1: Rhode Island

Highpoint # 1
Jerimoth Hill, 812 Feet

February 17, 2002

hpria.jpgAlthough I personally have a few state highpoints under my belt, I’ve decided to begin anew with Hoang, my fiancee [Update: now wife]. The tough part was convincing her that this would be a worthwhile and interesting endeavor. I’m not quite sure our first joint highpoint will go down as our greatest, but we had fun nonetheless. Well, I did anyway.

Rhode Island’s true highpoint, on Jerimoth Hill in the northwestern corner of the tiny state, is actually very difficult to access***. It is located on private property (Brown University) 300 yards or so down someone’s driveway (also private). It is only legally accessible a few times per year and being the law-abiding citizens we are, we chose to visit on one of the legally open access dates. [Note, at the time of this writing I was not fully cognizant of the degree to which the landowners guard the access road. Shots have been fired in the past.

Instead of just driving the hour or so to our destination, we decided to visit some friends whom we never get to see; Ted and Beth R. and their 11-month old daughter, Holly. We left New Britain, CT in a light drizzle but once we got to Colchester along Route 2, it began snowing. I have lived in Connecticut for 10 years now, but I have only rarely ventured to northeastern CT. And now I know why: There is essentially nothing there unless you like gambling (Two gigantic casinos), NASCAR (Waterford Speedbowl), and/or Ted and Beth R. and their 11-month old daughter, Holly. [Update: See comments below.]

After our short visit in Salem, we traveled back roads through Bozrah and then up I-395 to Killingly, CT. I never knew there were so many towns in northeastern CT which I had never heard of… Center Village, Occum, Moosup, etc. Plainfield holds a special place in Hoang’s heart, as it’s the place where some creepy dude in a pickup stalked her into the woods and scared the living crap out of her back in her days as a photographer for the state historical society. As part of that job, she was often sent to dead end backwoods roads in redneck towns to snap a few shots of crumbling bridge foundations in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully, she lived and it wasn’t her last assignment.

Anyway, our excitement built as we exited the highway and traveled east along route 101 through the trailer park haven of East Killingly, CT. Some denizens are actually a bit creative with their trailers, putting them on top of each other or end-to-end, but white trash is white trash and each home had some sort of Wal-Mart lawn ornament. You’d be hard pressed convincing an out-of-stater that Connecticut is “America’s richest state per capita” out there. Interestingly, there was no traffic on 101 at all, as the Daytona 500 was raging down south and all the residents of northeastern CT were rapt in front of their TV’s.

The road did have a couple of decent hills, and of course, Jerimoth Hill is the biggest. Traveling east, about a mile across the Rhode Island border, we neared our goal. There is no sign signifying the highpoint, but one can just feel that one is on top of Rhode Island while driving. A quick glance in my rear-view mirror and I saw the sign noting the behemoth that is… Jerimoth Hill.

We U-turned and pulled onto the shoulder behind an inhabited pickup truck, donned our jackets, and looked around. “Ummmm, I don’t know which side of the road the actual highpoint is on,” I muttered. Sensing our bewilderment, Chuck Bickes of the national Highpointers Club stepped out of his truck and came to our aid.

hprib.jpg“Hi, are you here to see the highpoint of Rhode Island too?” posed Hoang (seriously, she did), as though that was a typical and totally normal query along a moderately busy road on top of hill in northwestern RI on a cold and dreary afternoon. It turned out that he was. Not only that, he was there to guide us and regale us with stories from his 46 other US highpoints. I felt pretty stupid when he asked us how many we had done (I spoke the truth though, as this was our first together) but he was cool about it. Amazingly, earlier in the day, 40 other dorks had come out to do exactly what we were doing, despite the crappy weather. After a 2 minute walk down a seemingly level dirt driveway through a stand of conifers, and with no fanfare or exertion, we came upon a small clearing with some ugly nondescript metal things and Chuck exclaimed, “Here it is!”

