Rhode Island

Rhode Island

On the summit after biking from Providence

Jerimoth Hill, 812ft

Date climbed: March 10, 2007 10:01am and Nov 6, 2010 2:57pm

More pictures on MITOC Gallery: http://mitoc.mit.edu/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=80002

Eric and I had been planning to visit the summit of the Smallest State for quite some time but somehow we had always managed to avoid it. True, Rhode Island’s Jerimoth Hill is the closest state high point to MIT and we figured it should be easily doable in a day by a combination of car, bike, or commuter rail. But a trip to this 812 ft hill just lacked the appeal of a hike to the Whites, and we always ended up hiking Mt Washington, Franconia Ridge, or some other high New England peak instead.

Cresting the hill where the trail starts

But by the spring of 2007, with fourteen state high points under our belt, we were starting to build up some momentum, and it began to seem more reasonable to devote an entire Saturday to the highest point in Rhode Island. In brainstorming the trip we came up with a few different transportation options: 1) bike all the way there and back, 123 miles total, 2) organize a MITOC trip and drive there, or 3) take the commuter rail part of the way, bike to the summit, and take the commuter rail back. Option 1 sounded like the most honorable to us, but the prospect of biking through thirteen hours of cold, slush, and few hours of March darkness didn’t sound too appealing. As for Option 2, we didn’t expect any other MITOC person to be interested; I mean, sure the hill has meaning to me and Eric, but it probably doesn’t strike the same chord with non-highpointers. Another option would have been to rent a car, but at that time Matthew still didn’t have his driver’s license and Eric didn’t drive frequently, so the thought of renting a car never really crossed our minds. Thus we decided to go for Option 3, a combination of biking + commuter rail.

Early one March morning we biked over to South Station and hopped on the first commuter rail. Luckily

The sign at the summit trail

they allow bikes on the commuter rail during non-peak times. After a relaxing $5 ride to Providence we jumped on the mountain bikes and were under our own power for the remainder of the climb. It was chilly and a little bit icy, but at least we didn’t have to worry about there being more snow on the summit. Since air is typically 3-5F cooler per 1000 ft of vertical elevation gain, then we’d expect an essentially imperceptible 2-4F temperature drop as we climbed.

By about 9:45am we began a gradual climb just outside the village of Foster and ten minutes later we were greeted by a brown road sign proclaiming “Jerimoth Hill, State’s Highest Point.” But not so fast, we thought, we’re not exactly on top yet. Earlier that week we had done some Wikipedia and SummitPost research and learned about the checkered history of highpointing on Jerimoth Hill.

Just a few years ago, highpointers had “considered Jerimoth Hill less accessible than Mt McKinley.” According to highpointing folklore, the former owner of the summit access driveway, Mr. Richardson, “became known for insulting, threatening or even using violence against visitors who tried to use his driveway” [Wikipedia 2012]. Although Brown University owned the top of the hill, highpointers would have to pass through Mr. Richardson’s land to reach the true summit. Legend has it that he became so fed up with highpointers that he installed motion detectors around his property and even fired a few warning shots when highpointers approached.

Eric with the summit cairn

Fortunately for all of us highpointing nerds, times have changed. Since 2005, the Highpointers Club has worked with the new landowners to make the summit accessible without the risk of being shot at. By 2007 the summit was open on weekends from 8am – 3pm. So once Eric and I crested that hill, all we had to do next was walk the nice little 800ft trail to the summit. As we proceeded towards the summit we gave a mental nod to our fellow highpointers for blazing the way and for making our job today so much easier.

At the top we were greeted by a nice giant rock sticking out of the ground, so you could be sure that you were standing on genuine Rhode Island terra firma and not some pile of Connecticut dirt brought in by a dump truck for a construction project. Nearby there were some dilapidated buildings and what looked to be old telescope mounts. Apparently Brown University astronomy students still come up to the top for occasional observations. We were hoping to see some cool telescopes, but I guess with so many visitors it’s probably a good thing that they don’t store their nice telescopes on the summit.

Biking to the CT-RI state line

This was still pretty early in our highpointing career so our summit rituals hadn’t fully matured or solidified yet. At that time, a simple photo of both of us with our arms raised was sufficient. We admired the view of the summit trees for a little while longer and decided it was time to head back.

Just to put a little icing on the day’s summit cake, we decided to touch our toes in Connecticut before heading back to Providence. It’s not that we had never been to Connecticut before, but when it’s only a mile away you have to pay it a visit. We biked a mile west and got some photos of us in front of the CT and RI welcome signs to ensure that our state visitation photo archives were complete.

Matthew at the summit in 2010

Three years later, in November of 2010, I had a golden opportunity to revisit the summit of the Ocean State. My friend Garrett was headed to Foxwoods in Connecticut for a little blackjack action and invited me to join him.

“I’ll come along under one condition,” I said to Garrett, “that we’ve got to stop by Jerimoth Hill along the way.”
“Sure thing, Matt,” Garrett said.

On the way to Foxwoods we took a little two-mile detour and crested Jerimoth Hill from the west. The familiar 800ft trail led us to the summit and it looked exactly as it had three and a half years earlier. Well, I guess that shouldn’t be too surprising because it’s basically just a big rock and a bunch of trees at the top. The summit cairn was a little shorter and the trees did look a bit bigger though.

For me, a state high point is a special place, a place that I can visit over and over and it never gets old. Even if Jerimoth Hill doesn’t have an awesome view, it’s still in the same class as great mountains like Denali or Rainier or Gannett. Another visit to a state high point means more another summit photo for the webpage, another trip report for the book, another notch in the belt. Another visit to one of America’s sacred summits.

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