Mountain Therapy

Maisie Bissell

How do I even begin to describe Bozeman? It is honestly a dream. From morning walks to being on a mountain top. It feels as if I entered another world. Everywhere I look reminds me of a painting, and sometimes I wonder if it’s too good to be true.

I’m a freshman this year at MSU and life can get pretty stressful. That’s why I take advantage of my weekends. Ever since the end of August, I’ve tried to get out and do something at the end of each week. So far, I’ve hiked Emerald/Heather Lake, Sacajawea Peak, and Lava Lake. All amazing spots! You must balance the craziness of life with the therapy of the mountains. When it comes to your mental health it is extremely important to keep yourself in check. Take time out of your day to do nothing but breathe.

For me the mountains feel like an escape; they give me a break from reality. Sitting in my dorm can get depressing, but the minute I step outside and take a look around I remember that it’ll be okay. The way the mountains surround Bozeman feels like a big hug from Mother Nature. Living in society, it is easy to get caught up in the race. The race of time, the race of perfection, and the race of being on top. It gets exhausting, honestly. Wherever it is you’re at in your life, take that day off to get out. Don’t sit around prepping for next week, or worry about something you may be missing. Get out and unplug. Turn off your cell phone and just be. Enjoy the nature around you and give yourself a break.

Starting with the Emerald/Heather Lake hike, I would definitely rate this a 10/10. To get there, you drive up through Hyalite Canyon, which is absolutely gorgeous. Although there is one downfall, the road up to the trailhead parking lot has A LOT of potholes. If you don’t have a car that can handle rough roads, well good luck. When you do finally enter the parking lot, you have a view of this beautiful mountain peak. Then as you begin the trail you are covered by the trees, shadows enclosing you from the rest of the world. It does have a bit of an elevation gain. At times it can feel never ending, but here and there you come across these openings of the river to your right. The sound of the water is as calming as the ocean. Once you finally get out of the trees, there is a bridge that leads you to the open terrain. This is by far my favorite part of the hike. The mountains surrounding you feel as if you are on the cover of a National Geographic Magazine. The air you breathe in is ten times greater than down in the city. Once you reach the open terrain, you have about 1.5 miles to go before reaching the lakes. It still has a bit of an incline, but every drop of sweat is worth it. The first lake you’ll reach is Emerald; then you’ll get to Heather which is about 1 extra mile. Heather Lake is where I stopped. I set up my hammock and laid there for at least an hour. After hiking 5.5 miles, I jumped into the cold lake and embraced the refreshing pain of mountain water. Then I let the sun embrace my skin and allowed myself to chill. Let go of all the stress on campus and just be with the mountains. If you forget about reality for a bit, your mental health can go up as fast as a plane taking off for flight.

Another hike I highly recommend is Lava Lake. This one is about half the length of Emerald/Heather Lake so if you’re looking to escape, but nothing too hard, this one’s for you! To get there you drive as if you’re headed to Big Sky. This road is stunning. The whole way there feels as if you’re in a fever dream. You’re surrounded by mountains on all sides of you! The parking lot for the trailhead is pretty small and it’s a very popular hike in Bozeman, so I wouldn’t get there too late. This hike is about 2.5 miles up to the lake and 2.5 miles back down. It is kind of steep, but you are basically surrounded by trees the whole way up. It feels as if you are walking through a mystical forest. The first mile of the hike also includes a river to the left of you. So, while you are making your way through the tunnel of trees, there’s a calm sound of flowing water to your side. This hike is especially magical when it’s raining. When I did it, I went by myself as it was raining, and honestly...there’s no better therapy. As you’re coming to the end of the trail and entering the crater of the lake, all the trees are left behind. In front of you arrives these great boulders. Climbing on top or around them, you will be able to see the stunning Lava Lake. It’s not too big, but it is beautiful. Looking into the water, you are able to see the reflection of the mountains above, and if you take a deep breath in you will feel free. Freed from all the problems back home you may be having.

Lastly, there is Sacajawea Peak. This hike, I’m not gonna lie, was really challenging. It definitely pushed me, but the end result is worth the pain of going up. This trail is accessible by driving to Fairy Lake and is 5 miles round trip. When I did this hike, I was really struggling emotionally. Hanging around my dorm just meant more and more mental breakdowns, so I knew I needed to get out. I thought to myself, “why not go climb a mountain peak by myself...sounds like a super safe idea.” I left at 6:45 am and arrived just as the sun was rising. The drive up truly made me feel empty but in the best possible way. Empty as in, all the problems inside in my life had disappeared. As I began hiking it wasn’t terrible, but then I got to the first big pass. It was long and STEEP, but I was determined to get to the top. I almost turned around, but I knew I’d have regret if I did. Going up that pass, I remember thinking about all things that made me angry and using that as motivation through each step. Once I finally reached the top of the first pass, I thought I was done, but no. I still had one more to go. Not to mention, the temperature had an EXTREME drop. It was freezing. The wind was blowing me everywhere and I felt like a skydancer at a car dealership. I wasn’t going to let that stop me; I was already over halfway there. As I kept climbing, it got more and more unreal. The surrounding mountains became clearer, the sun got closer, and it seemed like I was reaching the top of the world. Once I finally got to the top, I was speechless. It was UNREAL. I felt like I was seeing the world through the perspective of a tiny ant. Although it was windy and a little scary, it healed me mentally being on top of that peak. If you’re struggling at home and it feels like you just can’t deal with people anymore, go climb YOURSELF. It’s healing in so many ways; it’s absolutely unreal!

I’m so glad I ditched Washington to come to Bozeman. Although it was scary and still is, it is allowing me to see so many new parts of this world. In just Bozeman alone there is so much to explore. With the stress of society, college, family, jobs, and just life in general...go take a hike. Get out and explore, allow yourself to breathe the fresh air of the mountains. There comes a point where you just have to drop everything and drive into the mountains. Let go of whatever’s happening and just be. Life is too short to be taken so seriously.

This was made by

Maisie Bissell

Maisie Bissell is a freshman at MSU majoring in writing and photography, who really enjoys the ability to share her work. She just recently moved to Bozeman from Washington and absolutely loves it here.

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