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.
As I experience more highpoints, I am realizing (though it may seem quite obvious) that the summits that require more exertion also receive much longer trip reports. So is the case with Boundary Peak.
I climbed this peak with Tom Triplett and Mark Woolley as part of our 1 per year goal to climb one peak per year together to help maintain our relationship as we leave home and explore the world. Since our last hike, King’s Peak, both Tom and Mark have married and Tom has a son, Tate. We had originally thought to climb Gannet Peak in Wyoming, but as we learned more about it, we realized that we are just not ready for a hike of that intensity. Instead, we decided to climb Boundary Peak in Nevada. As it turned out, I was going to be coming to Utah to drive my wife home from her 6-week internship at the beginning of August, so we planned the hike for the time that I would be in Utah. We originally thought about climbing Mount Whitney during the same trip, but because of time constraints and the realization that invariably, after hikes like these, we are exhausted and sore for a couple of days, we thought better of that as well. We would just do Boundary Peak.
We left the Salt Lake area around 10:00 am on Saturday, August 3 in Mark’s Nissan Sentra. About 2 hours later, we stopped in Wendover for lunch at the Peppermill casino (inexpensive buffets are groovy). A couple hours later we passed through Ely and then continued on to Tonopah. The conversation was lively because of some of the changes that have taken place in our lives, and that made the time pass quickly. Tonopah, NV was the last relatively large town that we passed through before leaving major roads and entering the dirt roads that would take us to the trailhead.
It was on the entrance road that we first encountered events that would change the entire trip. About 5 miles into the entrance road, some rocks bouncing up underneath the car knocked a connection to the muffler on Mark’s car loose. Though Mark claimed that he knew he was going to have to get a new muffler soon anyway, the timing was inopportune. We still had another 10 miles to the trailhead and had a pipe that is supposed to be connected to the muffler hanging down about 6 inches lower than it should have been. And, the road was just getting narrower and rougher. The last four miles of the entrance road were pretty rough. At several points Tom and I got out of the car to help guide Mark and to raise the clearance. Miraculously, we made it to the trailhead, but at the expense of Mark’s muffler, his paint job, and possibly even his clutch.
When we arrived at the trailhead, there wasn’t anyone there. It was about 6:00 pm. Interestingly, there was a green minivan about 300 feet below the trailhead with a scantily clad couple in it. Perhaps we were jealous because we had all left our wives in Utah, but we couldn’t help but wonder what the couple might be doing.
Anyway, Mark was concerned about his car, reasonably so, because by the time we made it to the trailhead, the pipe that was hanging down was even lower. We needed some wire or something that wouldn’t melt or burn to tie it up so we could at least make it back out and possibly home without dragging Mark’s exhaust pipes. We had innumerable nylon straps and ropes, but we didn’t have anything along the lines of metal wire. Not 30 minutes after we arrived at the trailhead, a family of highpointers (The McBride’s – Dan, Kate, Ian, Molly, & Erin) came down the trail. They had climbed Boundary Peak in about 11 hours round trip time and were tired. Even though we had some decent directions and ok maps, we wanted to get first hand experiential wisdom from someone that had just climbed the summit. We engaged them in conversation and they were more than willing to engage us back. We ended up talking at the trailhead for a good 20 minutes. They are from Rochester, NY. As a family, they have completed 42 highpoints, except the youngest, who is three behind at 39. They have been highpointing for 7 years. They had rented a van for their highpointing trip and because of the difficulty of the entrance road, they ended up camping about a mile from the trailhead so as not to damage their vehicle. We would have gladly driven them to their camp, but Tom and I had walked nearly the last 1/2 mile to the trailhead so as not to drag the exhaust pipe on the road. We told them so and then asked if they might have wire or a hangar so we could tie it up. They said they did and we offered to take their packs down to their camp and walk with them if we could get the hangar so we could tie up the pipe. Only the older daughter handed over her pack, but we did walk to their camp with them and enjoyed the conversation. They are quite experienced highpointers and are highpointer club members. I talked with the mother the entire time and Mark and Tom walked with the others. They even gave us cookies at their camp (as if we had done something to deserve it, they were the ones helping us), we exchanged contact info and said goodbye. If the McBride’s ever read this, thank you for your information about the hike, your conversation, your hospitality, and your hanger, you’ll never know how much it helped.
When we got back to the trailhead, Tom and I set up the camp and gathered some firewood while Mark tied up the exhaust pipe on his car. When everything was done, we sat around the campfire for a while and chatted before going to bed around 11:00 pm. We thought it might get pretty hot during the day so we planned to leave while it was still dark, around 5:00 am.
