Two state highpoints in two days! Not an unheard of record. It is worth considering that my driving time to either Mount Magazine or Driskill Mountain far exceed the combined time for ascents of both peaks.
Day 1...guided primarily by information posted here on summit post, and a questionable GPS, I drove through several small Arkansas towns questioning my decision to attempt the summit of Mount Magazine. Part of the adventure is route finding, and enjoying the two lane roads with little traffic and abundant scenery.
The vistas observed on this trip were not the familiar windswept and sagebrush choked expanses of the west interrupted abruptly by the Rocky Mountains, the Snowies, the Wasatch, or the Sierra Nevada. Instead, the rise and fall of the countryside was often obscured by greenery, hardwood deciduous trees, some pine trees, and somewhere lurking and growing malevolently, the dreaded kudzu. It is hard to imagine our civil war raged on near some of these now quiet towns in Arkansas or Louisiana. Some deserters apparently lived in the vicinity of Mount Magazine, where they could exist in relative anonymity. The Utah license plates declare my status before I begin a conversation and my accent would confirm it.
As I dove through the country side of Arkansas meandering towards Mount Magazine State Park, I wondered if some of the towns with exotic names such as Havana, Paris, or Vienna were namesakes originally given to remind the founders of their European homes, or to entice people to move to their community in hopes of establishing a larger economic base.
The evidence of a distant fire, as declared by plumes of white smoke released by the consumption of fuels provided by the forest rises slowly several miles south of me. Periodically, the greenery opens to vast expanses of fields, some for crops, and some for pasture...evidence of a forgotten and dismantled railroad spur is slowly reclaimed by the trees. A few neglected buildings interject the notion that most of the country is inhabited...I would guess that some inhabitants left for larger cities and more opportunity as small farms and ranches merged and became larger. Technological advances have negated the enormous labor community once required to clear trees for pasture and crops, tend the land or manage livestock. The holdouts maintain their presence, dwindling ever slowly as the economic pressure of efficiency and modernization lay claim to family farms.
The second guessing inherent in new and unfamiliar areas occurs as I approach the town of Havana, more closely resembling a hamlet. My GPS cannot find Mount Magazine or the state park, but Wal-mart or McDonalds, no problem. I know I am getting closer, comparing my mental notes to my written notes. There were no signs indicating the state park along any of the miles I had travelled to this point. I pulled over at a local gas station/fishing supply/restaurant and inquired about the state park. Indeed, I had overcome my first obstacle and was on the correct path to the summit.
I turned off towards Mount Magazine state park and imagined that a motorcyclist or sports car owner might have been thrilled at a road such as the one that leads to the visitors center. The switchbacks, and shade provided by trees, with the occasional vista and pull off to enjoy the view donated by elevation gain.
The smoke reduced visibility, but not my enjoyment of the day. I stopped several times along the way to take a picture, enjoy the view, and watch a few deer scramble across the road. The visitor center has a great amount of information about the area including local history and the flora and fauna. The facility seemed relatively new and included a bird watching room. I followed the advice and took the scenic loop before attempting my summit bid.
The scents and scenery are an interesting change to my pallet. The sweet and musty smell of growth and decay must be different regionally...at least in my minds nose, these woods smelled different than the places I normally hike, not unpleasantly so. The trees and leaves were obviously different, and the diversity of the trees was readily apparent. The smoke lingering in the air bears the reality of impermanence as a fire consumed trees somewhere, eventually clearing an area and providing nutrients for the cycle to begin again on natures terms.
Rain greeted me as I walked to my car with gritty determination to make an all out assault on Driskill Mountain. I hoped the weather would clear later in the day.
Both summits and the drives to get there were worth the time alone, time to think, time to turn off the radio and notice a crane in an unknown bayou fishing for his supper as I rocket past at 50 miles an hour. The drive to Arcadia, LA was much easier on the GPS, and my handwritten directions served me very well to achieve a quick summit in a downpour. The two lane highways remind me of trips I experienced when I was younger. Branches and leaves lazily covering a back country road to a mountain lake somewhere. Rusting hulks of cars hidden in groves, long forgotten stories of the miles they once travelled. Small communities and pockets of civilization sporadically scattered near the thoroughfare between Little Rock, AR and Arcadia, LA. The anticipation of what I would find at the trailhead mixed with the enjoyment of new sights, smells, and sounds. A few miles pass in the countryside and then mammoth steel towers of powerline intersect and travel over my path. A reminder of technology, and the lengths we go to for energy. The highway weaves beneath the powerlines a few more times before I pass through the sleepy town of Junction. The rain gathers intensity and fades, perhaps reflecting my thoughts and memories.
Before I realized it, I had found the parking lot for the trailhead. A short detour somewhat south of Arcadia looms the hill named Driskill Mountain.
In the parking lot of Mt. Zion Presbyterian Church, I was thankful for the rain gear I usually carry in my car. The trail to the summit was a slog due to the rain, yet well maintained and obviously well loved. The summit of Driskill Mountain did not provide an expansive view such as one might hope for when the word "summit" is used. The journey to get there and back was worth it, and I look forward to many more.