New England and Canada June 2008 Trip Report
© June and September 2008 Adam Helman
(Click on any image for enlargement.)


I had a longstanding desire to climb four northeast state highpoints - Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. All of these are "real mountains" as distinct from some state highpoints that are little more than bumps on the land.

The problem is that I require an additional incentive to make the long journey more economically viable in terms of the cost to benefit ratio. The cost is financial while the benefit is number of good mountains climbed.

An opportunity arises when I learn that friend and peakbagging partner Bob Packard will be in Maine as one small part of a very lengthy driving and highpointing journey. Then he would drive through much of Canada bagging provincial highpoints and prominences.

I received Bob's approval to be his partner for the Canada portion. With that "green light" I would fly to Maine, rent an automobile for one week to climb several mountains alone; drive with Bob through Canada; and then be deposited in Montana for a flight home.

Katahdin - the Maine highpoint

Trip Details

Saturday, May 31 - Overnight to Newark, Jersey

My overnight flight to Newark International was uneventful. Unfortunately the same cannot be written about their terminals. One is forced to go through security a second time after an inbound flight. This is unusual, disconcerting, and inconvenient.

Sunday, June 1 - Portland, Maine and drive to Adirondacks

The flight from Newark to Portand, Maine is eventful. With a right-hand window seat I have excellent views of Manhattan Island. Identification of several iconic structures is easy, including the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty.

My first impression of New England is of a glacial tarn, the rocky coastline suggesting that the entire region is indeed a remnant of the Ice Age.

At Enterprise in South Portland I initially get a malfunctioning rental that forces an exchange: here, I don't want to be charged for some pre-existing mechanical problem. After an appropriate vehicle is procured, I perform a terribly sleepy drive 300 miles to upstate New York. Without a night's sleep this is really a big mistake on my part - and I won't be planning a trip again wherein I must drive long distances after getting virtually no sleep the previous night.

There are slow country roads through Vermont (and New England more generally). I am traveling east to west, roughly, and yet the region is replete with hills oriented north to south. The rain on arrival to the Mount Marcy trailhead is most depressing. There are few mosquitos, no black flies. Sleeping on the rentals's back seat is uncomfortable, yet I eventually get more used to it.

Monday, June 2 - Mount Marcy (New York highpoint)

My ascent of Mount Marcy, the New York state highpoint, is described in this trip report.

By late afternoon I take a ferry on Lake Champlain to Vermont. As the next passage is not for nearly two hours I decide to eat supper at the gift store / snack bar. This includes hot dog, french fries, and a delectable strawberry rhubarb pie (with milk).

glacial erratic
This roadside boulder just outside
Baxter State Park is a glacial erratic
from the Ice Age that sculpted New England.

On the east shore I drive through Burlington, Vermont in growing darkness. Perhaps one hour later I attempt to identify the trailhead for Mount Mansfield along Route 108. A sign suggests no hiking in the Spring - or at least it is discouraged on account of sensitive vegetation. Clearly I will NOT heed such a stricture after coming from California.

I sleep in the rental at a pullout around 10 p.m.

Tuesday, June 3 - Mount Mansfield (Vermont highpoint) and "Adams Apple"

My ascent of Mount Mansfield, the Vermont state highpoint, is described in this trip report.

I am tempted to visit the nearby Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory which has daily tours. However they last only one hour and cost fifteen dollars. I abandon this concept and drive east into New Hampshire mid-day. Eventually I pass through Gorham, New Hampshire, and camp at a pullout 4 miles south enroute to Mount Washington.

Wednesday, June 4 - Mount Washington (New Hampshire highpoint)

There is bad weather at Mount Washington, the New Hampshire state highpoint, and indeed the highest mountain of the entire northeastern United States. It is too blustery for hiking and, as the only other option is to wait a day doing nothing, I decide to drive the summit road. My "ascent" of Mount Washington is described in this trip report.

The summit visited, I drive into Maine along both U.S Route 2 and the interstate. Eventually I camp 15 miles from a bend in the road at the west end of Millinocket - and 2 miles from the Baxter State Park entrance kiosk, just under an electric power line. There are few mosquitoes.

Northern Maine is largely unpopulated, the natural scene relatively unscathed by major communities and pollution. It is an enclave of green in an otherwise overused part of the planet.

Thursday, June 5 - Katahdin (Maine highpoint)

My ascent of Katahdin, the Maine state highpoint, is described in this trip report. This evening I sleep under the same power lines as last night - free of charge and undisturbed even by insects.

general view lighthouse closeup rocky shoreline
West Quoddy Head lighthouse
Adam and the lighthouse
The far end of this rock is
momentarily the easternmost point.
Distant land is in New Brunswick.

