Mountain High 

With so much blossoming beauty and light, with water flowing through creeks and ditches, with greening hills and ample daylight hours for both grazing and napping, spring is a wonderful time to be alive.

Unless you’re a buffalo, that is.

You may have heard this one already, but the wild bison of Yellowstone National Park are still being harassed and killed by a host of public agencies whose opinions and decisions are not that difficult to trace to one large and powerful Montana industry.

For reddish-brown bison calves born to the west of the Park, turmoil begins before the placenta drops as Montana Department of Livestock agents chase newborns—their euphemism is “hazing,” like it’s a frat party—up to five miles back into the Park. What’s incredible is that the hours-old creatures can complete such a marathon on their wobbly new legs.

And the news doesn’t get much better come Tue., May 15, when a “zero-tolerance” policy goes into effect for bison outside the Park boundaries, and lethal means are considered justified.

As the Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) marks 10 years of standing up for the beleaguered beasts, one vital outdoor activity I’ll recommend is to make a trip to Yellowstone during bison calving season. It’s a great time to celebrate rebirth and this land’s wild heritage. The BFC will commemorate Mother’s Day at 10 AM on Sun., May 13, with a special event at the junction of Rainbow Point Road and Highway 191, which leads south from Bozeman to the town of West Yellowstone. Free coffee, free cookies, free the buffalo.

Do your own research: buffalofieldcampaign.org or 646-0070.

And while you’re there, you might as well make a weekend of it with the 10th annual Spring Cycle Tour, which begins at 9 AM on Sat., May 12, at the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce, 30 Yellowstone Ave. The 64-mile ride takes you right through the middle of bison territory—and directly past the BFC cabin, incidentally—and features support vehicles and a 6 PM dinner and awards party in the delightful hamlet of West Yellowstone. To register, visit cycleyellowstone.com or call 646-7701.

Those of you staying in the Missoula area—if there are any of you left after that most appealing invitation—may want to join in on the Weeds to Wildflowers Walk at 1 PM on Sat., May 12, at the Willoughby Environmental Education Site near Stevensville. For directions, call 239-0108.  

Later that night, Missoula Parks and Recreation invites you to Fort Missoula Park for a Stargazers Night Out at 10 PM on Sat., May 12. Members of the Western Montana Astronomical Association will be on hand to answer questions, though cloud cover of greater than 50 percent will necessitate a rain check.

Stay up late with the stars and rise early with the birds as you meet the Audubon Society at 8 AM on Sun., May 13, in the UM Fieldhouse parking lot for a waterfowl-scoping foray to the Smurfit-Stone Container effluent ponds. Alternately, you can meet the group at the linerboard manufacturer’s main gate at 8:30. Call Larry at 549-5632.

Another early morning option is to get in line with the Missoulians on Bicycles, who offer you a spot on their 15th annual Lolo Lulu, a 90-mile ride that leaves at 8 AM on Sun., May 13, from the 4-B’s parking lot at Brooks and Reserve streets. Call Wayne at 721-3095.

Spend the morning in bed and then get your slime on when you buddy up with herpetologist and filmmaker Ryan Killackey for a mission to explore Lake Como’s world of amphibians at 11 AM on Sun., May 13. You’ll want all the usual moist-weather gear, and you’ll need to call John at 542-6696 for the secret location of the vanpool. This event is in conjunction with the International Wildlife Film Festival, which kicked off on Sat., May 12.

Take the bird-watching inside when Dan Casey of the American Bird Conservancy discusses projects related to flammulated owl and black swift monitoring, as well as bird surveys on the Rocky Mountain Front, at the Audubon Society’s meeting at 7:30 PM on Mon., May 14, in room L14 of UM’s Gallagher Business Building. Call 327-1525.

Water is the element of the day on Tue., May 15, when Frenchtown Pond State Park officially opens and Currents Aquatics Center offers two workout programs: Aqua Deep Interval Training at 7 AM and the Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program at 8:15. Call 721-PARK.

In other news of the moist, Paddle MT at the Canoe Rack offers an Introduction to Recreational Kayaking at 6 PM on Wed., May 16. The course fee includes your boat and gear, so call 251-0040.

From the mountains, we have Mario Locatelli, the intrepid 74-year-old explorer who brings the wealth of his experience to the presentation A Lifetime of Adventures in the Bitterroot Mountains on Thu., May 17, at 7 PM at the Lolo Community Center. The talk will be followed by what is being billed as “real straight talk” about the proposed ski hill on Lolo Peak.

And as a wise man once said to me, “Never overstay your welcome, and never underwear your clothesline.”
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