Friday, August 6, 2010

Peakbagging in WI, MI, MN


Our first day of the long weekend trip to WI, MI, and MN had us headed out the door at 4 AM for the flight to MN. I drew up a plan that would get us three of the four highest county high points in Wisconsin and threw in the second highest point in the state and a few other fun things.

Eric, Al and I drove from Minneapolis airport to James Lake in MI (180 miles). Directions on got us to the Taylor County High point (1,840) which was a very small ski area above James Lake. Eric went for a run while Al and I explored a bit. It was nice to get out and stretch after that long just sitting around. There wasn’t much of a view, but the area was well maintained, the slopes were cut even in high summer.

After about a half hour we headed for Timms Hill (1,951), the state high point which was 20 miles east. After a quick hike to the summit and some pictures Eric and I took off for a run to Pearson Hill (1,951) which is the second highest hill in MI. We ran on some nice ATV trails and thought we’d bagged the summit. Our 42 minute run included another Ascent of Timms hill at the very end. Al picked us up and we went back to Pearson for a quick bushwhack in the very open (and very buggy) woods to get the correct high point. The road map in Grauer’s book includes most of the roads but none of the many trails in the area. The Timm’s Hill National trail website includes a bunch of trails but is very hard to match up with what we saw out there!

We headed out from the high point adding another 40 miles of driving east to Lookout Mountain (1,923) for Lincoln County High point. This looked easy, a nice 24 minute run up and back to the Fire Tower and a few minutes taking in the view (hazy). On the way down we ran into the farmer who owns the “first quarter mile of the road”. We apologized for trespassing and he just asked that future visitors check in with him prior to hiking the road. Future high pointers should either check in at the farm or access the summit via the Ice Age Trail which runs over the top and would be about the same distance (3 miles RT) as the road.

Our final high point was another 40 miles drive, east to Sugarbush Hill (1,939) for Forest County High Point. This was a drive up and we took a few minutes on top (no view) to check out the footings from the removed fire tower and the bench mark. The trip reports accurately describe how to reach this location. Then it was another 55 miles to Iron Mountain MI for the night.

Drive 335
State HP 1
Fire tower 1
8 miles of running

Our second day of Peakbagging started with a drive from downtown Iron Mountain MI to the summit of Millie Hill to check out the fire tower on top. There was no access to the tower (stairs removed) so we just tagged the highest ground and headed on our way. Our first goal of the day was the Dickinson County HP outside of Sagola, MI. Twenty miles of driving brought us to our goal. The trip report on is relatively accurate. The road to the HP is overgrown a bit and there are a few turns that should be avoided (stick with going directly south and you’ll be fine). We kicked around the summit and checked out the witness posts and footings from the tower. We took off north and arrived at the tourist information center in L’Anse MI.

After 65 miles of driving we arrived at the visitors’ bureau (located at 755 E Broad St) which has plenty of good information. The woman was very helpful and happy to hear that we were not only interested in visiting Mount Arvon but also heading to Mt Curwood. She was a little worried about us getting lost but we assured her we could navigate (Al and I both brought compasses and are very good at map reading). She gave us a detailed map of the area with the route to Curwood highlighted but much more helpful was the turn by turn directions in the trip reports and even better was the photocopy we were given of Roy Schweiker’s edited step by step directions. Unfortunately the signage has been removed, but with great care we were able to drive within about 2.5 miles of the second highest point in the state. There are quite a few new roads that have been cut through the area and others have been recently graded so at times it was not easy to figure out what road we were meant to take. Al is very good with directions and we piled out of the car pretty sure of where we were going. The 2.5 mile (or more?) run was pleasant if a bit buggy. We saw a bunch of bear tracks in the road but no signs of any wildlife. We tagged the summit, signed in and were back at the car in just over 50 minutes of running.

The drive from Curwood to Arvon was not as simple as it looked on the map and we were stymied by a road that is now closed (and by the looks of things has been closed for a few years). We had to backtrack a bit but eventually made our way around toward Arvon. The Kia that we rented probably could have made it to the parking area but I was a bit nervous, so we parked just before a big mud puddle. We were a bit surprised to see 5 or 6 cars parked at the base of the short climb. We were not expecting so much activity on a Friday morning. We ran the little more than two miles round trip in just under 20 minutes. We didn’t spend much time on the summit; it had a lot of trash on it and no view.

