My New Town: Missoula Montana

Apart from a short 6-month stint in Oregon when I was an infant, I have never lived in a Western town until I moved here to Missoula. Upon first glance, it is similar to State College: the residential area surrounds the campus, and there is a downtown area across the river. Conversely, there are not as many apartment buildings in Missoula. The few things that I have noticed that are different from home (West Chester, PA) and my undergrad town (State College, PA) are in the public transportation, the campus and the weather.

View of the Grizzly Statue on a clear day - notice the "M" on Mt. Sentinal in the background
View of the Grizzly Statue on a clear day – notice the “M” on Mt. Sentinel in the background

Public transportation – There are buses here in Missoula, but they can never outweigh CataBus’s complex system. The main difference in this category are the bikes. Here in Missoula, it is not only possible to ride on the road, but there are bike lanes for bikes and sidewalks for people (in town). I cannot fathom how many times I had almost been run over by a bike on the sidewalk in downtown State College. While I am not an avid cyclist, I’m sure that the bikers here appreciate the designated bike lanes, making Missoula easier to get around. The sidewalks throughout town are also great for me, since I walk to school every day.

Campus – Like Penn State, which has the largest collection of living elm trees in the state due to tree illness, the campus here at UM houses trees native to Montana, as well as a large garden filled with indigenous grasses. Also, the UM campus doubles as the state arboretum. Some of the trees here have also been brought up from the south – the reasoning for this is climate change and global warming. Usually, trees in the south will more farther north because it is too hot for them, but due to civilization acting as barriers in the south, the trees cannot move north, so researchers have brought them here. Also, the campus is covered in Kentucky Bluegrass, which takes gallons and gallons of water to keep alive. This grass is everywhere throughout town, and I have never seen so many sprinklers in my life.

Weather – Not that I don’t love the bi-weekly rainstorms and flooding in Happy Valley, but here in the Bitterroot Valley, it is all sunshine. When it rains here, it pours (but for only a few minutes). I have been here for almost 2 weeks and has rained for a total of MAYBE 30 minutes. Another odd thing about this valley is that the weatherman has to add the daily smoke forecast into the broadcast. Due to the wildfires, smoke gets caught in the valley. When I first moved here, it was so clear that my family and I hiked up to the “M” – a concrete symbol on Mt. Sentinal – and was able to see the whole valley clearly:

View from the "M" Hiking Trail on a clear day
View from the “M” Hiking Trail on a clear day

However, since the Lolo Creek Complex Fire started on August 18th (the day I got here), ash has been falling from the sky and everyone has been breathing in smoke:

Smoke in the distance blocks the view of the mountains surrounding the valley
Smoke in the distance blocks the view of the mountains surrounding the valley

So far, I have loved living in the West. And the fact that there is no humidity makes it even better!

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