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Mountain High


A bit of conventional wisdom in this little western hamlet of ours goes something like this: You can tell whether a house is inhabited by renters or owners by looking at the state of its boulevard trees.

Having dwelt in several flaky-painted Missoula rentals, I readily admit to my own inactive participation in this phenomenon, as I had no idea those trees were mine to water.

And really, they weren’t—according to a city ordinance, property owners are required to care for their lot’s adjacent street trees.

But for xylem’s sake, it shouldn’t take a law to get folks to grant life-giving nourishment to the droopy-leaved behemoths that offer so much in return.

Which is why we’re reminded, in these days of great heat and near-zero moisture, of the elemental fact that our boulevard trees need water, and they need it now.

The residual drippings from your lease-mandated grass sprinkling just don’t cut it. All curbside trees, be they massive maples or sprightly young apricots, need deep watering—we’re talking six to eight inches down and at least to the edge of the tree’s shade zone—once a week, preferably more often.

Try this test: Stick a screwdriver into the soil near the base of your tree. If it pushes in easily to six inches or so, you’d win the approval of Treebeard and his posse. If not, apply water.

And since all but the penny-pinchingest of landlords pay renters’ water bills, here’s your chance to really stick it to the man. Water deeply and water bi-weekly.

Now let’s begin this week’s tree-lovin’ adventures with a trip offered by the Great Burn Study Group. On Fri., Aug 10, you’re invited to explore roadless backcountry—where none but the good Lord is legally required to water—when you accompany the group’s experienced leaders on a three-day jaunt to Sheep Mountain in Idaho. You’ll be monitoring all sorts of stuff, from weeds to trail conditions to signage, once you place a call to Beverly at 240-9901.

Take a break from inundating your invasives when you answer the UM Wilderness Institute’s call for volunteers: The last of their weekend trips to the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness will take off on Sat., Aug. 11, and head for the high country of Little Ibex Lake near the Middle Fork of the Bull River. Guests will map weeds and inventory campsites in exchange for dinners and possibly even transportation. Call Laurie at 243-5361.

Here’s one for the ladies: the Montana Chapter of Women in the Outdoors hosts a one-day Outdoor Skills Workshop on Sat., Aug. 11, at the Great Divide ski area near Helena. Women from across the state will converge for a day of skill-sharing sessions in areas as diverse as handgunning, personal safety, gardening, Feng shui, Tai chi, bird watching, archery and more. Take up to four classes and keep up your strength by enjoying the included breakfast and lunch. Call Susan at 439-3658 or Cheryl at 458-5078.

Those of you sticking around the Missoula area on Sat., Aug. 11, are invited to North Reserve Street’s REI location at 1 PM, when they host Backpacker Magazine’s Get Out More Tour, a one-hour presentation about why you should bypass air-conditioned strip malls for the beauty and grandeur of the backcountry. Call 829-0432 for help unraveling the inherent contradiction.

Filled to bursting with the spirit of the wilderness, you’re now prepared to roll on up to Whitefish Mountain Resort—Big Mountain to you locals—to hear the Marshall Tucker Band—which surprisingly has a remaining original member—at 6 PM. Fresh from Sturgis and bound for Obetz, Ohio’s Zucchini Festival, MTB will no doubt wow audiences with rippin’ flute solos on such hits as “Can’t You See” and “This Ol’ Cowboy.” Call 862-2900.

Paddle MT and the Canoe Rack support your new commitment to moving water through hoses with the reminder that there’s room for you in the Introduction to Moving Water class at 6 PM on Sun., Aug. 12. The Blackfoot River-based class is designed to give you the confidence to take your boat out of the pool and through the Gorge, one step at a time. Call 251-0040 or visit

Still hesitant to take the plunge? That’s okay—you can still move near water when you meet up for an eight-mile mountain bike ride around the edge of a locally revered pool at 10 AM on Mon., Aug 13, at Hamilton’s Canyons Athletic Club or at 10:30 at the Lake Como boat launch. Bring the stuff of bike trips—bike, helmet, snacks, water—and call Jim at 363-1555.

Finally, 10,000 Waves Raft and Kayak Adventures’ fledgling kayakers get a chance to show off a bit during a guided Clark Fork River trip, which includes instruction of some sort, on Tue., Aug. 14. As their promotional materials offer scant details, drop a dime—well, two dimes and a nickel, if you can still find a pay phone anywhere—and ring them up at 549-6670.

Now, before you head off to quench your thirst for outdoor recreation and adventure, apply fingers to spigot and give your street’s trees a taste of that sweet, sweet blend of dihydrogen monoxide.

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