I had visited Mississippi’s highpoint on July 17th, 2003 and had planned on camping in Vicksburg, Mississippi that night. Though my small tent is waterproof, the campground where I had originally planned on staying was fairly waterlogged and from what I could see, the rain was still coming. I would have been sleeping on a water bed and it just didn’t seem worth paying $10 to be miserable in my tent. Instead, I decided to sleep in my car at a rest area I believed was just a few more miles down the road in Louisiana. Big mistake!
The rest area was just over the Mississippi. I pulled in and tried to get comfortable. The problem wasn’t so much that I couldn’t find a comfortable position in my very small car. It was the humidity; it was horrible. I thought that maybe I could let the air circulate by cracking the windows. When I opened the windows I let in a swarm of mosquitoes; that wasn’t going to work. I had to keep the windows up. The result was a combination of the humidity from my breath with the humidity levels outside and a build up of my body heat. It was like sleeping in a very uncomfortable sauna. I did get a couple of hours of sleep, but when the lightning that had been striking in the distance finally struck the actual rest area, knocking out all of the lights, I had had enough. Checking my route for the next day, I decided to drive the 130 miles or so to the highpoint and see if I couldn’t get away from some of the storm and humidity.
I made the drive and arrived at the parking area of the trailhead at around 3:30 am. I was tired again, so I tried to bed down and sleep a couple more hours until dawn. I did get a bit more sleep but was up at the time the eastern horizon was growing light. I wasn’t much more comfortable, but there wasn’t as much light (from the rest area lights and the lightning) and it wasn’t quite as humid.
I got up at around 5:30 and spent about 30 minutes getting everything ready. I knew that I had about a mile hike to the highpoint. I did put on my headlamp but really didn’t need it. It had grown light enough that I didn’t have any problems. The trail to the highpoint seems fairly unused with quite a bit of overgrowth. Also, I was covered by spider webs by the time I actually made it to the summit. The hike time was about 20 minutes. I didn’t find a USGS marker on the summit, but there was a cairn of rocks, a registry, and a little tribute to Jakk Longacre, one of the founders of the highpointers club. I spent a few minutes snapping pictures, which didn’t turn out all that well in the dim light, but I did my best.
Packing up my camera I headed back down the trail. Twenty minutes later I was back at my car. I did see a pretty sunrise as I neared the trailhead and snapped some pictures of that. Otherwise, it was getting light, I had a long way to drive, and I was feeling pretty crappy from my horrible night’s sleep. I took off my hiking boots, switched them for sandals, and headed out, looking to make it to Mount Magazine in the early afternoon so I could make it to Oklahoma City that night.
I left Cincinnati just after 7:00 am this morning. My only real stop was in Brentwood, TN where I stopped at REI to pick up some supplies. Other than that stop I drove directly to the highpoint.
I did actually have a strange little experience once I hit Iuka, MS. Just as I pulled off of US-72, I noticed a yellow Mustang, fairly new model, pull onto SR-25 right behind me. At first I didn’t think much of it, but when it then followed me for the next three turns, my crazy imagination took over.
Now, I have to admit that I was being something of a bigot here. Knowing that I was in fairly rural Mississippi, I thought that the occupants of the Mustang were probably some young teenagers that were driving around looking for trouble. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want people to think that I think all young people that live in rural areas are just out looking for trouble. I grew up in a very small, fairly rural town and I never went around looking for a fight or to assault people (maybe other kinds of trouble, but never fights – I’m a pacifist). But I had been listening to a book on CD about terrorism and had just recently heard about a couple of highpointers that had been assaulted after climbing a highpoint. These two elements combined in my mind to result in me actually considering the possibility that the occupants of the Mustang had spotted me for some reason and were following me so they could eventually assault and rob me. The Mustang was following me fairly closely and, since I was driving fairly slowly, I was getting more and more worried. However, as I turned onto one of the last roads before arriving at the road to the highpoint, the Mustang seemed to slow at the turn then continue. I dismissed the whole thought at that point with a very small sigh of relief and continued onto the highpoint.
I arrived at the cell tower covered highpoint just a few minutes later. The dirt road leading up to it is passable in a passenger car, but not very easily. The road at present (this could easily change with future grading) was full of ruts likely created by water run off. They were not so deep that the road was impassable, but they did result in some rather fancy maneuvering of my low clearance Honda Civic. I parked in the turnaround and got out to stretch. Just as I was getting ready to snap some pictures I heard a car coming up the road to the highpoint. It was the yellow Mustang! I quickly scanned my surroundings and put my hand in my pocket to grab my car keys in case I needed to make a quick getaway. Then I saw the occupants of the car. Driving was a middle-aged man with a very kind face. In the passenger seat was his wife, also middle-aged, who looked just as friendly. Sitting behind them was what looked like a 12 year old boy. My fanciful imaginings had all just been silly.
When the occupants got out we struck up a conversation. As it turns out they were in the Iuka area for some baseball tournaments. Their son’s team had lost a few days earlier but there was another team from Columbus, MS that was still in the tournament and they were still watching their games. They were very nice and offered some suggestions on places to visit while in Mississippi. We talked for a few minutes. Instead of mugging me they gave me a great impression of Mississippians.
