Highpointing: Guadalupe Peak, Texas

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Guadalupe Peak is a favorite for many highpointers and after visiting it is easy to see why. It is a stunning area, unlike anything else in Texas. The peak rises up off the desert floor, a giant ancient ocean reef that looks like an massive wall in the distance. El Capitan stands like an indomitable sentinel in front of the highpoint itself. Guadalupe Peak is very photogenic; I wanted to just keep shooting photos of it the whole time. If I was more inclined to painting this could easily become a favorite subject, depending on the time of day the light just dances across it.

Created using GoArt at Fotor.com

We climbed and filmed this in the middle of December 2017. My buddy Brett Evenstad flew in from San Diego and we stayed at an AirBnb in El Paso for the weekend. We drove out there both days. The best part of this was the opportunity to get some great photos and footage of the peak at various times of the day.

On the day of our ascent we arrived at 6am. It was still dark, and the temperature was 26 degrees at the trailhead. We stepped off at 6:20 and used headlamps for about thirty minutes before the sun started to creep above the horizon. We were able to take in the sunrise off the shoulder, another cool sight to see. Frankly there was no shortage of scenic views on this hike. The trail was easy to follow though there was some ice patches on the parts through the ponderosa pine forest. We reached the summit at 9:30am and the wind was already kicking. At 8,750 it is the tallest thing around and the wind just whips across the summit. We had to keep a hand on the tripod and camera at all times to keep it from toppling over.

There was a lone scrub bush at the summit that served as our respite from the wind. The bush had clearly filled this role for many other hikers before. Despite the wind, the views on top Guadalupe Peak were amazing. The desert just stretches out before you to the south and looking to the north you get an amazing view of the park and the next three highest points in the state. On a side note, if you are flying to El Paso from the east there is a good chance you will also get a view of it from the plane. It is just as striking from several thousand feet up as well.

This episode is my favorite to date. Despite the challenge of the wind everything seemed to come together, script-wise, filming, and music. A ton of credit goes to Brett for how this was filmed. He really captured the feel of the place and the addition of the gimbal he brought added a whole other level to the production value of the episode. I do wish we had had more time there. Another day at a minimum would have allowed us to explore McKittrick Canyon and Devils Hall. Both locations would have been great additions to the episode.

Musically I branched out bit for this one. The first half of the episode is anchored by a piece called “Solitude of an Era” by Alexander Nakarada of Serpent Sound Studios. It had all the sweeping drama to accompany a dramatic location with a fascinating history. On the ascent section I wanted to ease off just a bit but still maintain that western feel. For that I turned to Brett Van Donsel and his piece entitled Rattlesnake Railroad. Reminiscent of Ennio Morricone’s Dollars trilogy music it brings the fun and flair I wanted to impart for the hike but still maintain that dramatic edge.

I highly recommend the hike up Guadalupe Peak. It is a beautiful place with a great history and some of the best views in Texas. Come prepared though because the desert can be merciless and there is no shortage of sun and wind. I look forward to getting back out there to explore Guadalupe Mountains National Park in more detail.

If you enjoyed this episode please consider subscribing on YouTube to the Rooftops of America channel. Click the bell icon while you are there for all the latest updates.  Also consider donating to the Rooftops of America GoFundMe Campaign so we can continue bringing you these episodes as we go highpointing across the USA. Thanks for watching!

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Highpointing: Cheaha Mountain, Alabama

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Cheaha Mountain was almost a bust. You can tell by the fog in the footage. When I arrived it was still fogged in. This was even after I had decided to go to Horseshoe Bend National Military Park first. Having drove four hours from Nashville I kept in good humor and embraced the absurdity of it (the top of the tower scene is ad-libbed) because sometimes when you go highpointing you get clouded in. (This would prove to be prescient the following month in the Dakotas)

Fortunately by the time I was heading out on the Doug Ghee boardwalk for a scenic view, things had started to clear out and I was able to get some decent footage of the Talladegas. I almost went back and filmed everything at Bunker Tower again but time was short so I took a chance with the footage I already had. Cheaha Mountain could have been a longer shoot. If I had more time than a day I definitely would have hiked and filmed the waterfalls. I also would have considered doing something with the Talladega Scenic Drive.