Friday, June 6 - West Quoddy Head (easternmost USA point) and Cadillac Mountain (Acadia National Park highpoint)

I drive to easternmost Maine. Early on, and near Millinocket I enjoy a filling "breakfast pizza" slice with eggs, bell peppers, sausage, and cheese (of course). Coffee, too - although not in the same mouthful as pizza since that is a poor flavor combination.

My visit to West Quoddy Head, easternmost point of the United States, is described in this trip report.

I then drive west (obviously!) to Acadia National Park, buying assorted high calorie treats at an Ellsworth, Maine store for consumption in Canada on some much longer and arduous hikes - including one peanut butter "whoopie" that is really just a chocolate cake with peanut butter cream filling.

My mechanically-assisted visit of Cadillac Mountain, the Acadia National Park highpoint, is described in this trip report.

I camp at Wal-Mart in Ellsworth, Maine. Supper includes tuna fish with ranch dressing while seated in back.

known highpoint alternate highpoint
The benchmarked highpoint atop Cadillac Mountain
The alternate possible highpoint

Saturday, June 7 - return to Portland, Maine

I wash and dry clothes, and then visit a shopping mall in South Portland. There I enjoy a Thai-style lunch with red bean ice cream for dessert.

I meet Bob Packard at Enterprise car rental agency by 9:30 p.m.; and camp with him at Wal-Mart in South Portland.

I am pleased to be finished with the rental since it makes for uncomfortable eating and sleeping on the back seats. In addition there is no hot food while camping since I have no fuel due to airline regulations. That written, the rental provides an excellent 36 miles per gallon - far better than my own pickup truck.

Adam at the closest we'll
get to Jacques-Cartier's summit.

In contrast, with Bob's camper we enjoy real seats, a stove, and, once the seats are re-configured, a flat place to sleep. In contrast again, the 14 miles per gallon is most unwanted in these days of soaring fuel prices. Choose your poison - discomfort or poor fuel economy.

Sunday, June 8 - north to Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula

This is a long driving day, some 600 miles. I begin "feeding" Bob jelly beans as his passenger, and this regime continues whenever we drive long tedious hours. We both enjoy them considerably. Favorite flavors include licorice, peanut butter, and strawberry cheesecake.

We enter Canada at New Brunswick. The border agent likely drinks some remaining blueberry soda in the refrigerator as I cannot account for how it otherwise was emptied after consuming only one-half myself.

A great disappointment - Jacques Cartier, the Gaspé Peninsula highpoint is not accessible until June 24 due to caribou calving season. We cannot stealth it as we have no maps. I had advised Bob about this possibility. We are "zero for one".

I eat a LOT today since I have just purchased much groceries at Wal-Mart and am eager to sample them.

We camp in the general area.

schedule sign hiking times
bus schedule
general access restrictions
estimated hiking times

Monday, June 9 - road travel to Drummondville, Quebec; fine dining

This is a driving day into the heart of Quebec. We drive by the community of Cap Chat ("Cape Cat") with Eole - the tallest vertical axis windmill on Earth and capable of 4 megawatts generation. A reference is available.

We enjoy lunch in the historic district of Quebec (the city), at Aux Anciens Canadiens. One cannot take-out leftovers, a strange policy.

My two appetizers include warm duck confit salad; wild game paté with sweet carrot relish. Bob's main dish is the Trapper's treat - Lac St-Jean meat pie served with pheasant and bison casserole. My main dish is caribou in a creamy blueberry wine sauce.

Eating your "enemy" is the ultimate form of revenge.

Bob's dessert is best - maple syrup pie, and it is an enormous slice (one-third pie). I have chocolate fudge pie, hiding one-third of the portion in a plastic baggie with dried chili flakes. Bob later quips that I'll be enjoying "hot chocolate".

We camp at a Wal-Mart in Drummondville, Quebec roughly halfway to Montreal.

With the enormous restaurant meal I've eaten too much for two days running (more than 4,500 Calories each day without any exercise). I feel bloated to the point that I wish to become "empty" when feasible.

wind power restaurant
tallest vertical axis windmill on Earth in Quebec's old quarter

Tuesday, June 10 - road travel to Sudbudy, Ontario

We drive through Sudbudy, Ontario, thence north on logging roads to a bridge washout five miles prior to the Sturgeon River crossing. The implied extra ten miles hiking, dreary weather, mosquitoes, and bushwhacking for several miles with full packs suggests cancellation of plans for Ishpatina Ridge, the Ontario highpoint and most prominent point.

