The signs of spring are numerous and varied (despite the snow), but perhaps the most dramatic of them is the steady mountain snow melt that turns our rivers into seasonal, raging torrents. As with the rest of the vernal harbingers, the snowpack runoff is cause for celebration, and nobody rings in the river year like Missoula’s Lewis & Clark Trail Adventures, which hosts the 11th Annual Runoff Rendezvous at the Lochsa Lodge on Saturday, May 11.
“It used to be a party for hard-core river rats,” says LCTA’s Wayne Fairchild of the event, which in the past had been coupled with a world-class whitewater rodeo. When liability issues over the narrow U.S. Highway 12 that shadows the Lochsa became too burdensome, LCTA dropped the competition—but kept the party. “Now it’s a celebration for all river enthusiasts,” Fairchild says.
This year’s Rendezvous offers a bonus: the opportunity to check out the nearly-completed main lodge building (the grand opening is scheduled for Memorial Day), built on the site of the historic, 75-year-old lodge that burned down in February of 2001. Although the cozy feel of the old place will be hard to duplicate, the new digs are stunning, with massive peeled-log architecture, carved interior arches and a window-lined riverside face.
The party is an all-day affair featuring grilled grub, plenty of keg beer—the water of the Lochsa won’t be the only fluid flowing fast and loose—and beginning around 8 p.m., the musical stylings of Hog Wild, a band headed by longtime Missoula musicians Pat McKay and Charlie Hopkins.
And, for an entirely different kind of fun…They call it the Bataan Memorial Death March—a competitive 26-mile march across 26 miles of “hilly terrain, sandy trails and dry gullies” in the desert surrounding the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. ROTC students of the UM Grizzly Battalion participated in the march last month, held to recognize the sacrifices of U.S. and Filipino service members on the 60th anniversary of their march into captivity in the Philippines. The Grizzly Battalion, carrying 35-pound rucksacks, came in fourth place out of 15 participating university ROTC groups by completing the course in seven hours and 56 minutes.
Hmm. Twenty-six miles represents a little more than a third of the 75-mile route taken by some 70,000 American and Filipino prisoners after the surrender of Philippine forces to the Japanese in April, 1942. More than 60 of these miles had to be covered on foot, in sweltering jungle heat and with practically no food and water, with one transfer generally completed in tightly-packed, over-hot railroad cars.
For the healthy soldier, the march to the temporary holding facility at Camp O’Donnell took about a week. But because so many of the 70,000 prisoners suffered from malnutrition and disease, and were in varying states of mobility, and because the Japanese had severely miscalculated the number of prisoners, the forced march devolved into a three-week atrocity that killed some 750 American prisoners and as many as 5,000 Filipinos.
So the intentions of the White Sands march sound very honorable, but “Bataan Memorial Death March?” Come on. Better to skip the “death” part and stick with “Bataan Memorial March” instead.