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Backpacking with the SaintsWilderness Hiking as Spiritual Practice$
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Belden C. Lane

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199927814

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199927814.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 04 December 2021

Traveling Light: Gunstock Hollow and Dag Hammarskjöld

Traveling Light: Gunstock Hollow and Dag Hammarskjöld

7 (p.85) Traveling Light: Gunstock Hollow and Dag Hammarskjöld
Backpacking with the Saints

Belden C. Lane

Oxford University Press

It was new to me. Backpacker magazine had listed Gunstock Hollow as the “best Southern hollow in America,” and I was curious. The dog and I set out one weekend, hiking the middle fork of the Ozark Trail into this hollow nestled between two ridges. Three days remained in deer hunting season that year, so I tied a red bandana around Desert’s neck and wore a bright orange vest myself. With a name like Gunstock Hollow we figured we ought to be careful. Gunstock Hollow is typical of a lot of closed-in wilderness sites in the Ozarks. Thickets of densely growing trees give it a secluded and mysterious air, muffling sound. A wandering stream runs through it, leading down to Neal’s Creek below. Two huge cedar trees, a couple hundred years old, stand watch in the middle of the valley. The haunting trees and a series of knoblets that pepper the area give the place its character. You find deer tracks everywhere. I wouldn’t call it the “most beautiful hollow” in the Ozarks, however. I suspect its name drew the attention of Backpacker magazine as much as anything else. “Gunstock Hollow” fits the hard-core romanticized image that people have of rural Missouri—a place where moonshine distillers have been replaced by meth cookers, where desperados like Jesse James have morphed into the criminal mania of backwoods communities steeped in the drug culture. The stereotype of the illiterate, inbred, shotgun-wielding hillbilly is reshaped today in the stark and violent world of Winter’s Bone. All this is certainly part of the history (and reality) of the region, yet I’m intrigued by the tendency to make wilderness more sensational than it is. Tourist boards and backpackers alike are prone to fabricate a backcountry of the imagination, something more colorful, edgy, and dangerous. Exaggeration attracts tourists. It enhances the image of those who brave its dark wilderness trails and points up the stark simplicity of the people who live there. The Ozark Mountains lend themselves to tall tales as it is, but storytellers like to accentuate the dark, eccentric, and scandalous. Maverick places delight us.

Keywords:   Gunstock Hollow, Mountains, Ozarks, Taoist spirituality, adoration, deer, experience, haiku, religion, relinquishment

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