In 2008 when I took a few steps into the woods to Highpoint Rhode Island I had no idea how this hobby would become such a part of my life, now 10 years later with the chance to get to 40 completed I had to go for it, so the HP’s of LA, AR, MS, & MO were put on the calendar. This would involve approx. 1,200 miles of driving over the course of a long weekend in some incredible heat. I did loads of research on how to make this trip an enjoyable one despite being some of the highpoints folks look forward to the least, it’s just as much a culinary journey as a hiking one and in fact I think I took in more calories than I spent. Hard-core mountaineers will certainly want to scroll past this report but fellow highpointers may find it useful in planning logistics and spicing up their trip to the Mississippi Delta.
This trip report will start when I joined but actually over the last 2 days Jeff flew into Pensacola grabbed Florida’s Britton Hill then drove up to Alabama and hiked Cheaha then drove to Atlanta and hopped on same early morning flight as I to Shreveport, this puts him just one Highpoint behind me (missing HI). We landed at 10am local time and the first order of business was to get into a northern Louisiana state of mind and the best way to accomplish that I reckoned is a crawfish boil. Was planning on going to highly rated Crawdaddy’s Kitchen but that didn’t open for half an hour and in an itinerary this jam packed we opted to not wait and we hit up Shane’s which was still decent.
At this point we drove the 1.5hrs over to Driskill. The directions we had worked well and we parked at the Mt. Zion Presbyterian Church. When you think of this part of Louisiana this time of year you’re really thinking about being hot and humid and this day didn’t disappoint, it was 90 degrees and probably close to that number in humidity, perfect to get the true experience. Despite the hike only being 1.8miles round trip we filled some camelbacks with water to make for more pleasant experience. Signage is good and it’s a logging road that’s easy to follow to the top.
Some logging along way isn’t the prettiest but there is actually a nice little view from the top. Highpoint #37 in the books!
From here we drove the 3.5hrs to Hot Springs National Park. We wanted ice coffees for the road but on this incredibly depressing drive that was not to be, as you pass through distressed town after distressed town with no services of any kind to be found; passed several hundred churches though (slight exaggeration). We checked into the Arlington Hotel which is a wonderful old building with lots of history in great location on main street, unfortunately needs a few million $’s in renovations. Checked out the natural hot springs which are quite hot, you can’t hold your hand in the water all that long.
One of the Bathhouses was turned into a brewery, Superior Bathhouse Brewery, making it the only brewery in a national park, so you know I had to visit.
After that headed to Ohio Club for drinks. This historic bar was big during prohibition, Bugsy Segel trained at the casino that used to be on second floor prior to opening one in Vegas. Al Capone, Bugs Moran, Lucky Luciano and even Babe Ruth have sat and drank at the huge wooden bar that they took out the front of the building to install way back when.
I definitely would like to try and visit every National Park and may as well highpoint as many as possible so next on the agenda is Music Mountain. Originally was thinking of doing this hike yesterday but we were tired from waking so early, flying and driving. Woke up first thing and drove the 10minutes up Black Snake Road to the trailhead.
This peak is right off of the sunset trail which is the parks longest and traverses three peaks but we’d be only doing a short section this morning. It is supposed to be another scorcher today so nice to hit the trail early. It goes steadily up for about a mile. Here according to the directions I had there is a cairn on your left and then a short bushwhack up a hill leads to the top which we did with little difficulty. There is a can and a geological marker on this unremarkable summit, National Park Highpoint #9.
While on top we discovered there is now a trail leading to the summit this leads back to sunset trail just a few steps further from the cairn we followed, it is marked by a metal signpost in middle of trail you can’t miss if coming from opposite direction as us. Traversed quickly enough back to car on towards Mt Magazine (Signal Hill).
2hours of driving later on winding roads through the Ozarks, while pretty, left me feeling quite nauseous but we made it to trailhead.
This was a real short jaunt, like .5 miles each way, to get Highpoint #38 in the books.
The lodge looks real nice and I didn’t realize the Highpointers Annual Convention would be here in a few short weeks. I also forgot that this is a hang gliding location I should have looked into feasibility of trying since something I’ve always wanted to do. From here we drove to Little Rock for lunch and then onto Memphis for the night.
Deciding which BBQ joint in Memphis to try was one of tougher challenges of this trip. Decided on Central BBQ Downtown and were not disappointed.
After that went out on world famous Beale St. It’s like Bourbon St in New Orleans where there is lots of live music and rowdy folk drinking in the street. Decided on going to Rum Boogies where we saw the Blues Beetles that do Rockin Bluezy covers of Beetle songs, they were quite talented musicians, fun times.
Today would be a long day in car in part thanks to ESPN (more on that later). Awoke and drove straight across the state of Mississippi to Woodall Mountain. Once you get close there is actually very good signage directing your driving to the peak. When you get to the dirt rode you drive through a scenic forest for mile before reaching the top. Now this is one of the unfortunate highpoint summits with an ugly tower, some fencing, and trash strewn about.
There is a decent rock monument on top now that you can traverse with few bouldering moves.
Enjoyed some Cuban cigars that Jeff’s friend brought back from a cruise to celebrate state Highpoint #39.
From here the logical next step would be to drive to Taum Sauk and stay near there which was original plan. However another list related goal of mine is to visit every Major League Baseball Stadium and ESPN moved tomorrows St Louis Cardinals 1pm day game to Sunday Night Baseball which no longer works for our flights. So I had to sell my tix on stub hub taking a 50% haircut and then bought Saturday night tickets instead which added 2 hours of driving to the overall trip, yay more car time. So we were on to St. Louis. Much to my surprise the Gateway Arch has been changed from a National Monument to a National Park, in my opinion this is dumb but as long as its on the list I may as well try and highpoint it, then hopefully the next president puts it back to monument status, I obviously was planning on taking picture in front of arch anyways.
It is a nice little city park and as for the highpoint there is 3 possibilities I spotted, there is up near the courthouse, the mound directly under the arch, and then the hillside to the south around the lake, so I just walked around all of them quickly on way to game. They are probably all man made so who knows really it’s dumb, anyways National park HP #10. It was 95 degrees for game time at 7pm and barely cooled off for the duration, brutal, but can’t beat Cards vs Cubs for atmosphere, MLB Stadium #16.
Homestretch. Another blazing hot morning sun greeted us and we did the easy ride over to Taum Sauk State Park. Well maintained area and the highpoint lies not far into the forest. Not terribly exciting for my 40th state highpoint but I’m thrilled none-the-less.
I am trying to make a 40 with my hands but pic came out a touch dark.
From here since we drove all the way here there is no reason not to hike over to Mina Sauk Falls. The warning sign about the dangers of this trail is grossly exaggerated.
Mostly in shade, and some rocky sections, then when out in open really felt the heat.
The falls weren’t much more than a trickle at the moment not sure if due to time of year or just recent rain, but there are nice views anyways.
I packed some brews on ice that I picked up at Flying Pig Craft Beer Market in Corinth, MS the other day so that we could celebrate the big 4-0.
Ran into a couple families on trail and group of birders who were on a multi state trip like us.
Did you know St. Louis has the largest Bosnian population outside of that country? I recently found that out and since don't have a trip to the Balkans in immediate plans and I love trying new cuisines we hit up Grbic for lunch prior to flying out, which was delightful.
10 States remaining let the fun continue.