Only you folks can really relate to the joy involved in doing these high points. I flew to Denver per your suggestions, drove to ND as soon as I landed. Got to within 3 hours of the high point and slept in SD for the night at a hotel. Got up the next day, drove to White Butte, parked. The book is wrong. These people have been dead for a while, the owners of the land. Phone # is disconnected. Met a couple who were doing their 36th high point on the "trail"! What a coincidence. Then it got bad. I finally found the high point. There was practically no trail. The grasses were high, I just basically felt my way there. I found the top ok, eventually and then the fog and rain came in. I couldn't see anything. I didn't know which way the trail was anymore. I was totally, and utterly lost.
I ended up in the chalky white stuff, a crevasse type area of sorts, fell down, slipped, panicked big time, no indicator as to where to go. No GPS, no map, just fear. I walked and walked and didn't know if I was going the right way. I finally made it away from the butte but ran into miles of barb wire fence in the rain and fog and couldn't see where I was. I walked for hours, totally freaked, thinking I was going to die out there, alone. I know, you're thinking - WTF?
I couldn't tell where I was. I found no break in the barb wire fences. I couldn't see the road, a house, anything but miles of fence and hay bales. I didn't know what to do. I picked up my phone that I bought the day before at a radio shack as my Blackberry died before the trip and frustratingly dialed 911 fully expecting nothing to happen. How could there be any signal at all in the middle of nowhere?
They answered right away. I told them I was really wigged out, lost, didn't have any hope of being rescued. They said... "We know right where you are. We've GPS'd you"!!! I was shocked. How? Technology is amazing. They said they're sending the sherriff. I asked them how the hell they're going to find me, as I was very seemingly far from a road, from anywhere. They said not to worry. 25 minutes later the fog lifted and I realized the gravel road was right ahead!!! I could even see the green house where I started off in the distance. I had to climb over the dreaded barb wire to get there and I cut my pants up pretty badly doing so as I couldn't find that gate entrance but I was on my way back to life and my car.
The sherriff was waiting for me at the end of the gravel trail. I was soooo embarrassed. He was cool about it. Whew... I have never been lost like this before. I was fairly out of my mind. I don't do well in situations like this. It pays to hike with someone else but I couldn't find anyone to do this with me. It was "just" North Dakota. Shouldn't have been a big deal, till the weather turned and fogged up. I also found out my boots are NOT waterproof anymore. There were soaked through and through and sloshing water like crazy. Guess I have to have them checked out and put waterproofing stuff on them.
Made it through the other high points ok and was mostly amazed by the simple beauty of Kansas's underrated Mount Sunflower. Seeing it in person blows away seeing pics of it (which seems more parody than anything that great). It was so peaceful and reading the register book in the mailbox almost made me cry. It was such a touching place, kind of like Iowa's high point. I didn't want to leave. Very emotional place.
Nebraska had more bugs jumping at me than any other place I've ever been. I could only last about 7 minutes there and ran back to my car. Crickets and red flies were in my clothes, down my back, and jumping in the car door. It was nuts! I would never live near there.
I got lost again in NM, sadly. I know, I'm a mess. I NEED A GPS badly!!! Any suggestions on a reliable cheap unit to get? I took the directions, I took just back reports, no, I didn't have a compass or a map. I can't read maps anyway. It's amazing I can even do these high points as I'm directionally challenged beyond compare.
I hiked it at 6am as the first light of day came up, staying in Taos the night before the fantastic Whitten Inn (only $55 a night - pretty good for Taos). No one and I mean no one was on the trail for hours. I hiked up and up and followed the signs religiously. Then, the darn trail went down, and down and every report I read said it keeps going up and up and then onto the ridgeline. I was really upset. Was I going the wrong way? My body was beat (I'm not the greatest hiker but I try). No one to ask. I figured I didn't want to keep going in the wrong direction so I gave up and headed back for 1.5 miles hoping I'd run into someone. No one came... I figured I blew it. I'd have to recovery my body for a day or 2 and try it again 2 days from now.
All of a sudden I spot a guy and his sister hiking up. I asked him where he was going - "to the top of Wheeler Peak" he said. He worked as a firefighter in Taos and had ...a GPS. He was sure I was going the right way the whole time even though it went down for a while. Really far down. I was totally dubious but I followed them for miles and it did of course go up and up again.
WHY or WHY are there not more signs once you pass the 2 mile mark? There's just this one stupid sign that says "Wheeler Peak Wildnerness". Why oh why couldn't it have said "Wheeler Peak Summit - "X" miles ahead"????
Ughhhh... I passed this sign before I met these 2 people and hiked back so far to have to hike it again with them. Oh well, what the heck - I MADE IT. I was so beat at the top. I took the long trail. According to the signs, it was 8 miles so I figured I hiked 16 plus 2 = about 18+ miles that day. That's about the most I hike. I was glad as hell to be done that hike.
Home now and planning to do AZ and NV in 3 weeks. Have to look into getting my pants sewn back up, buy a GPS, and try to find someone to do NV with! I'm hoping I can meet up with Arlen from this forum as I really, really don't want to hike it alone and get lost again like some others have done. Is this a complicated high point to figure out and find without a really detailed map?
A couple I met 1 mile from the end in NM were high pointers, an older couple, and they said they're doing many of the mountains like Kings Peak and even though they don't make it to the top, if they try and almost make it then they count it as a high point mountain for them. I though that was pretty cool, that they weren't anal about it. Since they're older, they have to be reasonable about what they can do together. That they were a couple doing these points is even cooler to me!
Here's the link to pics. Hope it works...
https://picasaweb.google.com/stever5050 ... directlink
Steve, c'mon out to Oregon next June and I'll bet you find a bunch of us who are more than willing to do a little map-and-compass tutuorial for you. Like many things, it's a learnable skill but not one that is necessarily obvious if you try to pick it up on your own. It's also a vital skill if you want to be able to figure out where you are and where you're headed when you are doing some of the less-obvious highpoints.
On the topic of a GPS, remember that they're dependent on batteries but a map and compass work regardless. Also, if you're in heavy cover or a deep/steep valley, you may lose GPS satellite coverage and the GPS will be as lost as you are. That said, a GPS is a very useful tool but with other limitations...remember that a GPS measures in "crows," not "hikers." That is, if I stand at Whitney Portal and ask my GPS how far it is to the summit of Mt. Whitney, it thinks that it's between 3.5 and 4 miles. Trouble is, I'm not a crow and can't go up Mt. Whitney "as the crow flies." For me, it's 11 miles to the summit (via the main trail anyway), hence "11 hikers" versus "3.7 crows."
Do I use a GPS? Yup. Do I always have the topo map and compass with me, too? Yup. (And that even counts the fact that I now have a Garmin Oregon 450 with built-in topo maps...which are totally useless if the batteries die.)
Also, realize that in a lot of wilderness areas, you're not going to see much signage. It is, after all, a wilderness area. Not many trails have mile markers, so it's left as an exercise to the reader (as my college profs used to say) to figure out where they are and how much farther it is to their destination. Plus, the "interesting" way often takes you off the beaten path and doing some of your own route-finding anyway, so you need to be able to identify landmarks and locate yourself on a map to know how much farther you have to go.
Sounds like you had a great trip all-in-all...keep up the good work!