Paul E. Anna: High Points
August 1, 2008
Each week I sit down to write this column dedicated to what I like to call the “High Points” of life, those little moments, the little things that spice up the journey from womb to tomb.
But Mike Haugen, a 31-year old Denver middle school teacher had an entirely different idea of what constitutes a “High Point,” and he spent his summer vacation making sure that he saw all of them. Haugen, along with Zach Price, a Seattle architect, went on a journey to climb to the highest point in all 50 states. And they did it in 45 days and change.
Think about that. Not only was there 23,684 miles of actual travel, which works out to 526 miles per day for a month and a half, but they also climbed the likes of Mt. Elbert (elevation 14,433 feet), Mt. Whitney (14,494 feet) and Britton Hill (345 feet).
The journey was completed last Friday, July 25, when the pair summited 13,796foot Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii. For the record (and it is a record), from the time the climbers’ clock began ticking at the summit of Mt. McKinley (20,320 feet), the highest point in North America, on June 9, until the moment they reached the top of Mauna Kea, 45 days, 19 hours, 2 minutes and 20 seconds had passed.
Why would Mike and Zach partake in such an endeavor? Because it’s there? Well, sure, but not exactly. The goal of the quest was to inspire kids to get outside and have adventures of their own. Coleman sponsored the trip, you know, the outdoor equipment and clothing company, and Mike blogged about the adventure daily. Coleman is also promoting a project for schools this fall called the “50 States in 50 Days Adventure” where students can keep a log of their daily activity and tie it to a virtual ascent up the nation’s highest peaks.
If you go to http://www.coleman.com, you can find a number of fascinating facts about the highest peaks in America.
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Did you know, for example, that the highest spot in the lower 48 states, Mt. Whitney, is just 76 miles as the crow flies from the lowest spot in the lower 48, Death Valley? Or, that from our lofty perch here, high in the Rockies, it is all downhill until you get to the Alps? I’ll bet you thought that New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington (6,288 feet) was the highest peak east of the Rockies. Au contraire: Harney Peak in South Dakota skies high to 7,242, giving it bragging rights.
You know Florida is flat, but did you know that the highest point in the state is the aforementioned Britton Hill, just 345 feet above sea level. Of course, the highest point in this context refers to natural highest point. The Four Seasons Hotel in Miami rises to 789 feet, more than double the altitude of Britton Hill. Mississippi, Louisiana, Delaware and Rhode Island all have high points that top out at less than 1,000 feet.
Congratulations to the climbers on their success. They now have a great answer to the question “How did you spend your summer vacation?”