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Missouri Life Profile of Jakk Longacre

August 16, 1999 by Guest in americasroof forum
Here's the required reading for folks headed to the Highpointers Club Convention on Taum Sauk Sept. 7-12.  This is a Missouri Life profile of Club founder Jakk Longacre (yes, they misspelled his name!) who will be hosting many of the festivities at his home on Russell Mountain next to Taum Sauk.
"Highpointers can look back over their experiences as a series of lofty ascents.  Whatever comes between is, well, just everything else."
In Pursuit of Life’s High Points

By Nate Hoogeveen

Photos By Brian W. Kratzer

Missouri Life Magazine – Spring 1999

Knock on Jack Longacre's door.  He'll be glad to take a break from the Highpointers Club business. He might invite you into his home atop an Ozark mountain. Might brew you a cup of coffee, even though he's never tasted the stuff' in all his 60 years. Sit down, sit down. Jack wants to make you laugh He has a few stories for you.

About this Highpointers Club: It's a group of almost 1,500 folks from across the nation who travel around the country' and climb or stroll to the highest point in each state. Back before he started the dub, Jack became the seventh person who'd done all 50 states when he climbed Gannett Peak in August 1985.

To people in states like Florida, where they can drive to the 345-feet-above-sea-level high point at a roadside park, highpointing may not seem like a big deal. Gannett Peak is 13,804 feet of proof that high-pointing is no idle hobby. Amazingly, Jack can tell you, it was the only high point he had · to attempt a second time. Highpointing in the West is a pursuit of effortl danger, and grand rewards.

Jack reflects with pleasure on climbing that 50th high point, on the eerie peaks and tiny crystalline lakes below his vantage at the top of Gannett. He recalls hustling through an 18: mile trek on the first day just to get to the base of the mountain, Then he spent the night beneath a natural shelter, a fiat rock leaning against a massive boulder, near a swift stream.

After Jack climbed the 8,650-foot ascent to the peak, he straggled into camp late at night. A young bearded man squinted through the darkness at Jack.

"We saw you get up and go this morning," the man said. "We were getting kind of worried about you."

Jack changed the subject. "You probably didn't know it," he said, "but you are right on top of a bottle of champagne."

"What?" asked a second bearded man.

"Watch this," Jack said, walking to the stream. They stared as he pulled out a bottle of champagne from the frigid water. "Go get your cups. This is my' fiftieth high point."

Jack pulled out the glass champagne flute he had packed. His new companions joined him, and one stayed half the

That's one of the appeals of highpointing for Jack. You meet people wherever you roam.

Three years ago, Jack's brand-new home near Missouri's high point on Taum Sauk Mountain was just a dream. Now, above his bed hangs a dream catcher, dangling with Jack's own captured dreams t stones and broken arrowheads from all over the West.

But Jack is hardly ever in the bedroom. In the summer, he is more likely to sleep nude on the landing in front of his house.

Jack can't help being somewhat unconventional,

There's the time he was hiking with members of a singles group, and they stopped for lunch. They had learned to keep an eye on Jack when he pulled his lunch out of his backpack. Would it be a pizza again? A box of Chinese takeout? No, today it was a watermelon. A whole one.

And then there's the time the Highpointers Club Convention took Jack to Guadalupe Peak in Texas. He was with 20 other Highpointers about 100 feet from the summit when he lagged behind. Jack pulled off his day pack and carefully removed a pressed white shirt, suit jacket, and tie. He rounded a corner to the summit just as the rest of the group was taking photos at the peak.

No one noticed him until he exclaimed, "Ah! Didn't I tell y'all? This is formal!" Suddenly, 20 cameras turned to Jack. Click-click-click. "I felt like Marilyn Monroe, he says.

Jovial as he seems, sadness occasionally creeps into Jack's eyes. His eyes stop twinkling altogether when he talks about low points. His fingers fidget. His voice grows pensive, quiet, serious: Jack grew up without a father in a poor family, in Michigan. He's weathered two divorces, and he lost a daughter two years ago to a drunken driver. In the second divorce, he lost his mobile home business in Mountain Home, Ark.

"Sometimes when I'm looking over the past, l think, well, not everything was so great."

But Jack rarely dwells on the lows, especially in his High-pointers Club newsletter where triumphs are emphasized and frustrations are mentioned only in passing. Highpointers can look back over their experiences as a series of lofty ascents. Whatever comes between is, well, just everything else.

For a while, after the second divorce, truck driving came between ascents. It's one of the few things Jack is embarrassed to say he has done.

"Truck drivers have a bad reputation," he laments. "And I've found they deserve every bit of it."

The money in trucking has been good,, though. Good enough to afford him his dream of buying a home in the Ozarks near a high point.

