Mountain High 

Riding over the swollen Clark Fork River this morning on the California Street Pedestrian Bridge—which one graffitist, and I tend to agree, recommends the city rename Salcido Bridge—I was halted by the river’s display of power beneath me.

This is what it’s like when the Mississippi floods, or when the levees protecting your city break down: An infinitely steady and relentlessly grinding wash of silt and stump- laden water gently eroding ground, structures and lives.

The camps, fire rings and blue tarps of what I’ve come to know as “Island Park” are all submerged beneath the brown flow that seems to grow with each hour.

The award for most drastic, if admittedly necessary, response goes to the removal of pedestrian bridges in Greenough Park. Fearing another high water event like the one that scoured a second channel for Rattlesnake Creek in 1997, city crews acted in our best interest and removed the bridges.

And as a gentle rain now begins to fall, we can only wonder what comes next.

Well, I’ll tell you what comes next. The plants get really, really happy. And as the Montana Weed Control Association reminds us, we mustn’t consider all plants our friends, pretty though they might be. The group’s latest campaign, dubbed “Zero Spread,” is aimed at halting the progress of three weeds in particular: Eurasian watermilfoil, purple loosestrife and ox-eye daisy.

Like the familiar knapweed pictured at right—which a North Dakota State University study claims causes us a $42 million economic loss per year—these little buggers are up to no good, and there are simple steps you can take when recreating to keep from assisting the enemy: Learn to identify and eliminate weeds from your property. Stick to established roads, as weeds love disturbed areas. Clean your cars, boats, clothing, dogs and gear once you leave an infested zone. And learn more when you visit mtweed.org.

Along with the season’s rushing rapids comes the desire to boat through said muddy waters, and who will stand between rafters and the chilling clutches of death’s hands but graduates of the Whitewater Rescue Technician Course that begins Fri., May 23? A deep pool of knowledge awaits, as does the chance to save some real lives, so give Montana River Guides a call at 777-4837 or visit montanariverguides.com.

Seek higher ground, both physically and spiritually, when you instead honor a sacred animal at the National Bison Range Centennial Celebration on Fri., May 23. There’s something for the early birds (the scenic drive opens at 7 AM); for the philatelists (a postal cancellation station with commemorative caches); for the young (a bison skeleton to reassemble); and for the culturally curious (the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes present history from the People’s Center). Speakers and special guests round it all out in the afternoon, and it’s all free. Call 644-2211 ext. 207.

The Rocky Mountaineers invite you to seek really high ground as they lead a trip to Mount Rainier in the Washington Cascade Mountains on Fri., May 23. The four-day journey, already full with four climbers, is looking to expand with the addition of another leader. If that’s you, give Forest a call at 240-7612 and get ready to appease the gods of both glacier climbing and oil drilling.

Bring it back down to stream level at Kesel’s Fly Shop, 1522 S. Reserve St., where you can load up on all the supplies necessary to slay a few while you visit with Trout Conservancy’s John Zelazny on Sat., May 24 from 9:30 AM–4 PM. As part of the Missoula “Fly Shop Tour,” he’ll be educating anglers on habitat restoration and other ichthyologic issues, as well as offering tickets to the group’s June 21 benefit event, while the shop holds a special sale to sponsor the group. Call 542-7445.

Remember Aquasocks? They might come in handy during the first of five monthly races in the Five Valleys Challenge Series, which begins with the Playfair Park 5K Fun Run/Walk at 9:30 AM on Sat., May 24. The late registration deadline—no shirt for you—has passed, but nobody turns away a tear-stained jogger, do they? Call 721-PARK.

Keep it wet when the 32nd annual Bigfork Whitewater Festival begins at 11 AM on Sat., May 24. To see 200 paddlers risk their lives on the Class V “Wild Mile,” as well as enjoy a full weekend of arts, activities, food and drink, this is the event for you. Call 837-5888.

As if we didn’t have enough water on our brains, Missoula Parks & Recreation proudly opens up another venue for the too-dry among us. On Mon., May 26, Splash Montana hosts the grand opening of The Lake 50-meter pool at 1 PM. Ice cream, water volleyball and inner tube water polo are the activities du jour. Call 721-PARK.

And looking forward to the day we’ll wish we still had all this water around, we’re reminded that wildfires mean wildfire fighters. It might not count as recreation, but fighting fire this summer will boost your funding levels for all manner of fun times once the ground quits smoking. A Basic Firefighter Class and Pack Test is offered beginning Thu., May 29 in the Darby Fire Hall. For the specifics, visit bitterrootwildfire.com or call 523-7887.

And above all, before you do any of this stuff, take a moment to sit by your nearest waterway and gaze in wide-eyed wonder.



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