Monday, September 14, 2020

Missoula, Montana: Running The 'M' Trail and Soaking in the View



Two of my adult children attended the University of Montana (UM) -- the same college I attended in the 1980's to obtain my two Bachelor of Arts degrees. The photo accompanying this writing shows just a part of UM's beautiful campus. In the background you can see a large 'M' on Mount Sentinel and a winding trail leading up to it from the main campus. I used to run up to that 'M' 35 years ago for training, and the trail consists of 13 switchbacks. From the 'M' you can take in a panoramic view of the entire valley -- the University of Montana, the Clark Fork River, and the city of Missoula. The 'M' Trail was established in 1908 when UM students built the original 'M' out of whitewashed rocks. The current 'M' was installed in 1968 and is 125 feet long and 100 feet high.

It is a steep three-quarter mile trek to the' M' with an elevation gain of 620 feet, and an average of 1,000 people ascend to it almost daily. From the 'M,' hikers and runners can connect to miles of trails on adjacent Forest Service land, and can find many loop routes that tie in with the City Park trail system. I actually stopped running to the 'M' in the late 1980's due to the amount of trail traffic. It simply wasn't safe to run as there were an increasing number of older people and young kids on the trail. Trying to run the zig-zagging trail in the dark was also not safe.

Unfortunately, in recent years (including 2020) there have been assaults that have occurred on the trail leading up to the 'M.' Last week, the valley's county attorney stated that violent crime is on the rise in Missoula, Montana. It's sad to see that the community I lived in for 32 years is dealing with a rising crime rate, even on the trail I used to run up to the 'M' many decades ago. I'll always have fond memories of my days attending the University of Montana and can only hope that the college students there will be able to safely enjoy the 'M' trail and soak in the view from the top.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso