July 12, 2002 – Around 6:00 am
I had already been to two state high points on July 11, 2001, Ohio and Indiana, and was hoping to make Illinois my third. I got a later start than I would have liked from Cincinnati. If I had left home earlier, I would have been able to do all three. But I arrived at Scales Mound, Illinois just after midnight. I had been driving for hours, was very tired, and couldn’t really see anything in the dark. So I pulled up into what appeared to be a gated farm entry road and decided to sleep until first light. I slept for about 5 hours until it was just starting to get light.
I was on Charles Mound Rd. but didn’t know where the entrance gate was. I went back to the beginning of the road and drove for 1.3 miles, knowing that the entrance was supposed to be at that point. Surprise surprise, the little gated entrance where I had slept was right at the 1.3 mile point. The gate was completely unmarked. Another 40 feet down the road was an entrance to another farm. I knew that the owners of the Charles Mound lived near the mound, so I decided that it must be the second entrance. I pulled into the lane and parked right away, remembering that I wasn’t supposed to pull up toward the house at the request of the owners. I hopped out with my camera and tripod and headed up the lane. It was just after 5:00 am and no one was up. I figured there would probably be signs at some point, so I hiked all the way up to the house. Nothing. No signs. Now what? At this point I could see two hills to the north of the farm home, each with a barn near them; one to the east, one to the west. I remembered reading somewhere that the mound was behind a barn, so I headed up toward the barns. I looked for a path thinking the whole time that it was ridiculous that there wasn’t a path to the highest point in Illinois. I hiked through three fields, hopped a couple of fences and was heading for the barn to the east. I finally got to another fence and realized that the barn to the east wasn’t as high as the hill behind the barn to the west. I changed my direction and headed for the other barn and hill. As I passed the barn, I saw something that made me slap myself…a road. A nicely groomed road. A beautiful road. I’m an idiot. This is a state high point. There has to be a path. People visit this everyday. What was I thinking?
I was now at the road. I was an idiot, but after nearly an hour of hiking through fields, it was good to see a path. I followed the path another couple hundred feet and voila, there was the high point. It was good to see but at an annoying cost. The high point was very nicely groomed, the grass was mown and there were even a couple of lawn chairs set up to look out over the surrounding area. I had hoped to make it in time for the sunrise but just missed it. I snapped a few pictures and noted that the Wuebbels (the property owners) actually live right on top of the mound, just a bit further down the road to the west.
As I headed back out, I was getting worried that the property owners where I had parked my car would be awake and wondering where the owner of this car was. I headed down the road. Once I got to the barn, I saw several signs telling high pointers where to park. I’m assuming this was prior to the current instructions that want people to park at the gate. I followed the road, which forked (I don’t know where the other side comes out; I would have taken the time to find out, but I was worried about my car). Happily, the fork I took was heading in the direction that my car was parked, which was south of the hill. As I was rounding the last corner before the long, straight stretch to Charles Mound Rd., I realized where I was going to come out – the small gated entrance where I had spent the night.
I’m a double idiot! Not only did I miss the entrance the second time I looked for it, but the first time, unknowingly, I had found it and even spent the night there but went out of my way to convince myself that it wasn’t the entrance. I hopped back into my car; the car was unharmed and the neighbors hadn’t said anything. Off to Iowa’s Hawkeye Point.