After the second divorce, Jack began his search for a new location for the Highpointers Club headquarters and, by extension, his home. It had to be Close to a high point. Jack turned to Missouri and found the perfect place: the top of Russell Mountain, two and a half miles from Missouri's highest point, Taum Sauk Mountain. On a topographic map, it doesn't even look like a separate mountain.

Now he practically lives on a high point, and he can hike to a side path of the Ozark Trail's most scenic stretch without leaving, his property. He has room to offer fellow club members a night's rest on their way to checkoff Missouri's high point.

Ask what he gets out of the club, and Jack will spring up from the living room sofa and shuttle off to the club office room. He will bring back his atta-boy file, the one with letters telling him how thankful Highpointers are for his advice, for his work on the newsletter, and forA his leadership in the club over the years.

This year, in fact, Jack rose to the highest of high points. The club surprised him at last year's convention near Mt. Elbert, Colo., with a crystal award for 10 years of outstanding leadership: More than 250 climbing peers gave him a standing ova tion. Jack sobbed. "This was my life's high point," he wrote in the newsletter. "Thank you so much."

Jack started the club 11 years ago after he noticed in summit registers that other people besides himself were crisscrossing the nation to reach the highest point in each state. He wrote to Outside magazine, which printed his letter asking to meet other Highpointers. Jack's web of highpointing friends gradually grew nationwide, and soon it evolved into a club. By 1991, there were 350 members. Now, with 1,500, it's bigger than Jack ever envisioned.

The interest level has astonished him, partly because high-pointing just the contiguous 48 states requires a minimum of 15,000 miles of travel. At least 10 of the climbs are technical, requiring climbing gear and a guide. Only 67 have completed all 50, almost every member is at it.

Jack can't tell you his age off the of his head, but he can rattle about the high points:

* The first place the sun hits states in the morn-is on the summit of Mt. in Maine.

* Teddy Roosevelt was fish-on a lake on Mt. Marcy, the point in New York, he got word that had been shot. he got down, he found he was president.

* The high point of is not on the top but on the side of Mt. Frissell. because the state line through the side of the mountain.

* Delaware's high point is very dangerous even though it is only the second highest in the nation.  Jack smiles, "It's in the middle of a busy street."

*Arizona's Humphrey's Peak has the distinction of giving Jack altitude sickness at 12,633 feet just 30 days after he climbed Alaska's 20,320-fo0t DenaIi (Mt. McKinley) with no altitude problems.

And Tennessee. Oh, sweet Tennessee and its Clingmans Dome. Jack was working to complete 18 eastern high points on the same trip.

"Coming back down, I had one of the greatest times, one of those memories that sticks with you. I had the whole road to myself it went downhill gently. I started jogging, and the lighting was beautiful, and it was a gorgeous day. I may have been singing."

Mt. Rainier turned Jack into a climber. He moved to Seattle from Michigan in 1978 to work for a shipbuilding division of Boeing after his first marriage of 23 years to his childhood sweetheart fell apart.  It was this marriage that gave him his three children, one boy and two girls.

At age 38, he picked up mountaineering skills with Boeing’s climbing club.  His first climb was Mt. Hood in

Oregon. Then he went on to conquer Rainier.

He came across Frank Ashley's book, Highpoints of the United States, in the club library and realized he had just completed two of the most difficult high points. Soon, he was bagging other western high points.

Jack discovered that mountains held a captivating power over him. This force outweighed his need for companionship.

"Say I'm standing out there having a conversation with somebody)~ I can't hear what they are saying because I'm standing there looking over their shoulder at the mountain. Although nobody can hear it but me, the mountain is screaming at me: What's taking  you so long? Why aren't you out here? You belong out here. Come on out here!"


Lately, Jack spends his days answering mail, coordinating club business, and writing artides for the newsletter in longhand.

The Highpointers Club has gobbled up most of his time. Plus, Jack's doctor told him to slow down because of a heart condition.

But Jack Still dreams. He has offered some of his land on Russell Mountain for a Highpointers Museum that would include memorabilia and perhaps dorms for members. He might run the museum.

He hopes to dip a toe in the Aflantic in northern Spain, hike through the Pyrenees, and dip a toe into the Mediterranean. He'd like to kayak from Tallahassee, Fla., to Mexico through swamps without his paddle touching the Gulf of Mexico.

Perhaps if he doesn't complete these, he will still be satisfied. He is at peace in his Ozarks home.

"This is where I plan to die. Take the club away entirely, and I would still want to stay here because I love the Ozarks."

To understand why, walk out Jack Longacre's back door. Step onto the top of Missouri with him. Walk past the pole barn behind his house, past the bench next to the giant rock he calls Muir's Meditation, out to the red crag of rock where the trees ~ve way to a grand view of the St. Francois Mountains.

Savor it with him. Savor life with him. For life, after all, is a series of high points, strung together with whatever comes between. ·

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