Mountain High 

With the greening trees and lawns around town, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that we’re living in aquabundance. I mean, just look at the Clark Fork flowing muddy and high beneath the bridges in town and it’s not that much of a leap to visions of the Big Muddy overflowing its banks and reinitiating our recent collective nightmare.

Not that such a flood is likely to happen here, but just in case, the Comrade is glad he at least lives one step above the floodplain, even if a good 100-year deluge might have me waking up one day like Bugs Bunny (you know, the one where during a huge rainstorm his mattress floats into the cave of the mad scientist and there’s that big, red Hairbeast).

What I’m getting at is this: while we may not be the moistest state through the rest of the sunny season, we’ve got it now, and it seems that everyone is ready to make the most of that favored hydrogen-and-oxygen cocktail that allows us all to live.

For starters, the obvious choice for aquacentric fun is to take advantage of air’s reluctance to sink by floating upon a river’s glassy surface. Might I recommend a float down the Lochsa? And any trip down that powerful vein should be considered incomplete without an evening’s stop at the Lochsa Lodge, a charming log village roughly 50 miles west of Missoula on Highway 12, which just so happens to be hosting the Lochsa Rendezvous beginning at 5 PM on Sat., May 5. The original lodge probably wished it had a better working relationship with water when it caught fire in 2001, but the new lodge is plenty spiffy and ready to accommodate boaters and kayakers by the busload. The Mike Bader Blues Band plays at around 7 PM and food, beer and wine—all in the absence of a cover charge—will be readily available. Call (208) 942-3405 for info about the rendezvous, and 728-7609 for the whitewater rafting specials of the day.

As if to answer the river rat’s claim that the only way to enjoy a river is to be submerged, here come the Missoulians on Bicycles (MOB) and their two-day 22nd annual Georgetown Lake Loop. Spend 48 hours taking in the sight of a large body of water while water in the form of sweat bathes your body and soul. Call Julie at 549-2226 if the 130-mile ride appeals to you.

Bring it down a notch while maintaining your position in the saddle with that same bunch of MOB’s on their fifth annual Sula to Wisdom ride on Sat., May 5. You’ll need to go easy on the wine during First Friday, as the group plans to meet at 7:30 AM in Missoula’s K-Mart parking lot for the carpool to Sula. This ride promises to “double your Divides and quattro your Passes,” which seems to involve a great deal of sweating as well. Call Paul at 240-0056 to enlist.

Also on Sat., May 5, Jim Brown of the Audubon Society will lead a trip to Brown’s Lake (no relation) in the ornithologist’s take on this week’s slippery theme. For a peek at waterfowl, raptors, sandhill cranes and long-billed curlews, get your binocular-bedecked self to the UM field house parking lot at 8 AM. And bring a lunch, as curlew can be quite gamey. Call 549-8052.

If birds and bikes don’t float your boat, try visiting the remnants of slushy water atop Grey Wolf Peak in the Mission Mountains with the Rocky Mountaineers. The group’s Sat., May 5, trip includes a hike to Riddell Lakes and an attempt at climbing the south couloir, which is really just a fancy term for a steep gully. Bring your tribal recreation permit, your ice climbing gear, your well-conditioned body and lunch. And call Forest at 240-7612.

I hope the Mission Mountains are big enough for another band of intrepid peak-baggers, because that’s what they’re going to get on Sat., May 5, when the New Rocky Mountaineers take a stab at East St. Mary’s Peak. While trip planners predict no need for an ice ax this early, take my advice and tuck one in the small of your back, right next to your gat. For great views and 5,400 feet of vertical gain, call Gerald at 549-4769 and head for the hills.

Of course, nobody’s saying you can’t just bike all weekend. In fact, yesterday’s outdoor stars, the MOB’s, would be tickled raspberry to have the honor of your attendance on their Sun., May 6, ride to the Painted Rocks Reservoir. You’ll have to skip church, but get to the K-Mart parking lot at 7 AM again for the carpool up the Bitterroot. Two rides—50 miles or 87 miles—are offered. Call Paul at 728-8722.

Take a break from aqueous hi-jinks to attend the monthly meeting of the Rocky Mountaineers at 7 PM on Wed., May 9, at Pipestone Mountaineering, 129 W. Front St. After taking care of annual elections, Jim Cossitt will entertain attendees with his tales of climbing the Cordillera Blanca range in Peru.

Finally, lend a hand to a cause predicated on clean water and healthy habitat when you eat and bid at Montana Trout’s benefit buffet and auction at 6 PM on Thu., May 10, in the third floor south meeting rooms of UM’s University Center. Live music, food, fine art and all sorts of gear await. Call 542-7445.

And until next week, hearty adventurers, keep it wet.
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