Mountain High

| January 01, 2009
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Commonly believed to be a time “when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies,” the Dog Days of Summer were probably not near the apex of your mental list today. But that’s what you’ve got me for, Missoula.

You see, while for us up here in the northern latitudes, the dog days—or caniculares dies, as the Romans knew them—take place sometime between mid-July and September, the same kind of dull, squalid and listless torpor overtakes the southern half of the planet right about now.

Which actually helps explain a thing or two this week. And it only makes sense that such a canine-positive town—and region, really—as our own would find itself on one end of a trans-equatorial vibe-share related to our furred companions. Lost? Allow me to explain.

In all things outdoor, this appears to be the Week of the Dog. And I call my first witness, Florence’s Wind River Bear Institute, which trains Karelian bear dogs in the finer points of ursine aggression. In pursuit of a more “live and let live” relationship with bears in the area, and as a way to opt out of the relocate-or-die paradigm bears currently experience, Wind River trains the special dog breed to train bears to steer clear of humans by, well, attacking them. But in a nice way, sort of.

Anyway, Wind River’s looking for a kennel caretaker for their remarkable gang of Karelian Bear Dogs, and I personally recommend you. A flexible part-time schedule, decent starting wage and the chance to save bear lives all add up to, basically, your dream job. Submit a resume and references—two professional and two personal—to Kennel Caretaker Position, P.O. Box 1299, Florence, MT 59833, or e-mail that stuff to windriver@beardogs.org. And don’t blow your chances by calling them—they don’t want to hear it.   

Quick-thumbed zealots who’ve picked up this copy of the Indy before the ink’s even dry still have time to make it to the 2009 Polar Bear Plunge at the Raven Restaurant in Flathead Lake’s Woods Bay, which takes place at 2 PM on Thu., Jan. 1. The mayhem actually begins at 10:30 AM with registration, continues at 1:45 PM with a parade to be led by some as-yet-unknown MC, after which the scantily clad masses will attempt to induce cardiac episodes—for the sake of my poor, over-worked EMT friends, let’s hope not—with a chilly dip into those frigid waters. Godspeed, and drink plenty afterward. Call 837-5472, or 837-2836 on the day of the Plunge.

All right, I realize that had little to do with dogs, but have you ever wondered how it is that dogs can go swimming at basically any time of the year? Now that you see the connective thread, I’ll inform you that Flathead Sled Dog Days begin with a meet-and-greet from 11 AM–4 PM at Whitefish’s O’Shaughnessy Center on Fri., Jan. 2. Rub snouts, shake hands and see what all the fuss is about before the real deal—the racing, that is—gets underway at 9 AM on Sat., Jan. 3, at the Olney snowmobile trailhead. Two days of races ensue, with teams categorized by the number of dogs per sled, and you can learn much more when you browse flatheadsleddogdays.com, or call 881-3200.     

This next group’s got little to do with dogs, but their members have faced the doghouse for neglecting to fill the trip roster, so I thought it worth mentioning that the Rocky Mountaineers Holiday Party takes place at 5:30 PM on Fri., Jan. 2, at the Press Box. You’re highly encouraged to come meet this hard-adventurin’ group of hikers, skiers, trail riders and the like, and to make friends and organize a slew of trips for the upcoming year. Believe me, there’s more than a little self-interest involved on my part. 

Keep your big, Sorel-clad dogs from triggering snow-borne tragedy once you attend an avalanche safety talk and screening of the film The Fine Line at 7 PM on Tue., Jan. 6, at the Trail Head in Missoula. Steve Karkanen of the West Central Montana Avalanche Center is your guide for the night.

If you believe unstable snow conditions are for the dogs, you’re aiding my transition nicely, as Thu., Jan. 8, presents the start of the Seeley Lake 300 Dog Sled Race at 4 PM at the Seeley Lake trailhead. The race is an Iditarod qualifier, along with the 200-mile version that begins on Fri., Jan. 9, and there are plenty of spots to view the great dog-powered commotion. Visit seeleylakedograces.com.

The week wraps up with two talks: At 7 PM on Thu., Jan. 8, UM biologist Dr. Joel Berger raps at the historic Ninemile Ranger Station in Huson. The topic’s protecting migration routes through America—See Agenda and “Rally for the Yellowstone Buffalo”—and it will be tough to pull yourself away at 7:30 PM that same day, when “Plant Detective” Beth Judy offers up the presentation “Native Plants as Medicine” in Room L09 of UM’s Gallagher Business Building. If it helps you decide, both are free.   

Oh, and did I mention snow? There’s plenty of it around now, so you’re safe in cruising blind to the resort or cross-country trail of your choice. Shred on, brah.

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