It’s said that if you want to survive and thrive in the Northwest winters, you need to find an outdoor activity you enjoy … and then get outdoors.
Easier said then done when you’re a senior and the snow piling up in the valley makes sidewalks treacherous and paths impassable.
Joani and Denny Young live close to the Rails to Trails of Northwest Montana path near the Smith Valley Grange. Over the years Joani and her dogs have taken advantage and maintained a regular walking routine on the trail several times a week.
“It makes me feel better mentally and spiritually,” Joani said. “It’s my time with the Lord.”
She wrote the Inter Lake to thank whoever has been keeping the path plowed throughout the winter.
“When winter hit, myself and others thought we would not be able to walk as much, but a wonderful person keeps the Rails to Trails plowed for a good portion of the way! Many of us are so thankful for the blessing of being able to continue walking.”
Those wonderful people keeping the path open are actually employees of the Flathead County Parks and Recreation Department, said Mark Crowley, Rails to Trails president and construction manager for the Kalispell Public Works Department.
For a number of years previously, Denny Young had plowed the path in front of Smith Valley School to make it easier for the kids walking to and from the school. He’s 79 now, Joanie explained, and no longer able to, however, Parks and Recreation staff and their plows have been able to extend that distance.
In other trail news, this past fall the trail in Kila was repaired and raised to remove depressions that were causing localized washouts. It also brought the trail into ADA compliance for access to the Kila post office, Crowley said. The work was contracted out to Flathead Valley Community College and funded with a grant from Fish, Wildlife and Parks, with support from the Flathead County Economic Development Authority.
In another community partnership, Crowley mentioned that the Somers Town Project and Kalispell Garden Club are joining forces to spruce up the Somers trail where the old S2 engine is retired and the new Somers Company Town Museum and pavilion are located.
Rails to Trails of Northwest Montana is going to new lengths to extend its reach. New trail will be added following the old railroad bed through town, linking Meridian Road to U.S. 93. A 2019 completion date is expected.
Crowley said the long-range plan for Rails to Trails is to connect Whitefish and Columbia Falls with Kalispell. Flathead County is also working on updating the countywide plan.
A new Rails to Trails map was developed last year and printed by the area Chambers of Commerce. You can grab one at any of the local bike shops.
As the trails grow, it’s important that trail users are courteous of one another. Joani said she’d curtailed walking for a long period after an inconsiderate cyclist zipped by too closely, startling her and grazing her elbow with his handlebars.
Walkers — Stay to the right.
Dog walkers — Keep your pet on a leash. Pick up after your pooch.
Bicyclists — Yield to pedestrians. Pass on the left, slow down and let the pedestrian know you are coming up behind them.
Joanie eventually went back to using the trail for her daily walks with her dog. She continues to enjoy, in her words, “a little piece of heaven.”