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Mountain High



Well, it’s week one of my new job writing Mountain High. Chad has left some big boots to fill, especially for someone whose preferred method of exploring Montana’s natural beauty moves at whatever speed the Blackfoot River happens to be pushing an inner tube. On that score, the river is looking good and with clear skies more often than not, you ought to spend at least one day a week under the bright northern sky with a coozie and beverage in hand (and maybe a dry bag in tow, if that’s your style). However your flow goes, be sure to wear your sunscreen.

Of course there’s more than just tubing to do in Western Montana. For the vertically inclined, we’ve got word of a couple trips into the mountains you probably need to get wind of.

On that front, UM’s Wilderness Institute is soliciting volunteers to monitor the impact of weeds and recreation on the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness. The trips will be led by experienced backcountry hikers, so backcountry experience on your part would be helpful but not necessary. The Institute has three more trips in store this summer and the next lasts from July 28 to Aug. 1. This weekend’s trip begins on the East Fork of the Bitterroot River and follows a portion of the Continental Divide through the Wilderness, covering 34 total trail miles. Spectacular views and some knowledge of field work will be intangible but very real benefits of volunteering; more concrete bonuses take the form of dinners, transportation from Missoula and free t-shirts. Call 243-5361.

If working to feed and shelter yourself is crimping your medium-length backpacking ambitions, check out a day trip that the Rocky Mountainaires are offering to Oregon Lakes July 24. The climb to the first two lakes is short but steep, and then there’ll be some bushwhacking and scrambling up to the summit of Oregon Peak. To join the trip, rendezvous at Durango’s Restaurant in Superior at 10 AM or call 822-5000.

Feel like using your two legs in conjunction with some gears, or just wondering what good cycling can do for your health? Go ask Shirley Braxton when she celebrates her 76th birthday with a 76-mile birthday bicycle ride on Saturday, July 23. The ride will include a picnic lunch in Alberton along with a cupcake break at Frenchtown Pond. The ride leaves from the Perkin’s restaurant at Reserve and Mullan at 7 AM and everyone so inclined is welcome to join. Call Shirley at 728-4963 if you have questions.

If realizing the outdoors is a learning experience is more your style, the Montana Natural History Center offers family activities like the July 23 Into the Woods Discovery Day, which will include some mountainside lessons on forest ecology and readings from nature writers. During the week, MNHC offers nature explorations suitable for 4-5 year olds based on a theme from a different story every day; there will also be a wetlands exploration excursion for 8-11 year olds. All events require some sort of registration and fee, so call 327-0405 for more information.

Our friends up north have The Glacier Institute to thank for some weekend courses on McDonald Creek’s underwater ecology, Glacier’s grizzlies and wildflowers near Logan Pass that you can learn more about at Also, on July 28, there will be an Introduction to Fly-Fishing class suitable for ages 12 and up—just in case you’ve been thinking it’s about time to start yourself or someone you know angling.

Finally, recreational issues are also political issues, so here’s a couple items you might want to kick around the old noggin’ while you’re out enjoying whatever public lands you find yourself upon. For instance, it turns out John Roberts, Jr., the judge nominated to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, co-authored a brief in 2000 supporting the National Mining Association’s challenge to a ban on mountaintop removal. So that’s good news, or not.

A little more immediately relevant to Western Montana (like mining isn’t, right?) is the ongoing effort by the Missoula Ranger District Forest Revision Collaborative Group’s to revise the Lolo National Forest Management Plan. The next meeting is scheduled for 7 PM on July 21 at the DoubleTree Hotel and, according to a June 3 Forest Service press release outlining the agenda of public meetings, “the focus of discussion will be the Lolo Peak Ski Area proposal.” You heard it here.

Okay. Mountains are great but so are rivers and mountain bike trails and creeking expeditions in float tubes, so send it all in and I’ll do my best to spread the word.

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