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!

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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.

We Shouldn’t Play Russian Roulette with a Smith River Mine

Tony Angland standing in cabin lot: circa 1969
My grandfather Tony Angland (right) and friends on the cabin lot: circa 1969
Tony Angland building the cabin
Cabin construction

The Smith River has always been a special place in my family’s heart. In August of 1969, my grandparents purchased a 100 x 150 foot lot in the Smith River Canyon for $1200. About 5 years earlier, my grandfather helped others build cabins in the same area and took advantage of the awesome fly fishing. He says “That’s what really solidified that it was the right place…for a family.” My grandmother jokes that it was only the right place for his fly fishing.  A few other folks also purchased land around the same time as my grandparents and over time the area has grown into a community of 24 property owners.  A large amount of them hail from Great Falls and Helena, with the exception of a few others from around the state.  Now a majority of the second generation property owners also have their own children. Their ages range from toddlers to college aged kids.  In recent years, the area’s popularity has driven others to purchase land and build cabins of their own.

View of Angland cabin and canyon: circa 1970

 

Fast forward to 2016. My family is now having a hard time relaxing with the thought of a proposed copper mine threatening the Smith. By now, most have heard about the Canadian mining company Tintina Resources, which plans to build its “Black Butte Copper Mine” on private land near the headwaters of the Smith on Sheep Creek. This poses a few different risks. What is known as acid mine drainage can occur. This is when the mining process exposes sulfide minerals to water and air. A chemical reaction then occurs and forms sulfuric acid. Sheep Creek is vital to the Smith’s water flow and spawns half the trout that populate it. Given that fact, the mine drainage could ultimately ruin the world class angling the Smith is known for. On the other hand, acid mine drainage is harmful to people. Local ranchers and property owners rely on the Smith for drinking water and irrigation.

2015 Animas River Spill
Acid mine drainage during the 2015 Animas River disaster

Exposure to high levels of copper can also increase the risk of lung cancer and coronary heart disease. Acid mine drainage can occur long after mining ends, so there would be no immediate way to tell if humans are exposed to it. Another risk of mining is the pumping of groundwater. In most years, the Smith’s water levels become very low. When mines pump groundwater it can lower water levels even more, creating a particularly stressful environment on trout. This would greatly affect the fishing potential. Lastly, mining activities have the potential to expose nasty chemicals like arsenic and lead. These chemicals could drain into the groundwater and pollute the Smith, and no one wants to see that happen.

 

Tintina Resources, which is essentially a penny stock company, says the mine will produce around 200 jobs. The locals in the nearby town of White Sulphur Springs are particularly excited for a chance to boost their suffering economy. The town has experienced tough times since the local lumber mill shut down around 30 years ago.  According to Tintina, the mine is projected to have an active life of only 14 years.

There are a few different reasons we have a right to be nervous about the proposal of this mine. Firstly, Montana has quite a history of failed mines. Mines near Anaconda, Lewistown, and Malta have proven to be disastrous in the past. Secondly, Sandfire Resources, an Australian mining company, has 53% stake in the project. Do we really believe that foreign investors 8,000 away carry the best interests of Montanans in mind?

Copper tailing pond
Tailing pond

Thirdly, many mining companies have tried to ease locals by stating they have the latest, most environmentally friendly technology, but we should be weary of these promises. In the past there have been a handful of times that mining operators underestimated the effects their mines had on water quality. Also, mines have what is known as a tailing pond, which has also been referred to as a mine dump. This is basically a pond that stores the chemical waste from the mining activities. Tailing ponds are described as some of the largest environmental liabilities in the mining industry. Tintina says that the mine would be the first to use cement in their barriers to hold the waste in. Speaking about the potential pollution, CEO Bruce Hooper said that “We don’t see any potential — especially with the cemented tailings — we can have any detrimental effects on the environment.” This is a large claim. How can we be 100% sure that nothing will happen to the Smith? The Smith is no place to test out a new science experiment.

Limestone cliffs on Smith River

The first time I saw the Smith I was still in diapers, and for the last 21 years of my life I have been able to call it my second home. The sight of it is quite breathtaking. There is nothing quite like watching the sunset beat down on the limestone walls or the light of a full moon reflecting off its surface. One of my favorite sounds in the world is the sound of the Smith’s peaceful flowing water. It is a place we go to relax, and reflect on the nature God has given us. When someone experiences the Smith for the first time, there is always a look of astonishment in their eyes. They take in the scenery and are immediately excited to explore what the river has to offer. Whether that is fishing, rafting, inner-tubing or cliff jumping. Whether you are old or young, the Smith has no age limit, but something to offer for everyone.

View of Smith River Canyon

 

For the last 47 years, my grandparents have seen the Smith River thrive. My family has been very fortunate to have spent as much time on the Smith as we have. If you have experienced the five-star fishing or the gorgeous multi-day float, you know how important it is.  The Smith is Montana’s only permitted river, and the level of demand has increased over the years. From 2006 to 2014 the amount of floaters on the Smith has increased from 3,941 to 5,375. In addition, the total spending by Montana residents and non-residents for fishing was $7,826,683 last year. Total, the Smith brings in around $10,000,000 in revenue for the state of Montana.  If anything were to happen to the Smith, these economic benefits would come to an abrupt end.  

smith raft

At 22 years old, it’s a very strange thought that there’s a possibility that I might, in a sense, live longer than the Smith. Growing up around the river, I want my children and my grandchildren to be able to do the same.Smith River and canoe Learning how to fish from my grandfather on the Smith is something I appreciate to this day.  As a lifelong fisherman, he would be heartbroken if anything were to happen to the river and I’m sure many others would feel the same. If the Smith was heavily polluted, nearly 50 years of family history would be reduced to nothing more than a memory. The same goes for the other 24 property owners in the area. Future generations shouldn’t have to hear stories about the Smith and what it once was. A copper mine might create jobs in the short-run but is it worth it? One mistake by Tintina Resources could kill the Smith, and that’s why preserving it is absolutely necessary. Taking a gamble on the Smith River is not in Montanans best interest, so I urge you to take action and say no to the Black Butte Copper Mine.  Contact Governor Steve Bullock by signing this petition to save our Smith River for future generations.

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Colin Angland at Blodgett CanyonColin Angland is a senior at the University of Montana studying marketing.