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Mountain High


As I write, water falls from the sky, no doubt helping my compost scene along nicely, and possibly translating into a few inches of snow in some of the region’s higher places.

Vagabond moisture often has nowhere to go but down, which leads it into our state’s lakes and rivers. The empathetic among us feel the inexorable need to visit the water, to remind it of its connection to the natural world and to the rest of us. As John Muir said to some water once, “when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

There are entities and individuals bent on restricting our abilities as Montanans to comfort errant water across the state. Fortunately, there is a vocal and active contingent bent upon defending water’s rights to visitation.

Such supporters of stream access will happily note that Trout Unlimited (TU) has backed off from its controversial proposal to pull the national conservation group out of the stream access debate. As the Indy reported last week, TU set off a firestorm of criticism from Montanans who said the issue of access is central to the group’s mission.

Following the strong response, Bob Teufel, acting chairman of TU’s board of trustees, replaced the divisive proposal with one that simply calls for a group of TU leaders to study the stream access issue and bring recommendations to the trustees’ September meeting for how TU should handle it in the future.

Whew. Glad that issue is settled once and for all.

Pedallers in perpetuity Missoulians on Bicycles have yet to weigh in on stream access issues—it seems they’re mainly about riding their bikes, which they plan to do again on Sat., March 31. The 55-mile Frank Winkler Memorial Ride to Ninemile is your chance to eat a big steak in the middle of a long bike ride. Meet at the Perkins parking lot at the corner of Reserve Street and Mullan Road. Call John at 543-3230

The New Rocky Mountaineers are sidestepping the stream access debate as well, perhaps waiting for a front-runner to emerge before they throw in their chips. In the meantime, join them for a jaunt up Trapper Peak on Sat., March 31, which involves about 5,000 feet of elevation gain in eight miles and affords great vistas from atop the highest peak in the Bitterroots. You’ll want your skis/snowshoes ready when you call Gerald at 549-4769.

Moving far away and across the Continental Divide, our recreation-oriented eye lands on Bridger Bowl, whose Pro Patrol Dirtbag Ball kicks off at 7:30 PM on Sat., March 31. Denver’s Toughcats and Eighttracks will have you reeling like a true dirtbag, so dress like you don’t control way more resources than about 95 percent of the planet and head over to the Bozeman Eagles Lodge, 316 E. Main St. Call 587-2111. 

Exercise limitations be damned: Missoulians on Bicycles are back with another of their hard exercise/heavy eating rituals. The 23rd Annual Potomac Awful Burger Ride begins on Sun., April 1, at 10 AM from the Eastgate shopping center parking lot. Ride 25 miles, eat the hallowed “awful burger,” then do the 25 miles again. Good luck, you have my blessings. Call Paul at 240-0056. 

In case all this talk of free-flowing water hasn’t brought you to the realization that the ski season is basically over, allow these next five events to make it clear for you.

On Sun., April 1, Blacktail Mountain does its best to appeal to last-minute donors with Foolin For Funds, a day of relay races, a slopestyle terrain park competition, a raffle, live music and barbecue in order to raise money for their Volunteer Ski Patrol. Give them a hand—the life you save may be your own.

A bit closer to Missoula, Snowbowl offers skiers one last day to hit the slopes on Sun., April 1, the same day they hold Spring Splash ’07, a pond-skimming contest that features live bands and free barbecue for those of you brave enough to ski on the final, slushy day.

Speaking of slush, Lookout Pass holds the April Fool’s Slush Cup on Sun., April 1. Details are sketchy, so divine some sense of meaning at (208) 744-1301.

Big Mountain rings in the end of the year on Sun., April 1, with the Hellroaring Saloon Ski Golf Classic, a two-part event that includes a giant slalom course and whacking balls at the Big Mountain Club Golf Course. The fun begins at 9 AM, so get your team of four all ready and registered, and if you have questions, call 862-2911.

Also at Big Mountain that same day, the Rites of Spring Party at noon in the Summit House should clear up any lingering seasonal confusion issues.

Always the optimists, Moonlight Basin has a self-guided Full Moon Snowshoe route marked with tiki torches and ready for you on Mon., April 2. Get to the Madison Base area guest services building by 7 PM, and call 993-6065 for more info.

That does it for now. Please send the Comrade your stream access issues and word of outdoor events.

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