We just returned from an annual convention of the Highpointers Club — an organization we’ve been part of for almost 20 years. It’s a gathering of people from all over the U.S., plus members from other countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, and Canada. We all share an unusual hobby: visiting the highest point in elevation within each of the 50 United States. As you might guess, many have extended this quest to include the highest spots in counties, countries, National Parks, continents, and pretty much any other category you can dream up.
The convention was held at Hawkeye Point, the highpoint of Iowa. Yes, I said Iowa. Because not every state has a mountaintop as its highest spot. In Iowa, the highpoint is located on a farm.
Of course it is.
Now, you may be wondering why anyone in his right mind would set a goal to visit the highpoints of every state. Especially ones with highpoints on a farm, or in a city park, or on a school campus (IA, FL, OH). Let me offer a few possibilities.
1. See the USA
When Charlie and I started highpointing in 1997, I had never been east of Colorado, other than a stopover at an airport. I think I had visited about 6 states. It was a great opportunity to visit every state as well as research the first guidebook we wrote, Highpoint Adventures. After two years, we had set foot upon the highpoints of 44 states. Eventually, I brought my tally up to 49 (“Just say no to Denali!”) and Charlie finished all 50 (repeating many of the most difficult ones so that I could share the experience).
2. Enjoy a family adventure
What a great way to plan a family vacation! Many of the highpoints are very kid-friendly (and even couch-potato friendly), and everyone can help plan the stops and activities along the way as you travel from state to state. As I learned when we traveled in the East, some states are pretty small and their highpoints are close together, so you can manage to check off quite a few during a fairly short trip.
3. Get in shape
Then there are the state highpoints which require much more stamina and time. Start with the gentler hikes and work your way up to the longer, steeper ones.
4. Learn new skills
Ready to tackle some greater challenges and amaze your family and friends? Take the time to learn how to scramble across and up rocky obstacles. Take classes on glacier travel, self arrest (stopping yourself from sliding down a snowy slope — nothing to do with putting yourself in jail), and skills for climbing near crevasses (and what to do if you or someone nearby falls into one). Is that beyond your goals and desires? OK, then. How about learning what to carry in a backpack and how to set up a tent?
5. Meet great people
The Highpointers Club convention is like a huge family reunion. We get to reconnect with friends we may only see once a year (or less), as well as meet many fascinating new friends. Like a family reunion, there are our favorite people and some oddballs (that’s probably what people call Charlie and me), but that’s what makes it so fun.
If you’re still not convinced that highpointing is your thing, that’s cool. Find your own adventure and pursue it with passion!