I shot this episode on my own; at that point it was the longest episode I filmed by myself. The fact that it turned out pretty decent was a big confidence booster and provided the impetus to go film Indiana by myself a few months later, which would turn out to be even longer.

Since this was self-filmed, to add a bit of production value there is a mounted camera sequence from the gate to Bunker Tower and, while I said I really wasn’t going to do them any more, I decided to do a walk and talk segment at the battlefield. It may be the best one I have ever done. It looks natural and adds just enough to keep it interesting.

Overall the Cheaha Mountain episode is a personal favorite. Despite a few bumps it turned out better than expected. The writing is strong though I know I reached a bit to include Horseshoe Bend, the story was just too good not to include it and the editing is solid as well. There is still a lot of room for improvement but it is safe to say that I’ve come a long way from Magazine Mountain two years ago. While it has been a great experience working with my friends over the past two years it is very reassuring to know that I can make this series happen on my own if needed.

This episode was scored with three pieces of music. The upbeat and lively piece is called “Bama Country” which carries the front and end sections. This was a piece I had earmarked for Alabama way back when I first started lining up music to mountains. The piece that carries the historical section related to the Creek is called Lost Time, it had the gravitas and emotional impact I wanted. Kevin MacLeod of incompetech.com composed both of those pieces.

It was the third piece that was the most challenging to figure out. It didn’t sound right to jump back from the “Lost Time” piece to “Bama Country” and neither of them really fit the mood I wanted for the CCC section. After a lot of searching and listening I finally found the Dan Lebowitz piece, Not Forgotten.” It was a solid bridge between the two and stayed in line with the overall feeling of the episode.

Before you get to Cheaha Mountain check the weather so you don’t have to worry about a wall of white. It is a beautiful place with a lot of cool recreational opportunities. If you enjoyed this episode please consider subscribing on YouTube to the Rooftops of America channel. Click the bell icon while you are there for all the latest updates.  Also consider donating to the Rooftops of America GoFundMe Campaign so we can continue bringing you these episodes as we go highpointing across the USA. Thanks for watching!

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Photo Gallery

Below, in alphabetical order, are a collection of slide shows with images from the highpoints that have been visited so far. You can find the individual photos on various episode posts. Just follow the link on the name. Enjoy!

Black Elk Peak, South Dakota

Black Mesa, Oklahoma

Black Mountain, Kentucky

Campbell Hill, Ohio

Charles Mound, Illinois

Cheaha Mountain, Alabama

Driskill Mountain, Louisiana

Eagle Mountain, Minnesota

Ebright Azimuth, Delaware

Guadalupe Peak, Texas

Hawkeye Point, Iowa

Hoosier Hill, Indiana

Hoye-Crest, Maryland

Humphreys Peak, Arizona

Magazine Mountain, Arkansas

Mount Arvon, Michigan

Mount Davis, Pennsylvania

Mount Mitchell, North Carolina

Mount Sunflower, Kansas

Panorama Point, Nebraska

Point Reno, District of Columbia

Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina

Taum Sauk Mountain, Missouri

Timms Hill, Wisconsin

Woodall Mountain, Mississippi

Highpointing: Hoye-Crest (Backbone Mountain,) Maryland

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Hoye-Crest, the highpoint of Maryland can be found in a remote, wild part of the state, but to get to it you need to start next door in West Virginia. This parallels the relationship between the state highpoint with the actual summit of Backbone Mountain. It is just a subpeak on the ridge, while the the actual top of the mountain can be found further southwest in West Virginia. Though of the two, Hoye-Crest provides substantially better views.

