Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Tripoint and a Highpoint in One Fell Swoop

Laramie County, Wyoming
Weld County, Colorado
Kimball County, Nebraska
July 7, 2013

Old Texas Trail marker in Pine Bluffs
Getting There

Here I am barreling down Interstate 80 soon to cross the Wyoming-Nebraska border like I have done a dozen times before. I continued going straight the dozen times before, but for this trip on the freeway I have planned my own detour. Twelve miles south of I-80 are two places on the geographer's bucket list, and I am now taking the time and effort to find those places before I continue heading east on the freeway.

I exited the freeway at Pine Bluffs, Wyoming, drove through town, found a historical marker for the Old Texas Trail, and now headed south on Laramie County Road 164 towards Colorado. As I started to feel like I was getting close to Colorado, I looked for the telltale signs of the state boundary line between Wyoming and Colorado. There were no signs welcoming me to Colorado (and no signs behind me welcoming others to Wyoming), but I knew I entered Colorado when things underneath me changed. I traveled from Laramie County Road 164 to Weld County Road 105, and the road transformed from pavement to a dirt / gravel mixture. A change in road maintenance is a sure sign of going from one governmental jurisdiction to another.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Remembering Luther Latham, A Man Worthy of a Highway

Mathiston, Mississippi
August 6, 2016

memorial: something (such as a monument or ceremony) that honors a person who has died or serves as a reminder of an event in which many people died.
(Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary)

On my way home to Texas from Kentucky, I was traveling along the Natchez Trace Parkway and making small detours to find Natchez Trace monuments placed by the Mississippi Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in the early 20th century. I found one placed in Mathiston along US Route 82, but what caught my eye was the marble sign next to it. It simply read:

Luther Latham
Memorial Highway

Webster County
1928 — 1931

Friday, June 24, 2016

It All Begins With a Place

Panama City, Florida
March 30, 2010

The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he or she has the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if he or she is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent her or him.

United States Supreme Court, Miranda v. Arizona (1966)

This story, like all stories, begins with a place. It begins in the early morning of June 3, 1961 at the Bay Harbor Pool Room in Panama City, Florida. A robbery at the Bay Harbor Pool Room set into motion a row of legal dominoes that toppled all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The trial of Clarence Earl Gideon, who lived just down the street from and frequented the Bay Harbor Pool Room, who did not have the benefit of an attorney at his trial, and who pressed his case all the way to the Supreme Court, enhanced the right of Americans to counsel. Before 1963, each state determined if and when an attorney needed to be provided to a defendant and this determination could be applied selectively on a case-by-case basis. In 1963 the Supreme Court in Gideon v. Wainwright ruled that the right to the assistance of counsel was a fundamental right guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution and essential for a fair trial.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Goodbye to Greensberg

Choice Valley, San Luis Obispo County, California
November 22, 2001 and December 22, 2007

You will not find Greensberg, California on a map. You will not find it on the Internet.  You will not find it on the land. A few of us may remember it if we traveled through Palo Prieto Pass in the far eastern slice of San Luis Obispo County. What we remember is the Greensberg General Store: a desolate building with a mysterious past, a building once part of the land, a building now just a memory.

I traveled through Cholame dozens and dozens of times I drove between Kettleman City and Paso Robles. This route is the fastest way from Lompoc to the San Joaquin Valley and the Sierra Nevada beyond it. My first time was in April 1981 on my way to Fresno to explore my soon-to-be university. I traveled through Cholame many more times on my visits back to Lompoc from Fresno and then Mariposa and Truckee.

There's not much to slow you down in this part of San Luis Obispo County along Highway 41, but in all my travels through Cholame, I did stop a few times to sample what Cholame had to offer. There was that time I had to stretch my legs, a couple of times to check out the Japanese memorial to James Dean who died in an auto accident only a few miles away, and the time I had the most delicious coconut cream pie at Jack Ranch Cafe. There was, however, one offering near Cholame that I did not avail myself. It would entice me every time I passed it – Bitterwater Road.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Pictures on Rocks

Carrizo Plain National Monument, San Luis Obispo County, California
February 18, 2010

I have driven through the Carrizo Plain several times over the last few years but never really stopped to smell the roses that this national monument offered. On my way back to Lompoc from the Mojave Desert, I decided I would stop at one of these roses, the Painted Rock.  Painted Rock is a horseshoe-shaped formation of sandstone rocks with Native American pictographs. One of the three major forms of Native American rock art, a pictograph as defined by the Archaeology Wordsmith is "Any design, picture, or drawing painted on a surface (usually rock/stone) and used to represent a thing, action, or event. Pictographs are believed to be the earliest form in the development of writing (pictography). It represents a form of nonverbal communication used by non-literate people."

