Coon Tree Loop

Coon Tree Mountain Trail

Coon Tree Trail

Coon Tree Trail

Today was a very short hike up the right fork of the Coon Tree Trail.  We only hiked to the ridge junction and turned around and hiked down.  Nice day in low 40’s.  The trail was muddy and there were a lot of trees down after the wind and ice storms last month.

We passed several women on the trail. Only one man and his wife were finishing up as we got started.

The creeks were up.  There is a lot of water running out of the mountains right now. The ground is real squishy.

Coon Tree Trail

Coon Tree Trail

Coon Tree Trail

Coon Tree Trail

Coon Tree Trail

Coon Tree Trail

Sacajawea Peak

Sacajawea Peak in Bridger Range

A Personally Challenging Hike

Stats (Per my AllTrails tracker):

  • Distance: 5.3 Miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,011′
  • Difficulty: Difficult


From Bozeman, MT take Highway 86 N toward Bridger Canyon.  Drive approximately 20 miles and take Fairy Lake Road on the left.  The trailhead is approximately 7 miles. Be advised that Fairy Lake Road is rutted out badly. You will need a vehicle with a lot of clearance and 4WD is advised.  Some of the ruts are over a foot deep and as wide as the road so there is no getting around them.  You have to go through them.  The road bed has washed down to exposed rock.  It is like driving on a river bed. It took us 40 minutes to drive the 7 miles on Fairy Lake Rd.

September 17, 2018 Hike Description:

Sacajawea Trailhead

The hike begins near Fairy Lake with a walk through the forest and a quick left detour out to see the lake. There is a pit toilet at the trailhead.  Take advantage of it because there are very few places for potty privacy on this trail.

Fairy Lake

Just a few hundred yards from the trailhead is a left detour to Fairy Lake. It is only a few yards from the main trail to a great viewing area of the entire lake.  We have not taken the time to circumnavigate this little lake, but plan on doing it in the near future.  It is aptly named and minerals cause the water to have an ethereal hue that almost glows.  It is truly beautiful.

Pomp's Peak

Pomps Peak

Bridger Ridge (South)

Bridger Ridge South

Then, you begin switchbacks while you are still in the forest.  As you near the bottom of the ridge, you can look up and see Pomp’s Peak on your right (North) and the knife edges of the Bridger Range (South) to your left. In the hottest part of the summer, this section of the trail is inundated with horse flies. They bite. It hurts!  Wear bug spray and/or protective clothing.  On a previous hike in July, I was bitten over 30 times and suffered with nausea and dizziness by the time I got to the summit and had to cut my time on the summit short.

View of Sacajawea Gap from Summit

So, after you get out of the trees, you hike up to where the trail begins to switch back and forth up with swag that leads to the gap between Sacajawea and Hardscrabble Peaks. The picture at the right is taken from the summit looking down at where the switchbacks begin down from the gap. 2018 has been a very wet year and parts of the trail in this area has been washed out.  I had to get down on my hands and knees to crawl up in a couple of sections.  Conversely, coming down, I was on my butt sliding down the scree to get to the next section of the trail. There is no large vegetation going up to the gap but in the right season, it you pay attention, you can find the most beautiful little wild flowers.

Sacajawea Gap

Walking up the leeward side, the wind can take you by surprise when you reach Sacajawea Gap. It blows in from the west and is magnified in the gap by being “squeezed” between the peaks.  The gap is marked with cairn constructed one rock at a time by previous hikers.

Leaving the Gap to Peak

Turn left at the cairn. This will take you up the west side (the windy side) of the Bridgers just behind Sacajawea Peak. From this vantage point, you can see for miles and miles both east and west. If you don’t think you can stand the exposure of the heights to go the rest of the way on this hike, the views from the gap is worth the work. Leaving the gap you begin to feel a bit more “exposed.”  The ground is covered in small loose rock and it is like walking on ball bearings. This year, 2018, there was a lot more scree because of the rain.


As you get to the back side of Sacajawea and start up to the summit, the trail gets steep. There was a lot of scree and I felt a bit tentative in my footing. As with the trail below the gap, there were sections that had washed away. It was really hard for me to get over these sections because you are on a very steep incline covered in scree that is totally exposed.  I was again on my hands and knees going over these sections and on my butt coming down. I’m surprised I didn’t get a blowout in the seat of my shorts!

Phil on Summit

The summit, however, is awesome.  I’m a bit nervous every time so I just stay seated. To me, it feels like a big accomplishment when I make it. Phil walks back and forth close to the edge without batting an eye.  I think he is part mountain goat sometimes. He is also a walking google maps.  He sits on the top and names all of the peaks, towns, valleys, rivers and river drainages…in excruciating detail.

