Hiking the Lolo Hills
My apartment is next to the Bitterroot River, snaking its way through soft hills that eventually give to Missoula valley. Every morning, while sipping on a cup of tea, I watch the river fog lift up slowly, revealing the land curves behind it. Ever since moving here two years ago, I’ve been wondering about hiking these hills; and late January an opportunity revealed itself.
As you might know, I am connected with the Lolo Peak Brewery built by my good neighbors. It turns out, the allure of the hills had also captured Paul, the head brewer and an avid paraglider.
You probably think besides the hike, I also volunteered to soar the sky with him; however I like my feet on solid ground and decided to leave adventure to the pros. Think the correct terminology for that is “pussyfoot”.
The day was cold, but sunny as we started. Paul and his crew were a group of friendly young men whose polite and calm demeanor, had me pleased.
The plan was to go further upstream from my place; walk through the forest; use a boat to ferry across the river; climb up the hill; watch the guys take off; get back down and across the river and be back home….easy enough.
Upon arrival I noticed the forest was closed off by barb wire, which the guys easily hoisted the canoe over. The ground was a muddy swamp, enough to deter me from pursuing any venture, but the guys had no problem using the canoe as bridge. Some got their shoes and socks wet, which isn’t exactly welcomed in winter, but ….”oh well, it’s part of the fun”.
We hiked up the steep hill and reached the top, out of breath and sore legged. The scenery was breathtaking and everything I had imagined it to be. In fact, it was better than I had imagined it. I sat down to take it all in, while the boys got their parachutes ready for takeoff
The day was coming to an end and it was time to head back down, retrieve the canoe, get back across the river. Everything went smoothly except we couldn’t find the oars. Paul had hid them too well.
It was getting dark and cold and frustration was mounting as we paced up and down the half frozen river. Then came the sound of splish splash.
Adventure man Paul had stripped down to his long johns and was crossing the frigid river laughing hysterically. Mister Brewer was indeed a bold, problem solver. We joined the laughter in utter disbelief, while shouting random curse words.
He found the oars and we paddled across the river, trying hard to stifle our guilt. One of Paul’s buddies (Mika) was waiting for us on the other side and helped drag the boat back across the forest. We went through the same swamps, got our feet stuck in mud a couple of times and finally arrived safely to the parking lot. Although the days trial didn’t end for Paul, but I like to stop right here and let him have the last laugh on adventure rookies like myself.
Most of the time, when we want an adventure, we are wishing for an experience defined by our preferences, well-laced with comfort. We want experiences in our own terms, rather than the one dolled out, and rejection of it is nothing but frustration.
The boys not only weren’t discomforted by the challenges of the day, which I am sure were nothing compared to what they were used to, but they seemed to lived for it. Every obstacle was handled calmly and collaboratively while wearing a smile the entire time. All members looked after each other. A philosophy we can live our lives by.