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Mountain High


When you wake up and you feel as though you’ve not slept a wink, that’s smoke poisoning.

When your eyes feel as though they might instead be softballs that were gone over with a heavy wood rasp, that’s smoke poisoning.

When you mail a bicycle to Montana from Texas in order to engage in an ill-advised road trip into the haze to the east—and the bike is then lost in the mail—that’s not smoke poisoning, that’s a blessing in disguise.

To be sure, losing a bicycle is no laughing matter. But neither is traipsing into the fog of what the American Lung Foundation (ALF) is calling “the biggest threat to lung health since dried white dog turds were stocked by druggists in the 1600s.”

Okay, so the ALF never said that—though Shakespeare-era druggists did indeed prescribe dried dog turds—but local health authorities have been warning us left and right to tone it down and keep from breathing in large volumes of fluffy white ash.

So this week’s column focuses instead, as a consolation prize to my dear and disappointed bike tourons, on the mellow, the calm, the low-cardio options.

And the first in line to call me a liar is the Great Burn Study Group, a host of yahoos with steel lungs and legs to match, who invite you to join them for a three-day trip to the North Lochsa Slope in Idaho on Fri., Aug. 17. You’ll not only drag your tender cilia through acres and acres of searing smoke—I may be exaggerating—but you’ll also help the group monitor weeds, wildlife, trail conditions and more. Beverly is your cruise director—call her at 240-9901.

Forsooth, there are some slow-moving people to back me up: The Five Valleys Audubon Society, no strangers to the dangers of inhaling that which isn’t air, will be ready to pick you up at 8 AM in the parking lot of UM’s Fieldhouse on Sat., Aug. 18, for a field trip to the wildlife ponds of Smurfit-Stone Container. You can expect to see returning shorebirds, songbirds and waterfowl, just don’t make any fast movements, for your sake and theirs. By the way, you can also meet the group at 8:30 at the mill. Call Larry at 549-5632.

Why does everybody try to make me seem the fool? Just as I counsel aerobic temerity, along come the lung-insensitive activiteers of Valley Physical Therapy, who want your tender sacs to join them on Sat., Aug. 18, for a hike to Peterson Lake in the Bitterroots. The group, probably worried about ALF-generated payback, is keeping the meeting location hush-hush, so the only details I have are that you should bring lunch, snacks, water and sunscreen. What about the lungscreen? Call Tim at 777-3523 or 273-6605.

And these people are really gunning for me—Missoula Parks and Recreation keeps up its countdown to organ failure with the next installment of the Five Valleys Race Series on Sat., Aug. 18. The Fort Missoula 5K Fun Run/Walk encourages slow running at 9 AM. They say the registration deadline has passed, but you know how city government is…like putty in our hands. Call 721-PARK.

The folks at that crazy Canoe Rack/Paddle MT conglomeration want to encourage you to be still and let the water do the work: On Sat., Aug. 18, take Introduction to Moving Water at 10 AM and give the ol’ air filters a break. Call 251-0040 or visit

This one’s a bit of a crapshoot: Also on Sat., Aug. 18, The Rocky Mountaineers invite you on a backpacking trip, but they’re not sure where they’re going. A hard non-technical climb will be thrown in, and two options being tossed around the TRM office include Mount Zimmer (11,550 feet) and Nataos Peak (9,476 feet), so give Steve a call at 721-3790 and help him make up his mind.

The Prairie Keepers are mellowness embodied when they lead families and friends on a Wildflower and Wild Grass Seed Collection Workshop at 7 PM on Tue., Aug. 21. The Nature Adventure Garden at Fort Missoula is the place to be if you want to provide blanket flower, yarrow and other seeds for local restoration projects, as well as keep a few to drink with your pickle brine at the fair next summer. Visit

It’s easy to remain calm when you’re by yourself, which is why the Canoe Rack cements their high standing by offering a Solo Canoeing class at 6 PM on Wed., Aug. 22. You’ll take long, deep breaths and learn all the turns, strokes and other business involved in getting yourself where you want to be. Call 251-0040 or visit

And here’s a thought: for all the black-boogered snotrags in your pocket, for all the tarry feet and hair and nostrils, for all the ashy soot in eyes and throats, a tree somewhere had to die. Honor that tree—be mellow this week.

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