Once you find the trailhead, which can also be a bit of an adventure, the hike is pretty straightforward. It is only a mile long though it is a bit aggressive on elevation gain as you grind up 700feet over that distance. A majority of that gain takes place in the middle third of the hike as you head up a ramp-like section of the trail. Once on top of the ridge it is only a short hike further to the summit. If you have time there is a small turnoff that can be taken to check out one of the historic boundary stones between Maryland and what at the time would have been Virginia.

When I first visited Hoye-Crest four years ago it was a quiet winter day with a thick layer of snow blanketing the ground. Trudging my way up the mountain I would spy the occasional blaze letting me know I was on the right path. Nowadays the trail is much better marked with easy to read signage and frequent red blazes to guide you along.

One of my bigger regrets when filming this episode was the fact I didn’t get out to this area more often when I lived closer to it. Maryland is geographically diverse, and this section has a rugged feel you won’t find in other parts of the state. I wanted to showcase that in the locations chosen for the episode. We shot at five different locations, starting at the summit of Backbone Mountain in West Virginia and slowly making a loop in the daylong shoot.

The biggest surprise for me was the Cranesville Swamp Preserve. It can be a bit of a challenge to find. We drove around the entire swamp before we got help from a local who clued us in to the nearly hidden entrance. The swamp immediately reminded me of the wetlands I had visited in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula. Another highlight was Swallow Falls State Park with its waterfalls and old-growth forest. For a moment it was like stepping back in time.

Filming-wise this was a straightforward affair. Brian Smith brought a steady hand to the direction of the episode allowing us to move quickly and efficiently through the script. Other than the driving sequence to the trailhead it was mainly static shots with a few pan shots of the landscapes. Noise was the big challenge, particularly at the waterfalls. I really need to get a lav mic to counter some of that.

A special thanks to Terri at the Garrett County Transportation Museum who so kindly provided a photograph of Charles Hoye, the namesake for the highpoint. The music scoring the episode is called “Perspectives,” composed by Kevin MacLeod of incompetech.com. It adds a relaxing but at the same time upbeat feel to the whole affair. Overall this turned out as a decent episode, though if I had the time I would go back and shoot a few more scenes and stories from Backbone Mountain. If you get out to Hoye-Crest make sure you can spend a few days enjoying the wildest place in Maryland.

If you enjoyed this episode please consider subscribing on YouTube to the Rooftops of America channel. Click the bell icon while you are there for all the latest updates.  Also consider donating to the Rooftops of America GoFundMe Campaign so we can continue bringing you these episodes as we go highpointing across the USA. Thanks for watching!

Highpointing: Hoosier Hill, Indiana

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The highest point in Indiana, Hoosier Hill, can be a bit anti-climatic if you aren’t in the right mindset. It’s in a rural part of the state, there doesn’t appear to be much else around, it’s tucked away in a dense grove with no real views, and you can park and be on the “summit” in less than a minute. So how do you get over eleven minutes for the Indiana episode? You temper your expectations and realize Hoosier Hill and its area are more interesting than it first appears.

Writing this episode was something that kept being put off and I had convinced myself this would be one of the more difficult episodes to write for the series. Part of this assumption stems from my initial impressions of the highpoint itself. As stated in the episode, this was my first “official” highpoint, having stopped here in August 2013. Not much had changed when I returned almost five years later. My impression of it then is still the same as today; Hoosier Hill really pushes the definition of the word hill.

With that thought firmly lodged in my mind it created a bit of writer’s block. The writing for this episode began back in the first months of 2017, but there was a struggle with what to say. The “eureka” moment happened when I started looking at the benefits of the terrain itself and discovered the transportation hook. As it turns out there is some cool history in the area, enough that I couldn’t include it all. Perhaps they’ll make it in if I ever get around to doing a director’s cut.

