(Image credit here)
We who frequent the backcountry are explorers. Maybe we don't think consciously of ourselves in that way, but it's a truism. We explore the backcountry itself, looking for new scenes, critters, experiences. And we explore the backcountry within ourselves--our physical abilities, and our psychological boundaries to undestand how and why we go to extremes in ultrarunning.
There are web sites (here's one) dedicated to the highest points in each of the respective states of the union--where they are, how to get there, etc. It may be geeky beyond all belief, but I want to go to ALL those spots. I won't make it, of course--I will never stand on the summit of Denali, AK--but that doesn't keep me from dreaming.
Well, the concept has been extended to our nearest solar neighbor, the moon. From Bad Astronomy on 3 Nov 2010:
I live less than an hour from some spectacular Rocky Mountain peaks. The view from up there is always magnificent, and when we hike we’re always curious about just how high we are. 11,500 feet? 12,000? That knowledge isn’t necessarily useful, but it’s fun.
Hiking in the Moon is a different matter. How would you know how high up you are? Well, if you had the elevation data made by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter you’d be all set, because then you’d know that if you were at a latitude of 5.4125° and longitude of 201.3665°, you’d be on the highest spot on the Moon!
See that red arrow? That's the spot. If you stood there, you'd be 10,786 meters (35,387 feet, about 6.7 miles) above the average lunar elevation*.
Still and all, I was trying to think of some sort of scientific use of knowing where this particular point on the Moon is. I’ll be honest: I’m not sure there is one. I mean, sure, having elevation maps is interesting and useful, and knowing where places have higher elevation can lead to insight into formation mechanisms and all that.
But knowing where the actual highest point is?
Well, maybe there isn’t scientific usefulness for it. But you know what? It’s cool. And sometimes that’s enough.
I agree totally with the Bad Astronomy guy. It's just cool.