Mountain High 

For the time being, the rain has let up and the howl of the wind can’t be far behind in taking its leave. As the weather warms to a pleasantly consistent range, the valley’s people begin to burst forth out of their winter hole-ups, and they’ll be looking for you.

There will be invitations to block parties, and to bocce games and river trips. Your neighbors will ask you over to sample some of the crisp they just finished with rhubarb and strawberries from the garden, and the days will seem weighted with endless daylight packed to exploding with chipper and vivacious fellow beings.

It’s what psychiatrists call being manic, folks.

So before you allow yourself to fully adopt the ear-to-ear grin of the bliss-ninny, I’ll counsel a bit of preventive self-maintenance. Go somewhere and be by yourself for a bit. The options are countless, as the cleared trails and roads beckon. Tread on down the solo trail for a bit, tear into an intense 80-mile bike ride by yourself, barrel through the frothy foam of a one-person river trip—take the proper safety precautions, of course. The point is, we all need to make sure we’re nicely grounded before heading into this season of flitting and frittering about.

I’ll just give you a few hours to go ahead and take care of that. This column will be right here when you return.

And we’re back. Now that you’ve found the voice of the quiet little you inside, let’s plunge into the world of organized outdoor recreation. Point your highway browser north, in the direction of Columbia Falls, where Glacier National Park ecologist Tara Carolin leads a native plant field trip at 5:30 PM on Thu., May 29, beginning at the Columbia Mountain trailhead parking lot. This spicy jaunt is sponsored by the Flathead Chapter of the Montana Native Plant Society, which reminds you that one of the reasons plants are so happy is that they pretty much keep to themselves. Call Tara at 888-7919.

You don’t often see turtles amassing in frenzied clumps of activity, which helps account for their remarkable longevity and dependable moral stature. If it’s life lessons you’re looking for, this weekend you need look no further than the Painted Turtles of the Mission Valley, which begins at 9 AM at the Montana Natural History Center on Sat., May 31. Turtle biologist Kathy Griffin presents a full-day program on the ecology, life history and peculiarities of the laconic beasts, and participants will have the chance to help catch and handle—gently—a few of the armored reptiles. $25/$20 members. Hurry up and register by calling 327-0405.

Those of you who want a bit more water in your weekend lessons will find just what you’re looking for in this program, offered by Paddle MT at Canoe Rack: The second part of their three-session Ed-ventures series takes off at 10 AM on Sat., May 31, and focuses upon geological formations along the side of the waterway. The trip leaves from the Canoe Rack, 501 N. California St., and your boat and transportation are included in the deal. Call 251-0040.

A key component of outdoor education is service, which is why this summer’s program of volunteer opportunities with the Bob Marshall Wilderness (BMW) are such a great opportunity. Teams of volunteers can give material aid to the Bob every week through Sept., and while the BMW Foundation requests you register 2–3 weeks before a given event, here’s a late note on their first one: On Sat., May 31, take on a bit of early season work on the Grant Ridge trail #339, with the assistance of various groups. To get more info on upcoming trips, call 387-3808 or visit bmwf.org.

You may have perfected your kayak roll in still water, but will you have the composure to do the right thing when the waves are splashing about your deck? Find out when you join Paddle MT for an all-day River Kayaking class on the Blackfoot River, starting at 9 AM on Sun., May 31. Call 251-0040.

Speaking of river kayaking, that same Paddle MT outfit will help you ramp up to the day you go shooting down Alberton Gorge, but here’s the first baby step: An Intro to Kayaking: The Art of the Roll class meets at 8 PM in the Currents Pool on Mon., June 2, for the first of four sessions. Kids aged 10 and up are invited, the class comes with a roll DVD and all the rental gear you’ll need, and you can sign up by calling 251-0040.

A little secret: Missoula Parks & Recreation’s Senior Tours are geared for those above the age of 55, but all adults are welcome. This means you’re probably invited to explore the Garnet Ghost town on Tue., June 3—don’t forget to vote!—when the trip leaves at 9 AM from the Missoula Senior Center, 705 S. Higgins Ave. Call 721-PARK.

And once you’ve fulfilled that time-honored civic duty, join up with a gnarled band of bike enthusiasts for the weekly Hell Ride, which leaves from Missoula Bicycle Works, 708 S. Higgins Ave., at 5:30 PM on Tue., June 3. This spin begins at a moderate pace, and then things pick up and the group stops for nothing—not flat tires, broken spokes, insurgent attacks—nothing. Call 721-6525.

There you have it. Now leave me alone.


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