Trip Report This was a very pretty highpoint. We spent the night in L’Anse Michigan after having done Mt. Arvon and Eagle Mountain the previous day. It took us between two and three hours to drive to Timm’s Hill from where we spent the night. The drive into the highpoint is very pretty with very dense foliage and very green undergrowth. When we pulled up into the parking area, which would be ideal for a picnic, there were a couple of other cars there. It may also be fun to stay at the Swiss-looking hotel across the lake; it looked very nice.
The hike to the summit is only about 300 yards and only took us about 5 minutes. We passed a few people on the way and quickly arrived at the top. It claims to be wheelchair accessible, but I’m not exactly sure how that would work since the path is loose gravel and not paved. Perhaps you could take the access road up to the summit, but it doesn’t start from the same place that the trailhead starts.
Anyway, on top of the summit are two towers. We snapped some shots of the two towers then climbed the wooden tower and spent a few minutes looking around and taking pictures. The trees surrounding the towers are now just about at the height of the wooden tower, so we weren’t able to look over all of the trees, or rather, our view was blocked by some of the trees. But, what we could see was very beautiful. We didn’t spend too long on top, perhaps 10 minutes or so, and then walked back down to the car.
There is a place to give donations at the trailhead by the information sign and it seemed that the summit is used for cross country skiing during the winter because there were a lot of signs about that surrounding the area. We still had over 600 miles to drive that day to get back to Cincinnati so Debi could go to work the next day. Off we went. We got home around 2:30 Monday morning. The two hours of traffic backups just north of the Illinois border didn’t help; apparently there were a lot of people out of town this weekend and everyone was trying to get back to Chicago to get to work the next day.
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.
Trip Report “This was the most beautiful highpoint I have seen.” -Debi Cragun.
This was Debi’s first highpoint. We left Utah on August 7th at around 6:00 am. We had originally hoped to leave earlier so we could do Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney’s Peak) on the 7th, but ran into some problems on the way. As we were headed into Casper Wyoming, the brakes on our Ford Escort (my wife’s car from before we were married – I have to justify owning a Ford) were squealing. Knowing we still had about 2200 miles left to travel, we thought it might be a good idea to stop and at least have the brakes looked at. Two hundred dollars and 3 1/2 hours later, we had new front brakes and rotors and no more squealing when we braked. This pushed us even further back than we had planned.
As we headed out from Casper toward the South Dakota state line, it started to rain. What’s a little rain? Well, not much when it is just a little rain. But this wasn’t really just a little rain. Twenty minutes into the rainfall, the lightning that had been striking all around us decided it was time to give us a good scare. Striking no more than 100 feet away from the road to our left side, our car was lit up like a searchlight had just hit us and the powerful boom nearly knocked me right off the road. This should have been enough to encourage us to stop, but we continued on. The rain became harder and denser until we eventually had to stop for about 5 minutes to let the worst of it pass so we could at least see as we drove. We eventually forced our way through the storm, all the while noticing an inordinate number of bikers on the side of the road either putting on or taking off rain gear.
Once we made it through the first storm, we noticed another storm to our south and one to our north. We thought we might drive between them, and we did, though we skirted the north side of the southern storm that also had lightning striking all around us and then drove north just in front of the northern storm and watched it pass behind us. At this point, we knew we weren’t going to hike Black Elk Peak that night, so it was just a matter of finding a place to stay and getting something to eat. Hot Springs, South Dakota was advertising a large number of hotels and places to eat, so we drove there and did find a nice Mexican Place, but all of the hotels were completely full. We brought camping equipment but were a little afraid of the storms that were brewing and were hesitant to set up our meager tent knowing the fortitude of the storms that were advancing. Nothing was available in Hot Springs and by this time we were becoming quite aware of the fact that there were more bikers in South Dakota than there are mosquitoes. They were everywhere. As we found out later, there was a biker rally going on in Sturgis, about 70 miles to the north, and somewhere between 500,000 and 700,000 bikers were slowly converging on that spot. They had taken every hotel/motel room and campground for miles.
