5 Things You Learn From a Near Death Experience

Spring break of my junior year of college was there before I knew it. Other college kids are off to Mexico to drink themselves into a vegetative state, and there I was, just trying to get away for a couple days to catch some fish and enjoy the outdoors with one of my best friends that I hadn’t seen for months.

Monday, April 4, 2016.  I took off to spend my spring break deep in the hills of Montana. As I headed over McDonald pass in between Helena and Missoula, I was confronted with a complete and utter blizzard with 4 inches of snow on the road and 40 mph crosswinds. After taking it nice and slow, I finally drop down into Helena where it cleared up a bit.

We met up at Walmart to grab a few last minute supplies, and we were off.

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We stopped at the very last sign of civilization to grab some dinner and watch the Men’s NCAA basketball championship, where Villanova dropped a buzzer beater over North Carolina for the win, after they went back and forth multiple times within the last seconds of the game.

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Next Stop: camp

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We got out there pretty late, after all we had to stay to watch the end of the game.

By this time the roads were beyond terrible, having snowed in the mountains earlier that day, melted, and by this time it was raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock.

First things first: we got camp set up and tried to salvage any hope we initially had of staying dry, then headed out to get some firewood.

Before I could even fathom what was going on, my  tire is off the side of the road.

We remained half on, half off the road for about 10 feet, and just before the truck came to a slow stop, I felt gravity start to take its toll.

The truck rolled.

And rolled again..

And again…

Somehow, miraculously, we landed wheels down in a creek bed.

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In my disoriented state, I looked to my right and the only thing visible was the roof of my truck. Which was caved so far in it had pinned down my center console, and was crushed right on top of where my life long friend was sitting.

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As you can probably imagine, I had only thoughts of absolute terror running through my head… What just happened? What had I just done?

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Long story short, there had been 2 accidents in the exact same spot in the previous 2 year. In the first instance, the driver had been ejected from the car, pinned against the tree that my truck hit, and lost both legs… The second instance, they didn’t make it….

The officer that helped us out told me ” I honestly have no idea how you two are alive, I have never seen anybody survive something like this. You boys had someone watching over you”.

With every traumatizing event in someones life, you realize things.

Here are my 5 takeaways:

1. Tell your parents you love them every chance you get.

2.  There is a bright side in every situation- hell, we are both alive.

3. You’re going to need help every once in a while.

4. As cliché as it seems- tomorrow is never guaranteed. Seize the day.

5. Never stop moving forward. After an instance like this, it’s natural to want to hit the pause button on life. Don’t, keep moving forward.

 

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Shelton Todd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 things to know about the Hiawatha trail

 #1. It’s a real thing

Opened in 1998, the Hiawatha trail is a 15-mile-long bike trail that operates out of Lookout Pass Ski Area right off of I-90 at exit 0. All amenities such as trail passes can be found at the ski area that opens at 8 a.m.  The actual main trail for the Hiawatha is actually located 7-miles east of the ski area at exit 5 in Montana. The trail is open roughly from the end of May and closes at the end of September every year.

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#2. You don’t need to own a bike to ride the Hiawatha Trail

Okay, that’s a lie, well only slightly. You do need a bike to ride the Hiawatha. However, you do not need to own one personally because you can rent one from the Lookout Pass ski area. Not only can you rent from two choices of mountain bikes for both children and adults, but you can also rent helmets, bike lights and bike trailers.

#3. You will never know what actual time it is

Because the Hiawatha trail main trailhead starts in Montana, but Lookout Pass ski area where you buy your ticket is in Idaho, and Idaho and Montana are in two different time zones it can get very confusing. Now you may be reading this and thinking that it’s logical to just reference Montana time because that’s where the trail starts. But actually half of the trail is in Idaho time because the first tunnel you bike through sends you straightunnamed-1 into Idaho from Montana. But then again be warned, I still don’t know this to be 100% because after riding the Hiawatha many times I still am very confused by the time concept.

#4. It’s fun for the whole family

Or in my case my best friend and I because we’re out of state college students.img_2858 But nonetheless, the Hiawatha trail is a perfect weekend outing for all ages. The 15-mile trail is mostly all downhill so it’s not as strenuous as 15 miles’ sounds. Along with this there are many pullout spots along the trail to take a break, take in the view and have a picnic.

