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Mountain High



Little bit of water in the rivers these days. And it’s funny what you’ll learn when you head out in it. You might learn about fishing season, like John S. Adams did for his article “Angling for access” in this issue. Or about how little fun a long swim in high water can be like “we” did in the lower stretches of the Blackfoot River last week (see Etc.). You might also learn, like I did on Saturday, that barley-flavored water tastes different—and frankly, better—when imbibed before noon in an 11-foot Aire raft. Yup, water’s on my mind.

Water will be on other minds, too—especially in Bigfork on Saturday, May 27, and Sunday, May 28. That’s where and when you’ll find the Bigfork Whitewater Festival and Triathlon, an event promising whitewater rodeo and slalom for those fit for the froth, along with a triathlon sporting a flatwater paddle component for those wanting to try for the triumvirate. Call 837-5888 to find out more.

It’s gardening season, too, which means the sunburn’s on my back from getting the backyard garden ready to accept starts of the crops that don’t tolerate frost. Those crops should go in this week since the average last frost in Missoula is May 23. Of course, the life of a diligent ant has little special reward in these days of a robust global food system, and Western Montana has more of grasshopper feel to it anyway, so if you would just as soon let someone else grow your food, well, here’s some stuff you can do with all that time you can hoard thanks to the division of labor and specialization.

For instance, you could maybe go for a hike in those hills your property taxes are paying to protect from development and meet some of the species that were there when open space wasn’t so scarce. If that sounds like fun, join botanist Marilyn Marler for a Mount Jumbo Wildflower Walk from the Lincoln Hills trailhead of the Open Space system at 6:30 PM on Thursday, May 25. Call 243-6642 if you need directions or anything else.

A more robust hike is an option on Saturday, May 27, when the New Rocky Mountaineers head to Little St. Joe Peak in the Bitterroots to celebrate the opening of the gate below the trailhead and the extra 1,800 feet of climbing that saves. Call 549-4769 to ride along on the trip, which promises to cross the snowline at about 7,000 feet.

If you’re looking for company on one or more overnight trips this summer, consider hooking up with the Wilderness Institute, which sponsors a series of eight backcountry adventures in some of Montana’s best wild places. You bring a willingness to hike into the hinterlands, and they’ll supply experienced leaders, training and dinner. So call 243-5361 to find out the schedule and how to join up.

Another alternative for the hiker who just can’t go backpacking without an instrumental rationale is the Great Burn Study Group’s volunteer monitoring program, which runs summer field projects from June 16 through Aug. 27 up in the, you guessed, Great Burn. Drop an e-mail to for more information.

And, whatever your long-term plans, feel free to focus on the present because the Rocky Mountaineers sponsor two trips this weekend, one on bikes and the other on skis. If you feel like looking for the snow that might still be in the mountains, join a trip to Mineral County’s Diamond and Cliff Lakes on Saturday, May 27. Call 822-5000 to get the odds on whether there’s still snow, given the recent warm spell, and the propensity of these lakes to be among the first accessible.

If you’re already so over the snow and just want to mountain bike, you’re in luck because the Rocky Mountaineers also head up the Rattlesnake’s main corridor to at least Franklin Bridge on Saturday, May 27. There’ll be some exploring around once you’re good and far up there, so call 721-4686 for the meeting time, which will probably be pretty early.

And, of course, biking means Missoulians on Bicycles, who this weekend plan three trips: a Potomac to Ovando run on Saturday, May 27, with a carpool that leaves from the Eastgate parking lot at 8 AM; a 100-mile Missoula-to-Hamilton ride on Sunday, May 28, that you can call 239-9754 to find out more about; and another show-and-go from the Eastgate parking lot at 8:30 AM on Monday, May 29—this one to Clearwater and back along Highway 200.

For this final entry, I keep thinking that if I could add an auditory component to Mountain High, well, wouldn’t that be nice? At any rate, it would sure be apropos, since the Garden City Tennis Association (GCTA) is wondering if anyone’s for tennis, especially since at 9 AM on Saturday, May 27, GCTA begins its No-Elimination Singles tournament, promising four matches to all comers, at Playfair Park. Find out more, including who to write the check for your $20 registration fee to, by calling 880-GCTA.

I take checks, too. Make them payable to my charitable nonprofit, the Mountain High Foundation.

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