The Border Peaks

On July 23, 2017 · 1 Comments

It’s not unusual to see an international border extend across or along a mountain range. Even Mt. Everest sits on the border between Nepal and China. Sometimes a border will need to be adjusted when the underlying physical characteristics of a mountain changes too. That issue confronted Italy and Switzerland several years ago as glaciers began to melt. However, I’d never seen a mountain named in recognition of the border, much less a pair of mountains found on either side of the border. I noticed an occurrence in the United States first and then spotted its partner in Canada.

The Border Peaks

Border Peaks and Larrabee
Border Peaks and Larrabee. Photo by Sean Munson on Flickr (cc)

Less than a mile separated American Border Peak from Canadian Border Peak. They belonged to a single ridge on the Slesse-Tamihi creeks divide. Four peaks capped the rim, from the north to south, Canadian Border Peak, American Border Peak, Mt. Larrabee and the Pleiades. Geologically the ridge belonged to the Chilliwack group, composed primarily of ancient volcanic rock and sediment. Its brittleness created abundant debris, with plenty of scree and talus. I’d never used those words before. In fact, I had to look them up. Scree came from Old Norse and talus came from French although they meant about the same thing. Rock eroding from higher elevations rolled downhill, creating precarious slopes of broken stone. Those were scree and talus.

It dawned on me that someone had to climb up to that col between the two peaks to survey the border. That marked another new word for me: col. It meant something like a saddle or notch along the ridge, a place between peaks. I didn’t know if one of those metal border posts found its way to ridge, though. Perhaps I could check the data set and find out. I didn’t really have the motivation today. Maybe someday. Nonetheless, at the very least, a group of people with a bunch of surveying equipment had to get up there. I doubt the border patrol will ever have to worry much about illegal crossings either. This remote ridge didn’t get a lot of visitors except for an occasional mountaineer. That seemed pretty low risk.

I turned to the usual sources like SummitPost and Peakbagger to examine the American and Canadian peaks.

American Border Peak

American Border Peak
American Border Peak. Photo by Dru! on Flickr (cc)

American Border Peak (map) rose 7,998 feet (2,438 metres) on the United States side of the border. Nobody managed to climb it until 1930.

The summit crested just 0.4 miles away from Canada. That didn’t really matter, borders being artificial creations and all, although that placed it within the state of Washington. Specifically it fell within the confined of the Mount Baker Wilderness of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This height made it the tallest of the four peaks along the ridge. All four broke the 7,000 foot barrier and naturally one had to be the tallest. I declined to make any geopolitical statements based on its altitude relative to the others.

Its isolation and loose terrain made American Border Peak a challenging climb for most people. It didn’t have a defined trails to the summit either. That left climbers on their own to find their way across unstable debris. Many waited until springtime when ice and snow locked shifting rocks into place. One doesn’t ordinarily think of snow providing more traction than stone although this particular peak offered an exception.

Canadian Border Peak

Canadian Border Peak
Canadian Border Peak. Photo by Tim Gage on Flickr (cc)

A similar situation appeared on Canadian Border Peak (map), rising 2,291 metres (7,516 feet) in British Columbia. Noticed that I switched to metric for the elevation. We crossed the border into Canada so it seemed appropriate to use the proper unit of measurement that applied there. I liked to pander to the local population. described it as "a sharp pointed horn of mediocre rock."

Canadians had it a bit easier on their climb to the summit. Logging roads brought climbers further up the hillside. Nonetheless, the underlying rock retained the same characteristics as the American side. They belonged to the same ridge, after all. Here again, a prime time to climb seemed to be springtime with snow on the ground. The first assent happened in 1932.


On July 2, 2017 · 1 Comments

Editor’s NoteWell folks, after 1,373 articles, it finally happened. I repeated a topic. I’d forgotten that I posted a similar article back in 2014. This should make for an interesting compare and contrast, though. I did include a couple of extra Rolla locations this time. I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner, actually.

Once again my compulsive need to review the Twelve Mile Circle access logs inspired an article. I spotted a little dot in North Dakota, way up by the Canadian border. It stood all alone so I wondered why someone from such an obscure spot might come to 12MC. The user probably arrived for a reason similar to anyone else although now it piqued my curiosity. I checked and saw the viewer read about the smallest tribe of Native Americans in the United States. Well, welcome Rolla user. That gave me a nice excuse to explore your town along with others of a similar name.