We are "zero for two".

Bob will likely return some late August, or early September, when the mosquitoes are absent. The shorter days won't be an issue since from the new washout one cannot make it a dayhike anyway.

We camp on a logging road. Mosquitoes are a serious issue as they have entered the camper en masse. I itch much of the night having used Bob's pesticide rather than mine. I cannot sleep more than three hours. It is a bad experience.

sign sign berm
Ishpatina Ridge - self explanatory Ishpatina Ridge - self explanatory Ishpatina Ridge -
bermed road at the bridge washout

Wednesday, June 11 - drive to Sault Saint Marie, Ontario

We drive to Sault Saint Marie, Ontario, passing first through Sudbury, Ontario. The weather continues to be dark and dreary with light rain at-times. We have not enjoyed a single day of fair weather yet in Canada.

Much time has been "saved" by hiking neither Jaques Cartier nor Ishpatina Ridge. The time is effectively used as we now decide to later visit Isle Royale National Park after rounding the northern edge of Lake Superior. This detour is most convenient to our travels. Bob had wanted to nab the park highpoint - and now there's time.

We visit the Sault Saint Marie, Ontario library to obtain information about Isle Royale and the ferry schedule. Bob does E-mail.

A ferry website shows boats depart the mainland every other day but cannot travel on Friday which is for day-trippers only. Hence we wait one day in the general area, with the plan to take the outbound boat Saturday and return Sunday.

As-is standard practice we camp at Wal-Mart.

museum airplane
bushplane museum perfectly restored vintage airplane

Thursday, June 12 - around Lake Superior

Spare time abounds. There is a morning visit to the Canada Bush Plane museum (my choice), an excellent venue with interactive exhibits and plenty of real aircraft.

By the noon hour we enjoy pizza and gelato (four small scoops) at the indoor shopping mall. My single slice with broccoli is enough as it is very thick with cheese.

entering lock x
Sault Saint Marie - entering the lock Sault Saint Marie - inside the lock

We then tour the Soo Locks by early afternoon. The boat takes us right through the famous locks, which allows ships to rise and fall the 26 feet between Lake Huron and Lake Superior.

We leave the city northbound, and a cell call reveals no openings for the return boat on Sunday. Bob is beside himself - ZERO (of three) Canadian venues have succeeded. Our mood is at an all-time low. Bob cannot even drive he is (temporarily) so upset. We park and ponder our options - in the rain to dampen our spirits even more.

Later we camp 100 yards off the highway stretching between Wawa and Marathon, Ontario in the mist and light drizzle with mosquitoes. It is miserable.

tour boat flag and Adam mining
Soo Locks tour boat Canadian maple leaf and Adam onboard shoreline iron ore mining operations

Friday, June 13 - return to USA and Eagle Mountain (Minnesota highpoint)

A highway fatality prevents leaving Terrace Bay, Ontario westbound, and we are stuck at a service station for much of the morning. Taking advantage of our long layover, I enjoy a double-size breakfast. There is this strange dialog with a lady who presumably officiates at "dangerous funerals". She's a vagrant yet quite articulate.

The accident was around 11:30 p.m. the previous day - definitely not on "Friday the 13th".

Bob Packard
Bob at Eagle Mountain's summit.

A call by regular phone is made to the ferry company, and we learn that openings are available for Monday outbound and Tuesday return from Isle Royale. Bob pays over phone for both tickets. We now have 2+ spare days - and I suggest that we use them by visiting the highpoints of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Bob agrees, and I offer (as this plan is largely for my benefit) to pay for one-half the gasoline. Bob had long since visited these three state highpoints.

I begin to read passages out loud to Bob from the Guinness Book of World Records, choosing topics of mutual interest. This helps pass the time as we drive hundreds of miles at a stretch.

The weather finally breaks, changing from gloomy, overcast, and drizzle to largely sunny. It is depressing to drive in the rain day after day after day...

We enter the USA at Grand Portage, Minnesota by 3 p.m. (now Central Daylight Time), and climb Eagle Mountain with a six mile round-trip in late afternoon. Mosquitoes are very nasty at summit, and we use head nets.

Saturday, June 14 - Mounts Arvon and Curwood (Michigan highpoint)

We drive south through Duluth, Minnosota, and enter Wisconsin on a beautiful, soaring bridge at Superior, Wisconsin. We then visit the twin possible Michigan highpoints in Baraga County. Details are provided in this trip report.

Later we camp in north Wisconsin at a rest area.

Sunday, June 15 - Timms Hill and Pearson Hill (Wisconsin highpoint)

We drive west a short distance and then visit the twin possible Wisconsin highpoints in Price County. Details are provided in this trip report.

Mid-morning I enjoy a pint of "Mackinac Island Fudge" ice cream with my mood at a local maximum - three new state highpoints are reached. It is a shame to leave "America's Dairyland" without some reminder (recall that I save the empty pints).

We return to Minnesota and camp in a rest area at Grand Portage. The visitor building has many brochures and heated, clean bathrooms. We fill overnight packs with stuff for Isle Royale.

The three state highpoint loop consumes about 800 road miles.

Monday, June 16 - Mount Desor (Isle Royale National Park highpoint)

We're at the boat dock 7:15 a.m. for the two hour ride onto Isle Royale. Details of our hike to Mount Desor are provided in this trip report.

Tuesday, June 17 - return to mainland and re-enter Canada

After our hike and backcountry camp we return to the mainland. Bob is pleased that finally something positive comes out of this Canadian venture.

By 3 p.m. we are at the international border crossing. Here a Canadian female agent claims we have our "back up" and plies us with questions about financial solvency before allowing entry. This C-R-A-P wastes almost an hour.

We drive perhaps 300 miles and camp near Dryden in western Ontario. The land still contains much forest of deciduous hardwoods and evergreens. When will the open prairie appear?

park sign topography sign summit area
Baldy Mountain -
along the main road
self explanatory Baldy Mountain -
highest ground is likely behind
and left of these structures
in heavy brush.

Wednesday, June 18 - Baldy Mountain (Manitoba highpoint); drive into Saskatchewan

We enter Manitoba - the first time for both of us. The transformation to open grassland is rapid, maybe one hour drive east of Winnipeg. We take a beltway around the east, north sides of Winnipeg. Here I learn by cell phone that Dave Covill, Edward Earl and Greg Slayden are turned back short of Mount Fairweather's summit on account of bad snow conditions.

We drive to the immediate vicinity of the Manitoba highpoint at Baldy Mountain by mid-afternoon. The highpoint may be driven to with the exception that the highest ground appears to be slightly southwest of the large, fenced communications compound rather than on the gravel approach road itself. Walk around the very flat general area until satisfied you've been to the very highest ground.

Somewhat trivially, this is my first Canadian "peak". Perhaps some more significant efforts will be in my future.

We continue into Saskatchewan (the first visit for Bob); thence north on Route 9, through Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan, to camp on a bermed logging road at mile marker 43 (not kilometers) on Route 9 in preparation for a dayhike to the Saskatchewan prom point.

Were the road not bermed we could have driven it to lessen the consequent effort on-foot. We considered our options carefully. Noting that we are nearly atop the summer solstice above the 53rd parallel, I suggest that we dayhike the entire estimated 28 miles as the amount of useful daylight is considerable - some 18 1/2 hours!

I know this will be a risky proposition given that much of the terrain would require bushwhacking through difficult brush. However we had nixed Ishpatina Ridge already under a nearly analogous set of mitigating conditions. This time I want things to be different: we will suffer this time no matter what it takes.

The promise of a gargantuan dayhike provides all the excuse needed to eat a lot this evening.

logging truck
A logging truck barrels north on Saskatchewan 9, creating a large
dust cloud in its wake and seemingly unmindful of other vehicles.
Strangely, empty trucks were southbound.
What is under construction in the far north?

Thursday, June 19 - Pasquia Hills bushwhack (Saskatchewan prominent point)

Today we hike and force our way to the Saskatchewan prominent point in the Pasquia Hills. Details of this adventure are described in this trip report.

A most welcome meal of macaroni and cheese Hamburger Helper is enjoyed at day's very end. We use pan-grilled sausage instead of hamburger. Bob is just too tired to finish his portion. It does not matter - good show, Bob!

beaver pond farmland
A beaver pond and meadow in Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan farmland

Friday, June 20 - south to Wal-Mart (Swift Current, Saskatchewan)

A day is saved by dayhiking the Pasquia Hills, i.e. rather than as a two day backpack. I am very sore in parts. We wash clothes in Hudson Bay; and make it to a Wal-Mart in Swift Current, Saskatchewan by evening.

grain elevator rest stop
A grain elevator in
Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan
"Keep Saskatchewan clean."

