Tom Sauk Mountain (MO), Magazine Mountain (AR), Mount Mitchell (NC), Clingmans Dome (VA), Mount Rogers (VA)

In High Places

By: Burton A. Falk


Note: This article is intended for those SPSers who have reached the golden age of fifty-five and/or for those who someday hope to join our "dog-eared, but still dogged- legions.

It was fellow peakbaggers Rayne and Mary Motheral who, five or six years ago, first made my wife Jo and me aware of the Elderhostel concept. They had attended an EH session in Valdez, Alaska, another in Lafayette, LA, on Cajun culture, and a third in New Orleans, and had enjoyed them immensely. A year or two later, on a cruise, we met a retired Superior Court judge, who also extolled the virtues of Elderhostel, and who additionally presented us with several old catalogs, listing the enormous range of sites and courses of instruction available. Requesting inclusion on the Boston-based, non-profit organization's mailing list, Jo and I then spent the next two years studying the frequent publications, -wondering just how much we could expect from a Sunday p.m through Friday p.m. course of instruction, with lodging and boarding included, for an average cost of $375 per person.

Finally, in April of 1997, we decided to take the plunge by signing up for an Elderhostel session to be held in Branson, MO. To hedge our bets we also planned several other activities during our week in the Ozarks, including a climb of the high points of Missouri & Arkansas, and visits to several friends in the area.

The good news is that we need not have been concerned about any aspect of our Elderhostel experience. The six day session was filled with a series of interesting speakers, slide shows, field trips, an evening show at one of the numerous Branson theaters, and even a descent into a local cave. We learned that the Ozarks are not mountains at all, but rather a large, uplifted plateau (formerly an ocean bed, accounting for the limestone in the area), now dissected, and that, although the region lies mainly in Missouri, it also extends into Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas before gradually sloping down to the surrounding plains. To the north, the boundary is generally considered to be the Missouri River.

The site of our Elderhostel was the Lakefront Resort on the banks of Lake Taneycomo (a couple of doors upshore from the mansion of romance writer--and plagerist-Janet Dailey), where we participants were housed in modest cabins scattered among spring green lawns, stands of budding trees and beds of flowers just beginning to blossom forth. The meals, served buffet style, were both hearty and tasty.

The following journal entries describe our high point ascents:

MISSOURI Sunday, April 6. This morning (prior to registering in Branson), w meander along scenic early spring back roads, via the small town of Ironton, to the end of State Highway CC, trailhead for 1,.772'Taum Sauk Mtn., the high point of Missouri. To our pleasant surprise we discover we aren't required to locate and ask permission of a local farmer, as suggested in our two Highpoint Guides, to cross his property to gain the summit. It seems that the State of Missouri has recently acquired some or all of the farmer's property, and has constructed a parking lot, a picnic area, complete with restrooms, and a 1,000 foot long concrete pathway leading to the boulder marking the state's highest point. This trailhead also provides access for the 33 mile long Taum Sauk section of the Ozark Trail, which looks as if it would make a beautiful hike either a bit later in tribe spring or in the fall. At this time of the year, and at this elevation, however, the trees, all of which are deciduous, have not as yet Highland State Park, it soon deteriorates into a miserable network of unsigned use trails, one of which, marked with dabs of white paint, is the Appalachian Trail. This excursion proves to be difficult going for Jo, who has a sore ankle, but we finally reach the summit and return to the car even though it takes us 6 hours to' do so.

We enjoyed this North Carolina Elderhostel so much that I was inspired to write an article describing our experiences for friends, relatives and members of the excellent Junaluska Elderhostel staff. Recently, I was notified that my piece would be included (although shortened), as a forward to the Elderhostel Fall 1998 USA. catalog. The cartoon illustration from that forward accompanies this article.

Postscript: Since the two EH sessions described above, Jo and I have attended a third in May 1998 in San Francisco, which consisted of a series of excellent lectures on the history, art and architecture of that city, two bus tours, and housing and meals at two older but wellmaintained hotels, located only two blocks from Union Square. In addition, we attended a fourth in July 1998 in Mason City, IA Jo's hometown an absolutely delightful session, which included classes on favorite son Meredith Willson of "Music Mae, fame, and Prairie School Architecture (M.C. has three Frank Lloyd Wright buildings). On the way back to CA we bagged the high points of IL, LA, ND, SD, NE and CO.

A SELECTED LIST OF OTHER U.S. ELDERHOSTEL PROGRAMS OF POSSIBLE INTEREST TO SPSers. (And keep in mind there are a multitude of International Programs as well)

The programs and their venues listed below were or will be presented in 1998. In most instances these programs will be repeated at approximately the same time each following year. Site: Alaska Pacific University (Anchorage) and Denali National Park. Time: July Cost: $1140/ person Program: Thirteen day session covering: 1.) The Geology of South central Alaska, 2.) Alaska Natives: Their History and Their Culture, 3.) Traditional Uses of Alaska Plants, and 4.) The Wildlife and Natural History of Denali.

