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Mountain High



Have I got a word for you: xeriscape. There’s something alienesque about it, speaking to the exoticism almost always wedded to the 24th letter of our alphabet. Oddly enough, though, there’s nothing foreign about xeriscape when it comes to Western Montana, except for maybe the word’s origins: the prefix “xeri-“ comes to English from the Greek, and it means dry. And though you might be excused for forgetting it the past couple of weeks, you surely remember that’s about the best way to describe the summer months in Montana.

So learning to xeriscape, i.e. how to choose landscaping and gardening attuned to a dry climate, is a great way to conserve water, as well as limit the amount of time you spend serving the needs of a lawn that just soaks it up and never gives back. To help you out with what might seem like a novel concept—designing landscape for climate rather than aesthetics better attuned to water-rich climates—the U.S. Department of Agriculture has developed a booklet called “Creating Native Landscapes in the Northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountains” that you can look at online at technical/ecs/plants/xeriscp/.

Tuning your life to the landscape can be done on the human and not just the natural scale, and I think that’s part of the impetus behind this next event, Missoula’s week-long fête in honor of transportation that keeps you close to the ground and/or other people. And what better way to kick Bike Walk Bus week than with the Saturday, April 22, Festival of Cycles? The annual event, taking place in Bonner Park in this, its ninth year, presents attendees with the opportunity to tune up an existing bike or build a new one from spare parts. The parts are in plentiful supply, experienced bike mechanics less so, which means help will be available, but people who can offer assistance with even the most modest of maintenance tasks should also show up for the event, which lasts from noon to 4 PM. Visit for a complete rundown of the week’s events, which, I assure you, are far too numerous to mention.

That said, Missoulians on Bicycles’ two weekend trips are listed on the Bike Walk Bus poster, but they’re also, as regular readers know, regulars in Mountain High. So here’s their plug: Saturday, April 22, sees the group off on a 55-miler to Stevi while Sunday, April 23, is occasion for another 55-mile ride, this time to the 9-Mile House. So pick your poison and call 251-5786 for Saturday or 728-8262 for Sunday.

Another bunch of Mountain High regulars are the Rocky Mountaineers, who plan a Sunday, April 23, trip to Frazer Creek and back along the main trail of the Rattlesnake. The seven to eight miles should be a pretty mild hike, and festooned with wildflowers. Call 542-7372 for more information.

For those interested in something a little steeper, the Rocky Mountaineers offer another option on Sunday, April 23: a 14-mile trip up St. Joseph Peak from the Bass Creek trailhead. They anticipate 5,800 feet of elevation gain without a clear idea of what will be needed for footwear. It won’t be sandals, I’ll tell you that. Call 240-7612 for something more helpful.

The New Rocky Mountaineers also have a hike planned for Sunday, April 23, April being the month when people seem to see it most fitting to schedule synchronously. Their trip heads Swan-ward for a trip toward Holland Peak, including an excursion along a ridge to 8,400 feet, at which point members of the group will have to figure out whether the summit is reachable. Call 549-4769 to put yourself in a position to help make that call.

Any questions about mountaineering feasibility this time of year should be referred to the snowpack, the runoff patterns of which define watersheds, which lend their name to the Montana Natural History Center’s Watershed Festival taking place Thursday, April 27, and Friday, April 28. The festival is set up as a series of stations through which sixth-graders rotate every 30 minutes between 9 AM and 2 PM. Right now, MNHC is looking for volunteers to staff stations; show your interest via

When I think of sixth grade, I remember summer camp. And who doesn’t remember summer camp fondly? Right. Okay, then who doesn’t remember summer camp? If you couldn’t assent to the former yet still had to affirm the latter, it was most likely the camp’s fault and not yours. There will be no such problems with Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures, which offers a series of one-week sessions from mid-June to late August pitched toward exposing slacking summerers to a host of outdoor activities, along with the intellectual and emotional capacity to make said activities potential sources of lifelong fulfillment. To find out what ages and activities are slotted when, give MOLA a call at 240-2458.

While we’re on the subject of what to do with summer, you might want to drop a line to and get them to dispatch a copy of the Summer and Fall Recreation Guide to you. It lists everything from swimming lessons to educational tours and a whole pile of whatnot sandwiched between. It’s more than Mountain High can hold, so there’s your fishing pole; don’t expect me to feed you all summer long. Fear not, I’ll keep you posted on the big fish.

You just keep me posted on yours.

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