The Winger’s guidebook described this highpoint as the dirtiest and most unkempt they had seen. Maybe I missed the messy parts of the highpoint, but I don’t think so. Apparently, someone has decided to take a little bit of time and clean the place up. Right around the highpoint marker and from what I could see from the marker, the area was fairly clean. I did see what looked like a small fire pit, but even it was fairly well kept. Of course, being nearly completely covered with cell phone towers the highpoint isn’t pristine and doesn’t really have a great view, but it isn’t nearly as bad as was described in the Winger’s book (Kentucky, on the other hand, was disgusting). I didn’t see the remnants of the old highpoint marker sign; all that you can see is the highpoint marker set in concrete. Maybe someone took their advice and actually cleaned it up.
I snapped a bunch of pictures, filmed the panorama, talked with the occupants of the Mustang a bit longer, and headed out, hoping to get to Vicksburg that night.
We spent all of August 9th driving from Bismarck, ND to our campsite near Lutsen, MN on the North Shore of Lake Superior. We had hoped to get a little closer to the trailhead, but the campsite we finally found, Lamb’s Campground, was only about 30 miles away and everything else was booked, so we felt lucky just to find that one. We got one of the last 5 or 6 camping spots, set up our tent and headed a little bit up the road to pick up some drinks, marshmallows, and snacks. We had a lovely evening roasting marshmallows by the fire and playing cards. By 10:00 pm I was exhausted and ready for bed. We hit the sack and were up bright and early the next morning. The last twenty minutes or so before I decided to get up, I could hear the intermittent rain on the tent. It wasn’t heavy rain, just slight drizzles, but it didn’t bode well for our hike.
Around 6:30 I nudged Debi awake and we dressed, broke camp and headed to the trailhead. From our campsite, it was about 30 miles or so to the trailhead and we headed up the trail at around 8:30. The hike is not difficult and the trail is easy to follow for the most part. The guidebook I was using (the Winger’s) recommended sturdy hiking boots and I would definitely concur. The path may be level and easy to follow, but it is also chuck full of rocks. Both Debi and I noticed that our ankles were sore by the time the hike was over. We made it to the close edge of Whale Lake at around 9:30. We paused for a minute to see how much further it was then continued on. As we neared the far side of the lake, we heard voices and I realized that there were some people sitting on some rocks at the far end of the lake. I was a little surprised at first, when I saw them, because I realized that one of them was naked. We were still far enough away that any distinguishing features were blurred, but it was quite apparent to me that I was looking at two women, one of whom was not wearing any clothes. A few minutes later, as we were drawing closer to the far side of the lake, I noticed that the naked woman now had on a purple jacket – she had been naked! (More power to her that she feels she can skinny deep out in the backwoods of Minnesota.)
As we passed, we confirmed the fact that they were two women and it appeared that they were getting their gear ready. We came to the crossroads where the trail splits and you can continue around the lake or head up Eagle Mountain. We headed up toward Eagle Mountain and the trail actually became semi-steep at this point. The going was still not that difficult, but it was measurably harder than the trail had been up to that point. Let me see how best to describe it. Prior to this point, though there were a lot of rocks, the trail was level and we weren’t breathing hard at all. As we climbed this last part of the trail, we started to breath hard, but didn’t have to stop to rest. The trail eventually leveled off and we started to look for the highpoint marker. The trail is a bit deceiving at the top. If you stay on the trail, you will likely continue right over the mountain and down the other side toward the other entry point. Our goal was to find the highpoint, so we were hesitant to continue on.
Knowing that mounds of rocks stacked unnaturally are a common tool of highpointers to mark the way when it might not be discernible (a lesson I learned quite well on Boundary Peak), I did happen to notice the mound of rocks to our right as we reached the highest point following the trail. Thinking this might lead the way, I headed toward the rock mound. Behind the rock mound were two trails, one to the right and one to the left. Not wanting to make Debi hike any more than she had to, I told her to hang out by the rock mound and I would explore the two trails to see if I could find the highpoint marker. I guessed right on my first try and headed down the trail to the right. Another 100 feet or so and I came upon the USGS marker and the plaque that is cemented into the rock on the summit. I called to Debi and she followed me up the path. Following Debra Winger’s lead, I had my Debi pose on top of the rocks as though she were an eagle (no malice intended, perhaps just a little mockery). We snapped a few more pictures but really couldn’t see much because the summit was covered by either high fog or very low clouds. This also made it so that any view points along the trail didn’t really give us much of a vista.
We spent about 10 minutes on the summit then headed down. Just as we reached the trail, we passed the two women that had been ‘sunbathing’? We asked them if they were looking for the highpoint and they said they weren’t. They continued on a little bit to a vista and then told us we should go for a dip in the lake. They said it was like a bathtub and very worth it. I said we would think about it, but secretly was I thinking, “I knew it. She was naked.” Perhaps it is just because I am a man and men tend to fixate on something as simple as naked women, but I did want to confirm that I had seen them naked sitting on those rocks at the end of the lake. Anyway, they didn’t seem to want to talk much, so we parted and headed down the hill toward the lake.
