Hitting the High Points



A Colorado school teacher hopes his ambitious summer project will inspire his students and children across America.   Mike Haugen, who teaches 8th grade science in Denver, just completed a push to visit the highest point of every state in just 50-days.

Mike Haugen finds a well-known attraction on his way through West Virginia

"It’s really to expose people to the beauties of our country and to inspire our kids to get outside," said Haugen speaking to MetroNews from Seattle. "We see a lot of kids who are inside all day at school and they get home and they get on the computer or on video games and they really don’t get the outside experience that we know is important."

Haugen speaks from experience after watching a transformation in many of his own students who join his "Outdoor Club" in school.  He sees children relax, improve their attitude, and undergo a radical transformation when they finally detach the ear buds and allow natural flora, rather than pixels, stimulate their senses.

The 50-States in 50-Days idea was conceived as an encore to Haugen’s ascent to the top of Mount Everest last year.    The Coleman Company partnered with Haugen on that adventure and is on board for this year as well with heavy support.

"They (Coleman) share the exact same message as I do," said Haugen. "Show kids there are always outdoor adventures to be had."

On the Coleman website, kids are able to do their own High Points tour and earn a "high point" every day when they perform an hour’s worth of outside activity. 

Haugen and his merry band of adventurers include longtime friend Zach Price, driver Lindsay Danner, and documentary film maker Jordan Millari.   Over the course of the last two months they’ve endured exhausting travel.  The crew has put in more than a few all-nighters on the road, catching a nap in the car on the way to the next state.

Haugen made it to West Virginia‘s highest point Spruce Knob, coincidentally on West Virginia Day, June 20th.  However, it wasn’t a new experience for him. As a student at Ohio State, the long time extreme thrill seeker was a regular on the walls of nearby Seneca Rocks.

"I’ve actually spent a lot of time in that area," said Haugen. "I spent a lot of time doing a lot of rock climbing at Seneca Rocks, so I’m really familiar with that beautiful area."

Logistically, 50-states in 50-days mean you have to get some multiples in

West Virginia’s Highest Point — Spruce Knob

the mix.   June 20th had Haugen and his crew not only on Spruce Knob, but also the highest points in neighboring Maryland and Pennsylvania.     Some of the summits require no more than a stroll, like the nine-second hike from the car to the highest point in Kansas.  Others, however, are quite an undertaking.

"Some of them you could probably just drag your hand as you go by and do a ‘drive-by’ high point.  But there’s a lot of serious climbing here," explained Haugen.  "For all the ones we got to drive up to, we paid our dues on some of the higher mountains as well."

Haugen and his team took in Wyoming’s Gannett Peak in a 40-mile round trip and King’s Peak in Utah is 24-miles,    The group also scaled Mt. Hood in Oregon and Mt. Rainier in Washington during the final days of the exhibition.   The last leg sent the group on a hike up Mauna Kea in Hawaii.   Haugen admits it was no accident they finished up there for a little rest and relaxation.

He says it’s been a fantastic adventure and one that could easily be replicated on a family vacation, whether you take in every state high point or just a few.    For Haugen, it all comes back to the core message.

"You don’t have to climb Everest to be at the top of your game," he said. "Find your own Everest.  Find what you like to do and be the best at it." 


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