Highpointing: White Butte, North Dakota

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White Butte, North Dakota is one of the few places where it feels like you could really disappear off the face of the earth. This rural, sparsely populated landscape can be harsh, unforgiving, wild and wonderful, oftentimes all on the same day! When I first started checking the weather about ten days prior the weather was forecasted to be sunny but cool. As the days got closer the weather started to go downhill. By the morning of our visit it had become overcast and windy, with rain threatening to dump on us at any moment.

Joining me on this adventure were Dave Dechant and Laurie Gibson. Dave had helped film Timms Hill way back in the beginning of this series and Laurie was an friend and colleague of mine from my contractor days. The fact that I managed to convince both of them to go with me to the Dakotas is still a mystery. At the start of the day we were able to get fairly decent footage at Painted Canyon but by the time we got half way finished at Theodore Roosevelt National Park the weather was working against us. You can hear the rain in a few scenes as we worked our way through the park.

Conditions had deteriorated even further by the time we arrived at the White Butte trailhead. At this point we were getting cold, wet, and miserable which led to rushing and just trying to get anything that was half usable. The hike across the field was wet and the wind seemed to cut through our layers of clothes. There was a bit of respite when we reached the base of the butte with it providing shelter from the wind.

It is at this point we had reached what would be the hardest part of the hike. Slopping through the mud at bottom of the butte was a quite an experience. When that dirt gets wet it becomes incredibly slick. Unfortunately the first 25 yards of the trail heading up the butte proper was exposed dirt and impossible to get traction on. With no purchase to be found on the trail Laurie opted to remain at the bottom and take photos and footage of the surrounding area. Dave and I managed to find away up the side passed the mud and then rejoined the trail and continued onward.

The remaining part of the hike was uneventful, the trail was easy to follow and nary a rattlesnake to be seen.(Come to think about it I don’t remember seeing any wildlife including birds on this hike. They all had much more sense than us to hunker down.) The weather seemed to back off a bit as we ascended until we neared the summit. Then everything changed again. Once at the top it was windy, perhaps the windiest highpoint we have yet filmed at. The summit shot you see involved a bit of camera “trickery.” Instead of the normal set up, Dave had to duck behind a small lean, set the tripod up low, and angle the camera up. The end result was a bit darker than we would have liked, and doesn’t show the surrounding area of the summit but at least we got a working shot. Expect to see the other version in the Season 5 recap.

Despite the adverse conditions I really enjoyed this highpoint. The badlands of North Dakota are austere but strikingly beautiful. The highpoint provided more than enough challenges making for some excellent memories. This was an episode that when I first started sketching it out I had concerns about having enough material though once I hooked in Theodore Roosevelt that became a non-issue.

Equipment-wise I really should have had a lav mic for this episode. That would have solved some of the sound issues we had due to the elements. We did the best we could with the shotgun mic, but even with a dead cat the wind was blowing it out.  The ever-reliable Nikon D7200 continued to be ever-reliable handling the elements with aplomb. At some point I will figure out how to shoot in the rain but until then you will just have to bear with me.

Music for this episode came from the YouTube Audio Library by Chris Haugen. There were two objectives that needed to be met. One was to find music that supported the Old West vibe of the story and the other was for something I kept thinking of while on the hike, particularly when heading up the butte itself, on how much it reminded me of Scotland. The three pieces chosen support those two elements nicely.

If you are ever in that part of North Dakota do yourselves a favor and check out both the state highpoint at White Butte and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The North Dakota badlands are one of the hidden treasures of this country and are worth your time.  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: Mount Elbert, Colorado

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Mount Elbert was not the first choice. Originally we were going to film Wheeler Peak in New Mexico, but in the weeks prior to our departure for that highpoint, Carson National Forest was closed due to fire. Ten days before flying out I made the decision to change venues and go for Mt. Elbert instead.

Despite this change it was not very difficult to pull together a script for this mountain. This part of Colorado was home to several mining rushes and it has the scars to prove it. It also has a rugged, Wild West vibe that we managed to capture on film. It is a beautiful area with Mount Elbert and its fellow peaks dominating the skyline; I could have easily spent a few more days there just filming b-roll.

I planned to hike up the south trail, overall it seemed like it would be the way to maximize our chances for a successful summit, provided and provided good scenic views. To gain these benefits we would need to get up a rugged forest service road to the upper south trailhead. Fortunately Jess had her Jeep. We all piled in like sardines and endured a dark, bumpy ride to the trailhead. Elbert did have a surprise for us though, the old trail was closed and we had to take the new improved trail. The good news was the trail was in excellent condition, the bad news was it added another couple of miles to our hike. The other advantage of the south trail was it was less trafficked making filming a lot easier.

