Let’s start this week’s column with a special shout: Comrade Calendar sends a seething pool of enmity to the anonymous hit-and-run driver who smashed his trailer and mangled the frame of his bike as it was locked in the alley next to the Independent. May your automotive ineptitude and spinelessness in the face of moral duty be rewarded with rust-seized transmissions, ever-blown head gaskets and perhaps a falling safe or anvil.
Among the list of creatures that could out-drive you, even without thumbs, are the elk. They may not have a limo or their own freight train, but the Mount Jumbo elk herd, expected to number about 60 strong, is slated to return any day now. So to remind you all: the area from the Mount Jumbo saddle trail south to I-90 is closed from Dec. 1 to Mar. 15 and the area north of the saddle trail is closed until May 1. Elk need all their stored energy to survive, so don’t make them waste it running through deep snow because of your scofflaw attitude. You can still hike to the “L” and walk parallel to I-90, but keep your dogs, children and erratic drivers leashed. Call 721-PARK for even more information.
If you need to harass elk, why not take a long drive first? If you can avoid stationary objects, that is. Glacier Park winter entry fees—$15 for vehicles, $10 for hiker, biker and motorcyclist entrants—go into effect Fri., Dec. 1, and will remain in effect through April 30. Annual passes are available for $30 until the new year, when the pass will run you $35.
If you trust yourself to keep a vehicle between the white lines all the way to Butte, you can attend the Montana Wilderness Association’s 48th Annual Convention at the Copper King Lodge on Fri., Dec. 1, and Sat., Dec 2. Explore the theme “The Path to Wilderness: Montanans Working Together” and check out displays, an auction and speakers such as former Montana congressman Pat Williams. Tickets cost $50 per person or $10 per session. Call Michelle Kobold 443-7350, ext. 107 to register.
In an effort to thwart a pandemic of Nature Deficit Disorder, Clearwater Farm, a community outdoor education and art center, opens its doors to students at 3154 Quiet Place in Stevensville. Six acres of private woods, a year-round stream, gardens and open space support a curriculum focused on appreciation of the arts and science through pre-school, after-school and weekend programs, as well as workshops and special events. Call Sandy Gates at 370-0808.
Early risers can warm up their cars and swerve over to the UM Field House parking lot at 8 AM or the Ninepipes Lodge in Charlo at 9 AM, when Five Valleys Audubon goes on the hunt for raptors. Jim Brown leads a trip to view the avian residents of the lower Mission Valley on Sat., Dec. 2. Bring a lunch, as birds of prey are hard to catch and pretty gamey. Call 549-8052.
If your winter recreation equipment is as beat up as my bike’s rear triangle, you can try out cross-country skis and snowshoes, as well as kids equipment, when the TrailHead hosts its Annual Nordic Ski Demo on Sat., Dec. 2, at 10 AM at the Chief Joseph nordic trails. Call 543-6966.
UM’s Department of Health and Human Performance wants to motivate you to stay active during the cold weather—this helps with coordination, a crucial prerequisite to steering a vehicle—during their Freezer Burn Run at 10 AM on Sat., Dec. 2, at the Frenchtown High School parking lot. The $5 entry fee is waived if you’re a student, so call 243-4291 to register.
And here come the Rocky Mountaineers, who are getting serious with an intimidating list—for me, at least—of necessary gear for this weekend’s expedition. They plan to climb Idaho’s Borah Peak on Sat., Dec. 2. You’ll need backcountry skis with skins, an ice axe, crampons, and probably a rope and transceiver. The plan is to leave Friday evening or Saturday morning, so call Forest Dean at 240-7612 or 721-6384 if you’re interested.
For the less hardcore, or for people who plan to spend Saturday morning removing dents from their car’s body panels, Be Active Bitterrroot plans a Moonlight snowshoe hike on Sat., Dec 2, at 5:30 PM. Participants should meet at the Darby High School parking lot to carpool to the Chief Joseph nordic ski trails. Bring water, snacks, a headlamp, snowshoes and warm clothing and call 821-0104 or 360-2211 to confirm.
Lastly, the downhill skiing. We have snow now, which has resort operators breathing a frosty sigh of relief. Snowbowl will be open Fri.-Sun. for the early season, and is reporting that 30 percent of its runs are open. Lookout Pass is open Thu.-Mon. with plenty of snow and all runs open. Big Mountain’s snow party worked, as they report a 36-inch base and plan to open Sat., Dec. 2. Discovery builds steam with weekend openings and Blacktail opens Fri., Dec. 8.
In a parting shot at my automotive assailant, I offer to grant instant minor celebrity to anyone whose eyewitness account of Monday’s bike and trailer smashing leads to the perp’s arrest, prosecution and flaying. Send notarized affidavits and video footage, as well as news of upcoming outdoor events, to: