Leverich and Beyond

Went for a hike up Leverich canyon last night. Only three things needed for a short hike – dog, 44 ounce camelback and a powerbar. It was such a nice night I didn’t even take a fleece or a shell. Even though I’d be running portions of the trail I took my camera.Leverich Canyon Bike Trail View

Leverich has a new trail to help separate the uphill traffic from the downhill bikers. I’ve only mountain biked a few times but loved the wind in my face, banking my turns and picking my line. But, I was always holding back a little bit because I worried about hitting someone. So, I’m happy they have a place to let ‘er rip without worrying about going ass-over-handlebars because they T-bone my dog. I hear this trail, for an extra touch of grins, has some great banked turns, jumps and features.

Leverich Canyon Bike TrailThe uniform grade, width and line of the fresh trail rips through the side of the mountain. Shaved roots and rocks border the uphill side of the trail-cut like the side of a crappy raised flowerbed. I wonder what the trail will look like in a few years as the birth-scare heals. The three-foot wide path reminds me of the ‘M’ trail highway and I expect to find an obese Texan and leashed punter around every corner. Visions of the human-ant hybrids crawling out of Bozeman in search of recreation food flow across my mind as I walk up hill. This trail is nice but my soles prefer the worn rock, silty sand and gnarled root of old, unmanicured, single-track.

I’ve traveled backcountry all over the west and it’s hard to not see human impact everywhere I go. From mines, old cabins, logging roads, cigarette butts and earthen dams to trails and carins, people have been everywhere, crawling out of their houses and cities to extract, wander and explore. I’ve been wandering the west for 15 years and when I first moved to Montana I was surprised at how little first-growth forest I’vehiked through and how many trails are built on old logging roads.

The sparkling trail does two huge switchbacks then gains the east ridge of Leverich canyon. I love hiking on the shoulders of mountains. They are broad and solidThree bikers and a dog on Leveritch Canyon Bike Trail and I never doubt eternity. Smells traveling 1000’s of miles saturate the wind. The forest thins, allowing panoramas to flirt with my peripheral vision. Below, Leverich canyon is steep but shallow allowing my ears and eyes to catch flashes of excited mountain bikers ripping down the bottom of the canyon.

I run into a group of mountain bikers by the old miner’s cabin and pit. One of them is on a BMX bike because "someone said the trail’s too rough and I’m going to prove it’s not.” His smile show’s he knows he’s in for a challenge but there isn’t any apprehension in his eyes or body language. I’ve skied with his type before and like it when people step it up. I also remember when I used to guinea pig lines and drops. (bikers in photos, L to R - Matt on BMX, Hilditch, Doug)

Leverich Canyon Bike TrailThree miles and an hour later I reach the forest road and walk up another mile to catch the view and eat some wild berries. The Bridgers roll north, dissolving into the late summer haze. Two trucks rumble by, there mission unique and unknown. The sky shifts from yellows to reds as rays travel sideways and the sun begins its evening ritual.

As I coast down the trail I keep my senses tuned to the setting sun, waiting for just the right moment to catch it in a photograph. Occasional sunset beams filter through the forest painting trees and brush with red-orange light. I am thankful the smoke tinting the sunset is far, far away from the Gallatin Valley this year.

Gallatin Valley Sunset
(Aaron Schultz is a writer, photographer, marketing intern and chronic wander.)

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