Randolph-Moon Homestead Trail: Pushing Back Against Doubt and Disease

Publisher’s Note: Make It Missoula is 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!


It wasn’t until I had finally topped the final crest in the North Hills that my anxiety about the day fled. Looking down from my vantage point over Missoula the continuous stress of the past two weeks began to melt away. I had worried and overthought my way up these hills and it turned out my weakened lungs hadn’t been holding me back nearly as much as my self-doubt had.

I had begun the day with questions: would I make it? Would the upper repertory infection that had caused me to miss nearly two weeks of school be my undoing?  Would the constant coughing over the last two weeks prevent me from completing my task? I spent my morning worrying.


Photo by ©Garrett Slade

Throughout my morning routine my mind raced on what would go wrong. When I finally left my dorm at around 11 a.m., I had nearly convinced myself that I would fail in some way. The thing that ultimately got me out the door was the fact that I needed to do this hike for class.

My first obstacle of the day was to walk to my trailhead. I had previously plotted my course out on Google Maps and had learned that walking to my destination would take about 40 minutes. About 10 minutes into my walk it started to hail. Walking through the hail, padded up like a marshmallow in my coat, I began to grow determined. So it was hailing? It hardly could get worse than this and I was weathering the torrent just fine.

Arriving to my trailhead did not feel like the beginning of my journey, rather I treated it as the first milestone in my hike. Bracing against the wind, I strengthened my resolve.

To this point my coughing had been nothing more than a mild inconvenience. If I could breathe decently, then what was a little nasty weather to me? I began to look for positive things about the trail in order to stay motivated. The footing was solid, so that wasn’t an issue. Dogs frequently came up to me and I could pet them. The hail was subsiding. I could go at my own pace.


Photo by ©Garrett Slade

With these positive thoughts in my mind I continued my hike. It was switchback after switchback, slowly gaining a better vantage over the city I had been living in the past months. I was surprised at how few people I met as I hiked. I had seen only a handful during the first leg of the hike and now no one was in sight. This was the first time, I realized, that I had truly had a good distance between myself and any other soul. This thought was liberating.

After about 40 minutes I began my accent of the tallest hill in the Randolph-Moon Homestead. The homestead is a three-acre historic site owned by the city of Missoula. It is open for the public to visit on Saturdays, and the trail passes along its border.

It wasn’t until I got to the top of the hill that I truly believed my hike was a success. Standing there, I looked out at Missoula from a perspective I had never seen before. But more importantly I looked back on all my self-doubt from earlier in the day. In hindsight it seemed stupid how worried I had been about this hike. I tried to hold onto this feeling of accomplishment as I sat in the tall grass and looked across town to see the M from a totally new vantage.

After about 20 minutes of lounging at the top, I began my return trip. On my way down I remembered how I began my journey full of self-doubt and a predisposition for failure. It now seemed so foolish of me to have doubted myself. The fact that I had overcome this internal battle with myself only added to my sense of accomplishment and I realized that I had unwittingly taught myself a lesson on how one’s perception of a challenge can often be much greater obstacle to overcome than the actual challenge itself.


Randolph-Moon Homestead Trail

Distance: Varies. There are many options.

Difficulty: Moderate and hilly

Trail surface:  Rough with rocks and ruts

Elevation gain: Varies, 200 – 400 feet

This moderately difficult hike takes you up the North Hills and provides a beautiful scenic view of Missoula and its surroundings. The length of this hike will vary greatly depending on what trails one decides to take, but will range between 3 and 8 miles round trip. This trail does have a good deal of elevation gain, but this effort is well worth it once you reach the highest hill and look down upon all terrain you risen above over to reach your destination.

Directions: Head down Orange Street Away from campus. Proceed under the Interstate, across the off ramp on into a dirt parking lot. Follow this parking lot west and you will see a trail followed by a gate on your right.