"Bagging each state's high point" - Natural New England, Fall 2005
Standing atop Jerimoth Hill this past May I felt a wave of exhilaration - I had just conquered the highest point in Rhode Island, a full 812 feet above sea level.  Never mind that the “hike” from RI’s Route 101 hardly lasted two minutes and encompassed a whopping elevation gain of two feet – this was the third notch on my quest to summit all six New England states’ high points, my preparation for the upcoming Highpointers Convention over the Labor Day Weekend in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

The author, exhausted after his five minute 'hike' up Rhode Island's high point, Jerimoth Hill.

The Highpointers Club (www.highpointers.org) is a national organization dedicated to preserving access to all 50 of the nation’s high points.  Some of these are world-class peaks that require skilled mountaineering, like Alaska’s 20,320 foot Denali (aka Mt. McKinley).  Others, like Rhode Island’s Jerimoth Hill, are right beside the road and require little effort.

My wife Julie and I had already experienced two very challenging hikes here in New England: Maine’s 5,267 foot Katahdin last fall, which Julie remarked was the first mountain we had actually climbed rather than hiked; and Vermont’s 4,393 foot Mount Mansfield, which we snowshoed up on a very blustery New Year’s Day.  And yet Jerimoth Hill was arguably the toughest - not because of its difficulty, mind you, but rather because of its extremely restricted access.

The owners of the property containing the summit have wanted to preserve their privacy, which is the main reason why the club accepts standing on the shoulder of Route 101 as “bagging the peak.”  But highpointers are a rather enthusiastic bunch, and so for many years now they have negotiated for a few Open Access Days every year for club members and others to take that two minute walk and actually bag the peak (the club does the same for other restricted-access high points like Illinois’).

And bag it they do.  According to Stony Burk, who has perennially helped police these Open Access Days, seventy-five or so pilgrims showed up the same spring day that I did.  Except they came from as far away as Florida, Nevada, Washington, and Wyoming, whereas I only came from Boston.

After I visited, a bit of good news came in the form of the property being sold to new owners, who were so impressed with the visitors for the next Open Access Day in July that they have agreed to grant access to Jerimoth Hill every weekend of the year (from 8 am to 3 pm), and have additionally helped clear another path to the summit.

I resolved to return to meet them.  First I had to continue my quest, which brought Julie and me to the Berkshires over the July 4th weekend to bag two more high points: the 3491 foot Mount Greylock, Massachusetts’ highest peak, which we climbed that Sunday rather uneventfully; and the 2,316 foot Bear Mountain, Connecticut’s highest, which we planned to do that Monday.

But there was a twist - Connecticut is unique among the United States in that its highest peak is not actually its highest point.  That distinction belongs to the point of the Massachusetts border that reaches a height of 2380 feet on the shoulder of Mt. Frissell, whose 2,453 foot summit lies in Massachusetts several hundred yards away.

Because the two peaks are right next to each other, we decided to cover our bases and summit them both on the same day, setting out mid-morning on a beautiful July 4th holiday.  But we made two bad decisions upon departure: one, to climb Bear Mtn. first; and two, to bring our dog Anna along, who although being as enthusiastic as us is no spring chicken anymore.

And wouldn’t you know it, Anna proceeded to hurt herself on the steep descent down the other side of Bear Mtn.  Although she gamely tried to soldier on, keenly sensing my desire to complete my quest, it was obvious we would have to turn around (good thing too, since she almost needed to be carried home).

What to do?  We hadn’t reached the actual high point, but we were tired, it was late afternoon, and we had to return home that night to Boston, a three hour drive. 

We returned to climb Mt. Frissell, with lots of enthusiasm, on a subsequent weekend.

That left just one.  Unfortunately, when my wife’s family decided to come visit over Labor Day weekend, that killed my chance of attending the Highpointers Convention and bagging the formidable Mount Washington, which at 6288 feet is not only the highest point in New Hampshire but also in all of the Northeast.  We had climbed five of the six New England high points with every intention of bagging the sixth during the convention and sharing the exaltation with our fellow highpointers, but instead, for us, the quest continues.