View from top of Mt. Pisgah

Mt. Pisgah

3 mi round-trip

Tread Condition: Moderately Rough
Climb: Climbs Moderately
Lowest Elevation: 4980
Highest Elevation: 5730
Total Elevation Gain: 750
Configuration: Out-and-back
Starting Point: Mount Pisgah Parking Area, Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 407.6

Pisgah Inn View
Pisgah Inn View
View Downtown Asheville
View Downtown Asheville
Bear Poop
Bear Poop
Tower on Mt Pisgah
Tower on Mt Pisgah
View of Cold Mountain
View of Cold Mountain
Skyline Trailhead

Skyline Trail

September 9, 2017

  • 2.0 Miles Round Trip from Exclamation Point – Elevation Gain: 472′

After several years of closure, the Skyline Trail was re-opened in September of 2017. Apparently, the original trail was closed after a toddler fell to its death.  Since then, the trail has been re-routed and fencing was added at the top of Hickory Nut Falls to keep traffic from wandering too close to the top of the falls.

To get to the trailhead, you need to park in the upper parking lot at Chimney Rock State Park and take the steps up to the Chimney. Continue on from the Chimney up past the Devil’s Head to Exclamation Point.  Climbing the steps from the upper parking lot to Exclamation Point is work.  I counted the steps a few years back and this is what you will be dealing with just to get to the trailhead.

The trail is a woodland walk that is set back slightly from the steep ridge-side. You aren’t exposed to the escarpment, but if you were to get off the trail, it could be dangerous.  You walk .4 of a mile through the woods to a picnic area with 2 tables and a fenced look off area looking across the gorge toward Rumbling Bald and Party Rock.

Continue on the trail through the woods and there are a few creek crossings. Forestry roads crisscross the trail at regular intervals.  A significant amount of the trail is graveled. When you get to the end, there is a nice railing approximately 50 feet above the creek that keeps hikers away from the upper cascades and the top of Hickory Nut Falls. It is far enough away to keep hikers safe, but not quite close enough to get a good view of the falls.  I was a bit disappointed, but I totally understand why the trail is where it is.

It’s a nice peaceful walk in the woods. Well worth the time it takes.

Skyline Trailhead
Skyline Trail Lookoff

MTS – Little Sam – Flat Laurel Creek Loop

Park where the Mountains to the Sea Trail intersects Hwy 215 north of the Blueridge Parkway and hike east on the Mountains to the Sea Trail. Hike a little over 2 miles and fork left on Little Sam Knob trail. Hike for approximately 1.5 miles to the intersection of the Flat Laurel Creek Trail and take a left. Hike back down to Hwy 215.

As the summers here in the south are hot and humid, we try to find trails that are as high in the air as possible. Most of this loop is over a mile in elevation making this a good “hot weather” hike.

  • Distance: 6.4 miles RT
  • Elevation Change: 794 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Check out my activity on AllTrails.

— Sandy Rumsey (@SandyRumsey) July 15, 2017

Avery Creek Ridge Loop

Today Phil and I hiked the Avery Creek Loop … 10.8 miles, with 3162′ of elevation gain. It was our second time to hike this particular loop. It is a hard hike. We took a couple of PBJ’s for lunch and lots of water. We didn’t really make good time because we had to keep stopping for mountain bikers to go by. It added a lot of time to the trip.

We started on Pressley Cove trail and did the hike counter clockwise. The leaves are off the trees, so we could see off the ridge down into Avery Creek drainage. You get a great view of the “backside” of Looking Glass Mountain. It was an awesome day.

Personal Best 25.2 Miles Hiked this Week!

Mule Deer

North Forty, September 2015

Mule Deer

Mule Deer

Annual September trip to the North Forty.

Phil managed to get enough vacation days to string together 9 days. It was Phil’s first extended visit since the house was finished last year. The 2 sofas had been delivered after my last visit out, so we had a nice comfy place to sit. It was a relief to see that they were the ones I had ordered.

So, now we have the big pieces of furniture in place. Next year, when the road is passable again, we will finish up with the smaller pieces and personal things.

We Are Connected!

We met the internet installer on Friday. We are now wired and connected! Hooked up to an “Apple TV” box, we were able to watch ESPN, CNBC (Squawk Box), and movies. It seemed a little weird. For the past 10 years, our trips were “offline” as we had no access to internet and even cell phone service was spotty.

Yellowstone National Park

Saturday morning, we packed up and drove to Yellowstone National Park. The Mammoth Hot Springs entrance (The Roosevelt Arch) of Yellowstone is 130 miles from the North Forty. Yellowstone is huge. We went in through Mammoth, around to Tower Falls, and out toward Cook City at the Northeast Entrance.  It was a short visit as our main destination for the day was Cook City.

