On the summit

Ebright Azimuth, 447.85ft

Date climbed: May 25, 2007 2:21pm

Ebright Azimuth. The name just has a certain ring to it. There’s nothing cliché about the name of the highest point in Delaware – it’s not a Mount, Point, Peak, or Hill, nor is it a Butte, Mesa, Dome, Bald, or Mound – it’s an azimuth. What it lacks in elevation and difficulty it make up for in catchiness. What exactly is an “azimuth,” anyway? On the drive back home from school in summer 2007 we decided to find out.

It was the end of our junior year at MIT and the beginning of what we expected to be a summer of relative anti-adventure. In preparation for fall grad school applications we needed to boost our résumés and get some more work experience, so we were headed for internships. Don’t get me wrong, we knew it’d be exciting work – Eric would be working for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena and I’d be working on robotics at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. But when compared to the previous summer when we had hiked most of the Appalachian Trail, and the summer before that when we had worked on trail crew in the California Sierra Nevada, spending a summer in the office didn’t sound quite as appealing.

One nice thing about driving between MIT and Kentucky is that there are a bunch of different but more-or-less equidistant routes that you can take. That means you can swing down into Delaware or Maryland or even southern Pennsylvania without adding much to the nominally thousand-mile journey. This trip we wanted to check off the highest point in Delaware, which is located on the northern end of the state, right on the PA/DE state border. Armed with the directions we headed out of Cambridge on May 24, 2007 in the trusty green Plymouth Voyager and watched MIT shrink in the rearview mirror.

The other nice aspect about driving between MIT and Kentucky is that you’re guaranteed to cross the Appalachian Trail (the “AT”). This means two things: first, you’ve got a cool place to hike; and second, you’ve got a free place to camp. Since the Trail goes from Georgia to Maine, any reasonable KY-MA route is going to cross it somewhere. Toward the evening on May 24 we decided that we’d like to camp just inside of New Jersey at the AT crossing near Stroudsburg, PA.

It’s also fun to revisit the AT a few years later and try to remember what we were doing or talking about at that moment back in 2006. Near this particular road crossing, I remembered calling Garrett just as we were entering his home state of NJ on July 17, 2006.

“Garrett,” I had said, “we’re calling to request your permission to enter the great state of New Jersey.”
“Granted,” Garrett replied. After crossing the Delaware River, Eric and I knelt down upon the hallowed Jersey soil in Garrett’s honor to pay homage to him and his native state.

As we pulled off I-80 at the Tammany Trail Access exit I immediately recognized the spot. We knew there would be good stealth camping opportunities in the woods up to the left. Eric and I grabbed our camping stuff while Dad volunteered to guard the car that night. In the morning, in order to relive a little bit of the AT, we hiked up a few miles to Sunfish Pond and once again touched our toes into the cool water. According to a sign this lake marked the southernmost extent of glaciers during the Ice Age.

On the summit

With the AT nearly checked off our list (we had a few remaining sections we finished up in 2008) our sights were now set on the state high points. As we drove farther south towards Delaware we realized that we were officially high point addicts. Mountains that we had done earlier like Mount Washington, Mount Whitney, or Clingmans Dome – those mountains were one thing. Even if they weren’t state high points they were still awesome enough to be worthy of a visit. People who just simply enjoy hiking and aren’t working on “The List” climb those mountains every day.

But Ebright Azimuth, now that’s in a completely different category. Without a trail, a view, or even the requirement of any physical activity it’s not one of those places you generally go out of your way to visit. A “mountain” like Ebright Azimuth is in the “highpointing addict” category, and if you go out of your way to climb it that probably means you’re working on The List. Places like Iowa’s Hawkeye Point and Illinois’s Scales Mound, which we had visited a few years ago, are also in that category. So, after recalling the drive through hours of cornfields in southwestern Minnesota on the way to a little hill in northern Iowa or the miles of backroads in northern Illinois, along with today’s drive towards an azimuth in suburban northern Delaware we had come to the conclusion that we were officially addicted to highpointing.

After getting a little turned around in the neighborhoods north of Wilmington we finally crested a low and almost imperceptible rise on the DE/PA state line and spotted a radio tower and some buildings that matched the photos we had printed off from SummitPost. We were on the roof of Delaware!

There wasn’t much of a view, but that was OK since the view wasn’t the reason we had come here. We had come to take a breath of fresh air from the highest point in Delaware. A week later we’d find ourselves atop Maryland’s Backbone mountain – state high point #17.

Comments are closed.