Mountain High 

As is so often the case, this week you’ve got to take matters into your own hands.
It’s not that there’s nothing currently happening in our outdoor environs—it’s just that almost nobody’s going to hold your hand through the process.

And what’s more memorable, anyway: A journey plotted out by some functionary behind a desk, or the kind of half-assed, inadequately supplied and funded expedition so many of us are used to?

Adages like, “Hunger is the best spice,” and “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone,”—okay, that’s a Joni Mitchell lyric, but bear with me—had to come from somewhere, and I’m betting their lineage includes a few hikers suddenly remembering the Ramen forgotten on the kitchen counter.

I’m reminded of a trip undertaken by a friend, who was actually charged with leading several young people at the time, which came to be known as “The Horrible Hike.” The premise was simple: Everything had to be as awful as possible.

To begin, most gear—be it a luxury or what we’d consider a requirement to ensure the basics of survival—was expressly forbidden. There would be no backpacks, no tents or stoves, no cookware, no sleeping pads. Slatted wooden fruit boxes were fitted with straps for carrying the meager supplies. Cans of food, their labels thoughtfully removed, were the sole rations. Some exceptions—boots, matches, sleeping bags—were grudgingly allowed. At night, they popped open whatever can they happened to be carrying, maybe heated it a bit by the fire and took what sustenance they could.

“Oh, cherry pie filling again. Great.”

Strangely, those subjected to this purposeful torture had a wonderful time. The memories of struggling along the trail with splintery box corners patiently digging into your chafed back, of scraping the plaque from your teeth at day’s end with a frayed stick or of stumbling toward a midnight bladder evacuation unaided by light of any sort—these are the stuff of decades-long cherished remembrance.

Not that anyone from the group ever did that again. Or that you have to. Go ahead, take your Dragonfly stove and your Therm-a-Rest. Plan your meals, consider the weight and ergonomic styling of each item. Just go ahead and make those plans, ‘cause this week, ain’t nobody gonna do it for you. 

Of course, there’s always a few exceptions to any assertion, and the first one is a sort of last call. If you want to take the family on a sweet four-day bike ride, you need to be quick, as this trip’s about to leave. On Thu., Aug. 21, a family-friendly bike tour along the Trail of the Coeur d’Alene takes off after work. Days two and three are the long ones, with mileages in the mid-20s and plenty of time to enjoy eating cherry pie filling with your family at the campground. Call Renate at 329-3107, and do so in a rapid manner.  

Another opportunity to self-regulate comes in Yellowstone National Park, where a series of free photography classes continues from Thu., Aug. 21., through Sun., Aug. 24. Figure out the rest of your YNP trip yourself—fruit boxes are easily obtained behind most grocery stores—and then show up for the classes, which are offered every day at 10 AM and 1 PM at the Old Faithful Inn, and also at 5:30 PM at the Snow Lodge Meeting Room. Check out americanparknetwork.com for more details. 

At nearly the opposite end of the planning spectrum from a Petzl-free existence is this offering from the Rocky Mountaineers: On Fri., Aug. 22, those ravenous ravine ramblers plan to undertake their Glacier Classic trip for three days of far-ranging fun in the backcountry. The plan is to drive up Friday night, snag camping spots at Many Glacier and spin tales around the fire. As far as the weekend days, there are a number of hikes and climbs planned, which participants are welcome to completely ignore if they’re so inclined. Check out rockymountaineers.com or join up with their yahoo group to get even more involved: Head to groups.yahoo.com and type in therockymountaineers. 

A less elaborate trip, and one geared toward the “always gotta be helping somehow” crowd, is offered this week by the Great Burn Study Group as they lead an overnight trip to Idaho’s Roland Point on Sat., Aug. 23, for the purpose of monitoring weeds, wildlife, trail conditions and other such matters. If you’re of a mind to be more of a giver than a taker, begin when you give Beverly a call at 240-9901.

Those Be Active Bitterroot organizers have coordinated an opportunity for you to use both your brain and your body in the woods this weekend during the fourth annual Adventure BioThon at 8 AM on Sat., Aug. 23. Basically, you and your team have to navigate a course through the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge—there are both short and long courses—while answering nature-oriented questions along the way to decrease your overall time. Four ability-linked sections allow you to find the group you can most easily dominate. Race-day registration closes at 7 AM. You can get a form in advance at the Refuge, or by e-mailing Bob_Danley@fws.gov, or simply call 777-1048 or 777-5552 ext. 203 for more details. 

Of course, the aforementioned activities might not carry the emotional impact of a few nights spent chewing twigs under a log somewhere, but then again, isn’t retaining memories what your Blackberry’s actually for?
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