A first-hand observation from Glacier National Park this past weekend: they’re baaaaaack.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising to find throngs of tourists already flocking to one of the nation’s most treasured recreational areas, but to this observer it feels a little early—especially on a cold and rainy mid-May day. I mean, it’s not even Memorial Day weekend.
Yet there they were, filling the parking lot at Apgar Village, waiting for parking spaces near the Trail of the Cedars/Avalanche trailhead, and populating the pull-offs on the first 16 miles (all that’s open this early) of Going-to-the-Sun Road. The license plates revealed visitors from British Columbia, Alberta, Wyoming, Washington, Arizona and New Hampshire. The decorum and attire also hinted at the majority of the crowds being interlopers, although I enjoyed watching a tuckered-out recent college grad from Colorado offer passers-by a flask of bourbon somewhere just south of Avalanche Lake.
I always thought Memorial Day weekend signaled the start of tourist season, but now I’m thinking that needs to be re-evaluated. Tourist season is already in full swing, and that’s something to consider—the crowds, that is—as we look to this week’s outdoorsy options.
The New Rocky Mountaineers are avoiding the crowds at Glacier and have planned a trek to Trapper Peak for Sat., May 26. Expect some snowshoeing and climbing—bring an ice ax—to reach the tallest peak (10,157 feet) in the Bitterroots. The planned route will follow a snow-covered trail for three miles, then go off the trail and up an easy snow couloir. From there, it’s another mile—and 1,000 feet—to the summit. Call Gerald at 549-4769 for information on how to tag along.
If you want to dial it down a notch for the holiday, the Montana Natural History Center invites the hungry and ill—okay, mostly just the curious—to an Edible and Medicinal Plant Walk on Sat., May 26, from 2 to 4:30 PM. The $20 walk takes place in Greenough Park and will be conducted by Elaine Sheff, owner of Meadowsweet Herbs and a clinical herbalist. Space is limited, so call 327-0405 to register.
Speaking of plant walks, Prairie Keepers and ecologist Mike Young are hosting a Native Plant Hike in the North Hills Thur., May 31, at 6:30 PM. Meet at 529 Evan Kelly Road, east of Duncan Drive, and wear sturdy boots.
Another option for avoiding the crowds is to make a run for it—literally. That’s what folks will be doing at the Fifth Annual Memorial Day Run in Corvallis on Mon, May 28. Hosted by Corvallis American Legion Post #91 and the Teller Wildlife Refuge, the event features three courses for your walking or running pleasure: 10K, 5K and 1-mile. Registration begins at 7 AM and costs $15. All participants will receive an official run T-shirt, and prizes will be awarded throughout the day. For more info, call Brenda at 777-1339.
Closer to home, the Five Valleys Fun Run/Walk Challenge Series hits the ground running with a 5K race at Splash Montana on Sat., May 26, at 9 AM. This is the first of five scheduled Five Valleys walk/run events occurring between now and September. I mention that because if you participate in four of the five events you get a custom logo souvenir sweatshirt, which sounds pretty sweet. It’s too late to register for the Splash 5K, but you can still check out the competition and call 721-PARK to sign up for the Rattlesnake 5K on June 23.
If you’re looking to get the kids active over the holiday, consider signing them up for the Missoulian Angler’s Kids Intro to Fly Fishing on Sat., May 26, at 11 AM. The class is open to ages 9–14, although those older than 12 must have a state conservation license to participate. The class costs $19 and meets at Silver’s Lagoon in McCormick Park.
And there’s one other family-friendly adventure to consider: The Rocky Mountaineers are inviting those of all abilities and interests to the Humbug Spires Memorial Weekend Bash. The group will drive to Humbug Spires (located 26 miles south of Butte) Sat., May 26, backpack to a base camp and then let everyone do whatever their hearts desire—backcountry fishing, backpacking, rock climbing, socializing—until hiking back out on Monday. For more information, contact Forest and Angie at 721-6384 or 240-7612.
If you prefer to get on the water this holiday, you have a boatload of options. Or at least two. First and foremost is the Bigfork Whitewater Festival and Triathlon occurring May 26 and 27 along the Swan River. The triathlon features a four- to six-mile paddle on flat water, a 15- to 20-mile bike ride and two- to four-mile run. Whitewater slalom and rodeo are on the agenda as well. Call 837-5888 for more details.
This time of year also signals the beginning of Wednesday Night Floats on the Clark Fork River, kicking off at the Canoe Rack at 6 PM on Wed., May 30. Make sure to make a reservation beforehand by calling 251-0040. It’s free, so space fills up fast. And, if you go, be sure to say “Hi” to Indy editor Brad Tyer, just back from hiatus and sure to be on the water if he’s anywhere near town.
That’s just the sort of local-friendly activity I’ll be looking for now that tourist season is officially upon us.