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Mountain High



The first Spring blizzard nailed me hard the other day. No, not the icy winter kind, but a living, breathing, darkened-sky blizzard. Riding my bike through the University neighborhood I was assaulted by a massive swarm of sun-luvin’ bugs, diving deep into my nose and inducing a sneezing fit.

And thus, the seasons change, bringing out the delicious lightly-sunned shoulders and legs of Missoula’s Beautiful People for public viewing. Although the temps are still only drifting into the 60s, hot summer nights aren’t far away. Of course there’s Montana hot, and then there’s really hot.

Like islands in Thailand, for example, where hot means needing a strategy of sun-avoidance from dawn to dusk. When it’s 106 in the shade, even a stiff sea breeze blowing in off turquoise waters won’t keep the never-ending rivulets of sweat from pooling on your hammocked belly.

It’s too hot for any activity not involving a shady hammock or a swim—even icy coconut beverages resting against dripping, sun-burnt flesh grant only temporary relief. Here, brown-skinned slackers gather from all corners to dive, smoke banana-sized island doobies and forget about everything except this very moment of shade, sea and “Sa wat dee.”

One group of folks came to this sanctuary for an intensive yoga retreat of fasting and body-twisting, mind-expanding bliss. From my surfside hammock, I’d drift into morning consciousness to groove on yogi contortionists silhouetted against the pink, predawn light. Soon the island would be too scorched for residents to rest anywhere but in the tepid water, where vibrant reefs provide toasted snorkelers with a lifetime of exploration.

The nights are full of DJs, dancing and drugs—there’s so much easy-to-acquire weed that an etiquette of sharing fatty joints doesn’t even exist. Instead, ten bucks will score you an ounce of island grass, stony-enough to free even experienced Canadian travelers’ minds from the time/heat continuum.

As I stood by the throbbing sound system, sweating in the tropical night heat and begging for more sea breeze, a Lawrence Taylor-lookalike in baggy shorts and a Jimmy Buffet shirt asked me where I was from.

“Missoula, Montana. Near Canada, but in the U.S.”

“Missoula?!” he said, “Man I been to Missoula. We was passing through, from Seattle to Houston, and we stopped at a sports bar for a beer. Everybody was watching the football game, getting drunk and going nuts.”

I’m thinking, “Yeah, could be Missoula, maybe The Press Box? Or Red’s?”

He continues. “All of sudden, there was a whole lotta noise in the street and these dudes come bustin’ in, carrying some yellow goal posts that they just dragged all the way over from the football field. Then cops got all charged up and sprayed all these people with pepper spray. As we was the only brothers in the bar, we just left our beers, got the hell out and hit the road.” He handed me half a joint, but it was too hot to inhale.

Speaking of herbivores, although this weekend marks the final days of most lift-serviced skiing in Western Montana, a few options remain. Montana Snowbowl will be open for its final three days with later “springtime hours” this Friday through Sunday, April 12. Big Mountain’s offering $20 tickets—their last day is also the 12th. Silver Mountain also closes this Sunday, so bring in your season pass or ticket from any other resort for a discount. But if your season’s been too short and you’re still in need of some springtime turns, Big Sky will welcome you (and your 50-spot) through Easter Sunday, while Blacktail Mountain is planning on hauling skiers uphill every weekend in April for just $20.

Or hit the backcountry with the Rocky Mountaineers for some spring skiing on April 13. The location will depend on where the snow is, so call Lois Crepeau (728-5321) to do it right.

But alas the snow is melting, running down the mountain and filling the rivers with kayakers’ wet dreams. Head to the Trailhead on April 12 for their annual Boat & Gear Swap—drop off gear in the morning, buy it in the afternoon. Call 543-6966 to attain the flow. UM’s Outdoor Gear Sale is next Wednesday in the University Center—again, drop off gear in the morning, peruse in the afternoon. Call 243-2804 for specifics.

Runoff may be good for kayakers, but the low underwater visibility is a bummer for anglers. Certified flyfishing instructors will be hooking up with the Missoulian Angler and Campus Rec to teach people how to pull simple-minded creatures through the water for, uh, “sport.” If you’re wanting to be an “I release cutthroat” kinda guy or gal, call 243-5172 to get lined up.

If you’re eager for backpacking season but your pack feels like a broken shopping cart strapped to your back, pack expert Bob Reider can dial you out at a free pack-fitting clinic on Thursday, April 17, from 6—7:30 p.m. at REI’s North Reserve store. Call 829-0432 for the scoop.

Check out what will soon be your new open space by signing up for Mount Sentinel’s Hidden Treasure Run. The run cruises through an area connecting Missoula with Pattee Canyon Recreation Area, so call the Five Valleys Land Trust (549-0755) to get up and running in the 5k, 10k or 20k jaunt.

Missoulians on Bicycles (MOB) is hosting two rides this weekend, including the 28th annual(!) 55-mile Cheeseburger Boogie to Stevensville on Saturday, April 12. Call Paul Gibson (728-8722) to eat the meat. Or join the MOB for a 50-miler on Sunday, April 13, to Rock Creek by calling Donna Olsen (728-2330).

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