Mountain High 

It’s a holiday weekend, which means there’s bound to be a whole bunch of people rambling around the backcountry, scooting through rocky whitewater and lazing along the flat stretches of river as well. Not too many of those people decided to write in and tell me about what their plans were, though, which means you’re pretty much on your own this weekend.

There are a couple of exceptions courtesy of UM Campus Rec, which has two excursions planned for your outdoor enjoyment. The first is Sunday, Sept. 4, when Campus Rec leads a trip through the Class III whitewater of the Alberton Gorge. They ask that you register by Friday, Sept. 2, for the trip, which includes equipment, guides, lunch and protection from pirates. And, if you’ve got a little more time this Labor Day weekend, Campus Rec is also sponsoring a 22-mile Bass Creek to Kootenai Creek backpack trip from Friday, Sept. 2, to Sunday, Sept. 4, which will take you through some stellar canyons alongside some pretty sweet alpine lakes. Call 243-5172 to register for either.

Out in the woods, there’s really no substitute for good old-fashioned orienteering, but there’s also a big ring of satellites in the sky that you might look to for guidance if you find yourself up a creek without a paddle. To do that, you’re going to need a GPS unit and a little know-how. You can pick up the requisite skills at REI’s free “GPS 101” clinic at 7 PM on Wednesday, Sept. 7, at their 2230 N. Reserve St. co-op location. And, if you’re a little more proficient but still interested, keep an eye out for “GPS 201,” which is coming up Saturday, Sept. 10. Call 829-0432 to get info on either session.

So what are you going to do out there in the woods? Well, Saturday, Sept. 3, is the start of elk and deer season for bowhunters, so that’s an option if you’ve been preparing during the past couple of months. If not, be conscientious about sharing the woods and even prepared to offer a hand hauling out a harvested animal if you’re feeling charitable (or just trying to score some free freezer-filler).

The beginning of hunting season is also a time to remember that most hunters and anglers believe they have a solid stake in the health and integrity of wildlife and wild lands. If you’re one of those outdoorsmen, check out the Hellgate Hunters and Anglers meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 7, at 7 PM in the Large Meeting Room of the Missoula Public Library. HHA is an affiliate of the Montana Wildlife Federation, with a mission to coordinate efforts among outdoorsmen interested in preserving Montana’s hunting and angling habitat. Call 721-4441 for more info.

If you can’t bring yourself to get off the water for even a weekend, it’s probably not a bad idea to visit Silver Moon Kayak, where they’re planning to clear out a whole slew of paddling equipment between Thursday, Sept. 1, and Saturday, Sept. 3. That means you can head to their location at 1215 N. Somers Road in Kalispell and demo a boat or two for nothing. Call 752-3794 to get the skinny.

The folks at the Forest Service have something they want you to know and I, their humble messenger, think you should know it, too. To wit, Southwest Montana, including all of the Lolo National Forest, is still under Stage II Fire Restrictions. That means no fires, no smoking and no off-roading in these parts; it also means there are closures around areas that are burning. Northwest Montana and nearby areas in Northern Idaho are under Stage I or no restrictions at all, so you can go spark up (carefully) somewhere around there with no trouble from Smokey. Check out www.fs.fed.us/r1/fire/nrcg/restrictions_index.htm to get the full story.

Speaking of public lands, this bit of info comes from my predecessor, Chad Harder, who’s been out tromping around the hinterlands probably more than any of us could even hope to. Seems there’s a bill that’s been proposed by Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson to create three separate wilderness areas covering about 300,000 acres of land managed by the Sawtooth and Salmon-Challis national forests, stretching from about 40 miles north of Ketchum to the Salmon River.

It’s some truly stupendous country and vitally important habitat for cold water fish like trout and salmon, as well as a whole slew of their charismatic megafauna compatriots such as bear, wolves and eagles. The area’s future is in flux as roadless areas across the country are reevaluated by the Bush administration; a Congressionally designated wilderness would place the area outside of that process entirely. Trout Unlimited is one of the groups working on the wilderness bill; check out www.tu.org for more information.

That takes care of another week of outdoor happenings. We had to go a little heavy on the policy issues this week, but that’s okay by me. It would also be okay if this column stayed chock full of unalloyed fun. To do that, I need your help, so send the info.

calendar@missoulanews.com

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