Friday, May 6, 2016

Pompeys Pillar

Pompeys Pillar National Monument, Yellowstone County, Montana
August 2, 2010

Pompeys Pillar as viewed from Highway 312

Friday, April 29, 2016

Movie Magic

Trona, California
February 17, 2010

You probably have seen the Trona Pinnacles, but just didn't know it. Production crews for movies, television, and commercials have been drawn for years to this area 150 miles north of Los Angeles.

This group of over 500 tufa (calcium carbonate) towers rise up to 140 feet from the Searles Dry Lake and can be transformed into an alien world or the desolate reaches of the earth with the right lighting, camera angle, and special effects. Star Trek V, the 2001 remake of the Planet of the Apes, and many a car and truck commercial are just some of the video productions that have been filmed here.

The Pinnacles are best though when you are by yourself and have them all to yourself. You don't need any Hollywood magic to feel desolate in these surroundings.

The Trona Pinnacles in the 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes

Friday, April 15, 2016

The End of the Road

Near Venice, Louisiana
March 15, 2010

The road south of Venice
I always found the mouth of the Mississippi River an interesting blob on the map. If you extend your arm out and wiggle your fingers, you would get something that looks like the river from south of New Orleans to its delta. I was in the mood for a drive with lots of unknowns and a defined end that would signal me to return back.

The Great River Road runs along the course of the Mississippi River from its source at Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the nether regions of Louisiana. That was my drive for the day. I drove the road along the west bank of the river, but in many places I was on a sliver of raised land with water on both sides of the road. However, this was not a road of solitude but one bustling with activity. Venice is the last town on the road, and the oil business was evident all around. I could see the oil business even miles further down the road.

The legislature of Louisiana stopped the Great River Road at Venice, but there were still a few miles of road left before the Gulf of Mexico put an end to it. I drove south past Venice and down the road as far as I could. Then I came to a dead-end where the paved road abruptly stopped. Although there was a dirt driveway that served a few oil industrial sites further south and went for another mile, the end of the paved road was the end of my adventure down the Mississippi River.

The Mississippi River Delta

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Other Butterfield Overland Trail

Gove County, Kansas
October 7, 2010

This limestone post is one of 138 markers placed from Fort Ellsworth, Kansas to the Colorado state line to mark the route of the Butterfield Overland Despatch. Howard Raynesford mapped the route of this stagecoach line on the Smoky Hill Trail and between 1936 and 1965 placed these markers along the route. The marker consists of a limestone post mounted in a concrete base with BOD 1865 inscribed near the top of the post.

This post marks the trail near Monument Station, a waystation for the stagecoach. One of the reasons why the trail and station are found here is Monument Rocks (also known as Chalk Pyramids), the nearby natural landmark that is visible for miles and miles on these plains. Shortly after the station was established, the U.S. Army soon found it necessary to place troops here, and the military post became known as Fort Monument or Fort Pyramid.

On the concrete base is written:

Smoky Hill Trail
Butterfield Overland
Atchison to Denver
Traversed by Gen. Fremont 1844
First Denver Stagecoach 1859
Most Dangerous Overland Route
Retraced and Mapped by
Howard C. Raynesford, Ellis Kansas
Marker Placed 1963

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Outdoors of Vegas

Clark County, Nevada
February 11-12, 2010

I am not one to burrow myself inside a casino during the daytime, and I can only endure so much traffic and solicitors along the Strip. With the February weather in Vegas sunny and in the 70's, I set off into the outdoors of Las Vegas. Yes, there are outdoors to enjoy in the Vegas area that are not made by the hand of man.

I chose three contrasting spots for my Vegas outdoor adventures. One well-known with a Federal designation to recognize its significance. One shown as a small red square on my road atlas with no clues of its worth. One at the end of a long road next to a long waterway.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Mauna Kea - The Highpoint of Hawai‘i

Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawai‘i
November 20, 2007

My first state highpoint was an actual mountain summit. However, I have to put an asterisk next to it since I did not do any climbing and by choice I decided not to venture the last two hundred yards or so to the top. Mauna Kea on the island of Hawai‘i is the highest natural elevation in the state of Hawai‘i at 13,796 feet above mean sea level. Unlike most other state highpoints, you can actually view mean sea level below you and can start your journey at tide level at the sea’s edge. I started my journey on a beach near Kailua Kona and then drove to the tour operator that would take us to the top of Mauna Kea.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Day's Drive Through Wyoming

The Middle Part of Wyoming 
July 31, 2010

Wyoming is a land with a lot of open between its communities and long roads connecting them. Wyoming also has a lot of sights, but like its communities, Wyoming's sights are far between. To reach these sights, you must make the effort.

