I have been living in Chicago for the last few months, researching a possible highpoint trip later this month. It was a bummer to think my daughter and I can't legally climb Charles Mound, the highpoint of Illinois.
Then on Friday I realized that two of the eight days this highpoint is open to the public would be the coming weekend. I work in Elgin, Illinois, which is about a two hour drive from the highpoint.
My roommate met me early Saturday afternoon. On the way we passed through the very charming town of Galena, which has a long and interesting history. The GPS on my phone lost its signal and the next half hour we basically bushwhacked the winding roads until we ended up in Wisconsin, just north of the highpoint.
We parked and it was a mile or so up on a very nice little country lane. We had perfect weather and a very pleasant hike. You go between some fields, emerge to pass some farm buildings, then back in the woods for a minute. At the summit there is a very nice homemade sign, and a couple of chairs under a tree with views to Wisconsin and Iowa.
We reached the top around 6:30 pm and were numbers 51 and 52 on the register that day. So despite the modesty of ascent there is a steady stream of people arriving on the days when the hill is open.
At the gate there is only room for about three vehicles. There is another way to get up, one that lets you drive all the way there. From county road 0 northwest of Scales Mound is a sign that says private drive, with no gate. You can take that all the way up.
Controversies and a name change proposal
Of course there is some controversy surrounding this summit. The present owners treat the fact that they own the highpoint as a big inconvenience to them, and restrict access. The nearby town of Scales Mound (which advertises itself as the top of the state) or the state of Illinois needs to turn this into a park.
Free the mountain!
Speaking of "mountain", one can't help but notice Charles Mound has a very modest name. The nearby area is heavily dependent on tourists and heading to a mound just doesn't sound very excitng. That is not helping the economy! On our way up we decided that this place could use a better handle. The largest (possibly only) ski area in the state is a few miles away and you are at the high point near the northern border. So you could at least call it something like Snowy Peak. Sorry Charles! Because certainly for Illinois this is a snowy peak.
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