Medical diagnoses certainly have an effect on one’s future.


“When I found out I had lymphoma, it changes you,” James said. “You live differently due to that diagnosis; change your way of thinking.”

The doctors told her she has a lazy cancer and her condition is stable according to her last checkup. Even though James’ medical condition is a very slow acting cancer, she and her husband decided to make more of their life.

Husband Tim searched for new activities for the couple to explore and stumbled upon highpointing.

It has become the couples’ new obsession. High-pointing is an outdoor sport for active people who enjoy hiking and climbing. Armed with a vehicle, maps and other electronic devices, the hiker finds the highest elevation in states and then travels to the location. Some locations are easy to arrive at and some, like Mt. Rainier in Washington State, involve several thousand feet of mountain climbing at high elevations with backpacks, crampon cleats for hiking boots, ice picks and technical equipment to complete the climb.

“Yes, Tim drags me along on his hiking adventures,” James said with a laugh. “But we find the most amazing, obscure places we never would have thought to see.”

James, a Yankton real estate agent, is quite enamored with the beautiful countryside and out of the way places and laughs as she says she is getting a lot better reading maps. She said they didn’t travel a lot but now it’s like, ‘let’s go,’ and finding locations is easier. The couple uses GPS devices but sometimes the electronics are not reliable.

The James have always been active people and as they plan their trips around high-pointing sites, they find the most unique opportunities to explore. Some of the high-pointing locations are only reached by foot on hiking paths and on one occasion, they wondered about using bear spray. As they fumbled with the canister of spray in the parking lot, they got covered with bear spray – everywhere James said. Their hope is to never have to use it again.

James has decided she does not enjoy hiking where there’s snow or ice or exposure to the cold. Even the risk of falling intimidates her even if she is ‘roped up,’ so the really high elevations in snow topped mountains hold no appeal for her.

“Even when Tim goes on hikes which I decided not to do, I still go with him and sight see in area,” James said. When his first attempt on climbing Mt Rainier failed, Tim was able to accompany her on a whale-watching tour she had scheduled.

Much of the traveling on the high-pointing excursions is done in Tim’s pickup and that means eating weird food along the way. But that’s part of the give and take the James’ offer each other in their new lifestyle to try new experiences and make new discoveries.

“He’s my best friend and I get so much enjoyment being around him, seeing nature in a new way, his good idea has led to great experiences,” James said. Even some days when the couple is limping from a strained muscle or sore back, they enjoy their travels. Occasionally they even take their three dogs along for the ride.

On their stop to Wisconsin, Tim coaxed James to try kayaking. There is definitely a learning curve James admits but it’s fast becoming her new favorite thing to do.

The couple often travels to areas where there are lakes but the trip to Michigan is a high-point in their memories even as they remember the high-point they visited in that state. Along with hiking they spent more time working on their kayaking skills. Often they find themselves kayaking on Lewis & Clark Lake now to join the excitement of hiking along the Lake. Other places they visit regularly include Stone Park in Sioux City and Newton Hills near Canton and these stops make for more enjoyable runs than a jaunt on a treadmill.

In a way, this new lifestyle is a bucket list for James and the accomplishment she experiences fills her life.

“I feel so very blessed,” James said. “The diagnosis has become a springboard to do more things, see life differently. In a weird way it is a blessing itself.”

James has always wanted to go dogsledding and that trip is on their trekking agenda after they cover the lower 48 states. There must be a mountain in Alaska for her husband to climb. She has always been fascinated with glass igloos in Finland and then maybe they could fit another visit to the serenity and peacefulness of the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior.

But there’s nothing fast and solid in the future of their high-pointing travels James said.

Husband Tim describes his wife’s philosophy of living in a quote from Hunter S. Thompson, “Life should not be a journey to a grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, Wow! What a ride!”