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Mountain High

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Before Comrade Calendar’s rise to power, he tried his hand at several alternative occupations that presented themselves along the way: removing bear feces at the National Zoo, walking packs of dogs down busy Washington, D.C., sidewalks, and growing grasses to feed propeller-maimed manatees in Homosassa, Fla., to name a few.

In all these nature-oriented—well, discounting the dog-walking, I guess—endeavors, I found that the more I learned about the world of the trees, bugs and birds around me, the less I felt I actually knew. Especially when I was a naturalist in California, teaching school groups about the redwoods, I felt the job title to be a bit hyperbolic. At best, I was a green-ish tour guide, trying to get a bit of the wonder and magic of that place lodged in the crania plodding along behind me.

My main point, then, is that there’s no end to the learning available in the forests and rivers that surround us, and this week I’m especially proud to highlight a few local efforts aimed at educating the masses. 

To start with, one of the perks of any outdoor adventure is the possibility of running into some wild beast or another. Taking it to the next level, most intrepid recreationalists can imagine an animal simply from checking out an old footprint or two. The Montana Natural History Center sponsors Ph.D. candidate Elliot Parsons’ Wildlife Tracking Workshop at 9 AM on Sat., Jan. 19, a full day of learning to follow critters using the signs they leave behind. You’ll want to pack a lunch and bring all the snow gear a non-fur-bearer will rely on in times such as these. Space is limited, so call 327-0405.

Those of you who already have those skills, as well as those of you who don’t want them, can instead take advantage of the Trailhead’s annual telemark and alpine touring demo days, which take place every day over your three-day weekend. On Sat., Jan. 19, and Mon., Jan. 21, you can carefully sample their wares at Montana Snowbowl, while your shot to not scratch the demo gear at Lost Trail Ski Area comes on Sun., Jan. 20. You can get more details when you call 543-6966.

In the interest of accommodating everyone, here’s a tidbit for those of us who like shredding snowy half-pipes. Whitefish Mountain Resort invites all snowboarders and skiers to compete with each other during their USASA Inland Northwest Superpipe Jam, which, despite sounding like a good name for a bong, is the gateway to the national level competition at Copper Mountain, Colo. This two-day event begins at 10:30 AM on Sat., Jan. 19, with registration taking place a few hours earlier. To compete, or just to get more info, call 862-2900.

Pull out the stops and do it all: Learn about tracking in the morning, then meet up with the Rocky Mountaineers later in the day to get in some practice. On Sat., Jan. 19, join the few and the brave for a Moonlight Ski at Lubrecht Forest, where the plan is to begin skiing in the late afternoon—when animal tracks are still partially visible—and to then marvel at the moon’s near-fullness come sundown. Get your carpooling info at 721-4686.

After all that, you’ll want to take a day off, then jump back into that nature observing vibe as the Montana Natural History Center kicks off their four-month Montana Naturalist Class on Mon., Jan. 21. This is the real deal: From sketching to stalking to researching and more, you’ll immerse yourself in both the minute and the massive that seem to have us surrounded. The class begins at 5 PM and meets every Mon., with two Sat. field trips in April. The option for credit from UM is yours for the taking, so call 327-0405 to get in on some of that.

Is there a word for doing all your skiing locally? If so, I appear to be promoting such an effort on the part of Missoulians with this endorsement of Montana Snowbowl’s Alpine Evening Race Series, which kicks off on Wed., Jan. 23. As I’ve learned to cast a leery eye upon their website, I’ll toss in the disclaimer that you really ought to check the start time—as well as the verity of my overall claim—by calling 549-9777.

I enjoy living in a world where we’re all still learning about the ground beneath our feet, and so do members of the Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto of the National Speleological Society, who gather together to celebrate the thrill of discovery this week. On Wed., Jan. 23, Tina Oliphant presents “Caving on Una Mountain-Three Decades Later,” a talk regarding newly-found caves in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, as part of the Grotto’s monthly meeting at 7 PM at Pipestone Mountaineering, 129 W. Front St.

Our final event this week takes place on the wild borderlands known as Reserve Street, where REI-Missoula presents a class on Adventure Racing Basics at 7 PM on Thu., Jan. 24, in preparation for April’s GrizzlyMan Adventure Race. I assume they’ll be discussing methods of survival, like eating your surliest sled dog (just kidding), but there’s only one way to know for sure: Call 829-0432.

And that, dear reader, is what the wilds have on tap for you this week. Try and learn a thing or two and send me your revelations.

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