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Mountain High



Experiencing shortness of breath, the need to gasp, and an overwhelming sense of awe? If you’re driving north of Missoula on Highway 93, you needn’t despair—your body is simply reacting to a dramatic phenomenon known as Experiencing the Mission Mountains. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time or your 1,000th, the imposing way this remarkable range rises, sans foothills, 5,000 feet to its crest effectively intimidates many a mountain lover.

Indeed, to attempt to hike the Missions from their western flank is to commit to an intensely aerobic workout, as few of the range’s pathways provide anything but an up, up, up experience.

Viewing this range out your easterly car window regularly turns into a burning desire to explore this sky-piercing but lightly traveled range. Eventually, the breathtaking vistas and guaranteed solitude override the discouraging level of commitment required to “get into” the range’s extraordinary places.

And finally, after much preparation (including securing a Flathead Reservation Tribal Recreation Permit—try Army/Navy or Sportsman’s Surplus), we go. There is perhaps no better way to acquaint yourself with this defiant uplift of granite than to stand atop the summit known as Gray Wolf Peak. This 9,001’ massif lacks any semblance of a “dog route,” or any easy way to the top, and as you might guess that keeps the summit fairly empty.

Anyone looking for this kind of mountaineering experience in a single day should join the Rocky Mountaineers for a most-memorable scramble on July 18. Ice axes will likely come in handy, and you can count on a massive uphill slog and incredible exposure. Call Brett Doucett (543-4927) and let him know you’re interested in joining the Mountaineers on a summit bid.

Those looking for a road trip and an opportunity to check out the highest peak in Utah at the same time can join a different Rocky Mountaineer outing, July 22–25, for a trip to Utah’s 13,528’ Kings Peak. Count on a 16-mile trek and 4,100’ of elevation gain through the similarly impressive high Uintas. Call Steve Niday (721-3790) to make it so.

Great Old Broads for Wilderness ( will congregate in Montana’s only rain forest, the Yaak Valley, July 15–19, to camp and explore the area’s roadless areas, as well as meet with federal officials and advocate for wilderness protection for the few uncut or unroaded areas. Events such as a dinner prepared by Rick Bass, hikes into old-growth forests and meetings with the Kootenai National Forest supervisor are planned throughout the week. A mere $90 gets you food, camping and all events for the week, so call local Broad Cheryl Kikkert at 360-9578 to learn more and arrange car pools. All ages and genders welcome.

Enduro-types are gearing up for one of Montana’s epic races, the Devils Backbone 50 Miler. This sick jaunt through the Gallatin Mountains on July 17 is unmarked and unsupported, and racers are required to carry “what they need” for up to 10 hours of running. In other words, you’ll need to lug a water filter, a flashlight and bear spray up more than 11,000 feet of steep grinds, as the course stays almost entirely above 9,500’ elevation on its 50-mile route. Note that this is not called a “fun run,” because it’s probably not. But if you’re into this kind of thing, remember: Pain is fleeting, but victory is forever. Call T. Hayes at 556-1496 to begin.

Montana FWP continues its summer program series this week with a July 16 evening lecture on “Fantastic Fungus,” at the nearby Kelly Island Fishing Access site. Mycological expert Glen Babcock will help attendees locate and identify a multitude of fungi, so call Jay Slocum at 542-5533 for more information.

Just west of Missoula lies Council Grove State Park, where in 1855 the signing of the Hellgate Treaty created the Flathead Reservation. Learn about this four-nation agreement during the “Native reflections on the Hellgate Treaty” presentation put on by Louis Adams and Montana FWP at 7:30 p.m. on July 17. Bring a sack lunch, some bug spray and your swimming suit (optional). Call Jay Slocum at 542-5533 for more information.

On July 17, Five Valleys Land Trust will host its final “Hands on the Land” stewardship work party, a weed-fighting and wildlife-restoration project along the Bitterroot and Clark Fork Rivers. Via boat or canoe, participants will visit three conservation easement properties to introduce bio-control insects and build bird or bat houses to help battle the extraordinarily successful leafy spurge and other invaders. All are welcome, just call FVLT at 549-0755 to confirm. Be sure to bring water, sun and insect protection, and a life jacket if you can.

Or you can “Wade into Wetlands” July 19–23 in an exploration of local wetlands and their water cycles. Call 327-0405 for more info.

Get a free Dairy Queen sundae by running a one- or four-mile race on July 17, starting and ending in Greenough Park. Entry fee is $6 (no shirt). Call Dennis Norman at 626-4012 to get it on.

Frenchtown’s All Comers Track Meet takes place on the evening of July 22. All ages are welcome to compete in hurdles, long jump, triple jump, sprints, javelin, shot put and discus. It costs only $2 to compete in four events, so call Dennis Normand at 626-4012 for your chance to take home the glory.

Or join in on the Clark Fork Natural Park Restoration project on July 20 as participants remove invasive weeds and transplant native shrubs along the downtown portions of the Clark Fork. Those interested can meet at the grizzly statue at the Boone & Crockett Club at 7 p.m.

The local Bitterroot Mission Group chapter of the Sierra Club is heading to Morrell Falls on July 18. Participants are encouraged to “wear comfortable hiking boots and bring at least two liters of water and your lunch.” Group size is limited to 10 people, so call Kerry Miller (542-1359) to RSVP asap.

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