Wow. A two-foot mound with a cairn placed on top serves as the official highpoint of Rhode Island. It was cold and it was raining, but Chuck was more than happy to snap a picture of us up on that rock. It was cold and it was still raining, but Chuck was even happier to talk about his adventures on Mt. Hood, Denali, Boundary Peak, Mt. Rainier, and others. “All right dude, we’re cold, let’s walk – and we don’t even know what you’re talking about with your esoteric climbing terms,” we wanted to say. In reality, we just started walking back to the car. Actually, he was really cool and had some great stories (International highpoints as well!) but c’mon… We were standing on a rock in the woods in Rhode Island. And now it was starting to snow.

We said thanks and goodbye and began the “scenic” trip back along some less traveled roads. Bad move. No one told me that it would be seriously snowing in the lovely towns of Pomfret, Ashland, and Eastford. Route 44 in northeastern CT is not a place you want to be driving in a hard snowstorm, as the drivers of the 2 crashed cars we passed could attest. And I didn’t want to crash up there; getting stitched up by some hick country doc doesn’t appeal to me. By the time we got through Hartford on a way back to New Britain, the sun was shining. Since this made our adventure seem like a load of crap, we kept our mouths shut about it to Hoang’s roommate, made some dinner, and watched TV.

*** This is no longer the case. In late 2005, the house was sold to a highpointer-friendly couple. I revisited the “new” highpoint with my son Damian in 2011.


Highpoint Difficulty Rating: 0 on Access Days, 10 on all other days. (At the time of writing)
Hike Distance: 300 Yards
Distance from Current Residence (New Britain, CT): 64.5 miles

4 responses to “1: Rhode Island”

  1. Wayne Springer says:

    Did you notice or ask your friend if there is a USGS benchmark at R.I. hipt. If so where is it.Thanks, Wayne

  2. David says:

    I can not help myself but I must speak out on this. You seem to use a plethora of negative terminology pointed towards the people of “northeastern” CT. The use of terms to describe the people of that corner of the state as “redneck” and “white trash” is less than complimentary. It also seems that you are painting a picture that illustrates that everyone in this area lives in a “trailer park” or the equivalent, and that the only available medical care is through a “hick country doc”.

    Secondly, you said, “There is essentially nothing there unless you like gambling (Two gigantic casinos), NASCAR (Waterford Speedbowl)”. If you identify northeastern CT as being Windham County, which would be a fair assumption, then all the referenced venues in the past quote are located in New London County which is in southeastern CT. I should add that in New London county you also have Connecticut College, the US Coast Guard Academy, Lyman Allyn Art Museum, Mystic Seaport Museum, Inc. Mashantucket Museum and Research Center, to name only a few resources of academia, the arts, and entertainment.

    Take my comment only as polite criticism and not as an anger rebuttal. I like your blog as a whole and was originally drawn to it due your comments on hiking and museums which I follow as an avocation and profession.

  3. Steve says:

    David is right to criticize this post. I’ve thought about rewording some of the older posts like this one over the years, but haven’t for a few reasons.

    Please know that the first few highpointing posts were written many years before CTMQ was a glimmer in my eye. I wrote them in a diary style for 5 friends to read at the time and they were meant to be “humorous” and trite. This was written in 2002, almost 5 years before I began this blog – look at that full head of dark hair! I wasn’t married, I didn’t have a kid and I certainly knew very little about NE CT.

    I can’t really apologize for that, as that was my ignorance at the time. Through this blog and my travels and maturity though, my attitudes and commentary has changed drastically. I’ve come to love the quiet corner and all it has to offer – in its own unique way.

    And I think that’s why I leave these old posts “as-is.” Poorly written and rife with forced insults, it’s sort of a reminder of my impetuous youth.

    I appreciate your open-mindedness about this post and hope you continue reading. I can’t promise you won’t find other insults here and there, but this blog has been a true journey and my appreciation for all that CT offers has grown immensely.

    (Note: My criticisms of South Carolina in that post remain steadfast.)

  4. David says:

    I appreciate your humble response. It is a pleasure to hear someone admit to their impulsive comments, as I have made many myself. I will continue to follow your adventures as they come and think about them as I travel the back woods of eastern CT. Be well and stay safe.
    Thank you.

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