Bridger Mountains Devotional #1

On July 26, 2008, in Uncategorized, by Meghan

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” -Aristotle

Even though I have an on-going love affair with the Bridger Mountains, I don’t know what it is about this small but rugged mountain range that I find so very attractive. Part of it must be the mountains’ ridiculous topography. Maybe it’s the technical and rocky singletrack trails that climb to high places with perhaps a token switchback. Alternatively, it could the obscene views of no less than five other mountain ranges purveyed from the range’s high points.

The photographs in this blog entry were taken during a 7 1/2 hour training run through the Bridger Mountains a few weeks ago. On this run, I logged about 25 trail miles with over 9,000 feet of elevation gain. This is my way of sharing my love of these mountains with all of you.

This is the view from about 2,000 vertical feet above the ‘M’ Trailhead. The Gallatin Valley sprawls below, containing the town of Bozeman.

The summit of Mount Baldy still looms another 2,500 vertical feet above. Its 8,914 foot peak sneaks just above treeline. In the 4.5 miles from the ‘M’ Trailhead to the top of Baldy, there is not one switchback.

The world is so huge, and this fact is even more apparent from the top of Mount Baldy. It’s early morning, and a chilly wind greeted me on Baldy’s summit.

Mount Baldy was a great place to eat breakfast. On the menu: a vegetarian breakfast burrito procured from a local restaurant and carried to the top of the mountain. This is the southward view, back towards the ‘M’ Trailhead and the town of Bozeman. The massive Gallatin Mountain Range makes the background horizon.

Here is the northward view along the crest of the Bridger Mountain Range. The prominent peak in the background is Saddle Mountain, my next destination, about 2.5 miles and lots of elevation change away. One thing you learn about running the crest of the Bridger Mountains, or the Ridge as it’s called by locals, is that the trail is never flat, often technical, and always rocky. But it’s also some of best running I’ve ever encountered.

There were some fabulously molded cornices and snowfields here and there atop the Ridge.

This is the summit of Saddle Peak, where the saddle is still somewhat filled with snow. If you look closely on the other side of the saddle, there are 3 hikers and 3 dogs posing for pictures with each other.

Deer antlers mark the summit of Saddle Peak, which sits at 9,162 feet.

This is view looking south from Saddle Peak, back towards Baldy Mountain, and over the terrain that I just traveled. Baldy Mountain is a bit obscured by the rest of the Ridge.

Here is the view looking north from Saddle Peak along the Ridge. The most prominent peak is Sacajawea Peak, which will be featured in my next blog entry about the Bridger Mountains. From Saddle Peak, I continued north along the Ridge for about 2 more miles before I turned around and returned to Saddle Peak.

Once I reached Saddle Peak for the second time, I dropped off the Ridge and into the upper reaches of Middle Cottonwood Canyon. Here’s a photo from high up in Middle Cottonwood Canyon with the Ridge even higher above. At this point, I had dropped nearly 2,000 feet elevation from the summit of Saddle Peak.

Fabulous singletrack winds its way down Middle Cottonwood Canyon. The total elevation loss from the Ridge to the bottom of Middle Cottonwood Canyon is around 4,000 feet.

After bottoming out in Middle Cottonwood Canyon, I purified some water out of the creek and began the 2,000+ foot ascent to the pass delineating Middle Cottonwood and the next canyon to the south, Sypes Canyon. On the lower portion of the ascent, the trail was steep and rocky, and I power hiked. Higher up, the trail gave way to perfectly graded, runnable switchbacks like that which is pictured here. When the Bridger Mountains give you switchbacks, enjoy them!

A self-portrait on the ascent out of Middle Cottonwood Canyon. A short time later I saw bear poop, but not the owner of said poop. After that, I sung my way through the forest for a bit.

After lolling through the upper reaches of Sypes Canyon, the trail began a miraculous descent into and ascent out of another canyon whose name I don’t know.

Here’s some more singletrack just a few miles out from the ‘M’ Trailhead. The elevation here is perhaps 6,500 feet, and was hot! It was a gorgeous Montana afternoon, and a short time later, I was back at the ‘M’ Trailhead after making a huge loop through the Bridger Mountains.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.” -John Muir


16 Responses to “Bridger Mountains Devotional #1”

  1. Backofpack says:

    Gorgeous Meghan, just gorgeous! There are so many beautiful places to run that it’s a good thing we can share with each other via photos and the blogging world – to give us ideas and to let us see places we may never get to run. Thanks!

  2. Holly says:

    What a lovely post, Meghan! You live in such a beautiful place.

  3. Danni says:

    Those are fabulous pictures. I love that trail! I only went up a mile — I was tapering when I was in Bozo — but I want to go back. I’d love to do the course of Devil’s Backbone — maybe just the 25 mile one way.

