Montana has a reputation for a peculiar winter-in-the-summer, summer-in-the-winter calendar, with June ice storms and 80+ degree days in October. Still, our seasons tend to be visually distinct, with a veritable color wheel marking the cycle of life, death and renewal every year. For instance, winter’s white covers the year’s events in a chill that blankets the year’s successes and failures, quietly preparing the land for a growth-filled spring.
And spring brings the refreshing green, drawing Missoulians out of their winter doldrums and signaling a bright, warm lifting of the heavy, winter-long inversion. In summer, it’s the blue, scorching sky that dries it all out so the late-summer burns can clog our views, and our lungs.
Now, in autumn, it’s the yellows, reds and oranges that indicate a coming end, a wrapping-up of the annual cycle. But the oranges of in-town maples and high, alpine larch aren’t the only oranges of the season, for beginning Oct. 26, hordes of deer and elk hunters will don their florescents and camo for the opening day of “Deer and Elk General Season.” And, if all goes well for the hunters and poorly for the deer, the willows, hillsides and other places of cover will soon be flowing blood red.
Other hunting seasons (like those for waterfowl, antelope, and archery) have long been underway, but the bulk of the state’s hunters are looking to shoot deer with rifles, and the vast majority will begin their quest Sunday. Obviously, late-season hikers already know this, and have already outfitted themselves in colors other than “doe brown,” or “antelope tan.” The $8 investment in a safety-orange hat or vest for you and your dog(s) is money well-spent.
Some of the best hunting can be found along the trails less traveled. The largest of these roadless areas in the lower 48 is formed by the conjoined Selway/Bitterroot Wilderness and the Frank Church/River of No Return Wilderness. Last week, the USFS released a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Frank Church, and is accepting comments on its plan up through Oct. 27. There are five “alternatives” from which the agency will choose to govern the vast body of wild, and some of the alternatives significantly increase the ability of pilots to land their birds in meadows, increase the number of jetboats plying the Main Salmon River, and continue to allow ATVs to rip up and down primitive roads within the Wilderness boundaries. If the future of this wild land is important to you, send your comments to: Wilderness Coordinator Ken Wotring (firstname.lastname@example.org) before Oct. 27.
Sunday, Oct. 26, marks what’s being billed as one of “Missoula’s most challenging and most fun races,” the super-scramble up Missoula’s most popular mountain that is the Mount Sentinel Hill Climb. Contestants run, hike and crawl the 1.75 miles of switch-backed trails to “The M,” and then rally straight up the deceptive steep all the way to the top. $15 gets you a sporting T-shirt, post-race snacks and an unparalleled view of Missoula’s gold-kissed valley. There’s also a “Dash to the M” fun run for folks not needing to stand on top. Proceeds benefit Missoula’s youth soccer programs, so register early at www.missoulastrikers.com, or at 11:30 a.m. in the trailhead parking lot. Get the lowdown from Layne at 549-2636.
On Saturday, Oct. 26, you can join the Rocky Mountaineers for a pleasant loop through the Rattlesnake Recreation Area. The trip will traverse an area free of hunters on mellow trails en route to the Walman Trail. Although there’s only one “L” in Walman, the route is aptly named, for the hike up, up, up and over Strawberry Ridge more closely resembles a wall than, say, a trail. Still, the loop will take hikers through some beautiful fall colors and a variety of vegetation, and the whole thing shouldn’t take more than half a day. Call Fred Schwanemann (542-7372) to get in this loop.
No one ever leaves a Griz tailgate party hungry, with dozens of grills, kegs and coolers fattening the fans and making sure that everyone’s got their buzz on before kickoff. But if buzzing by 11 a.m. leaves you unlikely to get aerobic later, consider the Game Day Turkey Trot on Oct. 25. You have two choices, a 5K and a miler, neither of which should adversely affect your ability to tie one on for the Griz. The race even starts at 9 a.m., leaving plenty of time to rehydrate on clear beer as campus-wide pre-game gorging begins. Register at 8 a.m. at the Kim Williams Trailhead—just bring $12 for some friendly competition and another T-shirt to add to your drawer. Call the UM Fitness and Rec Center (243-2802) to get it on.
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