Cooke City, MT

Just outside the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone is the small, quaint, ISOLATED old mining town of Cooke City. It is nestled in a crease of the mountains, literally. There is barely enough room for main street. We stayed at the Super 8 where we got friendly service and a clean room. In a place so isolated with no cell service, we were pleasantly surprised that they had internet access in our room.

We ate dinner at the Beartooth Cafe a few doors down from the Super 8.  On the way to the cafe’ we kept seeing young women dressed in over the knee high heel boots, big hair and tight clothes going into a local saloon. We wondered it is was a REAL saloon. We didn’t investigate further.

Dinner was great. The cafe’ had over 100 types of beer on the menu. Go figure. In a place so small. We both ate Bison ribeye. It was yummy.

Beartooth Highway

Leaving Cooke City, we traveled along the Beartooth Highway, one of the National Scenic By-ways. The views were absolutely breathtaking. The Cooke City side was a bit rounded and the road was wide. We stopped at a few of the natural alpine lakes to take pictures. The water was deep blue and crystal clear.

Bear tooth Pass is the high spot – 10,947′ elev. After you get through the pass, the road curves around to a parking area at Rock Creek Vista Point – 9190′ elev. There are pit toilets and a manicured walk way leading out to the prominent point with a spectacular view. You can see a few of the glaciers that are still hanging around. Between the Pass and Rock Creek Point, you can see the “Bear’s Tooth.” I was really disappointed because this huge magnificent mountain range was named after that. It wasn’t really that big, nor was it prominent. It was, however, weird.

Between the pass and Rock Creek Point, is a chair lift. Apparently there is summer skiing here May through July.

After leaving Rock Creek Point, the road got scary. This is the steep side and the extremely narrow road was blasted out of the rock, twisting and turning it’s way down a road that seemed too steep for my nerves. So, we wound our way down and found ourselves in Red Lodge, MT.

Red Lodge MT

Red Lodge is a neat little town.  In keeping with our open mouth tourist personae, we bought a few T-shirts and ate lunch there before heading home.

Sacajawea Peak 2015

On Tuesday, we rode over the Bridge Mountains to hike up Sacajawea Peak. This has become one of our favorite hikes of all time.  It is relatively short but the elevation gives our cardiovascular system a lot of bang for the buck.


From Main St., Bozeman MT, take N. Rouse Ave.; merges into Bridger Canyon Dr. (MT 86). In about 21 mi., L onto Fairy Lake Rd., which dead-ends @ campground. Pass through campground to trailhead.

  • Elevation: 9665′ at Summit
  • Distance: 4.4 Miles RT
  • Elevation Change: 1955 feet
  • Difficulty: Strenuous

Hike Up Grassy Mountain

On Thursday, we set out to find the route to the top of Grassy Mountain from the Common Access Area on Mountain View Trail about .7 mile from the North Forty. We drove from our house, around the road to the access point.

Being rural Montana, local residents, if they use this trail at all, ride horses or 4 wheeler ATV’s. The grass had grown up a bit, but it was still easy to find how the trail followed the old roadbed all the way around to Grassy Mountain Road. We turned left and walked down the road about 1/4 mile to Forest Service Road, 583-B1 that runs all the way to the saddle at the top of Grassy. Walking the road wasn’t as easy as we thought. We were over 6,000′ high when we started climbing.

We were pooped when we got back to the car.  We couldn’t figure it out. We hike this distance and elevation gain regularly in North Carolina. The only variable is the Altitude.

It was a good hike close to home. This may turn out to be our “go to” workout hike in the future.

  • Elevation at Summit: 7687′
  • Elevation at Saddle: 7420′
  • Distance: 5.4 miles RT
  • Elevation Change: 1315′
  • Difficulty: Strenuous

Our Last Day – Full of Critter Sightings

Of course, our last day was spent hanging out around the house. We went into town and had dinner at the Branding Iron. On our drive home, just a couple hundred yards from the house, we spotted a bear. He wasn’t very big and was alone. Of course, I didn’t have my camera with me.

Then, almost immediately, a coyote ran in front of the car. He was fast. We got to the house and got the camera and walked back down the road to get pictures.  The bear and coyote were gone.

On the way out to the airport, we spotted a couple of snowshoe hares. They hadn’t turned completely white yet for the winter and they were smaller than others we had seen. As we crossed Mike Day Creek, we spotted a porcupine. He had just crossed the road and was waddling out into a field. It was the first time we had ever seen one in the wild.

The critter sightings were spontaneous and over with before any pictures were possible. but was a great way to end our trip.