I shot this episode by myself and am pleased how it turned out. Having been to the location before I had a good idea on what to expect. It was a long day-trip from Nashville, but the weather cooperated and I was able to film in four different locations. Since it was self-filmed to add a bit of production-value there is footage with the camera mount both inside and outside the car. There are also two voice overs, one by Brian Smith and the other by Zach Campbell.

Music for the episode is from two sources. The “Earth Prelude” piece is by Kevin MacLeod, incompetech.com. It anchors the background material. For the Hoosier Hill section I used a piece entitled “Gimme Back My Ya Ya” by Dan Lebowitz. It adds a bit of humor to it since Indiana is one of those highpoints that is best visited with a sense of fun.

I’m happy how this episode turned out. Indiana started as a challenge and ended up a solid episode. In some ways Hoosier Hill is opposite of Hawkeye Point in Iowa. Two rural, agrarian highpoints with different community views on them. Hawkeye Point is beloved, whereas at Hoosier Hill the community is ambivalent at best.  Hopefully that attitude will change over time and Hoosier Hill will be embraced by its neighbors. If you find yourself in eastern Indiana on Interstate 70 take a half hour to head up to Hoosier Hill. It’s a nice, quiet stop that also highlights a bit of the absurd, fun nature of highpointing. Also pro-tip, bring bug repellent, the mosquitoes can be relentless.

If you enjoyed this episode please consider subscribing on YouTube to the Rooftops of America channel. Make sure to click the bell icon while you are there as well for all the latest updates.  Also consider donating to the Rooftops of America GoFundMe Campaign so we can continue bringing you these episodes as we go highpointing across the USA. Thanks for watching!

Highpointing: Hawkeye Point, Iowa

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Iowa is a land of farms, notably corn and soybeans. It is an agricultural powerhouse and its highpoint reflects that legacy. Hawkeye Point is on the remains of a family farm, the Sterler’s farm to be precise. The summit is only a few yards away from a silo and depending on the time of year you visit you may have a have a view of the surrounding fields or have it blocked by a wall of tasseled corn. It is not the prettiest highpoint, but it is comfortable, with a friendly charm that welcomes you, encouraging you to take it easy for a spell.

The key to this episode was to embrace the community aspect of Hawkeye Point, for me that was the coolest element, the all-in attitude of the community to make it something special and the willingness to share it with the world. This isn’t always the case as you’ll see in the next episode. I also really enjoyed visiting and hiking to the top of Ocheyedan Mound, which fortunately is only a short drive to the east. Anytime I can connect the history dots always makes me happy.

I had been to Hawkeye Point previously which was one of the reasons I felt I could film it by myself. It had not changed all that much from my visit three years before so filming went quickly and was uneventful. Weather-wise I lucked out with a beautiful Iowa summer day. It is safe to say I am a lot more confident filming solo than when I started out.

The music is “Daily Beatle” by Kevin MacLeod of incompetech.com. It is a fun, upbeat piece that helps promote the positive nature of the episode. Overall there is nothing really technical about this Rooftops adventure, like Iowa it is comfortable and welcoming. If you get to Osceola County make sure to stop in at Hawkeye Point. It is a good place to stretch the legs, have a picnic, and slow done for a bit. As you’ll see in the next post

If you enjoyed this episode please consider subscribing on YouTube to the Rooftops of America channel. Make sure to click the bell icon while you are there as well for all the latest updates.  Also consider donating to the Rooftops of America GoFundMe Campaign so we can continue bringing you these episodes as we go highpointing across the USA. Thanks for watching!

Highpointing: Eagle Mountain, Minnesota

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Eagle Mountain, the highpoint of the Land of 10,000 Lakes can be quite literally found in a land of lakes. The Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness is more known for its extensive paddling opportunities than its hikes. This is the second time I have reached the summit of this highpoint and it was a bit more enjoyable than the first. The previous time it had rained heavily for several days prior to our hike and the trails were thoroughly flooded with water up to our knees at times. It is not an exaggeration to say we followed a river of water up to the summit, passing numerous tiny waterfalls. It ended up being one of the more epic highpoint hikes I have ever experienced.