#5. The views are incredible

I personally struggled with staying on the trail because of how pretty the scenery is. If you go later in the season, you’ll be able to see the trees begin to change color. So if you’re somebody who likes to look at everything but where you are going, go slow to avoid a spontaneous trip off the side of the trail.

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#6. There is a light at the end of the tunnel

One of the very cool things about the Hiawatha trail is that it use to a continental railroad system, and contains 7 sky high trestles along with 10 train tunnels. Right out of the gate, bikers will bike through the St. Paul Pass Tunnel which is 1.66 miles long. You will be totally consumed by darkness in this tunnel and it gets very cold. Unless you are Bane from the Dark Knight rises, it’s essential that you have a reliable and bright bike img_2848light, and no your IPhone flashlight will not suffice. It may sound scary to some, but the tunnels are one of the main attraction on the trail and an experience you don’t want to miss. Also, the acoustics in the St. Paul Pass tunnel will convince you that you should’ve auditioned for American Idol.

#7.  Make sure you pack the essentials

As a veteran of the Hiawatha trail I will tell you that it is much more fun if you pack the right things. Some of these necessities for ultimate fun on the trail include a helmet (everyone loves to be safe, also it’s required), gloves (the tunnels get very cold, so gloves come in clutch), a backpack (to hold all your snacks of course), snacks and a sack lunch (to fill your backpack of course. I also recommend img_2901packing a pb&j because it’s the one sandwich that taste best smashed), a bright light (if you have one, if not you can rent one), first aid kit (because better safe than sorry) and water (you’ve got to stay hydrated!). Also I recommend dressing in layers because some parts of the trail are more shaded then others which causes some to be colder than others.

#8. Always buy a shuttle pass

A shuttle pass is not required to buy because it’s possible to ride the 15 miles down to the bottom of the trail and then back up, and some people do this. However, from experience the 15 miles back up to the trailhead is a lot harder than the way down because, well, gravity. But when planning ahead purchasing a $9 shuttle pass so that you have the option to ride on the bus back up to the trailhead is never a bad idea. Better safe than sorry right? You never know what may happen to you on your 15-mile ride to the bottom. You may have plans to be an animal that day and go down and back up, but then realize you’re much more tired after the first half of the ride, or realize it took longer than you thought and you’re short on time. Like I said, it’s better safe than sorry, and also who doesn’t love fun facts and stories about the area provided to you by your very knowledge Hiawatha shuttle driver?  untitled-4

#9. Angels do exist on the Hiawatha trail

I recently learned on my past trip on the Hiawatha trail that angels exist. I was about 5 miles into the trail when tragedy struck and I popped a tire. I realized I was probably SOL because I never planned on popping a tire, because who plans on that? With ten more miles to go I began pedaling my sad self down the now extremely bumpy trail. After a mile or so on my embarrassing flat tire, a red haired angel pedaled up next to me on a blue bike and asked if I needed a replacement. Her name was Emma, or as I call her Angel Emma and she was one of the patrols on the trail that assisted the distressed like myself.  She quickly worked her magic and replaced my tire and sent me on my way. Thankfully Lookout Pass who operates the Hiawatha trail plans for people to have misfortunes down the trail.untitled-3

#10. Take your time on the trail and enjoy the ride

The Hiawatha trail has been dubbed the “crown jewel of rail to trail adventures” and a crown jewel of an adventure it is. Not only do you get to be outside exploring beautiful Montana Idaho but you get to be amongst other friendly cyclists! So enjoy the ride and take the whole day to experience it.

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Sad you missed your chance to ride the Hiawatha trail this season?

Because I know I would be if I missed it, but thankfully I didn’t! And because I didn’t you can experience parts of my ride in this short video.

Enjoy and visit www.ridethehiawatha.com for more information and to plan your trip next season!

 Have a hidden adventure you want to share?

Tell me about it!

Montana: by a Northern Californian

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-8-47-46-amIt is no secret that the majority of the University of Montana student body is made up of Montana born and raised students (we’re talking 74% in-state). It is also no secret that there are “Keep California Out!” signs on everyone’s lawn (not really).

