I’ve got something against watering the lawn, and the unbroken stretch of golden ground in front of my house is witness to that fact. Not everyone on my street feels that way, though, and their lush green carpets of Kentucky bluegrass might fool you into thinking it’s not bone-dry out in the wildlands.
Don’t be deceived. Southwest Montana goes under Stage 2 fire restrictions at midnight the morning of Friday, Aug. 5. The restrictions mean that there ought to be no campfires, no smoking outside enclosures and no driving off-road anywhere. According to the Forest Service, Stage 2 fire restrictions apply to any lands outside city limits, regardless of ownership, and will “remain in effect until there is a significant long-term change in fire danger.” So keep it cool, Smokey.
Of course, fires will start and—for love of fellow man or money or just thrills—some people rush headlong toward the flames. If you’re looking to sign on to fight fire this season, you might need Blackbull Wildfire Services’ eight-hour course called “Standards for Survival,” which qualifies as a required refresher course for wildfire combatants. The course, which will be held Aug. 5 at 8 AM at Ruby’s on N. Reserve Street, requires pre-registration. Call 543-0013.
But for my money, the best way to deal with the heat is to head for water and not fire. I’m pretty fond of Rattlesnake Creek swimming holes (who needs the aquatics project anyway?) for late-afternoon cool-downs. But there are plenty of other water spots for water sports or just lounging. If you’re planning a big excursion or just a small cleanup, be sure to let us know. Right now, I hear mostly from the mountain goats, but I know the otters are out there.
And what are the billies and nannies up to? Well, the Sierra Club sponsors an Aug. 6 Stony Mountain/North Sapphires excursion that starts at Sawmill Saddle and heads south along the Sapphire Crest to Eagle Point before ending at Gold Creek Trailhead. The 10-mile trip will encounter plenty of elevation change on the ridge-top trail, as well as a few spectacular views. Call 549-1142 for more info.
A milder excursion is also available Aug. 6 when the Lolo National Forest invites you to hike with the Lolo Trail Ranger along a one-mile section of trail where the Lewis & Clark Expedition entered Packer Meadows on their way through the Bitterroot Mountains. Meet at 2 PM Mountain Time (1 PM Pacific) at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center, 33 miles west of Lolo on Hwy. 12.
If you wish you had better technical skills than you do, Missoula Parks & Rec sponsors an intermediate rock climbing class Aug. 6 so you can learn how to get yourself and your friends a little higher a little quicker, or at least a little safer. The $42 class will cover building anchors, setting up basic top rope systems and selecting climbing routes. Call 721-PARK.
If you have a little more time available for your outdoor action, think about joining the Bob Marshall Foundation restoration at Spruce Park Cabin in the Great Bear Wilderness on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River Aug. 6–13. Call 863-5411 to get more info.
Feel like sporting a ‘tude with your sporting? The Cedar Rapids Existentialist Cup Classic Aug. 7 has plenty of attitude; in fact, that seems to be what the 4.2-mile trail race in Anaconda is all about, judging by the looks of the website (www.websaylor.com/creccb0002.html). Sounds like fun.
And nothing’s more fun than learning. Toward that end, The Glacier Institute sponsors a whole bunch of classes in the park whence the institute gets its name. “Fire in the Forest” on Aug. 4 explores the changes to ecosystems wrought by fire; “Flora of Glacier National Park” Aug. 5–7 promises to demystify plant identification; the “Art and Science of Fly-Fishing” on Aug. 5 & 6 will teach the finer points of fly-fishing, with probably a few swats at bait junkers thrown in; “Brain Tanning Hides and Porcupine Quill Work Art” Aug. 6 & 7 sprinkles porcupine quill art into the interstices in the tanning process; On Aug. 11 & 12, you can learn the “Archaeology of Glacier National Park” with Brian Reeves, Ph.D.—if you have the lungs and legs for the strenuous tour through Many Glacier Valley up to Peigan Pass. Whew. Try to fit some relaxing in while you’re up there.
One final note: road construction is just what we do here in the summertime, and Montana’s most famous thoroughfare, Glacier’s Going-to-the-Sun Road, is no exception. From Aug. 8 through 12, the mountain highway is being subjected to a 10.8-mile chip, seal and stripe adventure, so if you’re headed to Glacier, plan accordingly.
Of course, this time of year, fire-related trail and road closures are always a possibility, so be sure to call ahead when you head out into the woods. And, for the love of all that is natural, keep me posted.