Mountain High 

The story arc of the summer is still on the uphill side, as evidenced by the sunflowers growing in the Comrade’s front yard. When fully mature, the goal is for the green beasts to shade the south-facing windows and provide some relief from the blistering late summer heat. As of last week, the tallest one measured 5 feet 8 inches, which puts it only about three feet from the roof line. The days of phloem-induced shade are nearly upon the Calendar household.

Now, this isn’t a gardening column, so allow me to complete the analogy. Just as the sunflowers began from wee seeds, so did our season of warmth and near-naked frolicking. Here we are, approaching mid-July, reaching the peak of the season’s growth and facing a potentially scorching plateau and then our descent into the chills. Yet, like the sunflowers, we’ve got to keep surging upward—hell, a meteor could collide with the Earth before you even finish this sentence—and enjoying all the madness offered by the outdoor organizers among us.

For starters, it’s critical to know where you are in order to decide where you need to be going, and nobody understands this like Ryan Newhouse. When he presents a GPS 101 Clinic at 7 PM on Thu., July 10, at REI-Missoula, you’ll get all the basics covered and may then feel equipped to head off into the wilderness unaided. Just don’t forget your cell phone so you can call the Search and Rescue helicopter. Oh, and the class is free. Call 829-0423.

Now that you’re skilled with computerized hiking assistants, toss the maps out the window and hitch yourself to the Rocky Mountaineers. The indomitable tribe has planned an overnight journey to Grey Wolf Peak (9,001 ft.) in the Mission Mountains on Fri., July 11. Glommers-on should be both in good shape and familiar with high fourth class/low fifth class climbing, which makes the whole thing sound like a Dungeons & Dragons outing. But I’d guess it’s not. Call Lewis at 529-6943 to be sure. 

Those of you more into watersports will want to hustle yourself and the kids down to Splash Montana instead, and I’ll tell you why. The man widely considered the fastest (human) swimmer of all time, nine-time Olympic gold-medalist Mark Spitz, takes a spin or two around the lazy river at 4 PM on Fri., July 11. Actually, he’ll be there to inspire young kids to keep on paddlin’, and to encourage the rest of us not to boycott the Beijing Olympics. Call 721-PARK.

As it is with my sunflowers, this is the time of the year for you to reach for the skies, and two events this weekend offer the opportunity for you to severely overextend yourself. The first begins at 7:30 AM on Sat., July 12, when the Glacier Challenge Multi-sport Relay Race begins in Whitefish’s Riverside Park. If you’ve got what it takes to contend in this run/kayak/road bike/mountain bike/canoe/run fiasco, by all means, go for it. Us normal humans will be there to cheer you on. More info’s available at youthhomes.com/glacier_challenge.

The term “wet exits” makes me cringe a little, but not so the good instructors of Paddle MT, who present you with four hours of practice on all the tricks of the trade with the class Sea Kayak Fundamentals at 10 AM on Sat., July 12. The class takes place on Salmon Lake, so don’t expect to just show up at the Canoe Rack and hop in the water. Reserve your spot by calling 251-0040.

Of course you’re aware that the Great Burn Study Group is back at it this summer, but did you know that they want you to volunteer to work with them? Yes, the examiners of public lands offer an overnight trip to Idaho’s Pollock Ridge beginning Sat., July 12. Monitor weeds. trail conditions and more, and meet some of the greatest people on the planet in the bargain. Call 240-9901 or e-mail thegreatburn@yahoo.com.

Rise and shine, it’s time to run 26.2 miles: The Missoula Marathon takes off from Frenchtown at 6 AM on Sun., July 13, with runners crossing the finish line near Caras Park, where the big after-party takes place. Sign up to run, or just stretch in solidarity, when you call 626-4055 or visit missoulamarathon.com. 

Finally, we here in the West owe a nod of thanks to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who formed the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as part of the New Deal in 1933. The CCC employed millions of aimless young people—similar to the ones blowing through town from Wyoming right about now—to restore the nation’s trashed public lands. On Wed., July 16, you can attend a Lunch and Learn session at noon at the Bitterroot National Forest (BNF) Supervisor’s Office, 1801 N. First St. in Hamilton, where more background on the CCC comes right atcha. And the BNF’s got more CCC follies up its sleeve, so stay tuned, dear readers.  

And until next my ink graces your eyes, I wish for you nothing but flowers.
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