Mountain High 

Hang on to your tuques, ladies and gentlemen, as the racehorses of springtime are frothing on the hoof, pawing the dusty confines of their starting boxes in anticipation of the moment the gates spring open.

Whether or not winter relaxes its chilly grip on our neck of the woods this week is beyond my powers of detection, but I can tell you this: The outdoor events planners of the region are moving ahead with a slate of dry land activities in the hopes that a warmer day will soon be upon us.

As it’s a fuller-than-full week, we begin with an invitation to shake off your steely steed’s dusty de-icer coating and roll on down to Missoula Bicycle Works, 708 S. Higgins Ave., for the third annual Spring Cycling Kick-off Party at 6 PM on Thu., April 3. In addition to valuable info from groups hosting regular rides and the venue for sharing common biker gripes—how much debris fits in a bike lane, anyway?—the lure of drinks and snacks could be the straw that breaks your Camelback.

The coming rush of adrenaline and melt water means there’s bound to be folks needing a hand on our aqueous thoroughfares: Register by Fri., April 4, for Montana River Guides’ Whitewater Rescue 3 Technician Course. If you’re thinking of making a living from a raft this summer, or just want to feed your trauma-junkie jones, call 243-5172.

The Rocky Mountaineers have an interesting pair of options for you to consider, both of which involve climbing and the Bitterroot Mountains. One is a three-day trip to Esplin Peak, the other is a one-day jaunt to a hill dubbed “Soda Springs S. Peak,” and both trips begin on Fri., April 4. Compare relative merits at rockymountaineers.com, then send your vote to seniday@yahoo.com or call 721-3790.

Sat., April 5, has something for everyone. Ingest some sage advice from Montana Walleye pro Dale Gilbert, who rides into town on a wave of slain ichthyoids to present two sessions for wrangling anglers. Check out the Walleye Fishing Clinic at 8 AM and the Lowrance, GPS and Mapping workshop at 5 PM at the Grant Creek Inn, each of which run $50. You need to register, either by phone—866-3304—or online at montanawalleye.com.

Two opportunities to run, walk or shuffle present themselves on Sat., April 5, as well. Beginning at 10 AM, the 16th annual Run for the Trees takes off from McCormick Park and winds around town in what’s become an anticipated yearly spectacle. You’re already too late to register, but you can still hand people water as they run by.

The deadline’s a bit less defined for the 5K Walk for Kids in Crisis, which takes place at 1 PM on Sat., April 5, so you may still have time to gather your pledges and hoof it on down to Fort Missoula. Raise a Benjamin and you get a free T-shirt. Call 327-7400.

Bring the activity down a notch when the Audubon Society offers a waterfowl-viewing trip to the effluent ponds of the Smurfit-Stone Container mill, also on Sat., April 5. You’ll meet at 8:30 AM at the UM Fieldhouse parking lot, or at 9 at the facility’s main gate. Call 549-5632.

Get high, but not too high, with the Rocky Mountaineers on Sat., April 5, when they ascend Charity Peak (6,559 feet) in the Evaro area. Sure, it’s a small peak by our standards, but just think of the respect it would demand back east! If you wanna go, give Steve a call at 721-4686.

Bike season never ends, it just gets cold for a while. Prove your dedication with Missoulians on Bicycles (MOB), who meet on Sat., April 5, at 9:30 AM at K-Mart—or 10:30 at Hamilton’s Coffee Cup Restaurant—for the 40-mile Skalkaho/Sleeping Child bike ride. Bring snacks and make room for lunch in Hamilton upon return. Call 543-3230.

Let cycles invade your dreams and awake on Sun., April 6, ready to do it all again with the MOB, who meet at 10 AM from the Perkins on Reserve St. for the Frank Winkler Memorial Ride to Ninemile, a 55-miler dedicated to a man who “always had a little prize for each rider.” Call 728-7994.

You’ll need a few days of rest after a weekend like that, but don’t allow progressive sloth to keep you from Pipestone Mountaineering at 7 PM on Wed., April 9, when the Rocky Mountaineers meeting boasts the program “Caves of the U.S.: 3-D.” Uncertain of the details, I leave the spelunking to you. Call 543-6508.

Once the snow finally clears, Montana will send up its floral emissaries—will you be ready? Get the inside scoop on positive identification from the Montana Native Plant Society, which hosts a slide show of Western Montana’s Forest Wildflowers at 7:30 PM on Thu., April 10 in Room L14 of UM’s Gallagher Business Building. 

Finally, set aside your fear of avian flu for a second and sign up for the Audubon Society’s Intermediate Birding Workshop, which begins at 7 PM on Thu., April 10, at the Fish, Wildlife & Parks office, 3201 Spurgin Road, and includes two field trips to intermediately watch fowl do their thing. Register by calling 541-9494, and have your $25 ready.

Now get out there and keep them snowflakes at bay, people. On, on!
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