“Oh where are you from?” – Seemingly interested older Montanan

“Sacramento, California!” – Me

“…I’m sorry…” – Now uninterested and bitter older Montanan

“I’m not 🙂 Thanks for having me!” – Smiling me

Take a minute to listen up. I may not speak on behalf of the rest of the Californians in Montana, but I have a perspective I’d love to share. The second I stepped on University of Montana’s campus I knew that it could be my home away from home. The city of Missoula, hell the state of Montana, felt like hugging someone that you haven’t seen in years. I’ve been here for 4 very short years and no, I don’t plan on staying, but yes I will be back to visit. The reason being that it offered the experience of a lifetime for this particular time in my life.
For anyone who’s interested, University of Montana allowed me to step away from most everything I knew in Sacramento (yes I had seen snow, every year in Tahoe minus the recent winters). I was able to clearly establish my values as a young adult, assess the type of future I wanted, and walk away with some of the best friendships I will have for a lifetime.
You see, us Northern Californians appreciate tall trees, snowcapped mountains, cleaning our campsites and wandering to find that adventure just doesn’t end. I can single-handedly agree that California has some extreme undesirables. But so does Montana (hello Meth Capital), so does Colorado, so does New York, and Wyoming and every other state you can name. How do you think Arizona feels hosting all the frail Montana old-timers looking for warm retirement? Probably a mix of “stay in your own state” and “please contribute to our economy; look we have handicap approved EVERYTHING!”

I’ll leave on this note. The amount of times that people think that I’m a Montanan prior to asking is remarkable. Let’s just say I’ve had to convince just about everyone I meet with a valid California drivers license. My experience with those who are excited to have me is what makes Montana “the last best place”. The nay-sayers couldn’t keep me out if they tried.

By: Lia Sbisa, proud Sacramento Native and Montana Visitor

5 Life Lessons from Growing Up on a Ranch

I wouldn’t trade growing up dirty and wild on a ranch in the middle of nowhere for anything in the world. Every day was an adventure. I figured it’s time I share a few lessons I learned along the way.

#1: Always close the gate behind you.

This may seem like a little thing, or it may seem unimportant to the regular city-raised person, but this is one of the most important things I’ve learned to date. You never know when the cows will get turned out, and most of the time you won’t have time to check the gates across the pasture—you’ll just trust that they were closed. In life, closing the gate behind you has a little bit of a different meaning. Don’t let the past sneak up on you. Your past may contain hurt, sadness, anger, or words that sting like a snake bite. It’s important to close the gate. Don’t let the negative aspects of your past effect the endless possibilities of your future. Always close the gate.

#2: Never trust the roosters.

To some, roosters look interesting and some of them can even appear attractive the average city-raised person. To a ranch kid, roosters look like the devil himself trotting around with crooked feathers and a razor-sharp beak with rough talons to match. Never turn your back or trust for one second that the rooster(s) won’t launch a sneak attack. The same can be applied to life. Some people may look inviting and maybe even interesting, but it’s important to keep your distance. Trusting everyone you meet can lead to broken hearts and tear-stained pillows. Although people don’t have crooked feathers, razor-sharp beaks and nasty talons, they can have crooked intentions, razor-sharp tongues, and rough eyes—used only to judge those around them. Never trust the roosters.

#3: Moving sprinkler pipe sucks.

If you grew up with a dad like mine, you were up at 5:00am; before the sun broke over the purple mountains. The air would be crisp…too crisp. The water would be cold…actually, make that one degree away from freezing. The pipe would be heavy…full of the almost frozen water and the occasional mouse, snake, or gopher. The field would be big…and seem to get bigger as you make your way across with the air stinging at your nose, the cold water dripping down your arm and making its way into your jacket, and the pipe slowly getting heavier. OKAY, so maybe it wasn’t this bad. But, getting drug out of your warm bed at 5:00am everyday sucked. However, watching the sun peak over the mountains, hearing nothing but your footsteps through the crop and the occasional coyote yelping and yipping was pure heaven. Watching the crop grow each day always made me crack a smile. Watching the swather cut down your hours of hard work was bittersweet, but being able to feed your horses a couple flakes of hay off of your field—knowing you worked through the cold, wet, heavy, adventurous mornings was a feeling like no other. Always remember to move through the unpleasant to be rewarded in the end. Moving sprinkler pipe sucks.

