The B1G List: Ranking the Highest Points of the Big Ten

By Johnny Ginter on July 8, 2013 at 2:00p


I am an admitted fraidy cat when it comes to anything involving me being more than a couple of feet in the air. I really don't trust my own clumsy ass to not find some way to topple over to my ultimate doom, undone by my inherent desire to deal with a fear of ledges by grabbing on to them with the icy grip of death.

But, paradoxically, I love mountains. Despite doing everything in my power to avoid their summits (accomplished by not trying to go up to the top of them), I do very much love the idea of being surrounded by mountain ranges, like Mother Nature's protective blankie shielding you from harm/encroaching packs of zombies in a World War Z situation. I got a brief taste of this in Japan, but since the other 27 years of my life have been spent in the Midwest, I haven't been able to experience this since I got back from the far east.

So at this point you're probably asking yourself "Uhhh pretty sure that there aren't too many actual mountains in the B1G, are you seriously going to spend upwards of 1200 words on this?" Well, gentle reader, YES I AM, because a) it turns out that the Big Ten in fact does have some nice mountains, b) the high points that aren't mountains are really funny, and c) it's time for a little geography lesson.

A lot of you may think that when we rank things based on height, the higher it is, the more impressive it becomes. Not so. Because "height" is measured from sea level, you can be standing on a flat plain which no discernible elevation for miles, yet still be thousands of feet "high," that is, thousands of feet above sea level. The difference here is something called prominence.

Prominence can get a bit tricky, but in short, it's a measure of how high a point is relative to the area that surrounds it. For instance, Lhotse is the world's fourth highest mountain, at 27,940 feet. But since it shares what's called a col with Mount Everest, it has a prominence of only a few thousand feet. In other words, height alone isn't that impressive.

So with that in mind, this week I have ranked the state's highest points in order from lowest to highest, keeping in mind that just because something is far above sea level does not mean that it's particularly impressive. For the purposes of this suddenly detail-oriented list, I'll be listing both. For the purposes of comedy, however, I will be ranking them purely based on height above sea level.

11. Illinois- Charles Mound

Height: 1,235 feet
Prominence: 95 feet

I'm not even sure why anyone even bothered to map this thing out. It's not a hill, it's not a ridge, it's not even a slope. It's a freaking mound. The opposite of an Almond Joy.

But that hasn't stopped the entrepreneurial spirit of the great state of Illinois; the owners of the land that this earthly nipple sits on actually have the cojones to charge admission to see a slightly elevated patch of land (only June through September, then the mountain snows make the roads impassable). Maybe mounds actually do have nuts.

10. Indiana- Hoosier Hill

Height: 1,257 feet
Prominence: 297 feet

*choral fanfare*TRULY MAJESTIC

Pros: meets the basic definition of a "hill." Cons: is in danger of being overtaken as the highest point in Indiana by a landfill. Which is super hilarious.

9. Iowa- Hawkeye Point

Height: 1,670 feet
Prominence: literally 40 damn feet

Why did Iowa even bother?

"Hawkeye Point" isn't some tongue in cheek label that the state gave its geological abscess of a high point; no, this is try hard mode personified. There's a visitor's center, a weird stone mosaic that resembles a manhole cover if it was designed by tacky Native American fetishists from the 1970s, and like a billion flagpoles.

All this, for a patch of land that is not even a little bit noticeable from the hundreds of square miles of farmland surrounding it. This is like giving your kid 50 bucks for a D in Phys Ed.

8. New Jersey- High Point

Height: 1,803 feet
Prominence: 883 feet

A perfectly acceptable high point, and also very appropriately named. High Point is an actual, factual high point that has some measure of prominence. No, it isn't technically a mountain, but you can hike to the top of it and see three states, it's on the Appalachian Trail, and in true New England form, they stuck a bigass obelisk on the top of it to confirm that yes it is a high point and yes, we as a species spit in the face of millions of years of intricate geological processes.


