You can trace Jeff Rand’s quest to become a “highpointer” all the way back to grade school.
In fifth grade, Rand had to prepare a report on the state of his choice. He lived in Michigan but chose Colorado “because of its mountains.”
“When I learned of Mount Elbert as the highest in the state and the Rockies, I wanted to climb it,” he says.
A few years later, Rand did just that, summiting the 14,433-foot peak after attending the 1979 National Order of the Arrow Conference, held on the campus of Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
And so began Rand’s quest to climb the highest point in each of the 50 states. Fifteen years later, he reached his goal — an astounding feat made even more remarkable by the fact that Rand has only one arm.
Rand, an Eagle Scout, has spent the last 38 years as a BSA professional. He serves as a performance manager, helping units, districts and councils harness the power of Journey to Excellence to better serve Scouts.
But just like many Scouts out there, he’s never stopped exploring. And he’s never let physical challenges stand in his way.
When Rand was 4 years old, he was playing on the sidewalk when he was hit by a car.
He lost his right arm in the accident.
Rand doesn’t try to claim that life was easy with just one arm. It wasn’t.
But, he says, “every person faces challenges. These often represent hidden opportunities. Take advantage of them.”
And so he did. Rand earned 88 merit badges, served as an Order of the Arrow lodge chief and became an Eagle Scout in what was then the Detroit Area Council — now the Michigan Crossroads Council.
‘Because they were there’
After standing on top of Colorado’s highest point in 1979, Rand climbed 10 more states’ high points over the next few years “because they were there,” he says.
And then in 1987, while on a three-week bicycling trip through Alaska and Canada, Rand heard something calling him to Denali — Alaska’s crown jewel.
It was all uphill from there.
Over the next seven years, Rand climbed the highest points in the remaining 38 states. He says his Scouting values were with him each step of the way.
“Scouting taught me to set long-term goals while focusing on the incremental steps,” he says. “One learns this progressing through the ranks and preparing oneself for the next challenge.”
Highs and lows
The easiest of the 50? Rand says it’s Ebright Azimuth in Delaware, which towers above the First State at 448 feet. It’s marked by a sign just off a residential street, meaning dog-walkers reach the state’s highest point every day.
The most difficult, he says, is Granite Peak in Montana.
“It looks like a giant tombstone and requires trailless hiking and rock climbing,” Rand says of the 12,799-foot mountain.
Still, it was in Rand’s home state of Michigan where he actually needed two tries to reach the highest point.
He first climbed what was believed to be the state’s highest point, the 1,978-foot Mount Curwood.
But a survey later revealed Mount Arvon to be a foot taller. So he climbed that one, too, and even found a sign from a Scout troop identifying the summit.
Never done exploring
Rand’s what I call an “exploration completionist.” He has this insatiable urge to finish what he started.
During his personal and professional travels, Rand has seen a lot of the country. Pretty soon, he realized that he had visited almost every county in the United States.
In 2003, he finished all 3,142 counties and county-equivalents in the 50 states and D.C. Whatever county you or your aunt or your friend from college happen to live in, Rand’s been there.
“I am still working on visiting every national park unit,” Rand says. “I have 25 left to visit.”