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Perspectives on Outings: The Fifty States
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by Dan Soeder, Chapter Outings Chair | 2012

Not that we need a contest to broaden our Outings Program, but here is a way to make an outing a memorable one!

Some folks have made it their life’s mission to visit every state in the U.S. Often, they have specific goals, like to go stand on the highest or lowest point, cross each state in its widest or narrowest dimension, or perform some other task.
I knew a couple of guys in Ohio a few years ago who were determined to play a round of golf in every state. They dragged their clubs along and played the links, even finding a golf course that straddled the border between North and South Dakota, allowing them to play in two states at one stop. They recorded their adventures with web cams, and by the time they finished, they had a fair sized fan club cheering them on.
I never set out to visit all fifty states, but when I started collecting the state quarters a dozen years ago, I noticed how many states I had already visited over the course of my travels. I had done a swath through the middle of the country when I was in college and traveling out west for the summer. Work trips took me to Texas, Alabama, Colorado and several other states. I had stopped off in Hawaii for a day on a trip to Japan in the 1980s for a scientific conference. When I lived in Nevada, I got to most of the western states because I was out there. I decided to start planning my travels to get to them all. The only self-imposed rule was that I actually had to have placed my feet on the ground — flying over or driving through without stopping didn’t count.
I plotted long detours in the Pacific Northwest to get into Idaho and Montana. I strategically drove around New England, entering state after state, and checking them off in my atlas, nearly missing making a stop in Rhode Island because it is so small. I stopped to get gas in Warwick, even though I could have easily made it to Massachu-setts on what I had left.
I came back to West Virginia from Minnesota one summer via North Dakota, a detour of hundreds of miles that accom-plished nothing beyond a ten- minute stop in a rest area near Fargo, and another check mark in the atlas. North Dakota was number 49. The only one left is Alaska, and I’m going there this summer.
Anybody who does outdoor activities has thought about Alaska. It is the ultimate hik-ing, kayaking, mountaineering and backpacking destination. The place is so big, so wild, and so sparsely populated that it is the closest thing we have in the United States to pristine wilderness. My late brother went up there four times — by road, a four thousand-mile drive one way from his home in Cleveland.
I am meeting my daughter in Alaska, and I’m letting her plan all of our activities (this trip was her idea). I am sure we will be spending a lot of time outdoors. My middle child, Elizabeth, is the only one of my three children who seriously inherited my outdoors genes. She loves to travel, and she is an accomplished hiker. Beth does massage therapy at upscale spas in resort areas, and currently lives on the island of Maui, in Hawaii. She moved there recently from Honolulu after spending several years at a resort spa in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
I do enjoy visiting this kid. When I saw her in Hawaii a few years ago, we went over to the Big Island for a few days and tramped around on the lava flows. Most of my time as a geologist is spent looking at 400 million year old rocks like Marcellus Shale, so getting up close with ropy, glassy, fresh lava flows was an amazing experience.
In Alaska, Beth and I plan to visit Denali and drive up to Fairbanks, where there are some hot springs she wants to check out. I’ll let you know how visiting Number 50 went in the next edition of the newsletter.
See you outside!

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