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Highpointing: It?s Not Just For Mountaineers

Mount Sunflower, Kansas. Ebright Azimuth, Delaware. Hawkeye Point, Iowa. Hoosier High Point, Indiana.

They may not have the name recognition of Mount McKinley (Denali), Mount Rainier, Mount Whitney, and Mount Hood. And they certainly are far, far easier to get to! But all these places have something in common. Each is the highest natural spot in its state.

Welcome to the world of Highpointing. Thousands of otherwise sane people have set out to drive, stroll, hike, or climb to the highest point in each of the 50 states. Many never plan to make it to the tougher highpoints like Denali (in Alaska), Rainier (in Washington) or Granite (in Montana), but they've discovered the fun in planning trips to locate the unusual "summits" of Sunflower (located on the flatlands of Kansas), Ebright Azimuth (yes, a suburban neighborhood can be the site of a state highpoint), Hawkeye Point (located at the end of a feeding trough on a farm in Iowa), and Lakewood Park (turn right at the restrooms, and stroll a short way along a path in a Florida park).

Of the 50 state highpoints, 14 are drive-ups. You drive right up to the highpoint, or so close to it you could toss a rock and hit it. Probably 8 more are extremely easy, involving a round-trip walk or hike of 30 minutes or less. In fact, only about 9 or 10 of the state highpoints involve more than a hike along a good trail. OK, some of these trails require long hikes that may gain a fair amount of elevation. Still, if you're in good condition, and can walk for many hours, you can manage to check off about 40 state highpoints!

Why do people get into highpointing? It's a great way to see our country. You'll find highpoints in popular resort areas (Mount Mansfield at Stowe in Vermont), National Parks (Clingmans Dome, in Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee), and State Parks (Mauna Kea in Hawaii; Harney Peak in Custer State Park, South Dakota). But many highpoints are well off the beaten path, and will take you to beautiful and interesting parts of the country that you may have otherwise overlooked. Eagle Mountain is in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of Minnesota. Oklahoma's highpoint, Black Mesa, is near the very tip of the panhandle. Taum Sauk Mountain in Missouri is in a beautiful region of the Ozarks. Visit when the autumn leaves are at their peak, climb the nearby Lookout Tower, and prepare to be thrilled.

There are also many interesting things to see and do near the highpoints. Take in a concert by the Boston Symphony Orchestra or Boston Pops at Tanglewood in Massachusetts. Looking for something less cultured? How about the Boll Weevil Monument in Florida? Or the Wisconsin Concrete Park, featuring concrete sculptures of horses, soldiers, and heroes? If food and drink are more to your liking, don't miss a tour of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory in Vermont, Great Adirondack Brewing Company in New York, or stop in at the Hilltop Restaurant in L'Anse, Michigan for the most decadent (and largest) sweet rolls you can imagine.

Happy Highpointing, everyone!

About The Author

Diane Winger is co-author of "Highpoint Adventures ? The Complete Guide to the 50 State Highpoints", and other guidebooks. Visit www.HighpointAdventures.com to learn more about hiking, climbing, and travel adventures in the great outdoors.

Diane Winger © 2004 All Rights Reserved.

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