Cook: Colorado teacher Haugen ascended 50 states' highest peaks in 45 days

Cook: Colorado teacher Haugen ascended 50 states' highest peaks in 45 days

January 8th, 2009 by Dan Cook in Sports - Outdoors

It was a quick summer trip for Mike Haugen, a 31-year-old eighth-grade science teacher in Denver.

Attempting to reach the highest points of all 50 states within 50 days, he completed the objective in 45 days and 19 hours.

Haugen first climbed Alaska's Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America, and then quickly boarded a plane for Florida and 345-foot Britton Hill in the Panhandle.

A former Memphis resident who had grown up in Minnesota and Wisconsin, Haugen mixed 15,000 driving miles with his air travel, all to encourage students to become active outdoors and learn more about geology. Toyota furnished one of its hybrid vehicles for the road portion.

During his 50 States in 50 Days tour, Haugen recorded video and shot many digital images. He blogged about dodging bears and lightning strikes, among other excitement.

After the odyssey sponsored by The Coleman Company, Inc., students were encouraged to go online and retrace his steps ( The process ended Dec. 31. Registration had begun on Aug. 21.

Students applying first had to engage in a particular outdoor activity for 60 minutes or record 10,000 steps in a day. Among the suggested outings were camping, jogging, riding a bike or hiking through a park.

About 7,000 students had traced Haugen's trip in a May 2007 expedition to Mount Everest.

He enjoys outdoor adventure without the student participation as well. He was ice climbing in Montana on the Saturday when we reached him by phone. He said he was keeping in shape for mountaineering.

In his 50/50 dash, he barely made Alabama's high spot under the wire one night.

"We pulled up at Cheaha Mountain just as the gentleman was closing the monument (marking the peak)," Haugen said. "He turned the lights back on and let us see it."

He then drove to Woodall Mountain (elevation 806 feet) in eastern Mississippi - "Woodall was in the middle of nowhere," Haugen said - and Magazine Mountain in Arkansas before heading to Brasstown Bald near Blairsville, Ga.

"We got up there in bad weather," he said. "It was socked in by clouds and cold. But 45 minutes later the clouds had disappeared and the sun had come out."

He ascended the Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee (Clingmans Dome) and North Carolina peaks in a single day.

"A long, hectic day," he emphasized, citing North Carolina's Mount Mitchell as another nick-of-time arrival.

"A man and his daughter waited for us six or seven hours, and a ranger let us in," he said.

He followed the Southern swing with a drive up the East Coast and then another road trip across the West to Seattle. From there, he flew to Hawaii for his last stop. He reached the top of its 13,000-foot volcano, Mauna Kea, at 11:55 a.m. Hawaii time on July 25.

Other peaks were spectacular as well, he said, including 14,500-foot Mount Whitney in California.

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