We left our camp while it was still dark, though the sky was getting lighter and headed out. There are some cows that linger near the trailhead and we ran into them. With a little noise, the cows left and left us alone. We hiked through the foliage for about an hour before leaving the denser foliage and finding ourselves at the base of the scree mountains that must inevitably be climbed to summit. We knew there were several routes up the mountain, but decided not to make the decision as to which route to take until we were actually faced with the decision and knew what we were really facing. We stopped for a few minutes at the base of the wash and the top of the foliage and contemplated the climb. As we understood it, we had two options that were commonly used. We could continue kind of west or to the right and work our way up to the saddle. Or we could turn to the south or left and climb the face. As we thought about it, we realized that climbing the face would be an experiment in futility and frustration. The face is pure scree and we would be taking one step backward for every two steps forward. Also, it wasn’t too steep at the base, but once you got close to the northeast ridge (which blocks the view of the actual summit and looks like it might be the summit), the slope is incredibly steep. Though it is likely the most direct route, it is by no means the easiest. If we were to stay to the right and work our way up the saddle then follow the ridge up to the summit, it might be easier, but it is going to be longer than the more direct route.
We didn’t like the options, so we opted for our own. Between the right and left routes is a ridge that leads to a peak that, from the east of Boundary Peak, looks to be just to the right of Boundary Peak and a bit lower in elevation. Nearly 2/3 of the ridge is covered with foliage and large rocks, meaning we wouldn’t be hiking through scree. The slope is pretty steep, but we would be making progress, not sliding down as we try to climb up. Just where the foliage ends is a knoll that we thought would give us a reasonably clear perspective of whether or not we should continue all the way up the ridge or from the knoll cut across, skirting the lower summit and working our way to the ridge that leads up to the northeast ridge and eventually to the summit. This route wouldn’t be quite as long as the saddle route to the right or north, but it would be a bit more difficult. At the same time, it wouldn’t be as short as the direct ascent of the face, but it wouldn’t be even remotely as difficult as a direct ascent on the face.
We thought our idea was a good one, so we headed up the ridge. About an hour later, we made it to the knoll. This was probably 2 1/2 hours to 3 hours into our hike. From the knoll we could see a low point in the ridge, leading up to the northeast ridge. If we climbed across the scree and angled up, it would be difficult, but we wouldn’t have to climb the lower summit and would actually make the ridge at the point that would mean we would have to do the least amount of climbing. The cut across from the knoll to the ridge took about another hour and the effects of the elevation were really wearing on us, but it was probably the hardest part of our climb the entire time.
While we were cutting across the scree, we first heard and then saw 2 of the 3 other people we would meet on the trail to Boundary Peak. We ran into them again later, but at this point, we were astonished to see them trying to climb the route up the face. One of them was making incredible time and actually seemed like he was going to beat us up to the northeast ridge. He was like a madman climbing that hill. Further up the ridge, we were within calling distance of each other and he finally could see us. He was realizing at this point that he was on a bad route and was getting very tired. He asked us if it would be easier to cut across from where he was and hike up the ridge like we were doing. We told him that it wasn’t scree where we were and that it should be much easier going. He and his companion eventually crossed over and climbed the ridge. The trail that he was following leads from the washout all the way up to just left or south of the northeast ridge which hides the summit. We realized later what that trail was really there, for going down, not up. (I’ll talk more about it later, but this is a very important point.)
Once we made it to the ridge, we could see the trail that comes up from the saddle to the north. The route also bypasses the summit that we had bypassed, but we had cut across on the east side instead of the west side. From there, we followed the ridge and trail that is often marked by little piles of rocks up to the northeast ridge and from there to the summit. From where we joined the ridge trail to the summit took us another couple of hours. Our total summit time was about 6 hours.
We spent nearly an hour on the summit. We shared some fruit, took a bunch of pictures, and even laid down for a few minutes and took a brief nap. The view was great. There is a box with a bunch of letters and a make shift register on top. The USGS marker is also cemented into the summit. Someone took the initiative to carry some pornographic pictures to the top. Why this gives them a thrill, I don’t know that anyone will ever know, but my belief is that highpoints should be as pristine as possible; whoever you are, the pictures are gone now.
The going on the way back down was much easier. Just below the northeast ridge, we ran into the two hikers we had seen climbing the face. They looked exhausted and were furious that they had tried to climb the face of the mountain instead of taking an easier route. Their information on the routes didn’t tell them where to hike and they decided to follow the only visible trail. They were also highpointers and also from New York, but they were from Long Island. We chatted for a while and explained that they should come down the way that they were trying to come up. A word to the wise, don’t try to climb up the summit route, only use it going down.
In talking to the McBride’s, they had recommended that we climb the saddle and follow the ridge, then, coming down, they recommended that we follow the ridge to the north until we reach the lowest saddle between the summit to the north of Boundary Peak and the northeast ridge and then drop down into the scree that eventually links up with the trail we had seen the hikers take up the face. They said that dropping down through this scree cut their descent from the ridge to the washout down to 30 minutes. We had considered dropping right down the trail that climbs the face, but this looked incredibly steep and we knew that the McBride’s had successfully dropped through the scree to the north of there, so we decided to follow their path. It was wonderful. Hopping down through the scree made every step into three or four steps and made our descent from the ridge to the washout only 20-25 minutes. On the way down we ran into another man that was trying to climb the face approach. We tried to warn him, but he dismissed our recommendations.
We continued down the scree to the washout and then crossed back to the foliage and caught the trail again. We made it back to our camp at about 2:00 pm. Making our total hike time about 9 hours. Not knowing exactly how long the hike would take us for sure, we had planned on staying that night and driving home the next day, but we were done by 2:00 and realized we could be home by midnight. Throwing everything into the car, we headed out.
