SC-Sassafrass Mountain

Summit Date
July 27, 2002, around 3:00 pm

Party
Ryan Cragun

Trip Report
This summit was in the middle of nowhere. The closest thing to it was Rocky Bottom, a camp for the blind. Other than that, not much for miles. It also isn’t much of a draw for tourists. I saw one car from when I passed the camp on the way up to when I passed it on the way down. At the parking area, there was no one and nothing, just a sign marking the area. I parked, grabbed the photo equipment and headed up the road.

The road forks as you are approaching the summit. I thought the right branch looked higher, so I followed it. It is actually a small loop, so it doesn’t really matter which one you take, but the summit marker is just past the fork on the left side, not the right. However, I didn’t mind walking the extra hundred feet because I actually crossed back into North Carolina. That is how far the summit is to North Carolina, about 100 feet. I actually snapped a picture of a marker that showed where the state line was. And, just over the state line, there are several noticeable places that are higher than Sassafrass Mountain in South Carolina. Anyway, I walked back around the road and finally found the marker. It isn’t very noticeable because it is just the USGS marker set in concrete. There is no monument or anything, though there are some phone towers just below it and on the opposite side of the road.

There was no one around. No one! I snapped a few pictures, relished the isolation for a few minutes, and headed back down the trail. My car looked peaceful in this abandoned parking area, so I snapped a few pictures of my Honda (best car ever) and hopped in. Off to Mount Mitchell, NC.

Panorama

Directions
Here’s a map from Columbia, SC:

View Larger Map

NC-Mount Mitchell

Summit Date

July 27, 2002, around 5:00 pm

Party

Ryan Cragun

Trip Report

Can you say busy? Touristy? Wow! I haven’t seen this many people near a state high point yet. There must have been anywhere from 300 to 700 people spread out from the parking area to the tower on the summit. I had no idea this place was going to be as busy as it was.

I was coming from Sassafrass Mountain, SC, and the drive in was a little harrowing. The road is pretty high and often follows ridges that drop sharply on either side. If I hadn’t already been awake for 15 hours, I might not have minded, but the caffeine was making me a little jittery and my vision would occasionally skip. I wouldn’t recommend driving this road when you’re tired. It winds all over the place and is barely big enough for two cars, let alone all of the campers and buses that I passed.

Anyway, I finally reached the parking, which, next to Brasstown Bald, was the biggest parking area I had seen for a highpoint. And, in contrast to Brasstown Bald, it was nearly full. There were people everywhere. I passed people biking up and down the road, young kids, older people, you name it, they were on the summit.

I grabbed my photo stuff and headed up. I definitely looked out of place. I looked like a serious hiker when compared with all of the people wearing swimwear and sandals that were up on the tower. I was wearing cargo shorts and hiking boots. I just didn’t fit in. On top of that, I had a tripod. What was I thinking? Anyway, I hiked the two-tenths of a mile to the tower, climbed it and snapped some shots. The place was so busy, it wasn’t a matter of getting a good shot but just finding a place to set up a tripod where it wouldn’t get kicked over.

After snapping some shots from the tower, I dropped down to the sign marking the summit and set up the tripod again. A couple in their early twenties had just snapped some pictures and they seemed to be watching me. I think they were confused by what they saw. They were probably going to offer to take a picture for me, but then they saw that I was using the timer function on my camera (no more remote, it doesn’t work that well) and even commented that I knew what I was doing. I snapped a few more pictures and took off.

I’m not sure this could be considered my least favorite highpoint, Panorama Point has that honor for other reasons. But, this highpoint just didn’t give one a sense of accomplishment. The place looked trampled to death. If there are that many people there every day, I can understand why. The tower was pretty beat up and dirty. The place just didn’t look like it was cared for very well (except the roads, they were nice). Whether or not it is cared for may not be the problem, it may just be that it is overrun with people. Anyway, I would go back to Clingman’s Dome, but I wouldn’t really care to come back to Mount Mitchell. I’m not saying it wasn’t worth it, but it wouldn’t be worth a second visit.

Panorama

Directions

Here’s a map from Charlotte, NC:

MO-Taum Sauk

Summit Date

July 18, 2002, around 12:00 pm

Party

Ryan Cragun

Trip Report

This was an interesting summit. This was my 2nd day on my way home from UT. I had been to Nebraska’s and Kansas’ highpoints the previous day. The directions I had were very good; I drove directly to the summit. On the way to the summit, I passed the entrance road to the Highpoint club, thinking I should stop there on my way back. I stopped by the tower first and climbed it in a very slight drizzle. It was pretty overcast and was drizzling slightly the whole time I was on Taum Sauk. I then drove over to the summit parking area and walked the path to the highpoint rock and marker. I didn’t bother to sign the register because it was ant infested. I took a few pictures and headed out.