7. Wisconsin- Timm's Hill

Height: 1,951 feet
Prominence: 425 feet

Honestly, and I don't know why, but I expected more from you, Wisconsin. That's not really fair of me, as you got flattened by the same geologic process that most of the rest of the Midwest dealt with (namely, the last major glaciation of North America), but I dunno, I guess I was expecting to see some kind of bluff arising out of nowhere, like Bret Bielema's big fat gut hanging over the elastic band that comprises the rest of the state.

Anyway. Timm's Hill. It's got a lookout tower. Eh.

6. Michigan- Mount Arvon

Height: 1,979 feet
Prominence: 948 feet

Mount Arvon is painfully close to being an actual mountain, at least, if you're basing the whole thing on prominence, and given that it's got the whole Upper Peninsula thing going on for it, I'm inclined to give it a pass and say that yeah, it's a pretty boss mountain. Also the land at the summit is property of the MeadWestvaco paper company SO STAY THE HELL OUT.

5. Minnesota- Eagle Mountain

Height: 2,301 feet
Prominence: 1,321 feet

Yet another perfectly acceptable mountain. Nice height, good prominence, and there's even a plaque at the top which reads "YO YOU JUST MADE IT TO THE TOP. DA VERY TOP SOOONNNNNN PAUL WELLSTONE HIGH SCHOOL '05 RULES suck it -jeremy" in spray paint, while in smaller etched metal script there's probably some kind of information about the mountain and the historical significance of it to the surrounding area blah blah blah who cares.

What really matters is that the 2005 graduating class of Paul Wellstone High School rules, and I hear there's this kid Jeremy who is really going places.

4. Pennsylvania- Mount Davis

Height: 3,213 feet
Prominence: 653 feet

Another hill, another lookout tower, with an incredible view of the trees directly in front of the lookout tower.

3. Maryland- Hoye-Crest

Height: 3,360 feet
Prominence: 80 feet

I am unabashed in my love for the Appalachian crests that form much of the topography in eastern Maryland. If you've ever driven from Columbus to Washington DC, you know what I'm talking about: gigantic ridges, thousands of feet high, that stretch on for miles and create an insane topographical barrier that was a key factor in preventing invasions from the Mongol hordes during the Revolutionary War. In short, they are just great.

2. Nebraska- Panorama Point

Height: 5,429 feet
Prominence: About as high as Tim Duncan can jump

Ahahahaha! Yes, really. Nebraska has the highest point of any B1G state, and it isn't even close. It's just unfortunate that that high point exists in the middle of the field where that one creepy kid from the Twilight Zone would wish his enemies to.

The best part about this is that bored hipsters driving on their way to Boulder can pay three American dollars to the owner of the property for the privilege of standing in the middle of nowhere, looking at a dumb stone marker, and signing a guestbook that affirms you were dumb enough to drop three bucks to do any of that instead of buying 80% of a gallon of gas.

1. Ohio- Campbell Hill

Height: 1,548 feet
Prominence: 639 feet

Ohio wins again, big shock, whatever. I ignored the rules of my own list and put Ohio first for two reasons. First and most obvious is that I hope consistently putting Ohio at the top of these lists is making someone legitimately mad. Second, Campbell Hill serves the purpose of proving my point about height versus prominence.

Campbell Hill blows. I've been there twice, and yeah it's kind of high up, but who cares. It's a hill with a parking lot and an antenna on top of it, which is about as antithetical to the whole idea of even noting your state's highest point as it gets.

In other words, height is pretty much irrelevant. Any slightly less elevated hill in Hocking Hills is about a thousand times more awe-inspiring than Campbell Hill, and likewise for any number of the states in this list that have beautiful (if slightly shorter) regions within their borders. So instead of going out and trying to find that particular point of interest or whatever, go look for beauty. Because it's all around you, and the B1G has it in spades.

And that will do it! As a final note, I want to solicit ideas from you, gentle reader, as to what lists you'd like to see Ohio arbitrarily be at the top of in future installments. Just  leave your suggestion in the comments, and maybe I'll get working on that for next week!

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