Site: Squaw Valley Academy, Lake Tahoe, CA Time: June Cost: $440/ Person Program: Six day session entitled, "The Sierra Nevada, John Muir's Range of Light" Site- Episcopal Conference Center, Oakhurst, CA Time-.July Cost:$390/ person Program: Six day session including: Geology of the Sierra Nevada; California's Mother Lode; Yosemite Educational Photo-op Trip

Site: Feather River College (Quincy, CA) Time: July Cost: $390/ person Program: Six day session covering: Fly Fishing and Water Ecology, Hiker's Geography of the Sierra Nevada; Wildlife Exploration

Site- Colorado State University, Pingree Park Campus (Bordering Rocky Mtn., N.P.) Time: July Cost:$390/person Program: Six day session covering Adventure Hiking in the Colorado Rockies and Navigational Skills for Mountain Hiking and Orienteering

Site- YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, CO Time: Sept. Cost:$395/ person Program: Six day session on "Hike the Rockies: An Adventure in Natural History and Heritage"

Site: Volcano Art Center (Volcanoes N.P. & Kona, HI) Time: Sept Cost: $1,075 /person Program: Thirteen day session, first half at the N.P, including-. Volcanoes, Calderas, Craters and Cinder Cones; Our Hawaiian Rainforest, and Pele-A Living Goddess. Second half at Kona covering: A Cultural History of.Kailua-Kona., In Harmony with the Land and the Sea (re: ancient Hawaiians), and Kamehameha

Site: Ricks College, Badger Creek, ID Time: Aug. Cost: $445/ person Program: Horse Packing on the West Slope of the Tetons Site: Teton Science School, Grand Teton, N.P, WY Time; Sept. Cost$"5/ person Program: Day Hiking Adventure: Geology/ Geothermal Features of the Tetons and Yellowstone

To be included on the EH Mailing List write: 1 Elderhostel, 75 Federal St., Boston, MA 02110

Following our easy stroll to and from the high point, we drive on to Branson.

ARKANSAS, Tuesday, April 8 Jo and I play hooky from the EH session today (attendance is not mandatory; there are no tests, nor is there any academic credit) so that we can drive into neighboring Arkansas to bag Magazine Mountain, that state's 2,753' highpoint. We start off just after 9 a.m, driving south through Hollister (home of the College of the Ozarks), and reach the Arkansas border within 10 or 15 minutes. This morning the weather is cloudy and cool, and about and hour into the drive, it begins to rain. In Harrison, AK, we leave U.S. 65, and continue south on SR7, discovering that the road becomes more mountainous as we proceed. We pass through Dogpatch (where dogwood and red bud are in full bloom), and we are soon deep in the rolling hills of the Ozarks. Spotting stacks of canoes along the banks of the Buffalo River, we are remindedwith a shudder-of the film "Deliverance." At 12:30, reaching the town of Dardanelle, we turn west on SR22, a country road lined with poultry farms. Proceeding on to Paris, we turn south on SR309, heading once more into the mountains. Eighteen winding miles later we park at the entrance to the Cameron Bluff Campground, where, donning the ponchos we purchased earlier in the morning we wend our way up the halfmile, switch-backed trail to the flat summit of Magazine Mtn. Pausing only a few minutes at the top, we are delighted to spot patches of violets springing up through the sodden ground cover of the still winter-bare forest.

Since this first Elderhostel turned out so well, and because it served as such a convenient base for bagging high points, we decided to do another in October 1997.

Our second session was convened at Lake Junaluska (Junaluska. and Sequoia both being famous Cherokee chiefs) Assembly, a pleasant resort and convention center situated in a small valley in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, about 40 miles west of Asheville, NC. The three topics to be covered were: "RevelationThe Most Misunderstood Book of the Bible," "Dreams: Visions of the Night," and "The Flora and Fauna of the Great Smoky Mts." To our delight, the accommodations and the lecturers where even better than those in Branson, and the meals were downright excellent-in fact, the best cafeteria style meals we've partaken anywhere.

journal entries regarding our ascents:

NORTH CAROLINA, Sunday, October 5 After brunch on the outskirts of Asheville (NC), we make tracks for Mt. Mitchell, via the Blue Ridge Parkway. Leaving our car about a mile below the summit, we begin to walk along the road toward the peak (Oh yeah, we're exercise freaks). Even though we are over 6,000' in elevation (Mt. Mitchell, by the way, is the highest point in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River), the day is quite warm, and soon we have stripped off everything that is decent to strip off. On the 6,684' summit we find an observation tower, next to which lies the grave of Dr. Elisha Mitchell, for whom the peak was named, a professor from the University of North Carolina, involved in the early exploration of the area, who, unfortunately, fell to his death nearby in 1857. At the top of the tower we meet a local who explains that, although we can see for 10 or 15 miles today, usually the visibility is much less due to the region's natural haze.

After taking a trail back to our car, we leave for Lake Junaluska for a late afternoon registration. TENNESSEE, Wednesday, Oct. 8 We devote our one free afternoon to driving via the Blue Ridge Parkway, to Clingmans Dome, Tennessee's highest, located in the Great Smoky Mountain' Nat'l Park. Puffing into the large parking lot below the peak we join a continuum of tourists (This peak is reputed to be the most visited high point in all fifty states) in making the hike to the observation tower at the 6,643' summit and back (a mile in total), all of which takes about an hour. Unfortunately, may of the balsam firs in this area (relics of the Ice Age) have been killed by an infestation of moths, so the forest has a kind of burned over appearance.

VIRGINIA, Saturday, Oct. 11 This morning (following the session) we drive east from Abingdon, VA, though some of the most spectacular fall scenery I've ever seen (keep in mind I'm a native Southern Californian, now living in Palm Desert, where the primary natural vegetation is creosote bush). About 11:30 a.m., we begin our 8 mile round trip hike to the summit of Mt. Rogers, VA's 5,729' high point. Although the. route starts out on a good trail in Grayson


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