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Mountain High



I’m concerned that Montanans may be over-inflating their inner tubes. And as your guide to outdoor recreation, I feel a duty to speak out. I’ll try to keep it brief. But you should know, if you’ve never thought about it, that pumping an inner tube as full of air as it can get only encourages the thing to rupture on contact with a rock or stick. In addition to making your tube more resilient, inflating it to mild squishiness rather than tautness akin to the skin on, say, Emmylou Harris’ new face, ensures that you stay in contact with the water, which, after all, is the reason for floating. Just some thoughts from someone who spends a lot of time on a tube.

But enough ruminating about the water. Let’s get on it, starting, perhaps, with any one of a raft of events from Paddle MT. Ladies only may get wet at an Introduction to Recreational Kayaking from 6 to 9 PM on Thursday, July 9, while both sexes are invited to Sea Kayak Fundamentals, scheduled for 10 AM to 4 PM on Saturday, July 8. For anyone already educated on those topics, perhaps during an earlier session of the ongoing classes Paddle MT is offering all summer long, your first crack at Open Water Kayaking takes place Sunday, July 9, from 10 AM to 4 PM. And if your idea of fun on water includes other people in your boat, one that’s open to the water, then the Tandem Canoeing class being offered from noon to 6 PM on Thursday, July 13, is probably your ticket. Each class includes gear and instruction and none of them are free, so you better call the Canoe Rack at 251-0040 to learn the cost of knowledge and what the line looks like.

Finally, should you believe that you know it all, or even just enough, Paddle MT’s Wednesday, July 12, float—aka the next Wednesday Night Float—is just the thing to get you in the water. Basically, it works like this. Call ahead, let them know you’ll be coming, and then just be at the Canoe Rack, 501 N. California St., at 6 PM sharp to catch the shuttle to the put-in. The float, which is free if you’ve got your own gear and costs $5 if you need a rental, is the riverine equivalent of crack cocaine: try it once and you’ll be back.

For a river trip that’s a bit more tricked out, consider joining the Montana Woman Foundation (MWF) for a guided benefit float on the upper portion of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River on Saturday, July 8. Proceeds from the float, which costs $70 ($45 for children 8 to 12 years old) go to MWF’s scholarship fund, which means you can splurge on a day of high-end catered recreation without thinking of it as some sort of extravagance.

Of course some people will prefer walking to floating, and here at Mountain High we pride ourselves on relaying options for those types as well. If your heart swelled a little bit with the thought of being included among the walkers, then read on. The Bitterroot National Forest sponsors the Creepy Crawler Moon Walk, which departs from the Blodgett Canyon trailhead at 8 PM on Tuesday, July 11. The program for the evening includes a constellation of speakers addressing the interactions between burned timber and bark beetles. You guys are talking to the folks at HQ about that too, right?

Also, UM’s Wilderness Institute heads to Missoula’s backyard wilderness for some weeding and mapping this week. On Friday, July 7, the crew heads up the main corridor of the Rattlesnake for 12 miles of pedaling and six miles of off-trail weeding in the vicinity of the lower Farmers Lakes. During that day-long excursion, my bet is that they’ll be recruiting for the trip along the Boulder Lake Loop planned for Saturday, July 8, through Monday, July 10, but you can get in on it, or Friday’s trip, before then by calling 243-5361.

The stalwarts are checking in for their post-Fourth return to excursing when the New Rocky Mountaineers climb the Mission Mountains’ Sheep’s Head on Saturday, July 8. They call it “a fun climb with lots of exposure but nice knobby things to hold on to.” That translates into three miles and 4,200 vertical feet with a view of McDonald Peak from the top. If that translation didn’t lose you, call 549-4769.

Should you prefer to stretch your vertical gain out over a longer horizontal track, consider heading Glacier way on Saturday, July 8, with the Rocky Mountaineers, who plan a 17-mile round trip to Edwards Mountain, located in the upper reaches of the terra. The trip, which includes a couple hundred miles of approach driving, amounts to one heck of a long day, so call 721-3790 and then get some sleep so you’re well rested.

I’ll see if I can’t catch a little shut-eye on your behalf as well.

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