So this time was not nearly as epic, but still an enjoyable outing…if you had plenty of bug spray, which, fortunately we did. Even then, the bugs flying around our heads proved to be a slight annoyance. Otherwise the trails were dry and the hike to the summit of Eagle Mountain was rather uneventful. In this case uneventful is a good thing as it makes filming easier with less to worry about. There was only one small hiccup; near the end of we had a cloudburst that rained on us. You can spot it when I am giving my spiel right before setting off on the hike.

Joining me on this outing were my sister Summer Marthaler and her two sons, Hunter and Junior. They all proved up to the task and we made it up the summit fairly quickly. This was another good thing because we drove over ten hours that day from north central Wisconsin and back. Needless to say it was a very long day and in the future if I ever reshot this location I would break the shoot into a multi-day affair.

Looking at this one now several months later there are a couple of things I would of added. While we stopped on the Lake Superior shore it just reinforces the missed opportunities. It would have been worth some time to add in some history about the mining, maybe get into Grand Marais a bit, talk more about the canoeing and paddling of the region. All of those things highlight the idea of a multi-day shoot. To me it is clear I did not allot enough time for the northernmost highpoint in the lower 48 states.

The music for this episode is “The Sky of Our Ancestors” by Kevin MacLeod, incompetech.com. I liked the Native American feel it imparted, matching up with the beauty of the Northwoods and the Arrowhead.

If you get to Cook County, Minnesota then the Eagle Mountain hike is worth a stop though it takes a bit of effort to get there. Also, pro tip, BRING BUG SPRAY. If you enjoyed this episode please consider subscribing on YouTube to the Rooftops of America channel. Also consider donating to the Rooftops of America GoFundMe Campaign so we can continue bringing you these episodes as we go highpointing across the USA. Thanks for watching!

Welcome to Season 4 – The Warner Parks

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Welcome to season 4! This season’s highpoints are a diverse lot ranging from the mild to the dramatic, from the wilds of the Northwoods to the desert of the American Southwest. I believe you will find something for everyone in these episodes.

As you will see I continue to build on the “hidden history” theme of last season. The upcoming episodes will continue to explore the geography, history, and other topics of interest around the state highpoints we visit and climb. The episodes are getting longer, the writing is improving, and as a team we are hitting our stride.

For the Season 4 introduction episode I wanted to highlight the Warner Parks. It is the crown jewel of the Nashville Metro Park system and one of the largest urban parks in the United States. In particular, I wanted to showcase the newest edition to the parks, the Burch Reserve. It is a cool area with a primitive trail system that just opened to the public in April. I plan on spending more time exploring it in the future. If you are in Nashville and want a quick escape then the Warner Parks are the place to go.

I hope you enjoy Season 4 of Rooftops of America; it was fun to produce and took the hard work of many people to bring it to fruition. As always if you enjoy the series, please subscribe on YouTube and consider donating to the GoFundMe Campaign. Join me as we go highpointing around the USA. I’ll see you out there!

10 State Highpoints for People Who Are Scared of Heights

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I like to say that highpointing is for everyone, but this list was inspired by my friend Brooke who asked, “What about people who don’t like high places?”

That’s a good question! US state highpoints aren’t all purple mountain majesties, in fact quite a few are low elevation wonders! So I compiled a list of the top ten state highpoints for people who just don’t have the head for heights

Before we dive in to the list, here is an honorable mention.

Taum Sauk Mountain, Missouri (Elevation – 1772 ft./ Prominence – 512 ft.)

While the walk to the highpoint from the parking lot is almost as flat as a pancake there are a few spots on the drive up that could give pause for those who don’t care for elevation, and for that reason it didn’t quite make the list. Click to check out the Taum Sauk episode!

Now on with the list!