Rolla, North Dakota

Rolla, North Dakota
Rolla, North Dakota. Photo by Andrew Filer on Flickr (cc)

I most appreciated that Rolla (map) could be found in Rolette County. References indicated that the Rolla name probably derived from the county name. Probably? How could there be any doubt? Unfortunately I couldn’t find a primary source so that forced me to apply the same qualifier. Rolette though derived from Joseph Rolette, a colorful 19th Century fur trader and politician from an area of Minnesota that later became part of North Dakota. He once hid for several days to prevent the governor from signing a bill to move Minnesota’s capital away from St. Paul. Apparently he sought refuge in a nearby brothel where he drank, played cards and, well, I digress. That escapade didn’t disqualify him from having a county and city named in his honor after his death. Maybe it helped.

However, Rolla did not become the county seat of government for Rolette. That honor went to Belcourt, a town of two thousand residents, about double the size of Rolla. I couldn’t find much of historical importance in Rolla although I wouldn’t recommend breaking in to someone’s home there either.

It seemed that residents pronounced it Roll-a. Perhaps my 12MC visitor will return some day and confirm that.

Rolla, Kansas

Dust Storm. Rolla, Kansas 1935
Dust Storm. Rolla, Kansas 1935. Library of Congress Collection on Flickr (cc)

Now why did Rolla sound so familiar? I’d seen a different Rolla before. In Kansas. This happened during my 2013 Dust Bowl adventure. I concentrated on a tight area around the Oklahoma Panhandle. It included the southwestern corner of Kansas. In that faraway nook, in Morton County specifically, stood a little town of Rolla (map). Barely four hundred people lived there along the open plains within the Cimarron National Grassland.

What scant evidence existed seemed to say that Rolla’s founders named if for Sir Walter Raleigh, and pronounced it Raw-la. That seemed fair-fetched, however, many people living in North Carolina’s capital city of Raleigh pronounced it that way in their southern drawl. Transplants could have carried the name and its pronunciation with them as they settled the plains. I couldn’t find direct evidence to back that up for this particular Rolla although it seemed to be within the realm of possibility.

Rolla, Missouri

On Historic Route 66 in Rolla, Missouri
On Historic Route 66 in Rolla, Missouri. Photo by Kent Kanouse on Flickr (cc)

The big Rolla didn’t appear in North Dakota or Kansas, it appeared in Missouri. This Rolla (map) served a population of twenty thousand! It also included a significant university, the Missouri University of Science and Technology. Residents pronounced it Raw-la like in Kansas, and supposedly for a similar reason. It also had a more definitive connection back to North Carolina too.

Rolla was officially surveyed, laid out and named in 1858. Bishop wanted to call it Phelps Center, since his house was the center of the county. John Webber preferred the name "Hardscrabble" for the obvious reasons. George Coppedge, another original settler, and formerly of North Carolina, favored "Raleigh" after his hometown. The others agreed with Coppedge on the condition that it shouldn’t have "that silly spelling, but should be spelled ‘Rolla.’"

Significant military activity took place here during the Civil War because of Rolla’s southern sympathies. The Union army occupied it just to make sure a strategic railroad terminal didn’t fall into the hands of Confederate sympathizers.

Rolla, British Columbia

I didn’t expect a Rolla to show-up in Canada, and yet one appeared (map) in British Columbia near the Alberta border. It seemed like an odd coincidence until I found an entry for Rolla on the Discover The Peace Country website.

The Lea Miller family was the first settlers to arrive in the area in 1912 that were originally from Rolla, Missouri in the USA. This new area then started being referred to as Rolla. The Millers opened a post office and Rolla was officially named in 1914.

Thus, if I followed the logic correctly, Sir Walter Raleigh lent his name to Raleigh, North Carolina where it transferred to Rolla, Missouri, and finally to Rolla, British Columbia. I’d seen longer name chains before (e.g., Richmond) although this one still stood out. The couple of hundred-or-so people there pronounced it similarly to its Missouri namesake.

Rolla, Anantapur, India

The Rolla in India seemed to be completely coincidental (map). I couldn’t find a connection to any of the others. I didn’t know how to pronounce it either. Information seemed scarce. I did find some basic information on its Wikipedia page. However, the page offered little else and failed to cite reliable sources. Someone could have made it up for all I knew. Yet, this Rolla supposedly dwarfed even the similarly-named Missouri town. Nearly thirty-five thousand people lived there. It certainly demonstrated the drawback of Wikipedia, where a town of that size barely earned any mention because of its location.

I didn’t want to be culturally insensitive. Primarily, I wouldn’t ordinarily describe someone’s tradition as "strange." However, a local news report documented a "Strange Tradition in Rolla Village Anantapuram" (their words not mine) in a YouTube video. If the locals thought it qualified as strange then I didn’t feel so bad about calling it strange too. The video showed some kind of ceremony where a row of people laid down on the ground and others stuck their feet on them as musicians played. It showed the same scene of a toddler getting a foot on her neck like a dozen times. Maybe it served as some kind of blessing. I couldn’t grasp any context because the reporter spoke something other than English.

Nonetheless, it let me add another Indian pushpin to my Complete Index Map, and that made me happy.

Recent YIMBY

On June 29, 2017 · Comments Off on Recent YIMBY

I posted an article called Recent NIMBY just before I left on my Heartland trip. It dealt with the "Not in My Back Yard" phenomenon. People often agreed with development until it came too close to their homes. They didn’t want anything that might negatively affect the value of their properties. Sometimes their arguments seemed justifiable and other times they seemed frivolous. The common thread involved organized, orchestrated efforts to keep something away that might change the character or value of their neighborhood.

The article got a comment suggesting that I should take a look at the opposite phenomenon. I’d heard of it although I didn’t know much about it. The movement took its inspiration from NIMBY with a twist. It went by YIMBY, for "Yes in my Back Yard." YIMBY expressed a frustration with the consequences of NIMBY behavior particularly as it related to housing. Adherents argued that locking-out development came with a social cost. It created acute housing shortages where only the wealthiest people could afford decent places to live. Blue collar workers, young professionals and public servants found few places where they could live while NIMBY forces blocked new housing. Naturally the movement gained the most traction in places like New York City, the Bay Area, Seattle, Vancouver and Toronto; all places with income disparities and rapid gentrification.

I repeated the same exercise I used in the earlier article. This time, however, I searched for recent news articles mentioning YIMBY.

New York City

Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York. Photo by pelcinary on Flickr (cc)

New York City served as the epicenter for the movement. Much of the recent press coverage I found came from a single source, the New York YIMBY website. I could have picked any of a hundred or more contemporary instances so I went with the most recent example from the site.

The city’s Brooklyn borough included a neighborhood called Greenpoint. It formed the northernmost corner of Brooklyn, bordering the East River just across from Manhattan. Greenpoint long served as a working class neighborhood with a large population of Polish immigrants. For decades they worked on the docks at the Port of New York, in local factories, or in mom-and-pop shops serving their immigrant community. However, and in the last decade in particular, Greenpoint began to change. Its proximity to Manhattan attracted a wealthier class of residents who started to displace the original inhabitants.

One of the properties tracked by New York YIMBY recently was 13 Greenpoint Avenue/26 Kent Street, Greenpoint. It would replace an old industrial site and warehouses with an 11-story mixed-use structure. This would provide another 77 housing units to an area desperate for more (map).


The Annex. Photo by Andrzej Wrotek on Flickr (cc)

The Annex area (map) of Toronto, Canada began as a streetcar suburb in the late Nineteenth Century. Eventually Toronto annexed the area into the city, and thus provided a name. Residents of The Annex tended to be better off financially than average, although it also included student areas near the University of Toronto. The Annex started to gentrify in recent years, becoming one of the most desirable communities in the city.

The Toronto Star recounted YIMBY efforts in The Annex recently. It cited "a generation increasingly frustrated by the rising cost of housing that shuts young professionals, less affluent residents and newcomers out of the city’s well-serviced, transit-connected neighbourhoods." They hoped to see denser development, subdivision of large houses into multiple apartments, and family-sized condos. These were things their NIMBY counterparts generally opposed. The story was positioned very much as a generational clash, with Millennials living in cramped apartments with sky-high rents while their Baby Boomer parents "rattling around in near-empty homes."

The clash continues.


TTV-stich - San Judas Flea Market
San Judas Flea Market – Nolensville Pike. Photo by David Antis on Flickr (cc)

I wouldn’t have thought of Nashville, Tennessee as a place with a YIMBY movement. Nonetheless it grappled with housing issues and a lot of recent press attention focused there. Even the mayor got involved.

"We need YIMBY-ism in Nashville, and we need it now," [Mayor] Barry said at her State of Metro address… "It means yes, I want to live in a mixed-income neighborhood… Nashville desperately needs something we can rally behind that says we are not going to let our city be totally gentrified," she says."

The problem could be seen in several areas of Nashville including Nolensville Pike (map). Immigrants flocked to this affordable neighborhood as their initial foothold in the United States. They built businesses along the strip as they assimilated and pursued their dreams. However, as the fortunes of greater Nashville began to improve, rents started rising along Nolensville Pike. While not quite as stark or as urban as some of the other cities with a growing YIMBY presence, the conditions here followed a familiar pattern.

I admitted feeling a sense of déjà vu as I read these articles too. It seemed similar to what I’d seen in my close-in neighborhood just outside of Washington, DC. By pure luck, I found myself on the fortunate side of that equation, in a home I couldn’t possibly afford if I wanted to buy it today. However I had a lot of sympathy for those not so fortunate. I guess I’ve always been more of a YIMBY.

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