Next up we drove about 80 miles to Summit Peak in Ontonagon County. Our goal was the highest point in the Porcupine Mountains, which is also the third highest mountain in Michigan. The trip reports on are accurate. Al and I decided to run the 1 mile round trip (just over 10 minutes running) while Eric headed down the road on a four mile downhill run. The run was interesting with about ½ of it on wooden walkways and steps. The viewing platform was crowded and the haze kept us from seeing much of anything. We picked up Eric and headed on our way to Minnesota. 230 miles later we closed out the day in Mountain Iron, MN.

Drive 420 miles
Fire Tower 1
State Park HP 1
9 miles of running

Our final “big” day of bagging started with us driving 10 mile to Pike County to see if we could get close to the county high point. The trip reports on were accurate which meant we had a 6 mile run if we wanted to bag the summit of Pike Mountain. I felt this would be too aggressive with my Plantar Fascia problems having caused me to miss nearly a week of running and knowing we had a minimum of 7 miles of running ahead of us at other peaks. We headed northeast 90 miles to Isabella, MN and Stony Tower Hill (2,080’) the county high point of Lake County. The trip report is accurate but the road was a bit too overgrown for the Kia rental vehicle. We parked at a small road junction and ran the last mile to the overgrown path to the top. It wasn’t quite a bushwhack but it certainly was getting to that point. We found the top and some witness markers along with footings from the former fire tower. The bugs were happy to have us visit so we didn’t linger long. The run was just under 20 minutes round trip.

We carefully extricated ourselves from the narrow grassy “road”, tall grass tickling the underbelly of the car the entire way. Next up was a 95 mile drive to Eagle Mountain (2,301’) the highest point in the state. The drive was uneventful and we arrived at the trailhead to find six other cars parked and another couple pulled in as we prepared for the run. This was our first high point that involved some “real” trail running. The round trip was a little over 7 miles with most of the climb/descent in the last mile.

The trail was pretty rocky and required full attention to avoid wiping out at running speed, not that we were running all that fast. It was nice to be out in the woods just moving along. Al would hike while we were running slowly. Al can hike really fast and many times I’ve found myself shuffling along at a trot to match his walking speed. We hit the base of the mountain in just over 30 minutes and cruised to the top in a total of 40:44. The top had a huge plaque but no register. We took some pictures and headed back down. Al cranked the run back, he is fierce on descents and has no trouble running in rocky terrain. Eric and I took a more leisurely run getting back in 42:34 for a total of 1:23:19 round-trip. In contrast to our slower downhill than uphill running, Al ran back in under 36 minutes.

We headed south along Lake Superior but had some trouble finding a hotel room due to the Tall Ships being in town (Duluth). We ended up driving 150 to Moose Lake MN which looked promising with a network of bike paths and ATV trails.

Totals for the day
Drive 340 miles
1 State HP
9 miles running

Our final day was the only one that had no peakbagging planned although I had printed up some trip reports in case we were really up for some bonus bagging. Eric and I had tickets to the Twins baseball game so anything we’d be doing had to be early in the day.

Al did some research and I decided to join him for a run to get the county high point near Cromwell. We drove about 30 miles from Moose Lake to Cromwell (Carlton County), nearly running down some deer in the early morning mist. We parked at the Cromwell Fire Tower and quickly ascended the 80’ high tower. Al had a pretty good idea of where we were going, so off we went. The trip reports were a bit scarce on detail but fortunately there were a couple of trail junctions with very fancy signage. The snowmobile and ski trail network in the woods was extensive but Al guided us with ease and after just over 30 minutes we had reached the shores of Rogers Lake then backed up and found a couple of likely bumps that marked the highest point. We motored on the way back, funny how when you are sure of where you are you tend to run without any hesitation. We were back at the car covering about 7 miles in just over 56 minutes. We drove back to Moose Lake and picked up Eric who had chosen to put in 90 minutes of running on the bike path in town.

The next stop on our tour was the city high point in Minneapolis, it is listed on, and how many times will I be in Minneapolis? We drove about 100 miles and navigated through a nice neighborhood to the 980 foot summit. Well, it really wasn’t much more than a bump and the homeowner watched us closely as we walked on the sidewalk along his property. There were no views, so we weren’t there long. Al headed off for another COHP and a run while Eric and I took in the Twins game (beat Seattle 4 – 0). Then it was off to the airport for the long trip home.

Totals for the day
Drive 175 miles
1 Fire tower
1 City HP
7 miles running

All in all the trip went off without anything worse than a minor hitch here and there. I was glad that my foot held up well enough that I could visit all of the high points I’d planned. Next peakbagging trip will be Mt Whitney in September.

Grand Totals
Drive 1,270
State HP 3
Fire tower 3
33 miles of running
State Park HP 1
City HP 1

No comments: