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Mountain High

It wasn’t until I was 18 that I finally ascended the Washington Monument, though I’d spent much of my childhood playing soccer all over its grounds. Sometimes, living right near an amazing and spectacular site can make its radiance fade in your eyes, and your desire to make the most of it totally dissipate.

This week, Alpine Artisans and the Swan Ecosystem Center actively remind us just how unbelievable this home of ours is. The Inaugural Crown of the Continent Celebration, which pays homage to the nearby 16,000 square-mile chunk of pristine mountain peaks and vigorous ecosystems, takes place at 5 PM on Sun., Sept. 28, at the MCT Center for the Performing Arts.

The evening’s focal point is a visual presentation by Ralph Waldt, whose photography and commentary comprise the stunning and aptly named book, Crown of the Continent (see photo). A man who’s reportedly walked and snowshoed over 10,000 miles of the Crown, Waldt proves an adept tour guide for the assembled masses.

The Crown, which includes pieces of Montana, British Columbia and Alberta, contains two World Heritage Sites and some of the most intact webs of life around. As a result, and in the interest of promoting its well-being, the Swan Ecosystem Center and National Geographic collaborated on a beautiful map of the entire Crown area, an artifact that will also be in attendance come Sunday.

In addition, the food and drink will be flowing and silent and live auctions—juried by Dudley Dana—will bring in more cash for wildland protection, and you can have this all for the low, low suggested donation of $15. Call 754-3137 or visit

Now hopefully your inner calendar won’t be thrown for a loop when I bring us back to Thu., Sept. 25, when intrepid bike traveler Willie Weir brings his presentation “Colombia and Venezuela: Biking Beyond the Headlines” to UM’s Urey Lecture Hall at 7 PM. It’s free, and should you feel a lingering hanker to undertake a long, long bike ride, this is the show for you.

Gather your flock and head to the Holiday Inn-Downtown at the Park, where the Raptor Research Foundation’s annual conference begins on Thu., Sept. 25, and continues through Sat., Sept. 27. Missoula wildlife conservation pioneers John and Frank Craighead are to be honored at the event, which also features film screenings, art exhibits and more. Details are roosting at

This week’s Mountain High rock stars are once again the Rocky Mountaineers (TRM), who throw three bones in our general direction. To begin, they invite you and yours to get up super early—they’re talking about starting the hike/run using headlamps—to climb the Bitterroots’ Bass Peak (8,855 feet) on Fri., Sept. 26. The 21-mile trek involves 6,000 feet of elevation gain, just so you know what to expect. Call Forest at 240-7612, or e-mail

Once you’re back from bagging Bass, the Blue Mountain Observatory has got big plans for you. At roughly 8:20 PM on Fri., Sept. 26, head up their hilltop fortress of solitude, where the second-to-last in their Observing Night series will have you starry-eyed in no time. Of course, cloudiness is grounds for cancellation, so call 243-5179 before heading up there, and score directions at

As starry night turns to glorious day, we’re called upon to serve the land that serves us as Sat., Sept. 27, sees folks all across the nation take part in National Public Lands Day. At least two options are spread out before you: At 9 AM, posse up at the Rattlesnake trailhead, where the Sierra Club sponsors a day of brush and timber clearing, fence removal and weed pulling in the Sawmill Gulch area, with lunch tossed in as a thank you from the earth. Call 549-1142 for that one. Or, meet up at 9:45 AM at McCormick Park, where Missoula Parks & Rec runs a shuttle to their project of the day at the Tower Street Conservation Area. Trail building, riverbank restoration, noxious weed and litter removal are on the docket, as is a celebratory barbecue, so learn more when you call 552-6271. 

Those same Rocky Mountaineers have a sweet little cabin on the inclines of the Bitterroots’ Little St. Joseph Peak, and on Sat., Sept. 27, you and yours are invited to check it out, prep it with firewood for winter and then party back at the trailhead. The meeting spot’s the K-Mart parking lot at 10 AM, but give Joshua a call at 543-0898 first.

And if you’re feeling less like working and more like hiking, another TRM cell plans to ascend Swan Peak (9,289 feet) on Sun., Sept. 28, though they’re reserving the right to make it into a two-day trip starting on Sat., so give Lewis a call and get the full update at 529-6943.

Do your part for nature whilst indulging your sugar jones as the Ninemile Wildlife Workgroup hosts a Cake Tasting and Auction at 6:30 PM on Thu., Oct. 2, at the Historic Ninemile Ranger Station. Finally, our societal addiction can be of some benefit. Call 626-4592.

And lastly, UM’s Urey Lecture Hall bookends the week nicely as they host the Reel Rock Film Tour: The Sharp End on Thu., Oct. 2, at 7 PM, wherein you’ll feel your stomach tighten to the exploits of a gang of daring climbers. Call 243-5172.

Now everybody come up with an outdoor activity for next week’s column, and send it to me here:

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