Adding 3 summits to the list - The Explorer: Sports

Adding 3 summits to the list

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Posted: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:12 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Touching down on flight 1909 at 12:15 p.m., Denver to Minneapolis, the second annual tri-state high point adventure began. Greeted at the gate by nephew Todd, having arrived 15 minutes earlier from Seattle, we were quickly driving east along Interstate 94 into Wisconsin.

A beautiful lush green flowed over low hills, corn and alfalfa fields filling farmlands with evidence of a successful growing season. Handsome houses stood beside large barns, numerous tall silos standing ready to stockpile the harvest. There's more to Wisconsin than cheese.

Reaching 1,951.5 feet above sea level, east of Ogema, Timm's Hill rises above Bass Lake. Less than a half-mile roundtrip is required to reach the highpoint marker.

Directly above the marker, a 75-foot steel lookout tower offered a more significant challenge. Stepping into the safety of climbing harnesses, clipping carabiners to a braided steel cable running along the welded ladder, our climb up the outside of the steel structure began.

Following a white knuckle, heart-pounding ascent, a narrow stairway entered an enclosed room, windows providing 360-degree views over Lincoln County and Chequalegon National Forest. Pearson Hill, seen half a mile away, reaches 1,950.8 feet. The tower swaying with our movement and a moderate breeze, we soon clipped back in and descended safely to the ground below. A 40-foot wooden tower nearby offered little in the way of a challenge.

Timm's Hill honors Tim Gahan, operator of a nearby, no longer operational, logging camp and mill. A more distinguished "Timm" was used once the hill was determined to be Wisconsin's highest point. An interesting statement made during my research was "one of the remarkable things about Timm's Hill is how unremarkable it is."

Next up was Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where Mount Arvon overlooks the shores of Lake Superior above Keweenaw Bay. Following a heavily rained-on, 200-mile trip, the highway descended toward Michigan's low point, Lake Superior, 601 feet above sea level. L'Anse, a lovely town of close to 2,000 residents, sits on the eastern shore of Keweenaw Bay. Though close to 9 p.m., the ocean-like body of water shimmered under still bright skies. Checking into Carla's Inn, on the bay's western shore, heads quickly sank into soft pillows. More correctly, we found the key in the door of room 7, Carla's staff having long since completed their duties for the day.

At sunrise, clouds hung low over the lake. Encouraging, skies were clear above. As we enjoyed the morning along the shore, bright sun rays broke through the vanishing clouds, casting long, golden shafts of light across the water. Massive boulders protect the shore from erosion, driftwood wedged within. Multi-colored smooth stones covered the sand below.

Soon we were driving toward the township of Arvon, where 1,979.283-foot Mount Arvon claims Michigan's highest point. Recent improvements in measuring have seen Mount Curwood, four miles away and 11 inches shorter, lose that distinction. Traveling dirt roads continually decreasing in size, the final muddy mile ends at the trailhead. Being proud of their high point, Michigan has installed numerous blue diamond shape signs pointing the way. An easy walk through thick forest and the high point is achieved.

Fall would be an amazingly beautiful time to visit. A baby blue bench sits beneath a sign, blue of course, offering congratulations to hikers.

Returning to the trailhead, an investigation of strange sounds from within the forest was needed. An absolutely gorgeous pond is discovered, its surface perfectly calm, mirroring the trees and grasses along the far shore. Large frogs croak, communicating with others, solving the noise mystery.

Passing through L'Anse one more time, our adventure is enhanced as a bald eagle soars overhead. A perfect lead-in to our next high point, Eagle Mountain.

The final high point of our adventure lies about 350 miles away, along the northern shores of Lake Superior, less than 50 miles from the Ontario, Canada border.

Interestingly, family of my son's wife live in Grand Marais, the closest town to our third high point. Thanks to a soft offshore breeze, waves lap the shores of this charming and tranquil community.

Getting to Grand Marais demands a 150-mile drive along the western Lake Superior shores from Duluth, Minn., the water never more than a few hundred yards away. Huge ships sit anchored in the harbor at Duluth, awaiting cargo to haul across the lake. North to south, Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes at 31,700 square miles, stretches 160 miles. East to west, 350 miles. With a maximum depth of 1,276 feet and an average depth of 489 feet, three quadrillion gallons of fresh water fill the glacier-created body of water. Since large schooners were introduced in the late 1700s, between 350 and 500 ships have gone down. Most recognizable, the cargo ship Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank near the eastern shore November 10, 1975, immortalized by the Gordon Lightfoot song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

Departing the trailhead at 7 a.m., 2,301-foot Eagle Mountain lay hidden behind a deep forest. Increasing slightly in elevation, the rugged trail required close attention, the rocks and tree roots ever ready to trip the unwary. Several marshy bogs bisect the trail, comfortably negotiated across wooden plank bridges, easing the journey.

At two miles in, 200 feet in elevation have been gained. The waters of Whale Lake glimmer through the trees. Across the mirror-like surface, a glimpse of Eagle Mountain is enjoyed. At the lake's southwest corner, the trail heads westward and upward. In the final mile 400 feet are gained. A definite change from the gentle incline seen earlier.

Two and a half hours after beginning, a plaque mounted to a granite boulder announces the high point of Minnesota has been reached. From this point the thick forest blocks views of the surrounding land. Fortunately, a short distance back down the trail, a rocky cliff offers open sight lines across Superior National Forest toward the wilderness of Boundary Waters Canoe Area. A handful of the 10,000 lakes of Minnesota sparkle in the forest below.

Swiftly and cautiously we return to the trailhead. Todd now having completed an impressive 30 high points, myself just nine. Immediately a quick drive to Minneapolis is underway. My nephew has a 6:30 flight to Seattle. I head for Denver an hour later.

With some time for a celebratory frosty beer, our order is taken. Fittingly, the taps offer beer from a St. Paul brewery. Summit Brewery. Perfect!

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