Last Saturday was another day designed beautifully for hiking so along with myself, my husband, MD and our younger daughter all decided to hit the trail. A blizzard was forecast to hit later in the week, but on this day, the thought of snow was far from our minds as drove to the trailhead of the Sypes Canyon Trail, just north of Bozeman, off of Springhill Rd. We didn’t have a clear picture in our minds of where the trail went, so we took a gander at the trailhead sign…
…and figured out the basic idea. Turned out that this trail is considerably longer than we expected and our eventual turning point wasn’t at the end of the trail. This trail joins up with a trail that traverses Cottonwood Canyon, I think, and then continues on to The M. That entire trail is high on my list, along with walking to the top of Mt Baldy from The M. Not sure when these hikes will take place, but they’re my top two for our next bit of nice weather.
Anyway, the beginning of the trail was clear enough as it runs between fences, which afford the neighbouring yards some privacy, until it enters a forest of mixed coniferous and deciduous trees.
This part of the path was just a tish muddy, especially as we got under more of a canopy. Just after this introductory flat path, the trail begins to climb and the underfoot story becomes more interesting. The path runs along the side of a hill, in the early stages…
(Looking downhill from the trail)
…and while the path is climbing, it doesn’t climb as steeply as the hillside it runs along. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this trail is the variety of walking surfaces, from well worn soft soil, to a little rock scrambling, to needle-covered forest paths. The rock section was short, but a nice change in underfoot.
…love that sideways-growing tree. Looking uphill from the path…
Walking along through this early part of the path one comes to a most interesting sight…a grove of aspens in an otherwise coniferous stand. They truly stand out as an unusual sight here in this forest…as if there’s an interesting history of how they came to be here. Picture-worthy, I think.
Twice during our walk I had the feeling that we were loosing all of the altitude that we’d gained. In hindsight, we hadn’t, but we dipped twice to cross now-dry creek beds. Probably a much different sight in the spring.
…until we came to “The Overlook,” which we initially believed was the end of the Sypes Canyon Trail.
We stopped at this thoughtfully-provided log bench for our lunch, admiring our view of the Gallatin Valley. If one turned around, the view behind us was this…
…which was not too shabby a lunch spot. As we munched and admired the scenery we took note of a number of people greeting us as they passed on by, continuing up the path beyond us. We began to realize that we probably were not at the junction of the Sypes Canyon Trail and the turn off to The M, so we set off again, and this was when the trail became really interesting. This became a series of switchbacks, all climbing and leading onward to a ridge, which was absolutely perfect, from a walker’s point of view.
Me, with Mountain Dog, on the ridge. In the background, on the left, the route to Mt. Baldy shows up a bit, with the peak just behind the tallest tree. We’ve now had snow, so this trek will have to wait till next season, but some day I’ll post pics from that peak.
While we were each relaxing, taking photos and just totally enjoying being in this spot, a strange call stopped me in my tracks. Of course, my first, but irrational thought was COUGARS! But of course, no, a cougar would hardly be howling. Good grief. I just stood there, frozen to the ground and looking in the direction of the sound and it happened again. Just a little spooky. Until a jogger popped out of the woods and asked us if we’d seen his family. He said he was supposed to meet them on the ridge, and I suppose the howl we’d heard was his backcountry signal to his family. As it was, we had seen them and they’d already started down, so off he jogged, oblivious to having unnerved me in my babysteps toward being comfortable in this bear and cougar and who-knows-what-else inhabited wilderness.
Anyway, after that, we packed up again and headed back down the trail, enjoying it immensely and planning to return. This was the first trek that truly tired out MD. She was one happy hiker when we arrived back at the carpark. She even dozed off in my arms on the short drive home.
The Sypes Canyon Trail is about a four-mile roundtrip trail and really does offer great variety along with endurance training. Combining this with leaving a car at The M and hiking through will be superb on a day in the future.
Back to The M X 2
So, the next day I awoke with truly antsy feet so my husband and I and MD hit the trail to The M. We tackled the steep route, which was fine, but it was a slow slog for me. About 1/3 of the way up my thighs began sending snide messages to me, things like, ‘say, didn’t we just do this yesterday?’ and ‘we want a day off,’ until it began to feel like I was pulling anchors through the water. MD, of course, was in her usual pose…
…waiting for me and wondering how this could be taking me so long. Our short stay at the top was not too pleasant as there was a rather out of control dog up there, who seemed willing to pick a fight with anything on four legs. That was the first time we’ve come across an aggressive dog on the trail, over which the owners had no control. So, we left, and really, my thighs were happy to do so. They wanted to be home, stretched out on the sofa. Sleeping. Letting me know who’s boss.
MD and I squeezed in one more trek to The M before the snow arrived.
Not busy at the top on this day. Before I realized what’d happened I’d daydreamed my way down to the rock scrambling section again, so over we went.
Some day all this on-the-hind-end-scrambling will take out the backside of my hiking pants. Maybe then I’ll start to pay attention. Until then, blissfully rambling on…