Mountain High 

There’s nothing like a cold October rain to warm a winter sportsman’s heart. For what is liquid precip in the valley turns pearly white in the mountains, a welcome warning that winter will soon arrive and maybe even a hint of a promise that this next one will supply the valleys with fluffy dumps of powdery stuff. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.

And though I’m fairly certain whatever powers there be aren’t tuning in when I make requests regarding the weather, I figure there’s no harm in supplication—particularly when supplemented by celebration. It’s the same with the folks from the West Central Montana Avalanche Foundation, on the issues of meteorology if not theology. And so we open our recitation of outdoorsy offerings with The Burning Dog Pray for Snow Festival, a benefit for WCMAF from 5 to 10 p.m. on Thu., Oct. 18, at the Big Sky Brewery, 5417 Trumpeter Way. The evening will feature a $7 cover charge, ski and snowboard films, music from Reverend Slanky, food, drink and, as the title implies, some sort of animal sacrifice to entice the snow gods to hang around through May. Visit missoulaavalanche.org to find out if your pet is eligible.

Another party thinly veiled by its forward momentum toward outdoor activity is the Avalaunch Festival, which visits Missoula’s Wilma Theatre on Thu., Oct. 11. You can get some avalanche education out of the way from 5 to 6 p.m., followed by some socializing, ski film clips, an educational lecture and, finally, four hours of music from more than one band. Tickets are $20 and you can visit avalaunchfest.com to find out more.

Discover whether the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce has an axe to grind about land management in wooded areas when Montana Wood Products, Plum Creek Timber, Smurfit-Stone Container, Stimson Lumber and Roseburg Forest Products sponsor this year’s Timber Tour, departing from McCormick Park at 12:30 p.m. on Fri., Oct. 12. The Black Cat Fire is this year’s agenda item, a topic to be addressed by representatives from the Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation and the Frenchtown Fire Department as well as various “land management specialists.” Get on the bus by calling 543-6623 x25.

Now, I’m sure there was some actual outdoor recreation in here somewhere. And there it is, supplied by the faithfully adventurous New Rocky Mountaineers. They head to Trapper Peak on Sat., Oct. 13, for a walk in the park compared to many of their weekend excursions. The six-mile hike up, which sports a 3800-foot elevation gain, will probably have some snow and ice on it, maybe even some falling from the sky that day. Be prepared when you call 549-4769 to climb on board.

The amount of ground covered by the New Rocky Mountaineers, while considerable, still can’t compare with what many wild fowl traverse in any given fall. See some of the lingering shorebirds as well as a hearty bunch of waterfowl and songbirds when the Five Valleys Audubon Society head to the ponds at Smurfit-Stone on the morning of Sat., Oct. 13. Larry Weeks, who works in riparian restoration at the mill, leads the excursion, which arrives on-site at 9:30 a.m. Call 549-5632 for carpooling information.

Of use in encountering the outdoors is education about getting around with the aid of satellite guidance. To wit, Missoulians can get a free lesson in GPS 101 Thu., Oct. 18, at 7 p.m. at REI, 2230 N. Reserve St. A little further along the arrow of time is Climbing Anchors 101, a $30 UM Outdoor Program on fastening yourself to rock that takes place Sun., Oct. 21, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. but requires your registration by Wed., Oct. 17. Call 243-2804.

If the first frosts already have you pining for next spring’s return to growing season, you can arm yourself (or unload some excess ammunition) at the Fifth Annual Fall Plant Exchange, taking place Sat., Oct. 13, at 111 S. Fourth St. in Hamilton from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Exhume overgrown perennials and trade them for something new during the event, which is timed to coincide with the Apple Day festivities of the Bitterroot Valley Farmers’ Market, another marginally outdoor-themed event that’s wormed its way into a mention this week. Filling out those ranks is the Ninemile/Sixmile community cake auction to benefit the Ninemile Wildlife Workgroup. Survey the goods Thu., Oct. 18, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Historic Ninemile Ranger Station on Remount Road in the Ninemile or bid remotely by calling 626-5675.

Maybe people aren’t hiking because they’ve gone hunting—or just scouting for the impending opening of general season. Either way, there’s one last special event for those who find the pursuit of trout more engaging the elk when the Poverello Center sponsors the second annual Double Haul Fly Fishing Fundraiser on Sat., Oct. 13. Get yourself a licensed guide and all the niceties as well as a chance to compete for some big and little prizes while funding Missoula’s local shelter for the homeless by calling 728-1809 to reserve a boat or just get tickets to the after-party.

The seasonal doldrums might have impacted the amount of sweating available in the organized outdoors this weekend but you can always get a workout by raking up the leaves in your yard. And if you have need of a place to do said yard work, drop me a line and I’ll give you directions to my house.
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