by Jacob Rogers
Associate Editor of Content
Many Rochester College faculty members have interests outside of teaching, but Dave and Lora Hutson have taken a hobby to new heights.
Dave Hutson, associate professor of sports management, and Lora Hutson, associate professor of mass communication, started their adventure of hiking the high points of each U.S. state just a couple of years ago.
As high pointers attempt to hike each state’s highest point, they find much variety, as Florida’s highest point is a mere 345 feet whereas Alaska’s is an astounding 20,320 feet.
“One aspect I really like is that this pursuit takes you to out-of-the way places that most travelers don’t visit,” Dave said.
The Hutson’s high point hiking hobby started in December 2016. When planning their annual drive to visit Lora’s family in Texas for Christmas, the Hutsons planned to first visit former RC Dean of Students Candace Cain, who now lives in Montgomery, Alabama.
“I was looking for things to do while we were in Montgomery and I came across the highest point in Alabama called Mount Cheaha,” Dave said. “It wasn’t too far away, so I said, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s climb it.’ ”
With an elevation of 2,407 feet, Mount Cheaha was the couple’s first high point. “It was really rocky. There wasn’t really a clear path,” Lora said. “People can drive all the way to the top of the mountain, but we always like to make an adventure out of it, so we hiked it.”
After they left Alabama, they drove through Louisiana where they climbed their second high point: Driskill Mountain with an elevation of only 535 feet.
“This hike wasn’t strenuous or high, but it was interesting. We had to drive through back roads, park in a church parking lot, and walk a dirt road to the state high point,” Dave said.
As of early 2019, the Hutsons have visited 11 high points: Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
The couple agrees that Texas is their favorite high point to date. Soaring at 8,751 feet, Guadalupe Peak features rugged climbing and a 3,000 foot elevation change. “We climbed it in December 2018. It was hard and took us more than seven hours. We dealt with ice and snow and 50 mph winds,” Dave said.
Not only is high point hiking a good workout and a great way to see amazing scenery, but the hikes have tested the Hutson’s relationship.
“I remember in Texas, we were hiking up, and it got icy and slippery. Dave probably yelled at me a hundred times to ‘find the rocks’ because it was so icy,” Lora said. “Looking back it’s funny to think about, but at the time it got a little irritating. I know he was trying to take care of me!”
Dave plans to hike the other 39 high points in the United States, but Lora doesn’t plan to hike Alaska because of the weather and severity of the hike itself.
“My ultimate goal is to do all 50 (states),” Dave said. “For Alaska, you have to have some sort of mountain climbing training. I would have to do that because you’re talking about a summit that is well over 20,000 feet.”
He said Denali is not the only one you need to train for. “Even though it is much smaller, Mount Rainier in Washington requires some sort of training too. At over 14,000 feet, training and a guide is recommended.”
The Hutsons try to walk several times a week in Michigan, and when they are about to attempt a really high point, they do some special hikes, such as Bloomer Park in Rochester. “Rochester is only about 850 feet above sea level, so you will not get the same feel that you will when at 4,000 feet above sea level,” Dave said. “But it is a good way to prepare for a hike.”
He said Bloomer has some elevation changes that are useful. “It’s pretty hilly and has a lot of rugged trails,” Dave said. “Basically we would go up a trail or hill, loop back around, go up another hill, or even zig zag through the park to kind of create what it might be like.”
Depending upon the state, hiking a high point can take anywhere from 30 minutes to seven or eight hours—or even a couple of days for the highest elevations. A whole collection of people around the nation attempt to hike the state high points. To get more information about high point hiking and the high points across the country, visit www.highpointers.org/us-highpoint-guide.