There are 111 mountains in the Northeast USA, higher than 4,000’ in elevation. Old Speck mountain was Jim's 111th mountain. He started climbing in 1990 and is the 685th recorded person to complete the Northeast 111.
The documentary follows Jim up the mountain and is sprinkled with personal stories about hiking over the past 20 years.
Growing up in the foothills of the Adirondacks, the outdoors have always been in the Higgins’ blood. Jim Higgins Jr. began his lifetime of hiking in 1990 by conquering two mountains called Cascade and Porter. With the help of his dad and the Broadalbin Youth Commission, Higgins hiked numerous mountains in the Adirondacks. "We started something, and we couldn't stop it. Every chance we got, we were hiking," explains Jim Higgins Sr. At the beginning of their adventure there were twenty or more people hiking along with the Higgins. As time passed the numbers dwindled, but the Higgins kept hiking.
Jim, along with his father Jim Sr. and brother Josh, finished the Adirondack 46 in 1998. Jim stopped hiking briefly during his college years but got back into it in 2005, taking trips to New Hampshire whenever he could. At the time Jim was a recent college grad and gas prices had spiked. As a result, driving the five hours to New Hampshire became expensive. To save money on hotels, Jim would leave his home in the Adirondacks at 7:00PM and get to the mountain between 1:00-2:00AM. Once at the mountain, he would sleep in his car with his two dogs and wake up a little before sunrise to begin his hike. When Jim Sr. heard about Jim Jr. sleeping in his car, he immediately put the kibosh to it. To help, Jim Sr. would travel with his son and pay for a hotel. The two of them would spend the weekend together and hike 3 or 4 mountains at a time.
Jim Jr. completed the 48 Mountains in New Hampshire the summer of 2011. Since then, he has knocked off the 5 in Vermont and 13 in Maine. In total Jim Higgins Jr. has hiked 110 mountains and Old Speck Mountain will be his 111th.
When I (Josh-Bear In Motion) first heard about Jim's story I immediately emailed him and told him I would love to tag along and film the experience. I was super excited but also had this thought in the back of my head, "Can I even hike this mountain?" I had some experience hiking but I was unsure of what to expect. To add to my concern, my knees do not have the best track record. I told Jim my concerns and his response was, “It’s a pretty easy climb, 4,170', you'll be fine.”
My friend Dan Zielinski, a fellow filmmaker, joined me as a second cameraman. Dan and I set out at 5:00PM from Albany and planned on arriving at a hotel near the New Hampshire/Maine border later in the evening. It was a 6-hour journey to Old Speck Mountain and we did not predict we would have any problems. We neglected to realize it was peak foliage season in the Northeast, so everyone was traveling that weekend. Dan and I kept driving past every "no vacancy" sign, down curvy back roads, in the dark. After some time, I figured we would just sleep in the car at the mountain. Then, around midnight, we finally came across a resort about a half-hour from the mountain that had a room available. Thank the heavens!
The next morning, October 7th, 2012, we met Jim, his dad, and their two dogs at the bottom of Old Speck Mountain at 7:00AM. It was a gorgeous day for a hike. While we hiked, we talked about everything from crazy hiking trips they had been on out in Colorado and California, to nick-names for Jim's new baby boy. Jim Sr. plans to hike his grandson’s first high peak with him when his grandson turns five and he is 70! What an awesome goal!
Once we finally made it to the top, we celebrated by cracking open their very own beer, called NE 111 Ale. It tasted very similar to Sam Adams’ Octoberfest. The sun was out and it was a perfect day to be on top of Old Speck Mountain. It seemed as if we could see forever! The landscape was dotted with beautiful orange and yellow trees. We could see wind-farms in the distance and a few different lakes. It was beyond gorgeous!
At this point my knees were hurting, bad! I knew we had the whole journey down, which would be even worse, but I did not want to be a Debbie-downer. So, I told the guys I would go a little slower and catch up to them. We started the decent and immediately my knees started to hurt again. It felt like knives in both of my knees every time I would bend them. Long story short, I ended up doing the crab crawl the last half-mile.
Original score composed by Joseph Blaise
Acoustic guitar performed by Paul Vazquez
Strings performed by The Craigslist Quartet (violin: Jordan Hall, violin: Nora Friedman, viola: Adam Pogoff, cello: Neeta Sonalkar)
Special thanks to:
-Mike Dickerman - Record-keeper and corresponding secretary of the 111ers of Northeastern USA
-The Higgins Family