Adventure Posts

Louisiana

10 February 2017

I was moving from New Orleans, Louisiana to San Ramon, California. After a week of forced social activity, the four-day solo road trip was heavenly. En route, I decided to cap Louisiana’s highpoint. I had lived in the state for six months, but had not yet made the drive from New Orleans.

 

As far as elevation goes, Louisiana was flat. Much of the southern part of the state was at or below sea level. I was half-expecting the highpoint to be a pile of rocks on the edge of a swamp. I was pleasantly mistaken (although there was still a pile of rocks at the summit). In the northwest corner of the state, Mount Driskill was a somewhat prominent peak with visible surface relief. I arrived to the cemetery parking lot around 17:30–just before sunset–and surprisingly found a trail to the summit. I had expected to hop out of the car, snap a picture, and keep trucking.

 

After I took the mile-long trail to the peak and photographed myself, darkness had fallen. The hardwood forest covering the mountain was quite lovely–the trees tall and straight, quite unlike the gnarly swamp trees I had become accustomed to. Critters scurried through the fallen leaves and brush around me, invisible to the eye but clear to the ear. It was both calming and eerie. Natural environments like this typically relax me, but something about this situation made me uneasy. Whenever I left my truck in sparsely populated areas, I always had the unsettling feeling that something would be waiting for me when I got back. So I hastened my stride and began running. The unfamiliar ground seemed to lash out with hidden roots. The invisible critters grew claws and fangs in my imagination. Hair bristled on the back of my neck, as if triggered by watching eyes. As I emerged from the forest, my worries were justified. I saw a red truck running next to mine. My first thought was police, followed by annoyance. My second thought was vandals/thieves, followed by anger. My third thought was murderers, followed by fear. By the time I burst out of the trees, I hadn’t thought the third. As I ran across the cemetery, the truck reversed and peeled out to the road. I heard the sound of a woman screaming “Stop! Help!” Then the third thought entered my mind. I couldn’t see through the windows of the truck, but the screams continued as it sped down the road. Panicked, I fumbled for my keys and unlocked my truck. I didn’t want to get involved, but I couldn’t turn a blind eye. Igniting the engine and reversing, I headed down the road after the red truck.

 

Unfortunately, I was too late. The tail-lights had disappeared. The road had diverged into several smaller roads, like a river breaking into a dozen tributaries. Almost every driveway I saw had a red truck parked in it. I heard no more screams and there was nothing left to chase. Stricken with guilt and helplessness, I turned around and headed to the border. Goodbye, Louisiana.

 

Mount Driskill. 535 ft / 163 m. 4 February 2017.

 

Louisiana

Florida

7 August 2016

Another six months disappeared. A few days ago, I moved out of Greenville and drove down to New Orleans, where I will be spending the remainder of this year. It was a great time of year to move further South, especially in a truck without air conditioning. Shortly after leaving South Carolina, it started to rain–which meant more humidity and closed windows. It was a sweatbox for me, but a greenhouse for my plants. At least somebody benefitted.

 

En route to New Orleans, I stopped at Britton Hill, Florida’s highest point. At a soaring 345 feet, Britton Hill was the lowest of the fifty U.S. highpoints. Similar to the flat peaks of Indiana and Delaware, Florida’s was nestled beside a cornfield. Next to a parking lot at the entrance to a wooded park, the highpoint was denoted by a stone marker, some benches, and a prominent wooden sign perfect for posing. As usual, a stranger was kind enough to snap my picture.

 

Britton Hill. 345 ft / 105 m. 30 July 2016.

 

Florida

 

Delaware

9 February 2016

Six months were up, just like that. I was uprooted from Schenectady, New York and transplanted to Greenville, South Carolina. Good thing I liked to move.

 

It was a good time of year to make the transition. Winter had been mild in New York–a bit too mild for my taste–and February supposedly offered nice weather in South Carolina. When the time came, my friend Gary–who was relocating to Atlanta–helped me load my stuff into a UHaul trailer and hit the road. It was the first time I had hauled anything with my truck, so I was glad to finally take advantage of the capability. Gary and I formed a caravan en route and communicated with walkie-talkies, making the Friday evening crawl through East Coast traffic bearable. Rather than drive straight to our apartments, we decided to make a few stops along the way. Washington D.C. to visit a friend. Charlotte, North Carolina to grab some Ikea furniture. Ebright Azimuth to summit Delaware.

 

Late Friday evening, I and all of my worldly possessions capped Delaware. The highest point sat alongside the road, marked by a prominent blue sigh and a wire bench. Before we clogged traffic, Gary and I snapped a picture before the sign. Like Rhode Island, Delaware’s peak was hardly a bump. The juxtaposition of the street-side summit and the previous week’s expedition to Marcy’s icy peak exemplified the true diversity of American highpoints. That’s what keeps it interesting.

 

Ebright Azimuth. 448 ft / 137 m. 29 January 2016.

 

Delaware

New York

27 January 2016

For six months, I lived an hour and a half drive from the top of New York. Yet, for this reason and that, I hadn’t reached Marcy’s summit. I didn’t even enter the Adirondacks for the duration of my stay, despite the many weeks of warm, rainless weather. With priorities reassessed in 2016, I aimed for a winter climb and got just that.

