publisher wrote a book about Hood and he said I was the third oldest to do that”). At 89, he climbed Backbone Mountain during the Maryland Convention (“it’s getting to be harder now”). For years he’s been winning the award for the oldest at the convention and the one with the most family members (8 which is a “small” Zumwalt contingent attended Maryland).

Paul’s biography reads like a page out of “The Greatest Generation — Highpointers Edition” He was born in a small town near Peoria, taught in a one-room school, married his childhood sweetheart, surveyed for the USGS, joined the Navy during World War II, became a military governor for two counties in Korea following the war, turned down an offer to be head surveyor for all of Korea just before the Korean War, returned to Peoria where he worked 26-years as an engineer at Caterpillar until he retired, and then started his highpoint author career. He attended every convention except the very first informal gathering in Michigan and one in Nevada (which coincided with his son’s marriage — “I tried to get him to change it…”). He has also served on the Club’s Board of Directors since its inception. He was awarded the Club’s first Vin Hoeman Award in 1989.

Paul’s wife, Lila, is an inspiring presence. This was the first convention she was unable to attend with Paul after being bed ridden since suffering a stroke.

Q. How’s Lila doing?
A. She’s doing o.k. She is bed ridden and we have to have somebody. I am helping her with her physical therapy.

Q. How did you meet?
When I taught country school I was only 19 years old. I went around to the families and tell them what books they were going to have. She came to the door and I said, “oh, you’re going to be one of my students.” And she told me that she was a senior in high school. I thought she was a grade school. I already got off to a bad start.

Q. What got you interested in highpointing?
A. The discovery of the highpoint in Louisiana was what got me interested. I thought it was pretty neat. We were mapping for army maneuvers in Louisiana. There was a platoon of soldiers that was lost in the area for a week in the area where I was survey. While I was surveying in the swamps, there was a senior surveyor who was training other surveyors and he had the high ground and he found the state highpoint and I thought that was neat. When you’re in the swamps you sure find highpoints interesting. The area I survey on the Texas-Louisiana border is now all under water and you can’t see if I was right in my work.

Q. What was the first highpoint you visited?
A. South Dakota. It was early in my surveying days so I think it was in 1941.

Q. Where did you grow up?
A. I grew up in Illinois and I didn’t even get out of the state until I was 26 when I went to the University of Illinois and graduated in Civil Engineering.

Q. What inspired you to write your guidebook?
A. I knew about Frank Ashley’s book. I used that. It sold for a dollar and he didn’t have very much detail in there. And it got outdated. I wrote him to see if there was going to be any additions. I got in touch with his publisher and they said not, I thought I would write a book about highpoints East of the Mississippi. But my publisher who lives in Washington [state] thought I should write a book about all the highpoints.

Q. Did you start highpointing in earnest when you retired and starting writing the book?
A. During the time I worked with Caterpillar we went on vacations was when I did some highpoints. Sometimes there were some discussions about whether we should do it. I just thought they were neat places to go on your vacation. It was my intention in the book was to write a book about places to go on your vacation.

Q. How did you find the highpoints?
A. There was Frank Ashley’s book. But my surveying knowledge also helped. He spent a week looking for highpoint of Michigan but I was able to find it. I surveyed several highpoints.

Q. What about Missouri?
A. Missouri was the first highpoint that I found was in the wrong place. I saw that they were sending people to the wrong place. It was about 400 feet away. Frances Carter was the first woman to do all 50, and when she got my book, she went back and did Missouri again

Q. What about Rhode Island?
A. I surveyed the land with Henry Richardson and found that the USGS markers were two feet lower than they had been announced. I think that’s what started getting him mad. He thought the highpoint was on his property.

Q What about Delaware?
A. I found out about Delaware in a letter from the Delaware Geological Society. It’s about 100 yards west of the marker.

Q. What about Illinois?
It’s in the right place. Some people think it’s where the house is. That’s where the monument used to be. But they put the monument there because it was at the end of the ridge and had a better view. You could see three states from there. I have a picture of the monument in my book.

Q. Do you have any regrets about highpointing?
A. I wish I had done the harder peaks early on. When I went out to visit my son who had a job in mine in Wyoming. I couldn’t keep up with him. So that’s why I took up running. I took up running so I could climb mountains. I ran 10 marathons in my 60s with an average time of 4 hours.

Q. Why didn’t you climb the peaks then?
A. I hadn’t written the book yet.

Q. How has the Club changed?
One difference is the amount of children involved. There were a lot of children at the Maryland convention. I got my picture taken with the youngest one who was 11 weeks old. Once I think there was one who made 10 highpoints by 10 months old by being carried up.

Q. Is there anything you dislike about the Club?
A. I don’t think there is. They may be going a little overboard on these trophies. I just didn’t expect getting a trophy like. I’m pleased to get it. I don’t feel like I deserve it.