We stepped off at 3:45 AM and trudged upwards. The group for this was a few veterans of previous Rooftops episodes, Brett, Eric, and Jess, and a newcomer, my cousin Susan. One of the big physical challenges for me was trying to do this with little acclimatization. I had only arrived in Colorado the day before. Jess paced me and required regular stops to monitor heart rate and breathing. It took a bit longer but the entire party had reached the top around 10:00 AM in good cheer with no effects of altitude sickness.

It was a party at the summit. You can see a bit of this in some of the sections on the final part of the ascent and hear it in the background with the closing summit shot. There had to be close to over a hundred people up there when we arrived with more arriving all the time.When you looked over at the north trail from the south it looked like a line of ants marching to the top.

In production for this episode the filming duties for this were twofold. Jess brought her photographer’s eye and filmed the scenes at Mt. Massive and Turquoise Lake. Brett Evenstad filmed the remaining parts. (Jess also was the “stunt driver” with the driving section on the forest road.) The weather cooperated with us pretty much the whole time with just a few drops of rain on the third day.

Music for this episode came from several sources with each chosen to give that western feel. Kevin MacLeod, (incompetech.com), Nat Keefe & The Bow Ties, and Brian Boyko all created tracks  that support the various scenes.

I will confess that when editing this episode I padded a bit of footage on the climb itself. If it seems like it drags on a bit during that section keep in mind that was intentional. The climb itself is a grind that feels like it just keeps going on and on. Surprisingly this feeling is even worse on the North Trail with its many false summits.

Mount Elbert was a big boost of confidence both in producing Rooftops of America and getting in the mindset to start tackling bigger peaks. I was able to apply the lessons learned from Humphreys Peak and Guadalupe Peak and turn out a better and bigger episode that manages to capture a bit of the grandeur and history of a cool part of Colorado.

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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Two Summits: An essay

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Below is the Two Summits essay as it was written. Enjoy!

On a warm, sunny July morning I trudged up to the top of my first “14-er.” Mount Elbert rises above Leadville to touch the sky at 14,440 feet. It calls to you to climb it, standing tall and bold against the skyline, filling your spirit with the urge to take your shot and test your limits. It is magnificent.

Around that same time, but two weeks prior, I strolled into a grove next to a cornfield to stand on top of Indiana. My breathing was significantly less labored in the thick air of 1,257 feet. Hoosier Hill hides in the woods, innocuous, easily passed by the unaware. It too is magnificent.

On a spectrum these two state highpoints would be at the extreme ends from each other, frankly, they could not be more different if they tried. A photo of Mt. Elbert could be stuck in the dictionary under the definition of mountain and it would never be questioned. It lies in the San Isabel National forest bracketed on three sides by other peaks. It is the third highest state highpoint in the United States.

On the day I summited there was a never-ending line of people heading up and down on the trails to the summit, with a raucous party ready to greet you when you arrived at the top, easily over fifty people milling about area, all in a festive mood, snapping photographs, celebrating their accomplishment of reaching the rooftop of Colorado. The views from the top revealed the glory of the Rocky Mountains.

On the other end is Hoosier Hill. It stretches the definition of what a hill is, being a very gradual incline on a rolling plain. The summit can be found in a verdant, mosquito-infested grove, adjacent to a cornfield. It is in the heart of rural America. There are really no scenic views to be had here; the summit area is enclosed in a comforting green bubble of trees and undergrowth. It is sixth lowest highpoint in the country.

It is serene, the quiet broken by the occasional birdsong or the sounds of nearby farmers working their fields. On the day I visited I was a bit taken aback when somebody actually pulled in before me. They stayed for a few minutes and we had an enjoyable conversation, but once they departed I was alone for the remainder of my time.

While these two highpoints are drastically different they do share some similarities. They are both found in areas rich in history and as state highpoints they count the same for those seeking to reach all 50. Both require you to get off the beaten path, whether in the national forest or country back roads, and they both offer their own rewards; you just have to be open to receiving them. One provided me a chance to challenge myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. The other afforded a rare opportunity to pause, to enjoy the stillness and solitude, and reflect on the journey.

I would not trade either experience, both had the same sense of adventure, the thrill of exploring something new, going to someplace that not everyone does. This is the true joy of highpointing, a chance to explore the full gamut of your country, to get a chance to revel in nature’s diversity because it is not just the highpoints themselves but also the journey to reach them.

There is an argument to be made that highpointing makes you a better person by providing you opportunities to uncover new and exciting areas, to take you places that you may never have gone to just to reach the top of a hill or mountain. It breaks you out of your comfort zone, and allows you the chance to realize the smallest adventures are just as rewarding as the big ones.

