Marquette man to complete 50-state highpoint journey

Don Smally is pictured at the summit of Granite Peak, the highest point in the state of Montana.

   MCGREGOR — Some people dream of getting to every state. Marquette’s Don Smalley set his goal a little higher. Later this month, flanked by his son Mark and Mark’s wife, Smalley expects to reach the summit of Mauna Kea, the highest point in the state of Hawaii, completing a journey that nearly saw him reach the highest point in every state.

   Smalley reached the highest spot in 49 of the 50 states, with only a bit of bad fortune keeping him from the summit of Denali, the highest point in both Alaska and North America. He said the idea to visit the high point of every state came after a long period as a runner and biker, entering numerous marathons, triathlons and the like,

   “About 10 years ago I did an ironman triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, 26.22-mile run) and I said ‘Enough is enough, I’ve got to stop training just for the sake of these events, I need to get away from such a rigid schedule and spend more time just having fun outside.’”

   At first having fun consisted not only of running and biking, but also fishing, camping, kayaking and the like.

   “I got into hiking, I got back into backpacking – I hadn’t backpacked for 30-plus years – and I really got into that, enjoyed it,” Smalley said. “At the same time I started reading, which is something that I’ve never done before, and by accident the first book that I read was Jon Krakauer’s ‘Into the Wild,’ and it was very interesting, I really enjoyed it. Then I read ‘Into Thin Air,’ also by Krakauer, and that was about the famous disaster on Everest in 1996.”


For much more of this story, see the Feb. 6 Outlook.