  4. olga says:

    Oh, Gosh, I have a great devotion to Bridger, Baldy and Saq…(could never pronounce it anyway) as well! After WS, it was my REAL mountain race there:)

  5. rick says:

    Great pictures, I can only imagine how truly great the views are in person. I can’t imagine being on top of a mountain range only to see other mountain ranges nearby. Sounds/looks like a really great long run.

  6. kendrara says:

    I like how Michelle put it – so true! In this case I already knew how a Montana mountain range could enamor someone but if I hadn’t your photos and descriptions would have done it! You just made me momentarily VERY homesick…something about the dryness and the precise array of flora I guess…the lush Northwest has its charms to capture one’s devotion but they certainly are different unless you’re east of the Cascades. Thank you for sharing this one of your crooked trails w/us!!

  7. Bob Gentile says:

    Hey Pippi Long Stockings ๐Ÿ™‚

    Great pics and what a wonderful trek to eat some breakfast, so beautiful!!

    Taper time baby, Taper Time !!!

  8. Leslie's Keith says:

    Hi Meghan!

    Now you’ve really made me excited for my weekend trip through Montana..(accross the whole darn state to visit some friends on the flatlands of the east)…your pictures have me drooling for the Mountain ranges along the way! (I have to really fight the urge to just head south to the Beartooth Pass instead!)…

    Good luck in your 100 miler!! and see you next month!


  9. Sunshine Girl says:

    Thanks for sharing your pretty places! There is so much of Montana that I haven’t seen, I could be there in Bozeman in like, 8 hours!! But me thinks you are a little busy this weekend…

  10. mary says:


    Amazing photos of the trails. Incredible and dedicated method of training yourself for the humidity that is expected in the 100 mile race this weekend. Best wishes in the 100 miler! I’ll be thinking of you and looking forward to your update! Enjoy everything about the experience!!


  11. JeffO says:

    Very beautiful terrain, and extremely well-done report. I know there must have been too many miles and so many photos that it must’ve been hard to pare it down. Elegantly done.
    I hope my eventual Red Rocks loop will be chronicled half as well!
    Loved the singletrack photos with the trails disappearing over the hill, or through the trees, around the bend… You really captured what we love most, and your Bridger trail has it ALL!
    Thanks for sharing, Meghan!
    Good luck in Ohio! Please taper now! Taper!

  12. Meghan says:

    Michelle- I think there’s a moderate possibility that you could find yourself in the Bridger Mountains since you have relatives here. I need to plant the “Bridger Ridge Run” seed in yours’ and your hubby’s heads!

    Holly- Thanks!

    Danni- We should do the Devil’s Backbone as a relay next year! Would be fun and it’s even more insane up there than the mountains in these photos.

    Olga- Sigh, I’ve read your story so many times, I love it! Once your heart sees the Bridgers, it’s hard to forget them, isn’t it?!

    Rick- Gosh, you should have been there! You would have loved it…

    Kendra- Momentary homesickness, huh? Well, Montana will always be around when you need a bit of a fix. Until then, travel on through the Pacific Northwest’s greenery! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Bob- That poor child is probably thrilled that you linked her photo! The taper is on!

    Keith- See you soon! Have fun in Montanny this weekend. Would your friends mind if you were late and your excuse was, “I just had to ski the Beartooth Pass first”?

    Leslie- I might be a little tied up this weekend! But please visit Bozo for a little Bridger play anytime!

    Mary- Thanks so much for your thoughts! I’m really looking forward to this race, and I think it’s going to go better this time than last. Good luck with the rest of your move!

    JeffO- Yes, you should post about your Red Rocks loop. I’d love to see pictures. The taper is in full effect, and I’m ready to run!

    Thanks for the comments, all!

  13. Beth says:

    Just wanted to wish you the best of luck this Saturday Meghan!! I will be racing on Sat too…although not nearly as long! (plus, a significant chunk of my mileage will be on a bike!! ๐Ÿ™‚ I will be thinking of you!!

    You’ve done all the hard work and prep – now it’s time to enjoy the results. Have fun and be strong, especially when it gets really hard. Can’t wait to hear about it!

  14. Bob Gentile says:

    Keep ur glasses on & ones you can use at night!!
    Interesting Read from Ronda

    What are barrier glasses?

    Have a great race hun !!

  15. A says:

    ohhh, these photos are absolutely GORGEOUS! Thank you for toting your camera along on that run and sharing the view with us! Amazing…. *sigh*…just amazing. ๐Ÿ™‚


  16. Meghan says:

    Beth- Thanks for the well wishes, and best of luck yourself! I will be thinking of you racing on Saturday also!

    Bob- Thanks for the tip, I will read Ronda’s report. Also, I’ll call you back while I’m traveling tomorrow. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Anne- Thanks! I took a bunch of flower pictures, too, and thought of you as I did!

    Thanks, all!

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