Driskill Mountain: Highpoint 2, Electric Boogaloo


What is more timeless than the romance between a woman and her checklist? (Or a woman and her excel spreadsheet, depending on the era). The sparkle of electric chemistry on the moment of creation, the unbearable tension of those first few items checked off, the delight of so many challenges yet to come spread out over weeks, perhaps years. It’s easy to get carried away, imagining visions of checkmarks yet to come…


The point is this: I got to fill in one more green box after completing Driskill Mountain, the second highpoint on the list, on the last day of 2022.

What is Driskill Mountain?

Driskill Mountain is the highest natural point in Louisiana, making it a logical next on the highpointing list if you’re Texas-based, as I am. At an elevation of just 535 ft, it’s a far cry from the windblown summit of Guadalupe Peak, but it’s ease and geographic convenience made it a natural next step. The trail runs about 1.8 miles, there and back, with just a very slight increase in elevation throughout.

(Seriously, there’s like, one steep slope.)

According to Josh and Lindsay Sanders, the speed record holders for highpointing the lower 48, Driskill Mountain is… “A short mountain. Quite frankly, I don’t know the technical definition of a mountain, but this is not one.”

Poor Driskill! Such negativity.

Welcome to Arcadia

The hardest part of hiking Driskill was, as per usual, getting there. Six and a half hours from Austin, this highpoint called for another weekend excursion. Not exactly a do-it-all-in-one-day endeavor, unless you just really enjoy driving through East Texas. So, once again, I packed up a weekend’s worth of gear, booked an Airbnb, and just went.

The joys of simply being able to decide you want to do something and just doing it. Unparalleled, man.

Once you’re in Shreveport, LA, it’s a reasonable hour-long drive through the winding countryside to Bienville Parish. Driskill itself is tucked away on private land, at the end of a series of back roads, twisted intersections, and a surprising number of references to Greek mythology. (Arcadia? Elysium Fields? Guys, what gives, this is Louisiana?)

But finally, at around 3:00 in the afternoon on the last day of the year, I stepped out of the car to rising pines, golden sunlight, and a sign that proudly proclaimed, “Driskill Mountain”.

Hiking Driskill, the long and short of it

The road up Driskill began as a gravel road (yes, road), next to a cemetery. You park at the church, walk past the charming cemetery, through a gate shrouded over with pines and promise, and onto what looked like a logging road. Following this road for about a quarter mile, perhaps less, leads to the trailhead proper.

The trail was soft with fallen leaves, and the wind whispered over them. Just near the beginning, a fallen tree had been left over the trail, creating what looked from a distance to be a faerie portal, beckoning, beckoning. Perhaps whatever is through this gate will be a little fairer, a little more mysterious than what’s left behind.

But of course, the reality of the thing was a stoop under and a laugh, and finding, on the other side, the same leaves and gentle incline as before.

The ground slipped a little with mud under the leaves, and the trail, clear-marked, pointed loudly and insistently where one ought to go. “Don’t leave the marked trail”, ran the signs. “Highpoint this way”, announced the next.

Heard, loud and clear. I followed the signs dutifully.

What sort of challenge is this, anyway?

I made good time up the clearly-marked twists and turns, waving to a descending pair of a hikers with a couple of dogs, shuffling through the piled leaves. It was lovely. Easy, even. But all the while, I wondered—is this it? Is this gentle incline upwards on a winter day so smooth and fair it smacks of summer really all there is? I knew the Louisiana summit would be easy, had read enough reviews to expect a simple stack of rocks, arrived at all too quickly.

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t chafe a little. You can saunter to the summit in about 30 minutes. I had to read the sign a few times to make sure that was it. That’s it?

Reader, that was it. Just a little sunshine on the last day of 2022. Nothing painful, nothing hard, nothing that made me question my relationship with the mortal plane, nothing to grit my teeth against.


The nature of the thing

But I reflect now: That’s just part of doing something, anything big.

Every moment isn’t a 100% high-octane full output. Giving maximum effort, as I’ve learned in martial arts, is actually pretty easy. The hard part is coordinating your timing, distance, power output, and physical control so that your effort occurs at exactly the right time, in the right place, in the right direction. Maximum effort without any of the others is a missing haymaker—and your face in the mat in short order. (Also, you’re winded in 30 seconds.)

You can’t give 100% all the time, especially on projects that take months, if not years of effort to achieve. It is a physical, emotional impossibility. No person sustains motivation for that long. You have to accept that some days are 50% effort, some are 25%, because your body is exhausted. Your mind spent. And there’s still benefit to training then, slow and gentle, working precision and technique. Learning in the slow moments what could never be learned in the moments of speed and power.

The same is true of writing. A novel doesn’t get written in a day, or a week, or even a month of concerted effort. (Well, maybe it does if you can afford to do so full time.) A novel gets written paragraph by paragraph, over years of consistent, concentrated effort. Some days are inspired. Some days you’re just showing up. Some days you have a little fun with it.

Every experience cannot be some life-altering struggle with god and fate, I guess is the point. And that’s a good thing.

My dad once said he had kids who wrestled with authority (and objectives), “like Jacob against the angel”. He’s not wrong.

I… Will choose not to think too hard about the implications there.

A moment in the sun

So, I went to Driskill. I stood on the biggest pile of the rocks in the state, and felt the sun on my face, the wind in my hair. Took some pictures, and ambled back down again.

I drove back through the winding Louisiana backcountry with the windows rolled down, and a riotous collection of everything from Orville Peck to club tunes on the aux.

It was silly. It was fun. It was… Just a nice little time. At the end of a year that’s been both brutal and beautiful in equal measure, it was perhaps fitting to simply take a moment to walk in the sun. The angel will wait another day.

Two down, 48 to go.

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