I had an opportunity to make the effort to experience the middle part of Wyoming far from the interstate and enjoy its many historic and scenic spots. This opportunity would be a long day of driving of almost 400 miles. I relied on the red squares of my road atlas, historic markers on the side of the highways, and the expanse of the Wyoming horizon to treat myself to a day of history and scenery.

The Start - Evansville an hour or so into the morning light. I headed westward following the Oregon-California-Mormon Trail that brought so many pioneers to the West in the 19th century.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Pictographs, Petroglyphs, and now Geoglyphs !

North of Blythe, California
February 13, 2010

Sometimes it is by the wandering spirit and sheer luck that you find something you weren't looking for but glad you did. I've seen my share of Native American pictographs and petroglyphs as I've traveled through the West, but I don't remember if I've come across a geoglyph. I remember reading about geoglyphs as a teen when I went through a phase learning about aliens—the ones out there in space watching us. In 1968 Erich von Daniken wrote "Chariots of the Gods" hypothesizing that aliens visited our ancient cultures and imparted to mankind new technologies and religions worshiping these ancient astronauts. Part of his proof, mostly now debunked, were the giant geoglyphs of Nazca and Pampas de Jumana in South America. These geoglyphs ranged from simple lines and geometric shapes to figures of animals and humans up to 660 feet across. That is how I came to know the definition of a geoglyph: a large-scale drawing on the ground made by the arranging of rocks and other materials on the surface or the scraping away of the surface materials. Since then I have not thought much about geoglyphs.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Magazine Mountain - The Highpoint of Arkansas

Magazine Mountain, Mount Magazine State Park, Arkansas
November 25, 2011

The trail head to the highpoint of Arkansas
After recently checking off #44 of the states’ highest points, I wanted to continue to get higher and higher with my highpoints. I continued the trend of bagging the lower highpoints by detouring from here to there. This time the here was Texas and the there I was going to was Indiana. Arkansas was on the way and the highpoint of The Natural State was not too far from the interstate. Driving in from the north, at least I was able to see the highpoint from afar although the particular spot did not stand out. Magazine Mountain is a flat-topped plateau which looms above the surrounding terrain.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Tripoint on Water

Fort Defiance Park, Cairo, Illinois   
November 19, 2011

Some tripoints aren’t easy to get to because they are on water (or is it underwater). The Connecticut-New York-Rhode Island tripoint is actually on saltwater of the Long Island Sound. Nonetheless, most water tripoints can be spotted from land, and I was satisfied with this approach for my first water tripoint experience. The tripoint of Illinois-Kentucky-Missouri is in the middle of the Mississippi River where the Ohio River joins it. From the southern tip of Illinois in Cairo, the tripoint can be easily seen from Fort Defiance Park (when the Mississippi and Ohio rivers are not flooding). You point southeast and somewhere within a half-mile of your finger is the meeting point of Illinois, Kentucky, and Missouri. And I say you can check that tripoint off your list :)

The confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers as viewed from Fort Defiance Park
The tripoint of Illinois - Kentucky - Missouri is somewhere in the middle right of the photo

Web Links

Wikipedia - Tripoint  

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Second Battle of Sabine Pass

Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Site, Texas
March 14, 2010

1936 Texas Centennial Monument
In 1936 the State of Texas erected hundreds of historical markers, monuments, and memorials throughout the state to celebrate the centennial of Texas independence. Although there was not much military action in Texas during the Civil War, a number of sites in Texas where people witnessed the carnage of war were marked in 1936. This is one such place, the ground of the Second Battle of Sabine Pass.

On September 8, 1863, a flotilla of Union gunboats and transports with infantry troops attempted to silence the Confederate guns and 44 men here with a plan to disembark the troops and invade this corner of Texas. It was a minor battle, but received much attention as the Union attack was thwarted with little or no casualties amongst the Confederates.

Since there is not much to see here, my visit was a short one. Just long enough for me to read the markers and monuments and visualize how the battle may have unfolded.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Man, His Truck, and The Unconquered Road

The Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
October 12, 2010

A stop at the visitor center has usually been the first order of business when I get to a national park. The visitor center is typically near the entrance and gives me an opportunity to stretch and get a feel of the lay of the land. The lay of the Canyonlands is immense, so much that it has three districts with the entrances to these districts tens of miles apart. A quick look at the visitor center exhibits and the park map gave me my agenda for the morning in The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. A scenic drive down the dead-end road to Big Spring Canyon Overlook with a side trip on the Elephant Hill access road for a distant view of the Needles. Also, a short hike on the Pothole Point Trail for my daily exercise.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Four Corners, a Quadripoint

Teec Nos Pos, Arizona
December 27, 2001

What’s better than a tripoint? A quadripoint. Although there are 62 state tripoints, there is only one quadripoint where the borders of four states converge together. This spot in the United States is in the Four Corners region where the southeast corner of Utah, the southwest corner of Colorado, the northwest corner of New Mexico, and the northeast corner of Arizona come together. Being the only place where four states meet, the Navajo Nation has made the quadripoint a tourist draw worthy of a one-of-a-kind photograph. When my derriere was planted firmly in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, I knew no one else in America was in four states at that same exact moment in time.

The Four Corners

Web Links

Wikipedia - Tripoint  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

I Came, I Saw, I Conquered

Britton Hill, Lakewood Park, Walton County, Florida
March 29, 2010

I came to Florida, not to do daring feats or register lasting achievements. I came to Florida with simple plans: to visit a dear friend and to ride an airboat in the Everglades. As I entered Florida from the north from Alabama ...

I saw a small plus (+) sign, snuggled next to the Alabama state boundary, challenging me to the Highest Point in Florida. It was near a major highway not too far off my intended path. I asked myself why would I want to climb this mountain, and I answered it the same as the famous Alpinist George Mallory, "Because it's there." I pointed my truck westwards into the setting sun and sped towards the Florida peak to get there before the dusk. As the sun was nearing the horizon behind me, a sign by the highway led me to a country road and the County park that encompassed this high land of Florida. I parked my truck in the lot of Lakewood Park, and I saw the challenge that laid ahead of me. I was not deterred, and ...

Friday, January 15, 2016

Hoosier Hill - The Highpoint of Indiana

Hoosier Hill, Franklin Township, Wayne County, Indiana
October 21, 2011

Although 912 feet higher in natural elevation than Britton Hill in Florida, the trek to the highest point in Indiana is as blasé as Florida's high point when it comes to mountain climbing. Hoosier Hill is one of the highpoints that is privately owned, but thanks to the property owners and a county road, it is easily accessible. I came to Hoosier Hill by way of a scenic detour on my way back to Nappanee, Indiana from a conference in Dayton, Ohio. North of Richmond near the northern border of Wayne County, the hill is really just a slight rise in the undulating countryside, but I guess you need to name these highpoints and Mole Hill just won’t do.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Rocky Homes

Flagstaff to Marana, Arizona
March 3, 2010

Today, as I traveled from Flagstaff to Marana just north of Tucson, I visited a lot of homes and a lot of rocks. Here in central Arizona you don’t have many choices but to build right on the rocks, in the rocks, or as part of the rocks. Here are three rocky ways I discovered to have a home in Arizona.

Homes Built in a Rock

Montezuma Castle
Around 700 A.D. the Sinagua people were migrating and came upon the waters of Beaver Creek just north of Camp Verde and the Verde River. With plenty of water and fertile ground, the Sinagua put down roots although they decided to put their homes into the sky. Within the high limestone cliffs bordering Beaver Creek, the Sinagua became cliff-dwellers and built their homes into the cliffs for comfort and for protection. An area inhabited by the Sinagua with a spectacular example of one of their cliff-dwellings is protected by Montezuma Castle National Monument.

Also protected by the National Monument but several miles away from the main unit of the park is Montezuma Well. The Sinagua people abandoned central Arizona around 1425, but the Yavapai believe their people were brought into the world at the well which is a limestone sinkhole. The pond in the sinkhole has an outlet to Beaver Creek along with a canal system which delivered water further downstream. The well is coming under the assault of modern man with the spreading of Illinois Pondweed, but it is still a sight with small dwellings squeezed into the limestone walls surrounding the pond.

Montezuma Well

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Campbell Hill - The Highpoint of Ohio

Campbell Hill, Bellefontaine, Ohio
May 29, 2012

“Are you a highpointer?” The question, despite me being on top of Ohio’s highpoint, caught me by surprise. I hemmed and hawed and sputtered, “No, not really. But I’m here because of this being a highpoint.” As he replied that he was a highpointer, I quickly realized there is no hemming and hawing about being a highpointer. Either you are a highpointer or you are not. And it dawned on me that I was indeed a highpointer.