 

Last weekend, I set out with a buddy from work, Chris, to peak Mount Marcy. In the days leading up to our ascent, the region had been experiencing average temperatures below zero degrees Fahrenheit, with wind-chills down to forty below. Come Saturday, we were prepared for the worst–packing multiple layers, emergency stoves, down sleeping bags, and a mental expectation of spending the night in a snowbank. When we began our ascent at 07:30, we had our headlamps ready for a late evening descent. We were pleasantly surprised. The sky was partly cloudy–lending the perfect mix of light and shadow for wonderful images of the frozen landscape. The temperature hovered in the twenties. The trail required nothing more than a pair of micro-spikes on our boots. The hike was idyllic. By noon, we reached the peak and were blown away by the view and nearly blown away by the dry wind. After enjoying the summit, we leisurely returned well before sunset. Our headlamps were untouched and our thirst for mountains reinvigorated. I look forward to the next adventure.

 

Mount Marcy. 5344 ft / 1629 m. 23 January 2016.

 

New York

Amtrek

5 January 2016

In 2015, my body visited 31 American states. A good deal of this travel materialized from two privileges: a new day job and a summer adventure. After graduating college, I had a couple months before starting my new job and this window afforded a long trip.

 

Instead of blowing hundreds of dollars on plane tickets, a couple friends and I boarded a train. Amtrak offered a 30-day, 12-leg rail pass for under $700. With this pass, we could travel basically anywhere Amtrak offered service. The trip we designed was a journey of the Western perimeter. We used our first legs to travel from our various homes in Michigan (Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Detroit) to convene in Chicago. From there, we traveled along the Canadian border to the Pacific and along the Pacific Coast to the edge of Mexico. We then traveled along the Mexican border to the Mississippi and followed the River back to Chicago.

 

We stopped at the following stations:

Chicago, Illinois (CHI)

West Glacier, Montana (WGL)

Seattle, Washington (SEA)

Portland, Oregon (PDX)

Emeryville, California (EMY)

Los Angeles, California (LAX)

Tucson, Arizona (TUS)

San Antonio, Texas (SAS)

New Orleans, Louisiana (NOL)

Memphis, Tennessee (MEM)

Chicago, Illinois (CHI)

 

We took some of the finest trains, from the Empire Builder to the Sunset Limited and the City of New Orleans to the Coast Starlight. For the duration of the trip, we lived out of backpacks and camped in a variety of climates: freezing rain in Montana and scorching heat in Arizona. We stayed at a friend’s Malibu beach-house and a smorgasbord of hostels, but spent many nights on trains. It was the longest vacation I had ever taken and surely the most exciting. The trip afforded ample time for writing and reflection. And as great as it was, I surely learned that America isn’t designed for pedestrians (especially for Western tours). The inconsistency of public transit quality from city-to-city and state-to-state, while inconvenient, forced us to explore other means of transit and see places we would not have otherwise visited.

 

There is no better way to see America than via Amtrak.

 

New Jersey

9 November 2015

When I think of New Jersey, I think of trash. Of greased hair, polluted waters, and horrid accents. It isn’t a fair assumption, seeing that I’ve only visited for a few hours. But if you blindly believe what people say, you can become ignorantly prejudiced. Granted, prejudice rarely exists without ignorance, but succumbing to it is poor character. Nonetheless, I had a polluted view of the state that was recently cleaned up. Northwestern New Jersey betrayed the stigma.

 

After dismounting Frissell in Connecticut, I took a relaxing drive to New Jersey. The rolling hills were a deep red of fall foliage. The overcast sky had intermittent gaps of blue to perfectly contrast the hills. As I enjoyed the mindful meditation of the drive, I become distracted by the scenery. The road took me to High Point State Park, a pretty preserve with an alluring monument at its center. This monument was situated at the highest point of the state. Erected for veterans and enjoyed by all, the monument offered a 360 degree view of the surrounding landscape. It was beautiful. Shockingly so for Jersey.

 

High Point. 1803 ft / 550 m. 31 October 2015.

 

New Jersey

Connecticut

2 November 2015

A solo road-trip seems like a good remedy to your aliments—be it mental, emotional, spiritual, what have you. I’m not foreign to the concept, yet I’ve come to realize they do little to assuage ill feelings. They’re a nice respite—a pause, time for reflection—but they are no solution. Nonetheless, a trip to Connecticut and New Jersey was a nice pause this Halloween.

 

I even dressed to the occasion—wearing a black shirt and bearing an orange flag. The foliage only furthers my case. Mount Frissell is wonderful this time of year. Riding the Connecticut-Massachusetts state line, the mountain offered a short but steep climb amidst a picturesque landscape. Although the peak wasn’t the destination (nor very scenic), the Southwest Shoulder was well worth the hike. It was my first time ascending a summit in one state and descending into another to reach a highpoint. This was also my first time being completely alone at a highpoint. Although I’ve solo-traveled to many, there was always someone near the top to photograph me. To my luck, the cairn at the peak had some stones to spare. I built a natural tripod and snapped a picture.

 

Mount Frissell (Southwest Shoulder). 2380 ft / 725 m. 31 October 2015.

 

Connecticut