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.

untitled-2

#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.

2015-09-19-12-35-09-1

#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.

             2015-09-19-19-11-20

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!

Advertisements

Granada, Spain’s Top 5 Hidden Treasures

granada-1150325_1920-1-660x441

By Shafer Higgins

Granada is a city located at the base of the famed Sierra Nevada mountain range in southern Spain’s Andalusia region. Founded in the 8th century by the Moors, Granada’s history and culture were shaped by both Muslim and Christian influences which are still palpable today. It contains a dizzying array of medieval architecture and monuments, none more famous than the Alhambra, the behemoth palace of the emirs for centuries and perhaps the best surviving example of Moorish architecture. Walking through many of its neighborhoods can feel like stepping back in time. Very much a student city, in addition to its Old World charm Granada boasts a bustling nightlife and animated culinary culture centered on tapas and the Spanish penchant for staying out until the sun comes up. The saying goes that there are more bars than people in Spain, and choosing the right tapas place or discoteca that line Granada’s meandering cobblestone streets can seem a daunting task. The following, at least, shouldn’t be missed.

  1. ‘El Camborio’

Situated in the steep hills of Granada’s fabled Sacromonte district, nightclub El Camborio’s terrace offers an unbelievable view of the Alhambra. Inconspicuous during the daytime, El Camborio’s facade comes to life around midnight, along with most of Granada’s denizens. Offering reasonably priced drinks and no shortage of Reggaeton music, this nightclub offers an intimate yet lively atmosphere that is a favorite among locals and the myriad international students alike. Word to the wise: walking there can be a treacherous hike from even the nearby Plaza Nueva, built as it is into the steep foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. No cause for concern however; cabs in Granada are cheap, and on certain nights presenting your taxi receipt can gain you free entry. This kills two birds with one stone, and you’ll feel like Studio 54 royalty as you waltz past that winding line out front and up those whitewashed stairs (which should also be treated cautiously; they’ve claimed many casualties coming down).

  1. ‘La Chupiteria’

Referred to affectionately as “Chupi” by its loyal patrons, ‘La Chupiteria’ offers a wide and varied selection of, well, shots. Shots, shots and more shots. Which makes sense, seeing as “chupiteria” translates roughly to “place where shots are sold in nearly unfathomable quantities”. It would be hard to find a more aptly named location, or a more economical one; shots at ‘La Chupiteria’ cost a mere 1 euro, and each comes with “chupi” point which can be collected and redeemed for anything from a shot glass to the much-coveted sweatshirt. It’s gamified drinking, reasonable prices, vibrant atmosphere and seemingly tireless staff have made it a veritable establishment of the Granada nightlife, especially among broke college students (of which Granada has no shortage). But here’s a life hack: should you wish to visit ‘La Chupiteria’, be sure to start your night there, rather than end it there. You may find the reasonable prices too enticing…

  1. ‘Babel’

The word “tapas” may be one of the most difficult Spanish words to translate into English, given its variety of meanings. Sure, the concept is simple enough: a small free snack served alongside every beverage, with the word “free” being used very liberally depending on the location. Expect less and less generosity every kilometer you get away from Granada. It is one of the few cities in Spain to still include the price of the tapa with the drink. Whether or not it’s included, the size and quality will vary. It can be anything from an elaborately cooked paella to a handful of broken potato chips served on a plate. At Babel, you find no such problem. Located on storied Calle Elvira, Babel serves an incredible variety of internationally inspired tapas alongside a decent selection of local microbrews (a rare enough thing to find in Granada). Two drinks will get you the equivalent of a full meal, artfully presented and all. Three may leave you feeling stuffed, but quite satisfied all the same. But be forewarned: it’s typically packed on any given night and you may need to take a few laps before you can get a spot inside. Don’t be put off by having to stand, it’s well worth it.

  1. ‘Sala Vogue’

For those needing a break from the Reggaeton beats (or beat, singular, seemingly identical as all the songs seem after a while), they’d do well to find their respite at Sala Vogue, a subterranean nightclub located in the center of old town. Its set lists cater to those whose tastes tend more towards the indie rock, with a few retro tracks peppered in. Its disco ball, strobe lights and wooden-paneled interiors lend it a casually kitschy vibe well appreciated after a few drink tickets are redeemed and few Franz Ferdinand tracks are played. But it’s not for the early-to-bed, early-to-rise types: it doesn’t open until 1 AM and won’t typically get hopping until around 3. So take your time getting ready and maybe sip a double espresso while you’re at it.

  1. ‘Cafe 4 Gatos’

Speaking of espresso, one thing Granada lacks is a strong coffee culture. Sure, café con leche is pretty ubiquitous (one assumes because of the largely nocturnal hours kept there), but the cult of the coffeehouse so prevalent elsewhere does not appear to be observed in this part of the world. A notable and pleasant exception to this is ‘Café 4 Gatos’. Located in the Albayzin, Granada’s oldest neighborhood which dates back to its Moorish origins, it is well situated among the winding stone alleys. Like much in Granada, getting there is a bit of a climb (a trip to Granada can give new meaning to the phrase “uphill both ways”). But once you’ve taken that first sip of sweet espresso, you’ll have forgotten all about it. The salmon and caper tostada also comes highly recommended. “Cuatro Gatos”, which literally translates to “four cats”, is also a Spanish idiom referring to a small quantity of people. Indeed, the interior contains precious little square footage, but no one will complain about being seated on the terrace, containing as it does a nearly improbable view of the Alhambra palace.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. For a mid-sized city it boasts a seemingly endless supply of bars, restaurants, nightclubs and everything in between. Use of the word “enchanting” would not be overdramatic when describing Granada and the best way to experience these and other hidden gems is to stumble upon them wandering aimlessly through the cities maze-like streets

 

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