10. Campbell Hill, Ohio (Elevation – 1549 ft./ Prominence – 639 ft.)

It may be the most “manicured” highpoint in the country. It is also the most prominent highpoint on this list. But never fear, the climb into thick air on the front side is across a well-cared for lawn. If that’s too much, then just drive up to the back and walk down a short side walk to the benchmark. Click to check out the Campbell Hill episode!

9. Driskill Mountain, Louisiana (Elevation – 535 ft./ Prominence – 225 ft.)

It’s the lowest state highpoint in the country that calls itself a mountain and it stretches the definition of the word mountain. You know you are going up something on the hike to the top, but don’t expect any scenic views at the summit other than Louisiana forest. Click to check out the Driskill Mountain episode!

8. Charles Mound, Illinois (Elevation – 1235 ft./ Prominence – 95 ft.)

Pastoral is the word that comes to mind here and this highpoint delights in its relaxed atmosphere. Check before you go though, access is exclusive with the highpoint open only the first full weekends from June to September, and one weekend in the middle of February. Click to check out the Charles Mound episode!

7. Jerimoth Hill, Rhode Island (Elevation – 812 ft./ Prominence – 192 ft.)

You won’t notice the elevation gain because almost all it is done in a vehicle on a highway. Once you park, the highpoint is just a short, low-key walk through the woods in what used to be one of the most restricted highpoints in the country.

6. Ebright Azimuth, Delaware (Elevation – 448 ft./ Prominence – 32 ft.)

It’s not the height you need to worry about here as much as the cars. The highpoint sits right next to a well-trafficked road. Take care when visiting and look both ways when you cross the street. Click to check out the Ebright Azimuth episode!

5. Hawkeye Point, Iowa (Elevation – 1670 ft./ Prominence – 40 ft.)

Surrounded by corn and soybeans, this place is a slight rise on the northwest Iowa Plains. In fact, if you visit in the late summer and the corn is standing tall, you may not get much of a view at all, though for the height challenged you may wish to avoid the observation deck by the silo

4. Hoosier Hill, Indiana (Elevation – 1257 ft./ Prominence – 297 ft.)

Follow in the footsteps of a highpointing legend. Arthur Harmon Marshall, the first person to ever complete all the state highpoints (48 at the time) finished here, but just to make sure he visited a couple other places in the immediate area as well.

3. Mount Sunflower, Kansas (Elevation – 4039 ft./ Prominence – 19 ft.)

The name is actually in jest, as this is the least prominent highpoint on our list. If you start your drive from the west you will be going down in elevation. The highpoint sits very near the border of Colorado, in fact not too far away from the Kansas highpoint is the lowest point in Colorado. Click to check out the Mt. Sunflower episode!

2. Britton Hill, Florida (Elevation – 345 ft./ Prominence – 65 ft.)

It’s the lowest state highpoint in the United States. In fact the Panorama Tower in Miami, the tallest building in the state, is over 2.5 times higher. Most of the vertical you’ll gain here is when you pull into the parking lot.

Before we get to our number one, here is a bonus, while it’s not a state highpoint many highpointers like to visit it.

Point Reno, District of Columbia (Elevation – 409 ft./ Prominence – 75 ft.)

The ride up the 161 foot escalator in the Tenlytown metro station maybe the biggest challenge when it comes to “summiting” the Federal District’s highest point. Once you are out the metro station the highpoint is just a short walk away. Click to check out the Point Reno episode!

Finally our number one state highpoint for people who are scared of heights.

1. Panorama Point, Nebraska (Elevation – 5424 ft./ Prominence – 26 ft.)

There is a reason the high plains are named as such, this highpoint is over a mile high and is the 20th highest state highpoint in the country but you would never be able to tell by looking at it. With a prominence of only 26 feet Panorama Point is all about wide-open spaces as the plains stretch out before you. Click to check out the Panorama Point episode!

There you have it, if you just aren’t a fan of heights but still want a highpointing adventure then these ten state highpoints are right up your alley.

Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below! Also make sure to check out Rooftops of America on YouTube!