Up until recently, channel surfing was my sole exposure to mountain climbing. Adventure TV shows documenting expeditions to massive summits such as Mount Everest in Asia and Mount McKinley in Alaska.
My take-away as a city boy who is not that outdoorsy (okay, couch potato) and a lifelong resident of a subtropical region: Mountain climbing involves treks to the most remote corners of the world, massive amounts of safety and survival equipment that must be toted for days and countless square miles, blanketed with thick, soggy and excruciatingly cold snow.
One can imagine my reaction to the thought of scaling Louisiana’s highest elevation, Driskill Mountain in Bienville Parish. That was until I dug deeper, however, into what my first expedition would actually entail.
My arrival at the site last month reaffirmed what pre-trip research indicated: “Mountain” is misapplied in the case of Driskill. Think big hill instead.
Driskill Mountain is a whopping 535 feet above sea level. To put it in perspective, there are two buildings in the New Orleans Central Business District that are taller than Driskill’s acme. Only Delaware, Florida and the District of Columbia have (barely) lower high elevation points. To match the summits of Everest and McKinley, you’d have to stack 55 and 38 Driskills respectively.
The mountain lies just off La. Hwy. 507 about 15 miles south of Arcadia, and trail access is near Mount Zion Church. The mountain is private land, but the owners welcome visitors free of charge, asking only that they respect the land and leave no traces of their visit.
I arrived on a quiet Tuesday morning offering brisk, spring-like weather, after a gorgeous drive through rolling pine and lowland hardwood forests. I was the sole mountain climber that day and the only sounds I heard were birds in the forest. I packed no climbing spikes, safety ropes or fur-lined parkas—only sunglasses, tennis shoes and a water bottle.
There is about a mile of marked trails to guide hikers up and down the summit. Don’t be intimidated by the fence at the trail entrance—it’s just to keep motorized traffic out. There are two basic trails to the summit, the more difficult of the two marked with blue signs. I took that more adventurous trail to ascend, but it was not overly challenging or too steep. As for the “novice” trail, let’s just say I’ve walked golf courses with more elevation challenges.
When my journey to the mountaintop ended, I found a summit marker and a guestbook logging names from around the U.S., many of whom I’m told are people who seek out highest elevations in states throughout the U.S. I also found a scenic overlook onto Driskill’s mighty neighbor, the 492-foot peak of Mount Jordan.
If your outdoor recreation adventures take you to north Louisiana, Driskill is a relatively easy hike and a chance to experience beautiful Louisiana topography that contrasts nicely with the state’s stereotypical swamps, marshes and flat southern prairies.
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