Saturday, June 21 - Cypress Hills (Saskatchewan highpoint); into Montana

We drive to this highpoint of Saskatchewan in the Cypress Hills. Easy. The highest tuft of grass is found some 500 feet south of the approach road at UTM zone 12 (573404 E, 5488955 N) in the WGS84 datum.

We return to the United States with the easiest, most pain-free border crossing ever. There is no search of the camper at all. Some odoriferous French cheese from Quebec is hidden in my duffel bag superfluously.

We camp at Wal-Mart (where else?) in Great Falls, Montana.

For completeness' sake, I note the following topographic prominences -

The latter highpoint has minimal prominence because the Cypress Hills extend into Alberta with higher terrain just west of the boundary.

bulls Bob Packard
somewhere in the Cypress Hills Bob at the Saskatchewan highpoint.
"Not Won in a Day" describes
the Canadian provincial highpoints.

Sunday, June 22 - Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument highpoint; farewell to Bob

Nobody has visited the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument highpoint. In hiking to this point, Bob and I "use up" one-half day while I wait for my flight date on the 23rd out of Helena, Montana. Our hike is described in this trip report.

Bob wants to continue south in the direction of his Flagstaff home. Hence I reluctanly take a room at Motel 6 in Helena so he can leave, but not after examining much of the city for a cheaper rate.

The check-in is eventful - citing the Sunday-Thursday $43.99 rate on the wall and on the freeway-side advertisement, I insist on that (weekday) rate as it is a Sunday (and not the Friday + Saturday rate of $49.99). Later I find that both the wall rate and outdoor freeway-side sign are changed to read $49.99 . Likely I am the last person to get the lower rate.

Bob showers in my room as I move stuff in from the camper. I enjoy much hot food and television this evening - plus a hot shower that, strangely, I don't really care to have.

Monday, June 23 - return flights

I taxi for $10 to the Helena Regional Airport. Waiting in the airport terminal, I have an extended dialog with one trucker, terribly fat with cane. He is most knowledgeable about automotive mechanics. Also, a parachute jumper in Vietnam - HALO maneuver with a 30,000 foot jump height. It is wonderful what different and diverse life paths you meet in chance encounters.

I enjoy a Butterfinger ice cream bar - worth all $1.75 although for my sake best with hot coffee (hot/cold contrast).

The flights to and from Salt Lake City are uneventful; and I return home and begin the E-mail slog next day.

Canadian Comments

I am a bit displeased that much of our Canadian travels was suffused with American culture. From the gasoline/convenience store to the shopping malls one could scarcely have known this was Canada rather than mainstreet USA.

road sign
in southwest Saskatchewan
prior to entering Montana

Quebec is different, of course, owing to the French language. In what might be a concession by the federal government to an aborted separatist movement, one finds bilingual street signs through much of the nation - but only French while in Quebec. This asymmetry seems both odd and perhaps even nonsensical to a foreigner.

Gasoline prices ranged from roughly $5.25 to $5.40 American dollars per gallon, after conversion of the liters and Canadian dollars to familiar units. At the same time prices were roughly $4 American dollars per gallon in the states. Inquiry into this difference led to one possible answer - much of Canada's health care system is funded by gasoline taxes. On a related note, I greatly appreciate that Bob paid for the gasoline during our time together.

I successfully was able to ask simple questions and understand replies, in French, while in Quebec, e.g., "Oue est les ouefs?" ("Where are the eggs?") while in a supermarket.

Overall I have to write that the memories of my time in Canada will not be as vivid as, say, my climbing, or even visiting a truly exotic land such as Indonesia. Such is the price one pays for familiarity.


This journey was initially designed to earn myself four state highpoints, three Canadian provincial highpoints, the Saskatchewan prominent point, and the Gaspé Peninsula highpoint of Quebec.

What I actually received were seven state highpoints, two additional county highpoints, two Canadian provincial highpoints, the Saskatchewan prominent point, and two national park highpoints.

Taking the difference between these two lists, I sacrificed the Ontario highpoint and the Gaspé Peninsula highpoint in exchange for three upper midwest state highpoints, two county highpoints, and two national park highpoints.

I view this balance sheet to be positive overall; and hence am satisfied with this trip's outcome.

As an aside, Bob Packard's entire road journey consumed 17,000 road miles and cost some $5,000 in gasoline. During that span he climbed dozens of county highpoints, and many prominences, largely in the southeastern and northeastern United States. Most of these efforts were before meeting me in Maine for the Canada-based portion.

infinite road
The flat expanses of Canada's grain belt
are exemplified in this Saskatchewan road.