Here’s what some other Board of Directors have to say about Paul:

Dave Covill
Paul Z was not the first person to write a guidebook (Frank Ashley beet him to the punch by a decade, and Don Homes’ book came out at about the same point in time), nor the 1st to do the 50 highpoints (in fact, he didn’t make it up a couple of them), nor did he organize the Highpointers Club (we are indebted to Jakk for that) but the man has done as much for highpointing as anyone really. His book is very useful, with topos scanned in that enhance the experience for users without access to maps. He has gone to many places to meticulously survey the highpoints, in order to ensure that the exact point can be visited. He has been instrumental in raising funds to make improvements to the highpoints, not an easy task given the lack of 501-C-3 status to date. He has met private landowners and helped to assimilate them into the Club. He has, as much as anything else, provided an inspiration to hundreds of members, who say to themselves, “Paul is still doing it, so I can too”, or “Paul made it up here at the age of xx, so I can too”. I met him in New Mexico in ’94, and like Jakk, he took time to speak to me, a complete stranger and relatively new member, much as Jakk and Don always do. Like a good CEO of a corporation, they are leaders, but they take time to be accessible to the masses. Like a good CEO, they remember your name, which never ceases to amaze many folks. I caught him at a lull in the confusion at the highpoint on Backbone Mountain. during the Club hike, and he and I got caught up to date. He was able to maintain a positive attitude on the situation he and Lila face, and that gave me strength to deal with things of lesser magnitude in my life. I treasure moments like that, and realize those moments are few and fleeting with my Highpointer friends. Suffice to say, the Club would not be what it is today if it had not been for the efforts of Paul Zumwalt and a few other good folks like him.

Barbara Gurtler
I voted for Paul because I have known him for many years and he has devoted untold amounts of energy and time to making highpointing attainable to all. After he wrote his book FIFTY STATE SUMMITS, he drove thousands of miles rechecking the highpoints for any changes, and calling nearby campgrounds for price updates. He diligently tried to keep his subsequent printings up to date and accurate. He has also been a very good ambassador for us with high point owners.

Don Holmes
I first met Paul at the 1990 Highpointers Convention in El Paso, Texas. Both of our books had just been published, Paul’s about three months before mine. Although we are competing authors, we have become good friends. One thing that we have both had a good time with is that Paul always seemed to have his books priced about $1.00 lower than mine no matter what price I had chosen. I told Paul that if I gave my books away, he would probably pay the people $1.00 to take his. Over the years our friendship has grown stronger and it is always a real pleasure to see him at the Conventions.

Jakk Longacre
Bottom line? I love Paul! That’s the thing about highpointers. Once you’ve roped together, you have a bond for life. Paul has been a real supporter of the Club. I mean from Day One. Paul has been a real supporter of the Club. He as been a hell of an asset to the Club. .I wish I had his book when I did my highpoints. I did some highpoints with him. In South Dakota there was a question of whether the spire straight west of the castle was higher. He said he would survey it if I would help carry up the equipment. I did that and we settled the argument. He and Lila have always had such a great sense of humor. In Maryland, I told him about my plans to have my ashes carried to the 50 highpoints. He volunteered to take them to Charles Mound.

John Mitchler
Paul Zumwalt, a very active and enthusiastic highpointer, has provided the hobby with many hours of his time, and we are all very much the better off for it. Paul created a fascinating guidebook with a uniquely personal flavor in the text and an easy-to-use large-size format. Paul has also used his excellent surveying experience to measure certain confusing crests, such as RI, MO, and DE. Paul, and his wonderful wife Lila, are among the friendliest highpointers in the Club. Their support for the Club and its goals is extraordinary. Many thanks for their involvement! I salute you! – John Mitchler

Jean Trousdale
I knew Paul Zumwalt was The Grand Old Man of the Highpointers about as soon as I knew there was The Highpointers! I read his book soon afterwards, and in addition to its being useful on clibs, I was touched by its charm as he wove stories about his Travels With Lila among the highpoint facts. Then last year when I was talking with Allan Griggs about having the convention at the Black Mesa in 2002, Allan picked up the telephone to share the news with Paul. On the spot Paul offered to make the bid for OK-2002 at the Hawaii Convention! I was pleased and excited–and those of you who were at the Hawaii convention know that we won with no competition! Many thanks, Paul Zumwalt. I look forward to our sharing OK-2002 with you.

George Vandersluis
Paul Zumwalt published the second book providing the routes and descriptions of the highest point in each of the 50 states. Although Paul’s was the second book, it was published fore than 15 years after the first by Frank Ashley, and was the first to contain up-to-date detailed descriptions and maps. Although I had been to all but 4 of the 50 state highpoints when Paul published his book, it has been a source of information and interesting to read. Paul has been active in maintaining current information on Highpoints and has returned to many states with survey instruments to determine the exact highest point in questionable areas. My thanks to Paul for the contributions he has made to Highpointing and the Highpointer’s Club.