Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hazy-Bordered Flashback Time

As the sun sails the high skies of summer, an old red Honda makes its way down I-81, the bumpy backbone of Appalachia. The car shoots across the Tennessee-Virginia line, then turns eastward and upward to climb over high green hills into North Carolina. Halfway to Asheville, it circles off the interstate and follows a series of mountain roads, each rougher than the last, deep into the dark narrow valleys of the Black Mountains. It stops at last, late in the afternoon, at a campground beside the South Toe River, here little more than a creek. Above loom densely forested foothills, mountains in their own right... and beyond them, Mount Mitchell, the pinnacle of the eastern United States.

Here the driver disembarks, pitches her tent, and waits out the night.

In the pale purple dawn, before light reaches over the eastern hills, she rises. Still sleeps the campground. She checks her pack once last, then trudges to the trailhead to begin her solitary climb.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Highpointing: A Futile Exercise in Political Geography

So, why climb the state high points?

Let's try a little thought experiment. Take the land area of the United States, and partition it into 50 chunks of roughly regular size. Now consider the high points of your new regions. Assuming you didn't learn district-drawing from the Maryland State Assembly, you should have several notable peaks among them.

Maryland Congressional Districts
Yeah, I'd say those congressional districts are "compact and contiguous."

Thursday, April 7, 2016

So What's All This About?

A profound and intricate question, with as many answers as there are--oh, just this blog? That's much simpler. This summer, I'm going to hike the high point of as many US states as I can and document the results right here.

Highpoint Map
I'mma go see all the red dots!

The ultimate goal, as constrained by my car's current lack of wings or gills, would be to summit each of the contiguous 48 states. As scattered as they are, it's doable within a single May-September climbing season--heck, it's been done in just under 20 days by a couple of siblings from Michigan. But speed has never been my thing, and I can't sleep in shifts with myself while I drive, so I expect I'll take a good while longer than them.

Prologue: The Windowless Room

Midway to the middle of my journey of life, I found myself in a windowless room.

In that room, there was work enough to keep me busy as long as my strength would last. There were others passing through for company, though none lingered overlong. There was sustenance, of a sort. And satisfaction... all the satisfaction of building a wall each day and tearing it down the next.

I spent a long time in that room. Long enough that it became a part of me, its boundaries the limit of my thoughts. We'd face each day together, the room and I, knowing that beneath its ceiling there would be no surprises, no challenges, no strain, just the same fluorescent white.

I almost wish that room had been enough for me. But it was not.

And so I dreamed...