When we couldn’t find a hotel in Hot Springs, we headed north to Custer. Same story. Realizing we weren’t going to find a free hotel room, we decided to try our luck camping near the trailhead for Black Elk Peak at the Sylvan Lake Campground. We drove up that way, but it was nearly 11:00 pm by that time and all of the campsites were taken. Not wanting to backtrack, we pulled into the Sylvan Lake store’s parking lot and slept in the car until about 5:00 am. Perhaps that should be restated; Debi slept until 5:00 am and I rolled around in the car, uncomfortable and semi-conscious for most of the night. Not wanting to feel the guilt that would come with not paying the park entrance fee, we backtracked to the Ranger’s station and paid the $12.00 fee for one car and drove into the trailhead parking for Black Elk Peak.
We started hiking around 6:30 and made it to the summit at 8:00. The hike was beautiful. Debi is a rock buff and was amazed at the amount of mica mixed in with the gravel of the trail. We stopped a couple of times at some scenic look out points and snapped pictures and one other time to put on sunscreen (since I was still feeling the consequences of not putting it on when I climbed Boundary Peak). The trail is well-marked and the summit is a constructed trail of rocks cemented into stairs and an old fire watch tower. The tower was built in 1939 and is multi-storied. We spent about half an hour on the summit, snapping pictures and enjoying the view. The view from the summit is superb. The hike was not too difficult, with only a few points where you have to maneuver over or through rocks. We had not seen anyone else on the trail.
We headed down around 8:30 and saw the first people we had seen on the trail just below the summit. The going down was easier than coming up, but hiking up wasn’t even that difficult. When we were about half way down the trail, we ran into several other groups, perhaps twenty people in all. It was nice to have the summit to ourselves. By 9:15 we were back to the trailhead. We stopped at Mt. Rushmore, a definite must see if you haven’t been there, before heading on to White Butte, North Dakota.
Final thoughts: This was one of the three most beautiful highpoints I have done, the others being Clingman’s Dome in Tennessee and King’s Peak in Utah.
Here’s another view from inside the tower on the highpoint:
We had climbed Harney Peak, South Dakota earlier in the day and also visited Mt. Rushmore. We took a couple of wrong turns on our way north and had lost about 30 minutes of time in so doing. Not that 30 minutes should be a big deal, but, as you will see, it would have been much better for us had we arrived 30 minutes earlier.
We had bypassed a couple of opportunities to get gas before hitting North Dakota, and by the time we arrived in Bowman, ND, our gas light had been on in the Ford for 30 miles and we were looking for gas anywhere we could find it. As we headed into Bowman, there was a very small, gas station/service station on the southern side of 85. We stopped because we didn’t know if there was going to be another gas station and we were pretty desperate. The Ford requires at least a mid-grade gasoline (87 octane or higher), so I pulled out the hose for the Premium gasoline pump – an archaic pump setup in itself, and tried to ‘fill her up’. Nothing happened. I pushed the lever back and forth a few times to get the pump to reset and pump, but nothing happened for a couple of minutes. Just as I was getting ready to either leave or go ask the attendants what they were doing, the pump reset and started pumping. In retrospect, I believe one of a couple things happened. Either no one ever bought Premium grade gasoline in Bowman so they just decided to fill it up with regular unleaded gasoline, or, because no one in Bowman ever bought Premium grade gasoline, the gasoline was no longer mixed and I got some part or another of the gas. I say this because 20 miles later, just as we were turning onto the dirt roads to head toward White Butte, the ‘Service Engine Soon’ light on the dashboard came on. Having experienced something similar in my Honda a few months ago, I was figuring that the gas cap was not tight or the gas was bad. We checked the car’s maintenance book and, sure enough, it suggested that the possible problem was bad gas. Those bastards! Anyway, we figured that was probably what was wrong, so we just kept driving, knowing we would have to run the gas out and get some good gas to fix the problem.
We drove straight to the bright green colored house of the owners of White Butte and saw a car from Maryland sitting in front of the house. There were some people visiting the highpointing from Maryland and as I opened my door, a white, shaggy dog tried to jump into our car. Scooting him out, I got out of the car. We wanted to be considerate of their request to ask permission, so I walked up to the door and was nearly bowled over by the smell of cigarette smoke. The woman that came to the door was nice enough though. I pulled out a twenty and handed it over, knowing they wanted a $20 donation to visit the highpoint. I probably shouldn’t say this, but seeing that the highpoint wasn’t necessarily ‘kept up’, I couldn’t help but think that my twenty dollars were going to support their vice; so be it. My wife also joked that perhaps we should invest in a highpoint and charge an arm and a leg to let people hike to it. She also pointed out after we had hiked the hill that we spent more money to hike to that highpoint than we had on food during the last two days; it was also more than the entrance fees to Harney Peak and Mt. Rushmore combined. Anyway, I don’t think I should complain, but it just didn’t feel right to buy a highpoint like that.
