Sunday, October 23, 2011

Trip Report: Bagging my 24th High Point

CAMPBELL HILL-OHIO OCTOBER 4, 2011 The bagging my 24th highpoint was part of a Midwest driving tour I had been planning on for years. I always wanted to tour the Midwest: visit the state capitols of Ohio and Indiana, see the sites, and bag their highpoints in the process. It took me two days to reach Columbus, Ohio but there was no rush to bag the highpoints just yet. The weather when I got to Columbus was not good and I wanted some sunshine when I did visit Campbell Hill. I got half my wish. Tuesday, October 4, 2011 dawned grey, cloudy, and overcast but not rainy. I was staying at the Red Roof Inn in Hilliard (a suburb west of Columbus). After breakfast and getting washed and dressed (regular clothes no hiking gear) I was on the road a little after 9:00AM. It’s almost an hour drive to Bellefontaine (where Campbell Hill is located). I took 270 North to Route 33 and stayed on 33 all the way to Bellefontaine. The drive was anticlimactic. I passed the time by listening to one of my favorite CDs of all time: World Party’s Goodbye Jumbo (if I was stranded on a desert island and was allowed ten CDs to listen to that would be one of them). While Karl Wallinger wailed in the background I absorbed the Ohio countryside. Ohio is so different from where I live in Southern New Jersey. It doesn’t have the suburbia that the Eastern States have. Where I was driving the country begins where the city ends. There was no in-between. All I saw were cornfields in various states of harvest. No one was really out and about. I was struck by the starkness of the terrain; the absence of elevation; everything sticks out acutely because there is nothing really big (save for silos) to overshadow it. The terrain itself was quite flat with only minor undulations, bumps, and bruises. The fall colors were out already. I discerned yellows and oranges with only a few reds. When the exit for Route 540 came up (signaling where I would turn to go to Campbell Hill) the CD had already finished. In less than a minute I was on 540 and knew I was at the right place. There are hi-point signs all over the area. There is a hi-point church, hi-point offices, and hi-point facilities everywhere. The school loomed large to my right and I turned into the parking lot; my only concern being where to find a parking space. The visitor’s parking lot is at the rear of the school. You make a loop and park your car. It was a weekday and school was in session. I took more time taking pictures of everything that moved around Campbell than it took for me to actually reach the high point. You can see Campbell from the parking lot. You just walk up the loop road to the top and you see the area with the brick walkway, the summit register, and the flag poles. I took more pictures; left my spoor on the summit register; picked up a certificate which states that I stood atop Campbell Hill; and relaxed on the two park benches which face each other atop the hill. The sun still hadn’t come out but I was busy taking more and more pictures: panoramic shots and gag shots. It was nice to bag an easy one after the rough times I had at Maine and Nevada. I wanted to take it easy a little bit and smell the roses. No one was with me atop the summit. The only activity was the groundskeeper mowing the lawn. I walked down and around the base of the hill. When I had gotten all I could get from the experience I used the bathroom at the school and left Campbell Hill around 11:00AM. I didn’t return to Columbus instead I took State Road 68 south to the I-70 and Dayton, Ohio where I spent a glorious afternoon at the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB. If you’re mad for vintage airplanes then Wright-Patterson is an absolute must visit. Their airplane collection is larger than the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. I spent the entire afternoon taking picture after picture of World War Two, Korean War, Vietnam war, and experimental aircraft. It was a truly wonderful experience and was a brilliant end to a brilliant day. Oh yes, if you’re staying in Columbus, Ohio, eat at Spageddie’s in Hilliard, a suburb of Columbus. The veal is delicious. See you at the High Points!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Trip Report of my 23rd High Point

MAY 5, 2011

When I started my highpointing career in 1997 I had long envisioned bagging Driskill Mountain in Louisiana as being part of a week’s vacation trip to Vicksburg, Mississippi. And so during the first week of May when I was vacationing in Vicksburg that’s exactly what I did.

Thursday, May 5 was sunny, cloudless, and wonderful. My hotel was right on I-20 and the Mississippi River was less than a minute away.

I left my motel at 9:00AM and was in Louisiana only minutes later. Given the lowness of the terrain, it was pure highway for two hours.

Traffic was light to moderate with only a few cars and trucks on the way. I kept going west while rocking at full volume to a favorite CD compilation I made.

Mostly I absorbed the Louisiana landscape. This was only the second time in my life I had been to the Pelican state. Last time was in 1993 when I spent a joyous and creative and spiritual week in New Orleans. Now I was far north of the Crescent City.

What you see while driving on the I-20 is green; dark green. Grass, swamp, trees. Just green and more green…and more green.

You would see houses and farms but what I saw looked tired and maybe a little depressed.

It wasn’t the same landscape I saw in 1993 when I day-tripped from New Orleans to Oak Alley Plantation. What I saw that time was a stunning tableau of dire Third World poverty: shanty towns, shotgun shacks, African-Americans living in squalid, sullen conditions. If you’ve ever watched the scenes in the movie Easy Rider where Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson enter Louisiana on their way to Mardi Gras you will understand what I mean.

What I saw in 2011 was grim Cajun country: more borderline poverty or perhaps more well-concealed?

I got off at Exit 77 and made my way southwest to Zion church and Driskill Mountain.

The area is heavily wooded and dotted with small ponds or sandy marshes.

The sunlight filtered through the trees and one could see people moving their lawns.

Little country churches were nestled along the road side.

It took what seemed to me a while to find Zion church (although in reality it wasn’t that long).

I was never lost and I knew I was getting closer.

You find Zion church on the right when you come around a bend. The turn off is sudden and you find yourself parked underneath a lovely shade tree in front of the church.

The place was deserted. The church itself was locked up and all I could see was an outhouse in despicable condition.

I organized my shoulder bag and began the hike to the summit of Driskill Mountain.

It takes 20 minutes and you are enveloped by the woods. Sunlight flickered through the green canopy but mostly I was shrouded by the shade (for which I was thankful because the day had become warmer than I expected).

You make the right hand turn for the summit and then you wind around a little bit. The trail was well-marked and obvious to follow.

You ascend gradually and then suddenly you enter a clearing and there it is: a bench, the kiosk and memorial to the late Jack Longacre (founder of the Highpointers Club) and the summit cairn.

I did the now familiar summit rituals. I felt a little giddy. I had failed last year trying to bag Katahdin in Maine but I felt good to be back in the game again bagging Driskill. I had the whole highpoint to myself during the entire time I was there.

I took my pictures; offered my prayers of thanks; and relaxed, savoring the silence and the solitude.

I spent 20 minutes atop Driskill and then made my way back down. When I got back to the car, I took some time at the picnic area of the church composing my notes for this report. It was a little after noon when I left.

I stopped for a snack and a pit stop at this plaza on the I-20.

Earlier in this report I mentioned before I was in Cajun country. No further proof of that was needed when I was talking to the desk attendant. I exchanged pleasantries with him and couldn’t understand a word he said and I don’t mean that condescendingly.

Cajun talk is a lot like trying to talk with a mouth full of cotton.

And yet Southern hospitality was everywhere and I enjoyed that aspect of the trip very, very much.

If you ever are in Vicksburg and are looking for a place to eat, try the Trailside Café. The combined pork and meat platter is to die for. Barbecue at its best.