As we approached the lake, Debi thought she might want to go for a swim. More naked women! I was hesitant to do so just because I didn’t want to get all wet and dirty because I knew it would be nearly impossible to get clean again when you get out of a mountain lake. We decided we would stop by the lake and see what the water was like. We headed out onto the same rocks the women were sitting on and noted that the water didn’t look too inviting. It was probably fairly clean, but it didn’t look very inviting with the mud and algae build up and it was no bathtub. The temperature was probably in the 60’s. We did sit on the naked peoples’ rock though for about 15 minutes. Ten minutes into our revelry, a man from Wisconsin, hiking alone, stopped by and we chatted. He didn’t claim highpointer status, but he was definitely into hiking and said he had done several 14’ers in Colorado. He was very nice and we talked for a good 5-10 minutes. He eventually said goodbye and then we decided we should head out.
It had drizzled a little bit on us on the way up, but the path is covered with such dense foliage that we barely felt any of it. My legs and shorts were wetter than my hat because the dense foliage that we pushed through next to the path was wet. Also, all the people who climbed that trail after we did should thank me for breaking up all of the spider webs. I was covered with them by the time we reached the summit. Anyway, we didn’t really want to get caught in heavier rain, so we started out. We passed a few more people on the way and gave most of them some advice on finding the highpoint marker. We also stopped by one of the wooden bridges where the black mud was very noticeable and tried to see how deep it was. I shoved a stick into it more than a foot and a half and the stick disappeared. I had thanked the Forest Service on the way up for building the bridges but thanked them doubly when I saw just how deep that mud was. Be glad the footbridges are there. That mud would suck you under and steal your shoes.
We left the summit at 10:10 and also spent about 15 minutes at the lake. We walked into the parking area around 11:30. This made our total trip time about 3 hours. But if you don’t stop and are hiking fairly fast, you are looking about 2 1/2 hours. We were expecting the mosquitoes and had lathered ourselves in mosquito repellent before leaving the parking area, so we didn’t have much of a problem. Also, with the foliage, we weren’t often exposed to the sun. As we reached the parking area, we met another man that was headed up the trail. He seemed a little nervous and pointed out that he was going to be hiking the trail with two young boys and his wife. We told him all about the hike and answered all of his questions. But, we still felt sorry for him when we heard his wife say, “I don’t care if we make it to the top. When I get tired, we are stopping and eating. Then we are coming back. I didn’t even want to do this hike in the first place.” She was wearing sandals and so were the boys. The man was wearing decent tennis shoes. They were in trouble. I hope they at least had a pleasant hike.
Final words… The hike was very pretty with thick foliage and old growth as well as wild flowers and wild berries (blueberries and raspberries are everywhere). The lake itself is worth the hike; it was gorgeous. It may have been a prettier view if we could have seen a view, but the high fog prevented us from seeing very far. Be sure to take mosquito repellent and very sturdy boots, preferably some with ankle support.
As we made it back to US 61 headed toward Duluth, the rain that we knew was coming finally hit. It hit hard. I hope everyone found shelter or made it out okay, because it was really coming down for a while. We stopped at a Chinese place in Duluth then continued to Mt. Arvon in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
We had climbed Eagle Mountain in Minnesota that morning and knew we were cutting it close to try to fit this one in on the same day. When we arrived in L’Anse, it was still pretty light and we knew we had at least an hour and a half before the sun set. We decided to find the highpoint then grab some food and find a hotel.
The Winger’s directions were very good and about 35 minutes after we drove through L’Anse, we were at the trailhead. We were also lucky that the road to get to the parking area was not muddy so we were able to drive our Ford Escort (a semi-compact car with very minimal clearance) all the way to the parking area. There is a lake/pond right near the parking area that is pretty. From the parking area, it is about 1/3 of a mile hike to the highpoint. The trail was easy to follow, though there was quite a bit of mud. It was also wide enough and clear enough that a number of four wheelers appeared to use it often. It took us about 15 minutes from the trailhead to reach the summit. The summit is in a pretty grove of trees. The owners also appeared to use it as a locale for campfires. There were several benches near it and a large fire pit with a very large pile of firewood and another pile of kindling.
The sun was nearly setting as we reached the summit. There is a light blue sign marking the summit and we snapped some pictures by it. There wasn’t a view from the summit, so we didn’t spend much time on top and we also didn’t want to get caught on these backroads while it was dark. Ten minutes later we were back in the parking area and in our car. The mosquitoes in the area are pretty bad, but otherwise, the hike was a cakewalk. We could see how the road to the parking area could be pretty bad if it has rained a lot, but it was pretty good for us. From where you leave the paved road to the trailhead we measured to be about 11 miles.
We stopped by the Subway in L’Anse and then found a room in a motel just a bit south of the Subway for cheap. We had one more highpoint to do on our trip, Wisconsin’s Timms Hill, before we headed back to Cincinnati.