#4: Dying is a part of living.

Although most are afraid of death, growing up on a ranch teaches you at an early age to view death as a part of living. Losing crops, animals, or loved ones never gets easier, but it does start to become less shocking. Moxy, Friday, Kitty, Maggie, Daisy, Mario, Luigi, Oreo, Theodore, Stereo, Wilson, Bob, Blake, Wyatt, Star, Julie, and Steiner is just a partial list of the animals and people I’ve watched get to wherever they’re going over the years. Nothing about losing them was easy, and nothing about losing them made sense. You’ll become familiar with death, and maybe even start to accept it. When I was little my uncle told me, “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather skid in sideways, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming-‘Holy shit! What a ride!'” Dying is a part of living.

#5: Keep yourself company.

Most of the time you’ll be building fence, fixing fence, riding horses, filling tanks, or feeding by yourself. This time is important. You’ll learn that being alone doesn’t mean you have to be lonely. You’ll hear the birds calling, horses snorting, water flowing, and grasshoppers chirping. Cows are good listeners. They stare, and they’re dumber than a box of rocks, but they’ll listen to you practice public speaking or singing or even just talking about your day. When the sun starts to go down and you start to slowly make your way home, remember to keep yourself company.

Why I Will Miss Missoula

It’s graduation season and this year I am one of the graduates. I am excited to be done sitting in lectures hours and for all-nighters in the library to be things of the past. But that means it is time for us graduates to find jobs, and for many of us we know that we will have to move out of this town that has been our home for the last four years. As I reflect on my time in Missoula, I can think of endless things that I will miss and it will be so hard to say goodbye. I am going to share with you the seven things that I will miss most about my favorite college town.

ONE: Football gamesarticle-2278626-176FB139000005DC-294_634x399

There is no better way to spend a Saturday morning in the Fall than cheering on the University of Montana Grizzlies. Half of the state meets in Missoula wearing their maroon Griz gear to tailgate, enjoy some football, and celebrate Griz Morning!

TWO: The riverriver-float

The Clark Fork River runs right through town, which adds a lot of beauty and activity. Floating the river and surfing Brennan’s Wave are common activities for summertime in Missoula. There is also a path along the river that is populated throughout the year, no matter the weather conditions.

THREE: The fooda62f23dc724fc1e93f315cb55e068ef8

Big Dipper, Five On Black, Biga Pizza, Plonk… Just to name a few. These are popular Missoula restaurants that I will greatly miss. Biga Pizza is great for a night out with the girls. A glass of wine and fantastic gourmet pizza is never a bad idea. Five On Black is a locally owned, cheap, and fast option for lunch or dinner. Plonk is perfect for when you are wanting to get dressed up and treat yourself to a fancy drink with friends. Finally, Big Dipper, definitely a Missoula favorite. Big Dipper serves the best ice cream in town.

FOUR: The downtown scenedownload

Downtown Missoula has a lot to offer at all times of day. Great breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night spots for every crowd. There are some fun shops and galleries to explore during the day and plenty of bars for late night entertainment.

FIVE: Hiking the Mmain-tower-m-trail

The hike to the M on Mount Sentinel is a must do for anyone who resides in, or visits , Missoula. From the top of the M you can look over the entire town. I will miss being able to sit up at the M and look over the University of Montana campus, and the town that has made my college experience incredible.

SIX: The eventsthe-annual-symphony-in

There are always events going on in Missoula to bring the community together. First Friday, Downtown Tonight, Out to Lunch, Top Hat shows, and Brewfest are some of my personal favorites. With a wide variety of events, there is sure to be an event for everyone to enjoy!

SEVEN: The peoplekeep-missoula-weird

Missoula is a very accepting and welcoming community. Everybody in Missoula is encouraged to be exactly who they are and do what they love. I love that the people in Missoula are so friendly and treat each other with such kindness. While the scenery, beauty, and culture of Missoula are spectacular, it is the people I have met here that made this my home, and it is the people I will miss the most.