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Mountain High



Welcome to another week of outdoor recreation, or at least what it looks like from the chair I’m sitting in on the day when I’m furthest from the outside world.

It appears some kind of precipitation is falling outside and that probably means that conditions for snow sports will be glorious everywhere, especially Snowbowl, Missoula’s local mountain, which despite being almost entirely south-facing seems to hold better snow than everywhere else in Western Montana. In fact, you’d be crazy to even think of driving anywhere else with the aim of reaching knee-deep powder and all-day face shots. At least, that’s what you would think if you leafed through my mailbag last week.

But I’m crazy, maybe criminally insane. I went to Lookout for Powder Thursday and, you know, it lived up to the name: 18 inches of freshies and a nearly empty parking lot. I keep meaning to go to Snowbowl again, honest, but, I just keep getting distracted by conditions I’ll remember for the rest of my life that happen to require a trip to another county. So I can only go by what people tell me, and apparently I haven’t heard correctly.

So, since I’m an empiricist and properly chastened, I hereby promise to reform my column by speaking only of what I know with certainty. Which means, I guess, that that’s all for this week.

Just kidding. There are events to list, and I can’t go anywhere until they’re listed.

With the impending vernal equinox comes a host of spring-themed events, sometimes employing jaunty plays on words to add a little spice. For example: Spring Into Action with a 5K or 1-mile fun run and walk beginning at Fort Missoula at noon on Saturday, March 18, and ending shortly thereafter. Call 329-5752 if you’re coiled and ready to boing.

The change of seasons doesn’t diminish your responsibility for behaving responsibly in the backcountry. And you can get some idea of what’s expected of you by attending a free presentation by the Bitterroot National Forest and the West Central Montana Avalanche Center from 6 to 7 PM on Friday, March 17, at the Darby Public Library, on avalanches.

But the changing position of the sun relative to the surface of the earth does inevitably signal a break from school. That break, Spring Break, does a great job training kids on how to manage the one-week vacations they’ll spend months looking forward to as adults, the ones that always seem too short when they’re done (probably because they are). Such ephemeral interludes from exertion, however, seem likely the only thing really keeping us from sliding into some sort of European socialist quagmire, and no one wants that. But what do I know about vacation anyway?

Well, I know that Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures (MOLA) offers a week-long adventure (Sunday, March 26 through Saturday, April 1) to Moab, Utah, for middle- and high-school kids who like the idea of canyon hiking, river running, rock climbing and mountain biking in the part of Utah so famously fine for all those things. Only 12 kids can go, and it only costs $275, so make contact at 240-2458 soon.

You might see some birds in Utah, but they live here, too. And so there are birders who watch them. What do you call a group of birders in Western Montana? Let’s call them the Five Valleys Audubon Society and add, incidentally, that they sponsor a beginning birders workshop that encompasses two classroom sessions at 3201 Spurgin Rd. (the Region 2 FWP office), taking place from 7 to 9:30 PM on Thursdays, March 16 and 23, and a field trip to Smurfit-Stone on Saturday, March 18. So, if you’ve always wanted to learn about common birds and their four different habitats, as well as anatomy, field guides and even ethics, call 549-5706 to sign up; be prepared to pay a $15 fee.

Birds share little with bikes except for their first two letters and a spot next to each other in this week’s column. (See below.)

Missoulians on Bicycles have another couple of rides planned for Saturday, March 18, and Sunday, March 19, when they head from Lolo to Bass Creek on Saturday and from Open Road Bicycles in town out to Big Flat Road on Sunday. Call 543-4889 to get in on the former and 721-3095 for the latter.

Riding a bike means maintaining a bike so, if you want a free water bottle and some lessons on bike maintenance, head on up to REI at 7 PM on Thursday, March 23, where they’ll be giving both away for free.

Another way to learn about how to take care of your bike is by helping other people to build one. You can do that any time you like by volunteering to help out around the community bike shop at Free Cycles Missoula. They need volunteers, especially as spring gets going, so stop by their location at 732 S. 1st St. W., between 4 and 7 PM Monday to Thursday or give a call to 541-PATH. If you’ve never heard of Free Cycles, you should really stop by and check the place out, build a bike for whatever you can afford or just meet the good folks who give so much time and energy so that you can.

I’m all out of both right now. Feel free to send some as an attachment.

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