Saturday, September 12, 2009

High Point, NJ and Highpointer's Convention - #6

Name: High Point, NJ
Height: 1,803'
Date: 7/30/09, and again on 8/1/09

Maybe it was just luck that the first official Highpointers Konvention since I became a Highpointer was in New Jersey, a scant 3 hour drive away. Had it been somewhere further I'm sure I would have skipped it. But man, I'm glad I went!

For obvious reasons, the Club keeps track of the number of highpoints you have, and of course that number is displayed prominently on your convention badge. My scant 6* put me at the bottom of the barrel. No lie: there were dogs and babies who'd stood on more summits than I have.

*By the end of the konvention Cliff had declared that I only had 3 HPs because I couldn't recite the names and elevations of where I'd been at the speed of light. Also, D.C. doesn't count. Take that, democracy!

Looking out from the Highpoint Tower

The Highpointers Club has a strange makeup - lots of older, awesome climbers; lots of families; and then a smattering of other active climbers which seemed to fall into two groups: those who are hardcore, and the rest of us.

I met a great bunch of people (all in the "rest of us" category): Dave (37), Rich (47) and Tami (44), Pete (?), Cliff (?), Brian (?), Steve (47), and a bunch of others. I met the guy who literally wrote the book on highpointing, Don Holmes. (The numbers in ( ) are not their ages, it's is the number of highpoints they have.)

Thursday night was a sunset viewing at the high point monument. We are the first and only group to have been allowed at the highpoint after dark (the Highpointer equivalent of a backstage pass).

The place is simply named "High Point". I guess you can't really expect much creativity from New Jersey.

This is an awesome picture of the Highpoint Tower lit up at night being reflected in the lake below it. I know what you're thinking, but the picture is fine. This is how it really looks. Really.

Friday there were trips to do various things - rafting, a trip to NYC, or rock climbing. I joined the rock group, which I admit I was surprised was not much bigger. We piled into a few cars and off we went to The Gunks, right near the Mohonk Mountain House - one of my favorite places on the planet. Bill was leading the trip, but was clearly quite concerned about actually being responsible for anyone top roping that wasn't himself. He was expecting some friends along but there was rain and they never showed so we all set out on a bouldering adventure through The Labyrinth (sans Muppets).

The Gunks Group

Tami dropped her waterbottle, so I went caving.

Don't worry, Mom. This is only slightly less dangerous than it looks.

The Mohonk Tower, and our merry band atop it.

Friday night was the main party, with lectures and stuff.
This picture is Dave's punishment for never sending me any of his pics. :)

Saturday morning everyone went again to the highpoint. Some of us hiked there via the AT. On top, lots of pics and watermellon. Went looking for the USGS markers. Found some, not the main one, which presumably was the actual monument. Saturday evening was the dinner and awards banquet.

Overall, a great time.

And here they are, what you've all been waiting for...the Slinky Shots!
Slinky at the NJ Highpoint:

Slinky at the top of the Mohonk Tower:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Reno Reseroir, D.C. - Highpoint #6 (sort of)

Name: Reno Reservoir, Washington D.C.
Height: 415'
Date: 6/27/2009

There seems to be quite a big controversy over the validity of this highpoint. Clearly it doesn't count on a scale of 50 highpoints, but it does on a scale of 51. Yet even that apparently is up to some debate. Because why stop at 51? There are a handful of US territories which have highest points, so why aren't they required? Anyway, my friend Micha lives in D.C., and a visit to the Reno Reservoir was all of 20 minutes away.

Sadly, this was the best picture of me from this trip.

Really, it wasn't all that exciting. The highpoint itself is on a small hill overshadowed by the actual reservoir, which was quite a bit more interesting. The park is used for the occasional softball game and free concert. The hill was actually once Fort Reno, since it was really the highest point around and of at least marginal military value. One day I may look up some history on it. Probably I won't.

The highpoint hill was covered over with clover, and finding the marker took longer than it did to climb the "peak".

See that thing in the middle of the picture? Not the highpoint. But like an idiot I wandered around it for a few minutes anyway.

See that barely noticeable bump in the middle of this picture? That's the highpoint.

Since the actual highpoint didn't provide the sprawling vistas or adventure I was hoping for, I continued exploring. The only thing around was the reservoir, which actually did have some pretty neat acrhitecture.

And of course, it wouldn't be a highpoint adventure if I didn't find some misleading signs to ignore:

And where did these awesome signs lead to? A stockpile of salt, which I totally wanted to climb but Micha talked me out of it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Sinks of Gandy

Ok, so this is more or less the opposite of a highpoint - the Sinks of Gandy is a cave. My friend Micha calls it "lowpointing". I think I might see if I can visit the lowest point in each state once I'm done with the highest.

Anyway, I like caves, and this one was near the Spruce Knob Lake Campground and is relatively straightforward so I thought I would visit it. Basically, the Gandy River got tired of going around a few hills, so the river bored itself a wide tunnel straight through. The cave is about a mile long, and both entrances are privately owned by different people. Technically trespassing to get there, but no one seemed to mind. The cave is surrounded by cow pastures, so if you go just be mindful that you're on private property and don't litter or mess with the animals.

The southern entrance to the Sinks of Gandy.

Just as we were getting to the cave entrance, a cow came out. I guess that makes him a Cave Cow. The cows were everywhere, but they weren't the real danger...

Cave Cow.................................Cave Cow Pies

The cave itself was a nice 50 degreesish, the water was about the same. Cold, but you get used to it quickly once you're waist deep. Most of the time I wasn't any deeper than up to my knees. There were plenty of dry dirt beds and rocks to climb over, making this overall a fun cave. The constant burbling of the water made us think that there were other people in there with us, but we had the place to ourselves.

The cave is also more or less a straight line without many side passages so it's pretty hard to get lost.

If you ever wondered what a cave looks like in the dark, here you go:

One of the best parts of a cave (I think) is finding wildlife inside. We didn't see any bats, but we did find a cave crayfish!

What we didn't find, though, was the north exit of the cave, so we had to backtrack a mile back to the southern entrance. It took us about an hour to get to the end, and about 45 minutes to get back.

We made our way back to the car and changed out of our wet, muddy cave clothes just before another truck pulled up and dropped off three locals who were going through the cave. I told them I couldn't find the exit, and they offered to take us through with them, but we were already changed and decided instead to go overland to the north exit and wait for them there.

The north entrance was also on private land, and we had to hop another fence and cross another pasture.

We ignored these signs.

The path down to the northern entrance. You can see the Gandy River, and the cave itself is behind the trees on the left.

Somewhere in this mess is the northern entrance. $20 if you can find it. Another $20 if you can also find Waldo.

This was as far as I got. Pretty, but not a way in.

Eventually the three locals showed up, exiting from about halfway up the hill from the "dry exit". There is also a "wet exit", but both are hard to find. The locals said this was the first time they'd found the dry exit, and they'd been coming here for years. I guess I don't feel so bad for not finding it. After some talking with them it seems I was only about 20 yards away from the dry exit. On our way out, we accidentally entered a side passage, realized it wasn't familiar and turned back. Had I kept on going, I would have found the northern dry exit. Oh well, next time.

Trail halfway up the hill leading to the north dry exit.

On our hike back to the car we discovered that cows had moved onto the trail. Seeing as how it was their cowpath to begin with, we gave them a wide berth.

Overall, a very wonderful cave and a great time. Next time I'm finding that other exit!