More than once here I’ve shared what we see as we begin to come down The Mountain, our view from the crest of the steep grade above the subdivision road. Deb and I often pause there, whether we’re in the truck or the Jeep, in the Ranger or on foot.
Our most recent image of the vista, included here, is from mid-November.
Skies were clear and the air was dry Saturday afternoon when we caught that view on our way out. The eastern shoulder of Hall Mountain dominates the scene, close enough and high enough to screen what’s beyond, but for the first time we saw a distant feature peeking above Hall’s lower ridge.
It’s actually visible in that November image, dead ahead. We just hadn’t noticed it before.
I made a mental note of the peeking peak’s bearing. When I got back to my computer in the bus, I pulled up a topographic map and drew a line on that heading, beginning at our perch on the road and looking for the first prominent candidate.
What I found was Hip Mountain — ten miles away in Baxter County, on the other side of the White River. At 970 feet AMSL its summit is 46 feet higher than our vantage point, 33 feet lower than the summit of The Mountain.
A higher peak, Fletcher Mountain on the east bank of the White, is a mile closer but it’s hidden from our view by Hall Mountain.
I love this landscape. Our surroundings fascinate me. There’s much more to learn and see, and I intend to keep my eyes open for the next discovery, and the next.
“The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground. As yet our spirits are free. Our jealousy is only put to sleep by the unlimited confidence we all repose in the person to whom we all look as our president. After him inferior characters may perhaps succeed and awaken us to the danger which his merit has led us into.”Thomas Jefferson, from a letter to Edward Carrington (1788)
One word I use regularly in describing our Home on The Mountain is “isolated.” I’ve talked a lot about how “remote” it is (or feels) up there. That might sound like hyperbole, I guess, considering the times in which we live. I’ll try to explain.
The Mountain is wild but not wilderness. The settlement of Polebridge, Montana, for example, is 22 statute miles from the nearest numbered state highway, and it takes an hour’s driving to cover the 35 miles to the nearest town (Columbia Falls). Polebridge is completely off-grid, surrounded by true wilderness.
Our humble homesite in Marion County, Arkansas is just two miles, as the bald eagle flies, from the closest highway. The seven-mile trip to town, either Yellville or Flippin, can be done in 15 minutes. (Mountain Home, with a population of 13,000 and more services, is 20 miles and a half-hour away.) We have electric power on our road. Though our property is undeveloped and hosts a variety of wildlife, it’s not what I’d call pristine.
So no, we’re not as “isolated” as some high-country Montana hideaway. But when we compare it to Second Chance Ranch — within the city limits of a town of 24,000, only 1,500 feet from a state highway and four miles from an Interstate — The Mountain feels like the moon.
What’s more, the sense of remoteness is natural. It’s neither manufactured nor contrived. It wasn’t created by walls and gates and rules. The land itself, the terrain and what covers it, is what separates The Mountain. In a way it’s its own physical province, more boondocks than backcountry. This is The Sticks, undeniably rural, more dirt than pavement “Way Out Here.”
And then there’s the culture. That’s a chicken-egg thing — maybe the land originally gave rise to the culture, or perhaps folks with a certain constitution were drawn to this kind of land. Either way, the two are intertwined now.
The character of the land is preserved by those who inhabit it. To the extent that The Mountain and the surrounding territory are remote, the People are keepers of the isolation we enjoy.
And yet the world never stops intruding, or trying to. Ozarkansas is by no means an island. Its barriers, physical and cultural, aren’t impenetrable. The toxins of modern life, popular culture and politics have a way of poisoning perfection.
I heard yesterday that America is on track to be invaded by three million illegals this year, maybe more than that. Inevitably some of them will make their way to Marion County, Arkansas.
I doubt they’ll stay.
On the homesite last Wednesday as the sun went down, the world — our world — was peaceful. We stood away from it all. Dark mountainsides were our silent sentinels. Should an intruder have been bold enough (and foolish enough) to make his way our way, we knew we could count on our like-minded neighbors.
Up there we are, in the best possible sense, isolated.
That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.