Mountain High 

Let’s start with some sops to commerce. Gear is an important part of outdoor life in Montana, particularly as the season for spaghetti straps and sandals passes us by. Fortunately, gear is easier to buy than use and so there’s almost always a glut of the stuff—yielding swaps and sales to dispose of what seemed like a good idea at the time.

The UM Outdoor Program supplies one such Used Outdoor Gear Sale for the southern region in our distribution area on Wed., Oct. 10, on the first floor of the University Center on the UM campus. More of a consignment operation than anything else, those holding surplus inventory are invited to drop it off from 7 to 11 a.m. The shopping begins at noon, though rest assured, the line will form sooner. Unacquired goods (and take-it-or-leave-it offers) will be available for pickup from 5 to 8 p.m. Call 243-2804 for more information.

The Kalispell Ski Club tends to the Flathead’s used gear needs with another incarnation of their annual Ski Swap & Sale, taking place in the Kalispell Fairgrounds Expo Building from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sat., Oct. 6, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sun., Oct. 7. Drop-off goes on Fri., Oct. 5, from 1 to 8 p.m. with proceeds benefiting programs to turn another generation of young ’uns into gear-hungry recreationalists. Call 752-SKIS or visit kalispellskiclub.com to take part in their conversions.

Meet some folks who use mammals as recreational accessories when the Montana Mountain Mushers crack the whip and rally the pups during their annual fall meeting, which begins Sat., Oct. 6, at 11 a.m. in the Seeley Lake Senior Center. Even those uninitiated to the abundant opportunities for mushing and skijoring offered by western Montana are welcome. Must love dogs, of course. Call 244-0033 or visit montanamountainmushers.com to show your affection.

Dave Stalling tops the bill at another outdoor-oriented meeting, this one the Rocky Mountaineers Wed., Oct. 10, get together at 7 p.m. at Pipestone Mountaineering. Stalling will talk about a long walk he took last summer from the Rattlesnake to Waterton, Alberta. That’s in Canada, with about six weeks and 800 miles of wildlands in between here and there.

Should you feel shamed by your absolute lack of hiking this summer, earn the moxie to attend Stalling’s talk by getting up and down McDonald Peak in the Mission Mountains with the Rocky Mountaineers on Sat., Oct. 6. Call 721-6384 for details and to register your preference for a quick hit or high-altitude overnighter.

If the subzero temperatures and abundant omnivorous fauna of the McDonald Peak trip seem intimidating, well, this will too. The New Rocky Mountaineers aim to summit East St. Mary’s Peak in the Mission Mountains on Sat., Oct. 6—a day trip almost certain to feature high winds and blowing snow above the tree line. Call 549-4769 and dig out the long johns if you’re up for it.

Somewhat gentler is the Tin Cup Creek Hike sponsored by Be Active Bitterroot from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sat., Oct. 6. The terrain along the hiking route will be rolling and the group’s pace will be universally accessible, providing ample opportunity for gazing at the abundant flora of the surrounding dense forest. Call 381-2951 to have your questions about carpooling and anything else answered.

Hone your bird watching skills during Be Active Bitterroot’s Saturday adventure because Sun., Oct. 7, through Sat., Oct. 13, is National Refuge Week and Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge—only one of 542 so-designated areas in the United States and a sweet one at that—sponsors a contest to intrigue you into using the place. Record bird life by sight and sound while walking as many of the Refuge’s trails as possible and earn points toward a copy of The Sibley Guide to North American Birds that will be awarded to the individual with the keenest senses and best-worn soles. Call 777-5552 x203 to find out the formula or even how to just relax and have a good time on some precious public lands.

What’s bigger than a bird and closer to Missoula than the flocks of flyers lying about in the tall grass at Lee Metcalf? An elk from the Grant Creek herd. Get acquainted with some happy denizens of the North Hills from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday, October 6, when the Montana Natural History Center and local elk enthusiast Bert Lindler join forces for an on-the-ground lesson in urban elk management, weed control and ecology. Register ahead of time by calling 327-0405 and be prepared to compensate the sponsors to the tune of $15 or $10 with an MNHC membership.

And back to the birds, this time the osprey that feast on the fishes of our mercury-laden waterways. Learn about how the heavy metals accumulate in these predators and their ilk on Wed., Oct. 10, at 7 p.m. at the Montana Natural History Center, 120 Hickory St., when UM faculty Erick Greene and Heiko Langner lead the instruction. At the same event, Hellgate High students Matt Parker and Max Egenhoff take a turn at teaching when they present their finding about the deleterious effects of baling twine on osprey.

And so, the string’s played out on outdoor recreation and education this week. Send in some events next week and keep me from reaching the end of my rope. Much obliged.
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