Getting high on writing

I've never been to this ivory tower from which some people say columnists write. But I have had the opportunity to write from some very high places.

A few weeks ago my husband and I were invited to a big celebration on the top floor of the Wachovia Building in Atlanta.

Gwinnett author Hal Runkel, whom I wrote about in 2005 when he self-published his book "ScreamFree Parenting," had a real reason to party.

The hardcover edition of "ScreamFree Parenting" (Broadway Books, WaterBrook Press and Random House Audio, New York, $21.95) was released on Sept. 4 and became an instant national bestseller. Within days of its release, it soared to the top of parenting and family categories.

As we strolled around feeling like we were on the top of the world, with Atlantic Station lit up below us, I kept looking for Runkel.

I spotted Dave Markert, the marketing director, and asked where the guest of honor was.

"He's still on the plane flying in from his interview on "The Today Show" this morning," Markert said.

In case you missed that interview, and you're unable to catch him on his national tour, he's a regular guest on NBC's intheloop.ivillage.com and appears every Monday morning on cwatlantatv.com. Or you can see his video at www.screamfree.com.

A few weeks later the coordinator of Abundant Kids, the toddler playgroup at All Saints Lutheran Church in Lilburn, invited me to join them for a hike at Arabia Mountain.

Arabia Mountain (www.arabiaalliance.org), a 400 million-year-old spread of granite off Klondike Road in DeKalb County, predates Stone Mountain by 100 million years.

Ranger Tyrone Burkette led us along a 1.5-mile trail of rock, which the toddlers conquered with ease. He pointed out dozens of plants, including a bent tree that looked like a fish and a prickly pear cactus, which grows wild on the mountain.

Then we went to the frog pond, a high point on the tour. With six toddlers hopping around the edge, though, the frogs didn't seem interested in making an appearance.

Other animals that inhabit Arabia Mountain include deer, wild turkey, bobcats, raccoons and even shrimp. And Ranger Tyrone told us if we'd gotten there just a little earlier, we could have seen a 24-inch bass a fisherman caught in Arabia Lake.

At the end of our tour, Ranger Tyrone walked us over to view Bradley Peak, a 954-foot mound of granite, a little over half the height of Stone Mountain.

"From the top, you actually get a better view than you do from Stone Mountain," he said. "You see lots more greenery and very little traffic. Why don't you come back and hike it sometime?"

I think I will. I love being able to write columns from high places.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.