It wasn’t until we were off the dirt roads and headed back toward civilization that we realized how sunburned we were. Two of us were carrying sunscreen up the mountain, but because our hike was so cool, we didn’t think much about using it. We put a little of it on just below the summit, but it was just on our noses, which made it out for the most part unscathed. However, we didn’t realize that we were frying, so we didn’t worry about. Anyway, we made it home, the car was loud, but functioned fine and we had successfully completed another highpoint.
Let me end with this advice. Whatever you do, do not attempt to climb the face of the peak that leads to the northeast ridge. That is where you come down, not go up. Going up, you are much better off hiking up the saddle to the far north and then catching the trail that bypasses the lower summit and follows the ridge up. Or, you can follow our route up the ridge and then cutting across the scree and catching the ridge trail. Either way, this is going to be a tough hike, but don’t make it worse than it has to be. Come down one of the scree trails, don’t go up it.
It was about 3 hours and 15 minutes from summit to summit coming from Clingman’s Dome in TN. I had never been to GA and didn’t know how green it is. I was amazed at the foliage growing on the sides of the road. There were some spots that were completely covered with vines that I thought were straight out of a dream world. The scenery made the drive very enjoyable.
The parking area at Brasstown Bald was huge. They must have a lot of people coming through there. Parking for a car now costs $3. You can also take a shuttle up to the tower and building at the top, but it costs extra. I don’t know how much because I hiked the 1/2 mile trail. I grabbed my camera and tripod and headed up the trail. There were a lot of people around. I passed quite a few on the trail. About 2/3 of the way I ran into a boy in his early teens that was slowly wending his way toward the top. He had to be with family but they weren’t nearby so I stopped and chatted with him for a while. He was very talkative and told me all about himself and what he was doing there. We started walking again, at his pace for a while and we talked. He was from Murphy, South Carolina and there with his parents. They were going to go white water rafting later that day. He was very nice and we had a good little talk. However, I knew that if I kept walking with him at his pace, I would barely reach the summit by nightfall and I still hoped to get to 3 more summits that day. I finally excused myself and headed off. I made it to the summit about 5 minutes later.
The summit is covered with what looks like a fortress. I didn’t go inside the museum because I was in a hurry, but apparently, there is a theater inside as well. The top 1/3 of the summit was surrounded in a thick blanket of fog, completely blocking any view one might have from the summit tower. I climbed up to the lookout point and was searching for a place to snap a few pictures when I was engaged in conversation with a man from Murphy, South Carolina. It was the boy’s dad. He was a doctor and we ended up talking for about 1/2 an hour. It was a great conversation. His wife wandered in and out of the conversation and disappeared for a while. He did say something that I found very humorous when his wife told him to let me go. I wish I had gotten his name, but anyway, he said, “Honey, there are probably 4 intellectuals in this entire county and I have found someone who is willing to talk to me. Let me talk.” Our conversation ranged from places we had been to things we had read and studied. When he found out I was studying to be a sociologist, he told me about a book he had recently read and then told me a joke about economists. It went something like this:
“There were three professors sitting around discussing The Creation as written in the Bible. One, an engineer, said, ‘God must be an engineer.’ The others asked him why and he explained, ‘Well, think about it. The first thing God did was create the earth. That is a feat of engineering. He must, therefore, be an engineer.’ Another of the professors, an English professor corrected him, ‘No. God is a poet and writer.’ Again, the others dismissed his comment, but he explained, ‘It’s true, he did create the earth first thing, but think about how he did it. The Bible clearly says that God spoke and the world was. Because he spoke and the power to create lies in his words, he must be a poet.’ The third professor, an economist, scoffed at them both. ‘God wasn’t an engineer or a poet, he was an economist.’ Knowing that there was very little before what God said, the engineer and the English professor thought he was crazy. Both were thinking, ‘There is nothing about money or finances in the Creation story, what is he talking about?’ But the economist explained, ‘Before anything else, the Bible clearly states that there was chaos.'”
Anyway, I probably butchered this in the telling. I’ve never been very good at telling jokes, so I apologize to all those that are reading it and to the doctor from Murphy, who told it masterfully and made it very funny.
After our conversation come to a close, there was a small break in the fog for just a few minutes. I snapped a few pictures and headed out. Just as I was going down the last few steps to the trail, I saw the boy who was now with his father. They were sitting just outside the museum. I asked the boy how he was doing and he smiled, said hi and told me he was fine. I had mentioned that my topic of interest in sociology is religion to the doctor. As I headed down the steps he said one more thing, “Think about it this way. Now that you talked about religion (we had briefly discussed religion) on this trip, you can write it off as a tax deduction.” I smiled and laughed and thanked him for the good advice. We said goodbye and I headed down the trail.
I passed a lot of people as I headed down, usually offering a bit of encouragement as they puffed their way up the trail. Ten minutes later I was in the car and headed to South Carolina’s Sassafrass Mountain.
(Note: This is not my panorama. I found it on Youtube. The day I visited it was too cloudy to shoot a panorama, so I don’t have one.)