This was our second highpoint of the day. We left Cincinnati at 3:45 am and visited Spruce Knob, WV just earlier. We planned on visiting Pennsylvania’s Mount Davis after this one. The trailhead (which is the beginning of an old logging road) is marked, but it helps to have pretty good directions. What actually helped me see it was an ‘Adopt-A-Highway’ sign on the side of the road that said something like Friends of the Maryland Highpoint – Backbone Mountain. I’m assuming there is a sign to the north on 219 that says the same thing, but the trailhead is right where the sign on the south end of the cleanup stretch stands. On the back of the sign (north side) someone has spray painted ‘MD’ and ‘HP’. I snapped some pictures of that. There is also a sign in the trees, but it is pretty small and difficult to make out. So, be sure to have good directions to follow and if you know where to look, you should be able to find it.
Our directions told us to park our car on the berm of the road. We decided to pull about 40 yards up the logging road so our car would be somewhat hidden from view and not right on the side of the road. It was out of the way of any potential traffic on the logging road, but safe from the traffic on 219. Our directions also told us to plan on about 1 to 1 1/2 hours to climb the mountain. The directions were very helpful (see ‘Highpoint Adventures’ by the Wingers). The trail is marked from the bottom with the letters ‘HP’ spray painted on trees every few hundred yards. The spray paint is a little old and difficult to make out at times because it is fading, but you just have to keep your eyes open. The hike is pretty much a constant incline going up at a decent angle. It levels out near the top, but from where it levels out it is only about 200 yards to the summit. It took us about 20 minutes to get to the level portion and another couple to make it to the highpoint marker. There is a view to the northeast of the summit looking toward Maryland. The rest of the summit is surrounded by trees.
We did pass one person on our way up. He was coming down. He was the only other person we saw on the mountain. There are some picnic tables at the top and a mailbox with a notebook/logbook in it. We signed the log and snapped a bunch of pictures. Though the hike isn’t long, it is pretty much a continuous incline, so we stopped for about 10 minutes on the top and enjoyed the view and the sense of accomplishment – another one down and another state conquered and enjoyed.
The descent took about 15 minutes. As I have in other trip reports where the terrain is rocky, I would recommend here that you wear good, sturdy boots. The trail isn’t that bad, but it is pretty rocky at points. Also, be prepared for a good 20 to 30 minutes of hard hiking. The going isn’t difficult, but it is a constant incline from the trailhead to the top. The view at the top isn’t amazing, but it is nice. You can see for quite far but you can also see two smoke belching towers in the distance. Not that smoke belching towers are a bad thing, but it isn’t like West Virginia where the only signs of humanity you can see are the roads you came in on. Anyway, from there we headed on to Pennsylvania’s Mount Davis. Total trip time was about 50 minutes.
(Side note: A little north of Backbone Mountain’s trailhead on 219 there is what is claimed to be the smallest church in the 48 states. We snapped some pictures of it. Kind of interesting to see if you have the time. It’s a Catholic church and there is a post office next to it as well, also supposed to be the smallest mailing office in the U.S.)
Party Ryan Cragun, Debi Cragun, Danny Stanley, Christy Stanley
Trip Report Our wonderful friends, Danny & Christy Stanley, invited us to southwestern Virginia to spend Labor Day weekend with Danny’s parents, Sharon and Frank Stanley in Draper, VA. As part of the weekend that the Stanley’s had planned for us we were scheduled to go to Grayson Highlands State Park for a picnic. Danny, knowing of my highpointing interest, also noted that it might be possible to visit Mt. Rogers while in the State Park. Of course, being that close to the state highpoint, I subtly suggested that I would be excited to do that. It took a little convincing to get our spouses, Debi and Christy, to agree to go with us, but it was finally decided that we would hike Mt. Rogers on Labor Day. Frank and Sharon, incredible hosts that they are and showing intoxicatingly sweet southern hospitality, agreed to set up a picnic and take care of the grandchildren while we hiked the four hours that it would take to get to the top and back down.
So, with everything agreed upon, we headed to the State Park. We arrived at the picnic area around 11:30 pm and set some of the picnicking stuff up then Frank took us to the trailhead. We left Massie Gap at 12:15. I was the youngest of the group at 25, but the oldest only has 3 years on me. Being young, deluded, and full of energy, we made quick work of the first hill and were still going strong when we passed two women coming down the trail; one fully pregnant and the other pushing a stroller. We couldn’t help but ask if they had made it to the top, knowing that this would boost everyone’s confidence. Much to the wives’ chagrin they had only gone about 200 feet further up from where we met them before they had turned around.
