July 17, 2003 around 2:30 pm
I left Cincinnati just after 7:00 am this morning. My only real stop was in Brentwood, TN where I stopped at REI to pick up some supplies. Other than that stop I drove directly to the highpoint.
I did actually have a strange little experience once I hit Iuka, MS. Just as I pulled off of US-72, I noticed a yellow Mustang, fairly new model, pull onto SR-25 right behind me. At first I didn’t think much of it, but when it then followed me for the next three turns, my crazy imagination took over.
Now, I have to admit that I was being something of a bigot here. Knowing that I was in fairly rural Mississippi, I thought that the occupants of the Mustang were probably some young teenagers that were driving around looking for trouble. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want people to think that I think all young people that live in rural areas are just out looking for trouble. I grew up in a very small, fairly rural town and I never went around looking for a fight or to assault people (maybe other kinds of trouble, but never fights – I’m a pacifist). But I had been listening to a book on CD about terrorism and had just recently heard about a couple of highpointers that had been assaulted after climbing a highpoint. These two elements combined in my mind to result in me actually considering the possibility that the occupants of the Mustang had spotted me for some reason and were following me so they could eventually assault and rob me. The Mustang was following me fairly closely and, since I was driving fairly slowly, I was getting more and more worried. However, as I turned onto one of the last roads before arriving at the road to the highpoint, the Mustang seemed to slow at the turn then continue. I dismissed the whole thought at that point with a very small sigh of relief and continued onto the highpoint.
I arrived at the cell tower covered highpoint just a few minutes later. The dirt road leading up to it is passable in a passenger car, but not very easily. The road at present (this could easily change with future grading) was full of ruts likely created by water run off. They were not so deep that the road was impassable, but they did result in some rather fancy maneuvering of my low clearance Honda Civic. I parked in the turnaround and got out to stretch. Just as I was getting ready to snap some pictures I heard a car coming up the road to the highpoint. It was the yellow Mustang! I quickly scanned my surroundings and put my hand in my pocket to grab my car keys in case I needed to make a quick getaway. Then I saw the occupants of the car. Driving was a middle-aged man with a very kind face. In the passenger seat was his wife, also middle-aged, who looked just as friendly. Sitting behind them was what looked like a 12 year old boy. My fanciful imaginings had all just been silly.
When the occupants got out we struck up a conversation. As it turns out they were in the Iuka area for some baseball tournaments. Their son’s team had lost a few days earlier but there was another team from Columbus, MS that was still in the tournament and they were still watching their games. They were very nice and offered some suggestions on places to visit while in Mississippi. We talked for a few minutes. Instead of mugging me they gave me a great impression of Mississippians.
The Winger’s guidebook described this highpoint as the dirtiest and most unkempt they had seen. Maybe I missed the messy parts of the highpoint, but I don’t think so. Apparently, someone has decided to take a little bit of time and clean the place up. Right around the highpoint marker and from what I could see from the marker, the area was fairly clean. I did see what looked like a small fire pit, but even it was fairly well kept. Of course, being nearly completely covered with cell phone towers the highpoint isn’t pristine and doesn’t really have a great view, but it isn’t nearly as bad as was described in the Winger’s book (Kentucky, on the other hand, was disgusting). I didn’t see the remnants of the old highpoint marker sign; all that you can see is the highpoint marker set in concrete. Maybe someone took their advice and actually cleaned it up.
I snapped a bunch of pictures, filmed the panorama, talked with the occupants of the Mustang a bit longer, and headed out, hoping to get to Vicksburg that night.