Hillsdale County Highpoint Trip Report

Date: April 27, 2007
Author: John Hasch

0.0   Intersection of US 12 and M 49 in Allen, MI - drive south.
2.4   Intersection with West Bacon Road - turn left (east).
8.8   Intersection with M 99 in Hillsdale, MI - turn right (south).

11.3   Intersection with Steamburg Road - turn right (west).
11.4   Intersection with road to high point - turn right (north).
11.6   Turn around and park on right side near gate.

Hillsdale County brings back fond memories from my childhood. Having a great uncle who lived in nearby Hudson, MI, my father often brought our family here for visits. Each visit included at least one trip to a local lake for some boat fishing. We didn’t always catch fish but the memories are priceless. Hillsdale, MI is also the county seat and a college town, home of Hillsdale College. In the Midwest, at least, Paul Harvey often does commercials for Hillsdale on his "Rest of the Story" radio spots. His endorsement is enough for me to have it on a list of places my own children should consider if they want to go out of town to college.

My trip today balanced the scales in a major way, however. Hillsdale County now currently rates as my most memorable HP experience but for the wrong reasons. My desire for today’s visit was to add at least one Michigan county to my home glob. I had counties in Indiana and Ohio, so Michigan would be a third state gem in my HP glob crown. I came to Hillsdale County because it was a one-peak county that would be relatively easy to scale. Also, at 1280+ feet, Hillsdale County would become the highest county in my home glob, higher than all Indiana counties in fact.

When I arrived at the HP area, there was a gate across the road and the area was posted. Initially, I understood the signs to reference the business area that lay beyond the gate. No one was around to ask permission, so I decided to continue my effort to the top. I believed I could be in and out in a relatively few minutes, I would disturb nothing, and I had only the purest of intentions. Sounds good so far, doesn’t it?

I got out of my car, locked it, put a spare key in a secluded place, and began walking past the gate. Soon I saw a pickup parked in the area where Mike Schwartz’s trip report said trailers should be. It is now some kind of camp, and the trailers are gone. I called out several times and no one answered. So I took off up the trail over the bumps and followed them to the end to complete the HP trek.

I took relative altimeter readings (RAR) at each of the three rises I encountered. My altimeter read 1,184 feet at the car. At the first bump, the RAR was 1,242 feet. Down and then up to the next bump, the altimeter read 1,262 feet. One more dip and a rise to the third and farthest bump gave me a RAR of 1,303 feet. The road (a hand-cut, man-made ATV trail, really) ended at this point but the surrounding areas dropped off rather steeply, so I was satisfied that I had visited the three high contours I expected to find. In my opinion, the RAR were correct, and the third bump was the highest of all.

When I returned to where the truck was parked, a man was waiting for me. He was dressed in camouflage from head to toe, and he cradled a camouflaged rifle to his shoulder. He maintained a serious, stoic look on his face the entire time. He made it clear I was trespassing. Didn't I see the signs? I gave a few responses but he wasn't impressed. He asked why I was there. He did not see the value. He told me it was currently hunting season, turkey season. I asked about the property and he told me nothing about it other than it was private property. He told me to go away and never come back. I asked who could be contacted in the future if others wanted to visit. He told me that would be him but he said not to bother because no one will be admitted. He asked me to pass this info on to my "buddies". I apologized and assured him I had no reason to return to the property.

I was back at my car about 25 minutes and 0.5 mile after leaving it. When I got to the car, I was delayed because I dropped my spare key in an unreachable place as I tried to retrieve it. Rotten luck. The man had followed me to the gate, his gun still cradled and ready. He asked why I hadn't left yet. Had I lost my keys? I told him I had my keys. I was merely retrieving the spare key I sometimes deploy when I leave my vehicle. I got in and drove away from the restricted area rather than prolong this unpleasant contact. Farther down the driveway, I parked the car, jacked it up, and retrieved the wandering key. I drove away and completed neighboring Branch County in order to feel better about completing a MI HP under less hostile conditions.