Missoulians are nothing if not adventurous and resourceful, so this week I suggest you do the following: Ride a bike through the finger-crinkling cold to Missoula International Airport, snag the cheapest—hahahaha!—flight to D.C.’s National Airport and take advantage of this sampling of exotic and low-cost outdoor adventures for even the most hesitant of patriots.
First of all, head into Maryland, to the west of the city, where the Great Falls of the Potomac River rumble through Mather Gorge and form a remarkable landscape of jumbled boulders and rushing waters. Here you’ll find the Billy Goat Trail, a challenging hike with plenty of impediments and stone monoliths for climbing, an area that was the site of Comrade Calendar’s infamous 1981 “lost-and-looking-for-hollow-trees-to-sleep-in” incident.
Moving back toward the assumed home of our current White House resident, we trace the course of the Chesapeake and Ohio canal, where baffled mules once dragged barges filled with goods and gaily painted ladies to and fro. Betwixt Chain and Key Bridges, we find Fletcher’s Boat House, where ye hearty aquarians can rent canoes, kayaks and even paddleboats for your extreme endeavors. Keep an eye out for the site of the Comrade’s 1992 near drowning with his father after their inflatable watercraft submerged beneath the greenish flow.
Our final destination actually has many entrances, which for reasons of secrecy and national security must be kept confidential. Suffice it to say that there exist several open sewer pipes whose grates have been expertly pried open by generations of urban explorers. Most of them drain down toward the Potomac, if that’s enough of a clue. Once inside, you’re free to roam miles of concrete conduit until you’re either out of food and disoriented, or else picked up by Homeland Security.
Those of you who’ve ignored my travel advice will have to make do with these offerings in your neck of the woods:
We begin with a new event for the area, which begins at 8:30 AM on Sat., Jan. 26, and goes by the name of the Whitefish Whiteout. A multi-slope race in the European randonnée tradition, participants will scale the hills, plummet and climb again for a total vertical climb of over 4,000 feet. There’s a mandatory meeting the evening before the race, and volunteers are needed as well, so begin the process by calling 862-2911.
Or stick around Missoula instead as the Parks & Recreation department sponsors the Frost Fever Winter Festival on Sat., Jan. 26. Events include a 5K “Frozen Frolic” run/walk, a flag football tournament atop the frozen tundra and a defrost zone within Currents Aquatics Center. Fees vary, so give 721-PARK or missoulaparks.org a holla.
Montana Snowbowl hosts a showdown of epic proportions with the Sat., Jan. 26–Sun., Jan. 27, USSA Master’s Competition, which brings two days of slalom races—anybody remember Hot Dog?—to Missoula’s favorite hillside. The intensity flares on Ragolini Run, so now you know, and knowing is half the battle.
Give your legs and your sense of adventure a bit more of a workout as you glom onto the Rocky Mountaineers, who co-ordinate a ski trek up to Boulder Peak (9,804 ft.) on Sat., Jan. 26. This Bitterroot block of granite promises an intense 15-mile round trip with around 6,200 feet of elevation gain. The plan is to complete this ambitious journey in one day, so they’ll be leaving early. Pack your skis, skins, avalanche gear and headlamp, and give Forest a call at 240-7612 or 721-6384.
This next activity might not take place in the outdoors—and if it does, be sure not to lick the awl—but it will produce an item you can use for years in your cross-country ramblings. Travelers’ Rest State Park in Lolo is the locale for teacher and leather worker Tom Lukomski’s Moccasin Making Workshop at 10 AM on Sat., Jan. 26. He supplies the cowhide and tools, you bring along some cash and a sack of lunch. And you definitely reserve a spot by calling 273-4253.
Sat., Jan. 26, is chock full of nuts, and this group tops them all: The Montana Natural History Center puts a freeze on artistic expression with the Saturday Kids Activity Winter Ice Painting at 2 PM. I can’t help but think of snow cones, which I’m sure are totally unrelated. Get down to 120 Hickory St., or call 327-0405 for more info.
Lastly, and considering the rash of deaths attributable to these inanimate beasts, I urge you all to attend an Avalanche Awareness Class on either Tue., Jan. 29, or Wed., Jan. 30, at 7 PM in Room 352 of UM’s Social Sciences building. The Campus Recreation department puts them on, and while they might not be as captivating as a round of Guitar Hero III, just try digging your way out from under millions of pounds of snow with that silly guitar/joystick.
Clearly, there’s more to do outside this week, like seeing if your spit will freeze before it hits the ground. As always, I welcome your thoughts, your harangues, your sweet nothings.