As people, we need the Mount Elberts and Hoosier Hills in our lives. The Mount Elberts of the world let us test our limits, challenge us to strive for something bigger, to discover new things about ourselves through a bit of adversity and struggle. When we finally get to the top we are rewarded with a stunning view and a chance to see the big picture.

But the Hoosier Hills of the world are just as important; the starting points or rest areas that allow us to take a pause from the hustle and bustle of life. Without the little adventures we may not fully appreciate the big ones. They provide a lens to put the journey into focus and perspective. The contrasts of one can help you appreciate the other.

So get out there and have an adventure whether big or small. Both will reward you if you are willing to go and experience something new. You will thank yourself for it. I hope to see you out there.

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: Minor’s Hill, Arlington County, Virginia – BONUS!

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Happy New Year!

Welcome to Minor’s Hill, the first bonus highpointing episode of Rooftops of America. A while back it occurred to me that I could easily expand the series and highlight places of interest that wouldn’t be touched on if I adhered to a rigid interpretation of Rooftops of America. In some ways I have already been doing this with the season intros and recaps. While the main focus of the series continues to be state highpoints, on occasion I will also look at things like the highest sand dune in the US, the highest battlefield, highpoints of geographical oddities, and other things of that nature. Hopefully the end result will interesting and entertaining and you can expect to see them at the end of upcoming seasons.

For a highpoint that has a history associated with a view it is ironic that today Minor’s Hill pretty much has none.  If you were to visit it today other than the sign you would be hard pressed to find anything that would reveal its past. There are few, if any remaining structures, even the latter half of the 19th century. As stated in the episode the last one of note, a house present at the time of the Civil War, was knocked down in 2016. Today the hill is covered in houses with more going up. It would only be good for showcasing the sub-urbanization of the greater DC Metro area.

Minor’s Hill was chosen as the first for a simple reason. I had to travel to DC for work and had an available afternoon to film. It was a convenient location and would be a low-key shoot. Originally this was going to be part of an expanded DC episode but as the research got more involved there was enough material for it to stand on its own. This was Lea Wulliman’s first time behind the camera and it is a solid debut effort. Zach Campbell and Drew Blazejewski did voice over work for the episode. Zach has contributed in previous episodes and Drew has a bigger role coming up in Season 5. Drew also was responsible in tracking down the additional information about the hill at the Mary Riley Styles public library in Falls Church.

If you visit Minor’s Hill keep in mind the highpoint itself is not in the park with the sign but up N. Rockingham Street. It is a short walk in a fairly well trafficked neighborhood but there are sidewalks. You’ll be looking for this location (see image below.) Heading away from the park up the street you will find it on your right hand side. Remember to respect peoples’ property and leave no trace when you stop in.

Minor’s Hill summit.

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 to bring you these episodes as we go highpointing across the USA. Thanks for watching!

 

Highland Rim – Season 4 Recap

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Another season comes to a close. In addition to providing a chance to thank everyone (Summer, Hunter, Junior (a.k.a “Purple Ham,) Brian, & Brett) for taking the time to help create the season; I also like to use the season recaps as a chance to try new things that may eventually make it into upcoming episodes. This time it was a multi-location extravaganza across middle Tennessee exploring one of the defining geological structures of the region, the Highland Rim. The cherry on top was being able to include a county highpoint, Short Mountain in Cannon County, in the episode.

Filming-wise this episode took the longest time to shoot. It was five days and four distinct locations, fortunately the weather cooperated over the course of several October and November weekends. The end result is ok but could use a bit of refinement. Some of the transitions are unpolished and frankly each one of the highlighted areas could probably carry one of the intro or recap episodes all on its own (I’ve already started sketching out a larger piece on the Natchez Trace for a future episode.) Overall I’m satisfied with the result.

In some ways this multi-location structure is already taking place in the episodes but it definitely gets kicked up next season. Looking forward, Season 5 is well underway with four highpoint episodes already in the can and the final two scheduled to be filmed and edited in the next few months. Beyond that I’ve actually started writing scripts for season 6 and have started planning out the trips for season 7.

Music for this episode is a piece called “Whaling City” by Freedom Trail Studio from YouTube’s audio library. It adds a nice autumnal feel to the episode. The audio library is turning out to be another good place to find creative commons and royalty free music.

Season 4 was a big learning experience. Researching and writing more material to push some of the episodes past the ten minute mark, learning to film more efficiently and in some cases solo. There were two big highlights for me this season, Indiana and Texas. The first for being able to take one of the nondescript highpoints, Hoosier Hill, and make it into a pretty solid episode. The latter because Guadalupe Peak is one of the coolest highpoints we have visited to date.

If you enjoyed this season 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!

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!