Mount Jumbo – Rising Above a Rude Awakening

Publisher’s Note: Over the next few weeks Make It Missoula will be publishing the writings of University of Montana students enrolled in Nadia White’s autumn semester 2014 Adventure Writing class. Each student was assigned a Missoula area trail to explore and write about. Read more about Nadia White, this assignment, and the University of Montana School of Journalism’s Adventure Writing class. Enjoy!


The lights flicked on and I woke up, uncomfortable on a rough couch. “Where am I?” “Why am I here?” The answers rushed to me as I sat up. I was in my dorm’s study lounge, and I was there because my roommate’s girlfriend had spent the night in our room. She came into town from Butte and the couple had forced me out of my room since dinner the previous night.

I turned around to see a surprised student with his hand still on the light switch, wide-eyed with books in hand. Irritated by being awoken so abruptly, I stumbled to my feet and trudged down the hall to my room. I jingled my keys and fumbled with the lock purposefully to give my roommate and his girlfriend adequate time to cover themselves if necessary. Thankfully, they were both still asleep in my roommate’s bed, under the covers.

I had to find something to do until she left. Preferably something that would calm me down and relax me from a night spent on the lousy couch. I looked through a few papers on top of my desk and moved my eyes to the row of sticky notes hanging from my bookshelf with various assignments on them. A note with three short words grabbed my attention: “Hike Mount Jumbo” Perfect!


Photo by ©Henry Crist

As quickly and quietly as I could I changed into my KÜLE pants, a light hiking shirt, and my boots. Then I tossed two Nalgenes full of water and a notebook into my backpack. Finally, I placed my adventure hat atop my head and left the couple to cuddle and snore their morning away.

It was my first time hiking Mount Jumbo but I found the trailhead fairly quickly. The sun was bright overhead. The sky was clear and blue, the air cool all around me: Perfect hiking weather. At the trailhead, plant life arched around me as I started, making a threshold between my annoying morning, and my escape from it. I quickly realized this hike would be harder than I had originally thought. The trail was steep but I was sure it would flatten out eventually.  I was wrong. The trail to the top of Mount Jumbo took me straight up the mountainside. Unlike Mount Sentinel, which uses many long switchbacks, Mount Jumbo’s trail is a straight shot to the top with a few slightly less steep switchbacks throughout the hike.


Photo by ©Henry Crist

As I dragged myself up the last portion of the trail, I took a moment to look around. I soaked up the landscape, taking in all of Missoula, and then more, towards the west, as far as my eyes could see. I felt my stress and frustration slough off like a snake shedding its skin, revealing a fresh layer of peace and calm.

I looked down at my dorm room and wondered if they were still sleeping or if she had left already. I remembered how irritated I was and realized that, too, was slipping away like a morning fog. Campus looked so small from my vantage point now, how could my irritation have been so immense? Why was I so upset about my roommate’s girlfriend spending the night? It’s a normal part of college and it happens to most everyone living in the dorms.


Photo by ©Henry Crist

There are many different kinds of adventures. There are the ones that make you famous, the kind that defy everything people thought they knew about the world. There are the kinds that make your heart beat fast and get your blood pumping. But there are other kinds too. Some adventures are small and don’t take much time. They aren’t exciting and death defying. Sometimes, these little adventures change your entire perspective, and you’re a different person because of them. My adventure wasn’t a heart racing one, but it was just what I needed.


Mount Jumbo to the L


Click on to go to interactive Google map

Round Trip Distance: 1.5 miles

Total Elevation Gain: 500 feet

Trail Difficulty: moderate to steep

Trail Surface: Uneven, rocky

Seasonal closures: The trail to the L remains open year round, but most other trails on Mount Jumbo close Dec. 1 in order to protect elk that winter on the slopes.

Description: Mount Jumbo is a beautiful hike that takes you up the side of the mountain displaying more and more of Missoula as you ascend. The trail uses long steep switchbacks and at times takes you straight up the mountain. As the sun sets the tall grass lining the trail casts a shadow giving the illusion of a staircase climbing the mountainside.

The hike is medium hard because of its steepness. The hike is not very long but it is incredibly steep. Be sure to bring lots of water and take breaks as you go.

Directions to the trailhead: The trailhead is within walking distance of the campus and is easy to find. Cross the foot bridge and take VanBuren past East Broadway and under I-90. Then turn right on Cherry Street.


Crist_MM_SelfieHenry Crist is a lover of nature and music. A Billings native, Crist plays lead trumpet in the University of Montana Jazz II band. He also plays guitar and sometime djembe in small group jam sessions with his friends. He enjoys the camping, fly fishing, and backpacking.