An Evening Spent on Mount Sentinel in Missoula Montana
An evening spent on the side of Mount Sentinel, in our homebase of Missoula Montana, was a much needed escape after an aggressive week of work. Climbing the side of Sentinel used to be a daily routine for me– sometimes even twice a day, but over the years life caught up to me and it is more like a treat now. Shame on me though; the base is only about 2.5 miles from my home.
I spent the majority of my lazy Saturday plugging away behind the computer and doing weird things with cars on
Forza Motorsports 6 while looking at virtual mountains (aka video games). A part of me was wanting to head down to the local waterhole, be social and decompress – but another part was tugging even harder and reminded me that the best way to decompress is to be surrounded by seemingly nothing. This is where Mount Sentinel and my camera came into play.
I figured I would hang around to snap a sunset photo then make the hike back down– get in my vehicle and then figure out the rest of the night. But with every step and little bit of elevation gain, the sense of content grew stronger and stronger.
It was when the sunlight began to diminish, that the town began to show its true colors– colors vibrant enough to convince me to perch on the ledge of a cliff and just take in the sights as music was injected into my ears.
With a vibrant city before me, there was a canyon just to my back– Hellgate Canyon. The cars were flowing with regularity on I-90, while the weather station on top of the ridge was acting like a lighthouse. Even with the light pollution, some of the stars manage to make an appearance.
If you have never spent an evening on Mount Sentinel and there is even a remote possibility that you can make that happen– I highly recommend it. It is a place to regain composure that doesn’t need a large time commitment to be enjoyable. As little as 10 minutes can be sufficient, but a couple hours in the evening is perfect.
Take the side trail to the left when you walk up the stairs to the trailhead. Terrain is a little more rough than the switchbacks, but the view that it provides of Hellgate Canyon / Clark Fork River is unbeatable. There are also plenty of rock outcroppings to post up on.
Photos & Words: Ross M Perkins
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