Mountain High 

This weekend, the natural world beyond our urban fringes again fills with all manner of wildlife, from big brown bears to slithery skinned snakes. And I cringe to hear Missoulians talk of heading out there, as though “the woods” are just a bookend to five days of wage slavery.

They’re not.

Don’t go.

Considering the immensity of this threat, there’re a few things you should take into consideration. This first being that, should you drink too much water, you’re liable to have to pee frequently, which will leave both your rear and flanks vulnerable to attack by mosquitoes, dung beetles and carpenter ants, not to mention higher orders of fauna.

• Don’t head into the forest expecting to hang out with wild animals. If they wanted to be best buddies with you, they would have given you a furry hide, a hunting season and a strain of brucellosis with which to imperil domestic cattle.

• Don’t screw with their habitat. They don’t like that. Snap all the photos you want, just keep your hands—and chainsaws, open pit copper mines, new ski resorts, etc.—to yourself.

• Don’t pick a fight with any creature larger than a breadbox, and especially avoid wolverines. If you want substantiation for wild animals’ reputation for fighting, rent The Grizzly Man, or maybe Watership Down.

• Finally, don’t give the squirrels a hard time. Try to remember that these little “Cops O’ The Woods” aren’t patrolling the trees for their own amusement, but for our annoyance. If a little beady-eyed furbearer begins loudly twittering at you, leave the forest immediately.

I’m used to Mountain High readers ignoring my advice, so I’ll lay a few options on you against my better judgment. You can take your life into your own hands while you monitor weeds and campsites with UM’s Wilderness Institute, which departs on a four-day trip to Idaho’s Sawyer Ridge Lookout in the Gospel Hump Wilderness on Thu., Aug. 7. Call 243-5361 right now.

Take the safe route and stay in town as Splash Montana hosts a special Waterpark Fun Day for Seniors (ages 55+) at 10 AM on Fri., Aug. 8. Enjoy the cool flow of the Lazy River for an entire hour before the gates are opened to the wee tikes, who take incontinence up a level or two. Call 721-PARK.

That evening, another opportunity to avoid the perils of the wilderness comes to you from the Blue Mountain Observatory, which hosts the fifth in their series of Observing Nights at roughly 10 PM on Fri., Aug 8. The evening’s heavens-viewing will be called off in case of clouds, smoke or marauding gangs of blue herons, so call 243-5179 before you leave, and snag directions at physics.umt.edu/bluemountain.

The recreational planners of Kalispell hope to expose you to the terrors of the deep—don’t those people know about the Flathead Lake Monster?—as they invite you and yours on a full day of kayaking to Wild Horse Island, which leaves from Depot Park at 7 AM on Sat., Aug. 9. There’s a five paddler limit, so call 758-7717 with great haste.

The Sierra Club asks that you leave your dogs behind—at least someone’s considering canine welfare—as they leave for an overnight backpacking trip to Carlton Lake and a scaling of Lolo Peak (9,096 feet) on Sat., Aug 9. Everybody’s welcome, so get your name in the list when you e-mail John at yodelingdog@hotmail.com. 

Another opportunity to risk your life for the sake of monitoring weeds comes as the Great Burn Study Group leads a trip to Petty Mountain on Sat., Aug 9. Help preserve this incredible—and incredibly dangerous, what with all the animals and stuff—area once you call 240-9901.

Instead, you could pay homage to a force even more terrifying and destructive than woodland creatures: the U.S. military. Starting at 10 AM on Sat., Aug. 9, the Big Hole National Battlefield hosts the 131st commemoration of the unprovoked 1877 slaughter of over 90 Nez Perce women, children and men by American cavalry and volunteers. It’s free and it’s important, and there shouldn’t be any dangerous animals around, except maybe a Park Ranger or two.

We begin the week with two sweet option s for kids, the first being the second section of the MOBASH Sk8 Clinic, which begins at 8:30 AM on Mon., Aug. 11, and is open to all thrashers above the age of seven. It runs through Fri., Aug. 15, and you can call 721-PARK to sign up.

Get a little closer to the wild, yet not dangerously close, when you enroll your older-than-13 self in the second session of the Liam Wood Fly Fishing and River Guardians Program, which also starts up on Mon., Aug. 11, and runs the whole week. Take a look at environmental issues through a piscine lens along with local author David James Duncan, but only after you call 541-9287. 

Put the fun back between your legs when you meet up with those crazy Dirt Girls, who invite you to bike some of the newer trails of Blue Mountain at 6 PM on Tue., Aug. 12. I’m going to guess the meet-up spot’s the trailhead, but you go ahead and visit montanadirtgirls.com to make sure.

I sit with nail-bitten hands folded, eagerly awaiting word that you’ve made it through another harrowing and dangerous week in the wilds of Montana. Please, take time to be safe, and if all else fails and woodland creatures overwhelm our defenses, I’ll meet you at the secure rendezvous spot: Sturgis.
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