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Jan 14 2014

Cats and Griz Unite in the Bob Marshall Wilderness

MWA's "rival" student groups hike the Crown Mountain trail into the beautiful Bob Marshall Wilderness

Featured, Voices of NexGen

Every fall, college students in Montana are generally divided into colors: you are either blue and gold or burgundy and silver. In late mid-November, with the Cat-Griz game close at hand, the tension between students at the University of Montana (UM) and Montana State University (MSU) was at an all-time high.

But up in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, five students from MSU and five students from the UM were united under one color—hunter’s orange. If you are in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in November you’re probably hunting. Not us. We were just hiking. Not wanting to be mistaken for elk, we donned our over-large orange hunting vests and tramped into the woods. Ten of us, dressed in orange, spent the day hiking up the cold Crown Mountain trail. Snowflakes gusted, obscuring our view most of the way as we headed up.

We celebrated reaching our highest point with dark chocolate peanut M&M’s before we turned to go back. The famous winds of the Rocky Mountain Front were so strong that our footprints along the ridge from the trek up had nearly been obliterated by the time we turned back. We got off the ridge safely and easily found our way back to camp.

This wasn’t the first time Montana college students had hit the trails this year. On the campus of MSU, students have been hiking, writing, and even wrapping Christmas presents in support of Montana’s wilderness. But one of our favorite events of the semester was our winter camping trip in the Bob. Relationships always grow over the crackling of a wood fire. And when you have hot curry with coconut rice for dinner it’s almost impossible to feel grouchy about the cold.

As I drove home from the Bob, I knew that I was going to return. I also knew that I wanted this group of friends to grow bigger and keep getting together. Any opportunity to get out in “the Bob” is a privilege and I loved sharing these experiences with my rivals over at UM.

I was born and raised in Montana and it excites and encourages me when I see college students care about something bigger than themselves—the wild nature of my home state. This semester, the Montana Wilderness Association student group at Montana State University—MSU Wild—was proud to support the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act and the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act by writing letters to the editor and by encouraging our Congressional delegation to support collaborative conservation at bringthemtogether.org. A few of our most engaged members have also attended MWA chapter board and annual meetings, adding a fresh perspective to a long history of conservation.

As we wrap up this semester and relish the holiday break before we start school again, we encourage you to keep exploring and advocating for Montana’s wilderness!

Faith C. Doty is a 2013 NexGen Wilderness Fellow with the Montana Wilderness Association. She is a student at Montana State University.  For questions about MSU Wild please contact her at wilderness.msu@gmail.com.