So after breakfast I have the absolutely brilliant idea to hike the “M.” The “M,” for those of you who don’t know, is located above the University on the west face of Mount Sentinel has been a Missoula landmark since 1908, when Forestry Club members forged a zigzag trail up the mountain and students carried up stones to shape the symbol of the University of Montana. From the first time I ever visited Paige in Missoula, I’ve heard about how hiking the “M” is a rite of passage for people who live here. But anyone who knows me knows if I’m on vacation there is no working out. Please.
In 1912, a wooden letter replaced the one made of stone. When the wooden "M" was blown off the mountain (ha – isn’t that a funny mental picture?) in 1915, it was replaced with a more permanent, larger stone "M." That structure remained until 1968, when it was replaced with the concrete "M" that’s there today. I asked a local if they flew in the concrete, but no. It was hauled up slowly in buckets (seriously can’t even imagine this).
So since I am no longer on vacation and now call Missoula my home, I decided it was time to make the trek. And to take Alyson with me. The trail is less than a mile long but you have to climb a steep, zigzag path with 11 switchbacks and you gain 620 feet in elevation. As you get higher, the view expands to include all of Missoula, the valley, the Clark Fork River and distant mountains. After about 10 minutes I was done and felt really lucky to have Wyatt with me to help pull me up the hill. Making it even worse were the dozens of people RUNNING up the hill. Whatever – we made it and it was so great! It felt like a really big accomplishment and now I was beginning to feel like a true Missoulian. Jackson and Wyatt frolicked all along the switchbacks and had a great time.
So the day moves on, we take a nap, and go to dinner at Scotty’s Table, which is my favorite restaurant in Missoula. From there, we headed to Sean Kelley’s and met up with my friend Dave. This is where it starts to get awkward. Alyson, who I love DEARLY, came into Montana thinking (as I’m sure I did when I first started visiting) that she would be more attractive than most of the Montanan women. So we sit down at Sean Kelley’s with Dave and Alyson keeps commenting on this table of old men who she says is staring at her. After about 10 minutes of this, I look over and catch the eye of one of them and he says hi and I say hi. To get what I assume to be the inevitable over with, I say, “would you please stop staring at my friend?” and he says, “who do you think I’m staring at?” and I point at Alyson. Then he says, “Ummm… no, I’m staring at the girl back by the window.” OH MY GOD THAT DID NOT JUST HAPPEN. Yep, one big old slap to everyone’s ego later, we’re off the next bar. Where it happened again. Alyson, apparently undeterred by the smack down we received at Sean Kelley’s, thought a group of younger men were staring at her and said something to them, to which they replied, “We’re watching Nascar on the TV behind you.” Just so everyone knows – Alyson and I have since had a good chuckle about this and she said there was no way I couldn’t write about it on the blog. All in all, a quality evening.
After breakfast and some shopping Monday morning, we decide to take in a little more nature and head to Blue Mountain, near where my friend Dawson grew up and his parents still live. I had a lovely dinner with Bill and Lynda Brown a few weekends ago on their beautiful property and have been wanting to explore more of Blue Mountain ever since. So we found a trail where the dogs could be off-leash and headed out. We hiked to the top of the hill, stared at the beautiful view, played with the dogs and drank champagne. Yes, in the middle of the day. It was a holiday...