Mountain High 

It won’t be as catastrophic as the elimination of the ice dam responsible for creating Glacial Lake Missoula 15,000 years ago, but the seemingly imminent removal of Milltown Dam should be no less groundbreaking. And with all signs pointing to Western Montana’s most infamous toxic trap going the way of the mastodon, it’s time to hit the river and party!

So join the fine folks at the Clark Fork Coalition (CFC), The Trailhead, Kesel’s Four Rivers, KBGA and Organic Valley for the second annual “Milltown to Downtown Float” on July 19.

Putting in just below the dam at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday will be inner-tubers, canoeists, kayakers, swimmers, dogs and many, many beers drifting down the Clark Fork from Milltown to Missoula to support the removal of both dam and sediment.

Don’t have a boat? No problem, just ring the CFC (542-0539) and they’ll set you up with a sturdy vessel.

Don’t have a ride? No problem, meet at the Doubletree Hotel at 2 p.m. for a free shuttle. Don’t like to float? Again, no problem. Just show up for a post-float party at Caras Park at 5 p.m., featuring the homegrown honky-tonk sounds of Cash for Junkers and vittles cooked up by Knuckleheads BBQ, the Hob Nob Café and Tipu’s Tiger, as well as primo local brews by Bayern Brewery. Be there, or be a mastodon.

On the national park front, Yellowstone recently lost its “in danger” designation by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. But as with any area that’s larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined, there’s always a whole lot more going on than meets the eye.

For example, when National Park Service (NPS) rangers assisted in slaughtering 231 Yellowstone bison last March, they chose to not even test them for brucellosis, the stated reason for the now-annual massacre. The oversight caused Sen. Nick Rahall (D-WV) to take notice—and action. Rahall’s new amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill would stop the flow of NPS funds—aka “tax dollars”—from being used to kill wild buffalo for a single year.

While this battle is far from over, it’s encouraging to know that someone, even if it’s not our own Montana delegation, is keeping track of how tax dollars are being used to butcher buffalo. The bill is scheduled for a vote this week, and we’ll keep you informed as it develops.

Of course, folks have been looking to capitalize upon Yellowstone’s pristine and diverse resources since before it was designated America’s first national park, but there may be no greater example than oil-burning, silence-breaching and park-damaging snowmobiles.

On one side of the ongoing debate is the snowmobile industry, asserting a public right to continue the “traditional” activity of straddling machines and buzzing through the quietly wintering park. On the other side are conservationists and XC-skiers who think that off-road vehicles should rev it up elsewhere.

While Yellowstone announced last week that it will require reservations for 80 percent of snowmobiles entering the park, another national park’s policy of “no off road vehicles; period” was supported by District Judge Donald Molloy last week. Glacier National Park’s ability to meet its federal mandate to “conserve the scenery and natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein…by such means as will leave them unimpaired for future generations” shows just how tragic the situation in Yellowstone has become.

Closer to home, climbers heading up Kootenai Canyon will soon have a maintained toilet at the trailhead, according to officials with the Bitterroot National Forest. The construction will take two to four weeks and will improve the accessibility of horse facilities, too. The access road, however, will retain its traditional and historic washboard texture for future generations to experience.

Runners who sign up for July 19’s “Sundae Run” will get a great run starting in Greenough Park, a dandy T-shirt and a DQ sundae—all for only $13. Call Dalene Normand (626-4012) to line up for this morning race.

The New Rocky Mountaineers (NRM) will ascend the 1,000’ ribbon of exquisite snow and ice filling the north couloir of Warren Peak in the Anaconda/Pintler Wilderness on Saturday, July 19. Warm up with a five-mile on-trail trot, then blast up through the high alpine with Gerald Olbu (549-4769) to this prime Pintler pinnacle.

Or if you’ve got a free week and are looking for a challenge, join NRM-er Russ Lamson (728-7174) for a six-day hump across the Missions for the off-trail adventure of a lifetime. Count on lengthy granite scramblings, steep snow glissading and burly creek crossings to satiate all your mountain needs.

Meanwhile, the Rocky Mountaineers will go left, then right, then left, then right as they switchback up the brand-spankin’ new (and fat tire-friendly!) trail from Grant Creek to the Snowbowl Lookout in the Rattlesnake Recreation Area. Fred Schwanemann (542-7372) will lead the way, and if enough folks show up they’ll make it a shuttled, one-way affair.

Send your outdoor rec schedule to: photo@missoulanews.com

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