Joe Stone - One Year on

A year after a spinal chord injury on Mount Jumbo, outdoor thrill-seeker Joe Stone can still get up the trail. But now he has to use a hand-powered bike.


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Stone, 26, moved to Missoula from Minnesota in 2009. He wanted to be closer to the mountains where he could train for his ultimate goal of base jumping. After a long day of manual labor mowing lawns, he would hit the trail with his speed flying parachute.

"I would get out here at five or six o'clock and hike the mountain like four to six times, as many times as I could get up it to speed hike up it, fly down as far as I could and just see how many flights I could get," Stone said.

But during one of those flights in August 2010, something went wrong. Witnesses recalled watching his chute spiraling toward the mountainside. An EMT who happened to be on the mountain called LifeFlight and Stone was air-evacuated to St. Patrick Hospital.

Stone doesn't remember the crash or even what he did before he got to the mountain that day, but after a month-long coma, he learned the impact paralyzed him from the chest down.

"Waking up from the coma is a terrifying thing," Stone said. "Nobody should have to go through that."

But Stone made a choice not long after the crash to not let depression get the best of him or let his injury handicap his passion for life.

"This is a big setback, but I'm still physically able to go out and do things that I won't be able to do when I'm 40," he said. "I'm stronger now than I will be then. I just wanted to get right back at it and just not have to waste years of wishing I were doing things."

Stone still had the use of his arms and found the mountain bike that would help him leave the pavement.

"That was when I was finally like, 'Oh man. There's equipment like that. There's my answer. That's how I'm gonna get back into the mountains."

On the one-year anniversary of his accident on Mount Jumbo, Stone biked across Glacier National Park's Going-To-The-Sun Road, propelled by his arms on a hand-powered mountain bike.

"I was looking for something that was just out of what I thought was completely possible so there was that risk of, could I do it? Instead of just knowing that I'm gonna do it," Stone said. "I didn't know up until I finished it that I was actually gonna be able to accomplish it."

A film crew captured the event on camera for Stone's in-the-works documentary dubbed "Project Life Flight."

Days after the ride, Stone returned to Mount Jumbo to propose to his girlfriend, Amy Rosendahl, who'd been with him since before his accident.

"I think we both knew that we were bonded for life," Rosendahl said. "It was just really sweet, though, that he thought to get a ring and bring me up here."

"I wanted to look up at this mountain after everything and not think, 'Oh, that's where I became paralyzed. That's where the accident happened, but now, I also got engaged there and look at everything I'm doing now. I mean, the fact that I'm able to get back up here is how lucky I am."

Stone said he still loves Mount Jumbo as much as he ever did.

"There's been one negative thing where I had an accident and now I'm in a wheelchair, but the amount of positive things from that makes it, not really a bad place," he said.

Stone wants to do the Glacier ride again next year, with more people like him on hand bikes and, he hopes, more sponsors because he envisions Project Life Flight becoming a non-profit to help other outdoor enthusiasts afford adaptive equipment.

Someday, he hopes Project Life Flight can become a summer camp somewhere in Montana.

Next year, Stone and Rosendahl hope to move back to Montana.

Follow Joe Stone's blog here.


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