After forking over our money, we took the Ford down a narrow, overgrown road to a knoll where it appeared lots of people stopped. To our west, we could see the skies darkening and occasionally we could feel small drops of rain. Knowing the force of the storms that had been blowing through lately, we knew we didn’t have much time, but we were here and I didn’t necessarily want to come back. It’s supposed to be about two miles round trip and to take about 1-2 hours to hike the highpoint. We headed out and followed the narrow, meandering trails. The first hill is pretty steep and was a bit slick. Debi had a hard time of it in her tennis shoes. About 20 minutes after we left the car, we were climbing up the summit.
The wind was picking up and the dark clouds were getting closer. We snapped a quick few pictures and I tried to hurry Debi as she signed the register. I knew the storm was coming in and we could see lightning striking in the distance. I did not want to be up there when it reached us. No sooner had I thought this than the wind came. We had just started heading east down the summit when the fiercest winds we have ever experienced slammed into us. We were leaning so hard to our left, that it was nearly impossible to keep our footing. Our clothing was whipping around us and we could barely make any head way. We were very exposed on this face and I knew the storm was coming in. We had to get off the ridge or we were going to be in serious trouble. I yelled to Debi that we needed to hurry, but the wind got even worse. It was all I could do to breath and try to hurry down the trail and keep my footing. Debi, much lighter than I am and not used to hiking, was having an even harder time than I was. I finally grabbed her hand and was screaming to her that we needed to get off the ridge. I tried hurrying down even faster and she eventually fell. The wind was so loud I couldn’t even hear her scream as she fell to the side of the trail. She wasn’t hurt too bad, but things were getting very shitty very fast. Pulling her up, we pushed on and scrambled off the ridge as quick as possible. The wind wasn’t quite as strong as we dropped to the east side of the ridge and we could go faster. We jogged for a bit until we made it to the last drop to the level ground and the straight run to the car. At this point, the wind wasn’t blocked by the hills anymore and gusts started slamming into us again. One came in so hard it knocked Debi right over. We scrambled down this last bit and jogged to the car as the rain started to come down. It was whipping at us like bullets and the wind was enough to nearly rip our clothes off. I couldn’t keep my hat on my head and was running with it in my hand.
Fifteen minutes after we had reached the summit, we were safely back in our car, terrified. Debi’s knees were skinned a bit and our nerves were rattled, but otherwise we were safe. As we were struggling to get off the ridge, we had thought about the people from Maryland that were supposed to be up there as well. We hadn’t seen them on the way up nor on the way in, but we knew that there car had still been at the owner’s home when we headed up this way. I wasn’t about to go searching for them until we knew that they were stuck up there somewhere. We decided to look for their car at the owner’s home and if it was there, to go looking for them. Rattled and worried, we headed away from the highpoint back toward the owner’s home. As we passed, we saw that the car from Maryland was gone. Relieved of that worry, we headed out.
By the time we made it back to 85, we were cursing North Dakota. I think I said at this point that unless our hotel experience in Bismarck was better, we were never coming back to North Dakota and we would curse it forever. We also considered that had we been wanting a horrifying experience, the $20 entry fee for a fright hike was better than any ‘scary ride’ or ‘haunted house’ than any I had ever experienced.
The ‘Service Engine Soon’ light eventually went off, Debi’s knee was okay, and we had on okay experience at the hotel in Bismarck, even though we had to pass through another thunderstorm on the way and another hit just as we got to the hotel. Our window leaked for a little while in the hotel, but we got a free breakfast out of it and had a comfortable bed, a warm shower, and got to spend some time together (if you get my drift), helping us overcome our overly negative feelings toward North Dakota.
My experience on King’s Peak was a bit scary, but this was downright terrifying. Perhaps it was the fact that my wife was with me this time and I was afraid for her life as well, or perhaps it was the winds that were gusting (as we found out on the news later) over 60 m.p.h., whatever it was, this peak was one of the scariest experiences of my life. The view from the top was actually not that bad. Just a bit of a warning; if the skies look even remotely dark when you are headed that way, you may want to avoid this peak and try it some other time.