Driving down the mountain from the summit, I decided that I should stop by the Highpointer’s Club. I figured that I might not be back here for a long time, so I may as well. I was very hesitant to stop by because I am not a member, even though I am working on visiting all of the state high points. I walked down the drive to Jakk’s house because the road would have been a bit difficult to maneuver in my Honda Civic with its low bottom. I met Jakk and his brother and they invited me in to chat for a few minutes. I sat down and Jakk gave me a certificate of summit completion for Taum Sauk.

missouri certificate

Since I haven’t been involved with the Highpoint club, I wasn’t really aware of who Jakk Longacre is. As we got to talking, he told me that he was the founder of the Highpointer’s Club and was the 7th person to complete all 50 highpoints. He also showed me all of the highpoint guidebooks, definitely something I am going to have to invest in if I’m going to get serious about this. I saw several pictures of him in some of the guidebooks and he informed me that there is mention of him in all of the books.

We talked for a while and he explained why he moved to Missouri and we talked for a bit about his cancer. He really is a guru. His comments and insights were great. I hope he beats the cancer and continues to support those that are following in his footsteps. He gave me an Apex and Zenith Highpointer’s Club newsletter that was sent to him to give me an idea of what is in the newsletter. What a wonderful guy! Taum Sauk was great, despite the rain.

Panorama

A slightly different panorama from a nearby tower:

Directions

Here is a map to Taum Sauk from St. Louis:

KS-Mount Sunflower

Summit Date

July 17, 2002, around 5:30 pm

Party

Ryan Cragun

Trip Report

I made it to this highpoint after Nebraska’s Panorama Point. My map program had given me a couple of routes to get there, but I ended up taking another one altogether. That route is illustrated below. Unlike Nebraska’s high point, this highpoint is well marked with signs along the route. It is also hard to miss the giant sunflower sculpture in the middle of a barely noticeable hill. The marker is in the middle of a field and one can drive right up to the highpoint. Even though I was still a bit upset about my horrible experience in Nebraska, I took the time to film a groundhog playing near the monument. The view is pretty nice, though you can’t really see forever because everything is so flat. I visited Missouri’s highpoint, Taum Sauk, the next day.

Panorama

Directions

NE-Panorama Point

Summit Date

July 17, 2002, around 12:00 pm

Party

Ryan Cragun

Trip Report

This highpoint will forever be infamous to me. On my way to UT, July 12, 2002, I was hoping to reach Panorama Point. I had already been to Hawkeye Point and Charles Mound that day and was hoping to make this my third. However, I arrived just after sundown and after 20 minutes of searching could find no sign or trace of the highpoint. As it was dark and my directions were not very good, I decided to continue on to Utah and try the highpoint again on my way back.

Returning through Wyoming on July 17, 2002, I again attempted the Nebraska highpoint. This time I arrived at Pine Bluffs, WY around 10:00 am. I had plenty of time. I was using directions from my map program (Microsoft’s Streets and Trips). As can be seen in the maps below, the highpoint on the map program isn’t really where the highpoint is. I found the highpoint denoted by the program, but there wasn’t anything to mark it. I have pictures of the wrong panorama point below. It’s a rock pile at the top of a rise. Having been to several highpoints and having looked up Panorama Point on the web, I knew there was supposed to be a marker, so I wasn’t convinced that I had been to it. I didn’t know where else to look. Finally, I realized that according to the information on the web, the highpoint was only 1 mile from the tri-state marker. Since I couldn’t find the highpoint, I decided I would look for the tri-state marker. I eventually found it, nearly 1 hour after I had arrived in Pine Bluffs. From there I could see some markers in the distance on a hill in what looked to be Nebraska. Even though I knew I wasn’t supposed to hike from one to the other, I was so sick of trying to find the highpoint that I decided to hike it. Twenty minutes later I was standing at the highpoint.

nebraska - wrong high point

nebraska - wrong high point 2

Having finally found it, I also realized where it should have been on the map. The correct location and directions are given below. The view from Panorama Point is pretty good. It is also surrounded by a herd of buffalo, with no fences separating them from the monument. Though my experience wasn’t the best in trying to find the place, it was good to finally say I had been there.

Panorama

Directions

Here’s a map from Pine Bluffs, WY: