Into Thick Air – Jerimoth Hill, RI

Jerimoth Hill in Rhode Island has a rather curious history. At 812 feet, it is not exactly a mountain that towers over the countryside. The summit is a nondescript pile of rocks in a wooded area within minutes of the Connecticut border. The elevation gain is five feet from the road on a path that is perhaps 100 meters long. But this modest hill is the high point in Rhode Island. As such, it is a “must-do” summit for people interested in reaching the high point in each of the fifty states. The “curious history” aspect of this summit is that Jerimoth Hill was described as the
“hardest high point”
to reach of all the fifty states. Mt. Washington may have 200+ MPH winds, Denali may be remote and high and Ranier may be a classic in world mountaineering… but how many summits have gun-toting New Englanders who will bash you over the head?
High winds, white out conditions, and remoteness may make doing other summits difficult but dodging bullets is a bit more of a challenge.For years, the High Pointers allowed posing by the highway summit sign as an adequate substitute for reaching the high point. Posing by a sign was deemed a bit less dangerous than dealing with armed locals.

 

Jerimoth Hill lost this rather dubious “honor” in 2005 when new land owners allowed
access to the
true summit on weekends. No longer would intrepid hikers have to contend with gun-toting New Englanders. The new owners have even made an improved path to the “summit”.

This past Thanksgiving, I visited my home state. I have not celebrated Turkey Day in RI since 1998. The thought of Mom’s home cooking after four months of eating Ramen on the Continental Divide Trail sounded too good to pass up. And after a month of camping in the desert of New Mexico, celebrating Thanksgiving in Utah (as I have done since 2001) did not sound too inviting!

Used my visit as a chance to climb the highest point in Rhode Island.

With me for this arduous climb was my good friend Tim. Tim and I went to the same Catholic elementary school, ended up working at the same hospital as orderlies in our early twenties, and made rather large bar tabs (with our good friend Leo) also in our early twenties. (At least I think we did..the years 20-25 are a bit hazy for me. Pitchers of beer along with Jagermeister and “kamikaze” shots put those years in a bit of a fog.)

Tim took me on my first backpacking trip. He also joined me for the last week of the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. And Tim was there for that fated climb up Jerimoth Hill.

I arrived at the Geoffroy household for 8 am. We then suited up for the hike. Provisions were packed. Equipment checked. Tim said his last goodbyes to
his wife, stepson and one-year old daughter. A grave moment….

(Actually, I think the extent of the preparation was me finishing my coffee and Tim
asking if I wanted to drive. Reckless, I know).

Drove for five minutes and reached the summit sign on the highway. Walked across the road and found the trail. Was thankful for the time I spent on the CDT this past year, otherwise, I think would have been lost on this twisty path. (OK…so there were more signs in 100 meters than I saw on the entire CDT this year!)

We reached the summit…without a support team or oxygen. Reckless still!

The summit was a pile of rocks. A register was signed. We posed, took photos. Jerimoth Hill was conquered!

 

After this difficult trek, Tim and I celebrated. How else do two Rhode Island boys celebrate climbing a summit in the morning? By going to a Rhode Island diner, of course. Home fries, eggs, corn beef hash. Lots of coffee. A fitting end to a most difficult adventure.

 

Tim is thinking: “My friend dragged me away from my family to do this ?!?!?!”

 

Completing the “Triple Crown” of backpacking paled in comparison to this glorious moment!

ALL THE JERIMOTH HILL PHOTOS

 

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