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Mountain High

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The Swan River isn’t the steepest of rivers—at least not until it starts to empty into Flathead Lake. Just beneath the Bigfork Dam, the Swan dives 100 feet in a single mile, creating a notorious stretch of whitewater called the Wild Mile. This section isn’t one to screw around on if your kayak roll isn’t bomber. Sane people refuse to raft it, although a few old-timers, brains baked by years of sun, talk about running it in gear from the late 1970s. What can you say—the breed was tougher then. It’s virtually impossible to catch an eddy on this stretch, either to recover from being dragged over the razor-sharp rocks (due to blasting) on the bottom of the river, or to prepare for the next lashing. But that’s why Bigfork boaters love it: It’s a superb after-work paddle for locals, and you can find kayakers out playing whenever the water level is right, making laps on the burly stretch. Next week, boaters put the Mile to the test in one of the best races (and festivals) of the warm season. Here’s a heads-up so you can start planning for the excursion.

Although summer doesn’t technically begin until the days start getting shorter again, the 29th annual Bigfork Whitewater Festival is essentially the commencement of summer in Flathead Country. Don’t miss the hot whitewater action, followed by steamy partying, as the town feels its first blast of tourist passion. The splash bash begins on Saturday, June 5, with a beginner and expert slalom, followed by a downriver race and rodeo on Sunday. Register to compete in the Garden Bar both mornings from 7 to 9 a.m. If you like boating, beer, fast rivers, gorgeous scenery and carefree attitudes, don’t miss this event.

So you’re not so much into the river jock thing, eh? Perhaps you dabble in the arts and crafts and do a bit of bird watching. Well then, we have the festival for you. This weekend, the good folks of Seeley Lake bring you the 12th annual Loon & Fish Festival. The event, sponsored by the Alpine Artisans, features both bird watching and education, as well as an arts-and-crafts show and fundraiser. Saturday, May 29, is jam-packed with events, starting at 9 a.m. with a wildflower walkabout, followed by a pottery-throwing demonstration, a book signing, a talk on elk populations and a loon-viewing stroll. Sunday features another guided bird walk at 8:30 a.m., followed by more events. For more information, call 677-3133.

Looking for a marathon road trip? Look no further. Raymond (yes, it’s in Montana—barely) holds the answer with a unique event called the Run for the Border Marathon. Composed of runners nervous about rumors of impending conscription, it’s sure to be a hell of a jog to join our seal-killing brethren to the north and apply for that healthcare you so desperately need but can’t afford, even juggling two jobs and working six days a week. Whoa, just kidding folks, it’s a marathon in northeast Montana that has a turnaround point at the Canadian border. Be there at 8 a.m. on May 29. Call (406) 765-1401 for information.

The Rocky Mountaineers are getting hard-core this weekend with a seven-mile hike into the Trask Lakes in the Flint Creek Range on Sunday. The drive to the trailhead is long, so the Mountaineers will circle the wagons and car camp on Saturday night near Rock Creek Lake. For more details, call Steve Schombel at 721-4686.

The deadline to apply for Women’s Voices for the Earth’s educational outdoor summer camps for girls is May 31. Only a few slots are left for the Girls Using Their Strengths program (GUTS). Girls, ages 11 to 17, will be able to join women instructors deep in Montana’s backcountry while learning outdoor skills like backpacking, canoeing and rock climbing. The trips begin June 22 and are organized by skill level and age. Call Jan Euell at 543-3747.

If you still haven’t gotten your bow hunter education course under your belt, check out the next sessions starting on June 7 or June 21 at Fish, Wildlife & Parks headquarters at 3201 Spurgin Road. The two classes combine for a required field course on Thursday evening, June 24, at Blue Mountain. Classes are limited to 30 students, first come, first served. Classes start on Mondays and run every day through Wednesday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. All first-time bow hunters are required to attend the course before the purchase of an archery license.

Headed out? Send your outdoor news and views to jmahan@missoulanews.com.

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