However, we were not really worried about the difficulty because of the description in the guide book I was using. We crossed the first stile and followed the trail to the right so as to avoid the first summit. Eventually this trail led us toward a second summit, but was following a path around it when we decided it was likely just going to cut back and make its way up the hill anyway, so we hopped off the trail and made our way up some rocks to the top. When we got up there, we ran into some people, including a man who had been married for 50 years who had to have been in his seventies. He pointed out Mt. Rogers to us and Rhododendron Gap. We also realized that we weren’t at the gap and the trail that we had been on bypassed this summit altogether. We spent a few minutes talking then wound our way down the rocks (snapping a few pictures along the way) and caught the Appalachian Trail again, following it up to Rhododendron Gap this time. On top of the Gap we snapped a few more pictures, knowing this would likely be the best place for views, then dropped off the Gap headed toward Mt. Rogers.
We came upon a crossroads just below Rhododendron Gap. One branch was the horse route down to Massie Gap, continuing straight would lead us along the Crest Trail. There was no obvious turn off toward Mt. Rogers. We did see some of the wild ponies in the area so we went to look at them before continuing on the trail. We didn’t see a way toward Mt. Rogers so we continued straight.
Somehow we missed the turn off toward Mt. Rogers and were headed along the Crest Trail when we saw some people up on the summit that we knew was between us and Mt. Rogers. We knew we had to go that way, but we didn’t see the path that went up there. We did know that we had to cross several fences before we made it to the Thomas Knob Shelter, but we didn’t see the stile up ahead and decided just to work our way toward the summit that we knew was in the direction we were supposed to go. This shortcut turned mistake was the second that made our hike longer. Just after we found the trail we saw the stile that we knew we were supposed to use to cross the fence and realized we were finally on the right trail.
A few minutes later we came upon the Thomas Knob Shelter and stopped there to grab a quick drink. From the Shelter it was only another 20 minutes to the top. Though there is no notable view from the top, the last 10 minutes or so of hiking before you reach the summit are through very dense and humid forest. I found the forest to be very beautiful. There was no real undergrowth and the trees blocked most of the light. Moss covered everything below the canopy above. So you are aware, the highpoint really does not have a view and there is nothing to mark the highpoint except the USGS marker that is set in a large boulder in a very small clearing. The trail comes to a point (it isn’t a noticeably high point or peak) where it is difficult to determine whether it goes on and if so, where it branches. Stop there and look at the rocks to your left. Up on top of them you should be able to find the USGS marker. We arrived at the summit at 2:30.
We spent a few minutes on the summit snapping pictures and talking with some of the people that had summitted with us. There was another highpointer that arrived just after we did. I didn’t get his name, but he had done 16 highpoints in the previous 4 weeks.
We left the highpoint at 2:40. We still didn’t see where the trail went between Rhododendron Gap and the summit that lies between the Gap and Mt. Rogers. So, we dropped off the trail to the crossroads and took the horse trail down to where it reconnected with the Appalachian Trail. The horse trail smelled like horse dung (should have expected that) and was very muddy and rocky, but I think it saved us some time and definitely saved us some ascending and descending. The rest of the descent was fairly uneventful, though we all began noticing that our ankles were hurting. A word of advice, the trail can be very rocky at points. I would recommend some fairly sturdy hiking boots, ideally with ankle support.
Frank was supposed to meet us at the trailhead at 4:30, allowing us 4 hours for the entire trip. We dropped into Massie Gap at 4:10, making our trip time about 4 hours. Luckily, Frank decided he would come a little early in case we came out early and was already there when we arrived.
Final thoughts… Debi and I, the true city folks of the group, failed once again to put sunscreen on and cooked. Danny and Christy could dance naked in Hawaii for a week and wouldn’t burn. It was overcast most of the day, but we still fried. Take sunscreen because you will be hiking in the sun most of the time. Also, wear sturdy boots. There are trails all over the area headed toward Mt. Rogers. I don’t know that you can really go that wrong if you follow the signs, but just be aware that for every leg of the trip, there is at least one alternate route there (except for the last little leg from the Thomas Knob Shelter to the summit). The view from Rhododendron Gap wasn’t actually as good as the view from the summit just before it on the hike, but the view from there is very nice. The mountain ash (trees with lots of red berries) are all over up there. I had never seen them before, but they are pretty cool. The hike is nice, but long, plan on about 3-5 hours, depending upon your hiking speed and time spent dawdling. And, believe it or not, our wives only wanted us to carry them at the very end (actually they kicked butt)!
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.