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