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Mountain High

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One of the great things about being as free as we are is that we get to do lots of stuff outside.

Now, I can hear the skeptics among you already: “What about the prisoners at Guantanamo? They don’t have their freedom, yet they get to spend all their time outside. What gives?”

And the endgame in this particular conversational duel comes when I reveal that you’ve actually proven my point with your questions and second-guessing: who other than the freest people on the planet could be so free as to allow such freedom for their captives?

So, as 50 Cent might say, “pop off.”

No, freedom really isn’t free, which means there will always be some sacrifices made by individuals in the name of the greater freedom. A case in point is handily served up by the Five Valleys Audubon Society, which invites you and yours to begin your celebration of freedom week on Sat., June 30, when a bird-banding field trip to the Valley of the Moon Nature Trail at Rock Creek to observe birds losing their freedom, at least their freedom to choose not to wear jewelry, will be led by Larry Weeks. You’ll want to meet at the UM field house parking lot at 7 AM, bring water, snacks, sunscreen and bug spray, and wear sturdy shoes. Call 549-5632.

Just in case you forgot to mark your calendars, June 24–30 was National Pollinator Week, and in honor of the freedom we’ve given the bees to listen in on our cell phone signals and choose to die en masse, the National Bison Range presents a Discovery Workshop titled “Birds, Bees and Butterflies, Too” on Sat., June 30. Learn about our native pollinators and test your construction skills by building a bee house. The good folks at the range need to know who’s interested, though, so they’re withholding some essential information until you call 644-2211 x. 207.

Not to be outdone by their neighbors to the north, the Montana Natural History Center presents another in their series of Discovery Days, this one titled “Black Mountain Fire of 2003,” on Sat., June 30. Bring binoculars and get ready to hike through the reviving burnscape to our west. Call 327-0405 to reserve a spot.

If education ain’t yer thang, feel free to take off with the New Rocky Mountaineers on Sat., June 30, for a hike and a climb to the top of the Sheep’s Head (9,477 feet) in the Mission Mountains. From the looks of it, this trip is what you might call “gravy”—a mellow hike followed by fun climbing with great holds and spectacular views from the top. Call Gerald at 549-4769.

Perhaps you’re looking for the freedom only hillside bicycling can provide. If so, the Mountain-Formerly-Known-As-Big has got you covered with the Early Bird Cross Country Mountain Bike Race, also on Sat., June 30. Registration starts at 8:30 AM for the race that will set the pace for the summer’s Tuesday Night Race League series, so call 862-2900 to get on board.

Freedom is often mysterious, much like the Sat., June 30, event known as “The Great Race,” a team effort that takes place on the Missouri River. You can create a team beforehand, or join one when you arrive. For answers to questions such as “Where/when/why is this happening?” contact Bob at bboland79@yahoo.com.

Revel in your freedom in your own way on Sunday, but get ready, because the Bitterroot National Forest has big plans for you on Mon., July 2. Actually, “chill” appears to be the operative word for Monday’s Be Active Bitterroot Activity, a two-mile day hike to Sweathouse Falls starting at 11 AM. Meet at the Canyons Athletic Club, 472 Tammany Lane, and bring all your hiking supplies. Call Jim at 363-1555.

Nothing’s freer than a boat on the water, and while the freedom to guide your own craft by yourself is a cornerstone of our democracy, let’s take a lesson from those who’ve learned a bit of diplomacy, shall we? Paddle MT’s Tandem Canoeing class begins at 6 PM on Tue., July 3, and includes boat rental, gear and a spiffy book you get to keep. Call 251-0040.

Of course, there’s plenty to do on Independence Day, Wed., July 4, (see Spotlight in this issue) but one event seems to cry out for a special mention: Splash Montana hosts an ice cream and barbecue blowout, though the freedom to eat and lick—ice cream cones, that is—does not extend to the waterslides and pools themselves. Call 721-PARK or visit missoulaparks.org.

Can we really know freedom, having never known its absence? The National Bison Range chimes in on this discussion by reminding us that free lunches, much like free bison ranges, just don’t exist. To make the point abundantly clear, the Bison Range plans to raise their fees on Thu., July 5. Bring an extra buck per car, or an extra Lincoln per annual pass, and call 644-2211 to thank them for keeping prices low since 1995.

And in the name of all that is not yet free, I implore you to make the most of this week. Scale the hills, drain the dregs and land a whopper. Do it for the sun-lovers in Guantanamo.

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