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Mountain High


If you notice a distinct absence of Maypoles around town, you’ve got the Puritans to thank.

The Maypole served as the focal point of a spring celebration for centuries in Europe, and by the Middle Ages, every little English village had their own. In London and other larger cities, the pole remained erect throughout the year, while in smaller municipalities there was an annual competition to see who could produce the greatest pole for the party.

While British Puritans managed to halt the observances for a few years around 1644, popular dedication to the pole and all it stood for eventually led to the pole’s rise once again.

In America, we weren’t so lucky. The Puritan bottleneck effectively halted the celebration of spring’s stout poles, which brings me to my point: It’s time to rediscover the simple joys of the Maypole.

You needn’t fell a sylvan superstar to be a good neo-Pagan, as any ol’ pole will do. Set it up in the yard, tie long ribbons to the top and get your festive dancers. I’ve heard tales of Maypole dances in the buff, which brings it all back to the event’s implied themes of fertility and rebirth, but rest assured that even if you’re fully clothed around the pole, you’re doing it right.

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Speaking of running around in the nude, the 55 members of our resident Mount Jumbo Elk herd have been having a tough time saying goodbye this year, what with the heavy and persistent snow pack and all. Thus, wildlife managers have decided the Mount Jumbo North Zone Elk Closure will be extended through Sat., May 10. The closure may extend beyond that date, but hopefully further melting will accommodate a timely departure. Stay tuned.

And while we’re on the topic of consideration for wildlife, we turn the all-seeing Mountain High eyeball toward the Great Bear Foundation, which hosts the 2008 Bear Honoring from May 2–4 in and around the Missoula area. It begins with a Wild Bear Foods Buffet on Fri., May 2, at 5:30 PM in the Greenough Park Pavilion, after which Kootenai cultural preservationist Vernon Finley recounts his tribe’s relationship with their ursine neighbors. On Sat., May 3, the event travels north to Salish-Kootenai College, the Kicking Horse Job Corps Powwow and on to a talk by Dr. Chuck Jonkel in Whitefish. And on Sun., May 4, the group gathered at the Great Bear office in Missoula will travel to Glacier Park for a final day visiting with real live bears. Call 829-9378 or visit

Alternately, you could spend the weekend honoring your body by taking on these offerings from some of the more usual suspects:

On Sat., May 3, Missoulians on Bicycles (MOB) leave on the first of three trips they have scheduled for the weekend, and this one’s the longest: The 23rd annual two-day Georgetown Lake Loop Ride requires a deposit of $10 by April 22, which means you’re probably s.o.l., but maybe your fancy talking can sway their hearts when you call 549-2226.

And if you missed that boat, drown your sorrows in another MOB ride that same day, Sat., May 3. The sixth annual Sula to Wisdom Ride meets at 7:30 AM at K-Mart—or at 9 at the Sula Store—before taking off on an ambitious flight plan. Bring fluids, snacks and warm clothing, and call Paul at 240-0056.

If two-wheeled motion ain’t your gig, or if you feel more like getting high, then the Rocky Mountaineers have got just the adventure for you. Their May Classic Series Trip is a two-day summit attempt upon the Bitterroot’s El Capitan beginning at Big Lots at 9 AM on Sat., May 3. The snowy couloirs and steep pitches are great practice for that trip to Everest you’ve been meaning to plan. Call Joshua at 543-0898.

It’s river-running season for crazy people, with the melt water really starting to swell the rivers with deadly cold fluid. I’ll be on the beach with my book, but by all means, float ‘till you can’t float no more—not literally, please—and then swing by Idaho’s Lochsa Lodge for the annual Lochsa Whitewater Rendezvous on Sat., May 3. Details at press time are sketchy, but the event usually involves lots of tired rafters, food, libations and a big bonfire, and this year we hear the Mike Bader Band is playing at 9 PM. Set up a raft trip when you call Lewis & Clark Trail Adventures at 728-7609, or call the Lochsa Lodge at (208) 942-3405.

Biking certainly seems to be in your future, as the MOB takes a spoky roll to the Painted Rocks Reservoir on Sun., May 4. Meet at 7 AM at the K-Mart, or at Hamilton’s Coffee Cup at 8. There are 87- and 50-mile options, so get the straight dope from Paul at 728-8722.

And finally, it’s biking season again for the magnificent Montana Dirt Girls, that headstrong bevy of year-round adventuresses. On Tue., May 6, meet the Dirt Girls at 6 PM at the Lincoln Hills trailhead for a mountain bike ride on Mount Jumbo, with the possibility of a spin down the Sidewinder trail. Visit

Okay, now head back to your corners and I want a nice, clean fight. Ding!

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