Former Chicagoans Live Near Illinois' Highest Point
SCALES MOUND, Ill. — For most of the year, former Chicago residents Jean and Wayne Wuebbels have Illinois' highest point all to themselves.
But for eight days each summer, the couple allow tourists to visit Charles Mound — 1,235 feet above sea level — which sits on their privately-owned farm on the state's northwestern tip, more than 160 miles from Chicago.
"I still believe that if you stand on the corner of any street in Chicago, you can ask people about Charles Mound, and they would say it's some sort of candy bar," said Jean Wuebbels, who lived with her husband in Rogers Park and West Rogers Park — when Wayne Wuebbels was receiving his master's degree from DePaul University — and Chicago's suburbs before moving to their farm in 1994.
"In fact, we were amazed so many people cared about Charles Mound," Jean Wuebbels said.
By comparison, Charles Mound's above-sea-level height is about twice the city of Chicago's 578 feet. It is almost half as high as Willis Tower's 2,325-feet-above-sea-level measurement.
The couple permit tourists during daylight hours on the first full weekends of June, July, August and September, free of charge. This year, those dates are June 1-2, July 6-7, Aug. 3-4 and Sept. 7-8.
While making their contact information publicly available, they are strict about enforcing the time regulations. For example, if travelers try to come on Friday, July 5, they won't be able to visit the site.
"We consider that trespassing if they're there on another day," Jean Wuebbels said. "We haven't had to call the sheriff yet, but we would if we had to."
During open weekends, Jean Wuebbels said about 100 tourists make the trip to their home, which is about a mile outside of the small town of Scales Mound, where both Jean and Wayne are accountants.
Many visitors are from the nationally known Highpointers Club, which encourages members to journey to all 50 states' high points.
"They're definitely celebrities, and we love them because they've been very cooperative," said former Highpointers Club chairman Roger Rowlett, who lives in New York City. "They have been very nice about allowing us to have access."
The journey to the top of Charles Mound isn't like climbing Alaska's 20,320-foot Mount McKinley, but it's not exactly a piece of cake. Visitors must park at the front gate of the Wuebbels' driveway, walk about 1 1/2 miles to their home and then proceed a bit farther to the top of the mound.
"The view is beautiful," Jean Wuebbels said. "It overlooks Wisconsin, and if you go down the hill a little ways, on a clear day you can see over the [Mississippi] river into Iowa. It's breathtaking I think."
Jean Wuebbels said the best part of owning the land on which Charles Mound sits has been meeting "so many amazing people." She said a man from Norway lugged up a large wheel of cheese to give to the Wuebbels; another brought a multi-pound box of freeze-dried lox.
One famous Highpointer, the late Jack Longacre, even had his ashes spread over the mound.
For the most part though, the Wuebbels, both 67, enjoy the peace and quiet of their unique land.
"Compared to Chicago, it's almost like living in a totally different world," Jean Wuebbels said. "The only thing you hear here are the birds."