Mountain High 

Last weekend, I declared it officially springtime: The Garden City Gondola plied the liquor-lubed crowds as they engaged in a final weekend’s revelry before whatever grand summer adventures awaited.

With the warming days leading to alpine snowmelt, we see rivers swelling and Missoula’s ditch system once again alive and well. In this time of abundance, of sap rising and buds bursting into a chorus of leaves and flowers, your friendly neighborhood recreationists have slung together a grand mash of UV-lovin’ adventures for you and yours. Read on, Mountain Highsters.

The first group to bust a move on your week’s outdoor plan is the gregarious gaggle of the Be Active Bitterroot gang, who invite you on a Lick Creek Hike at 6 PM on Thu., May 15. You’ll meet at the Lake Como Beach parking lot and take off on a fairly mellow jaunt along forest roads to investigate the Lick Creek Demonstration/Research Forest, which I’m assuming has to do with the precise manner in which trees are removed. Call 777-7416.

It’s a weekend of outdoor festivals, as well as precursors to outdoor festivals, which is where this next one comes in. In order to build energy toward the weekend’s Best in the West Freestyle Kayak Rodeo, Young Gun Productions offers up premieres of two very slick boating movies on Fri., May 16, at Big Sky Brewing. The Source and State of the Art fill the silver screen at 8 PM, though you’re invited to show up as early as 6 for some time in the taproom, which can only serve to make the flicks even more epic.

With that intro, we’ve got every reason to launch right into the weekend’s three big events. First, we’ve got the Best in the West Freestyle Kayak Rodeo, which begins on Sat., May 17, at 10 AM with registration in Caras Park, where rides begin at noon and the competition officially starts at 3. Also, a retirement party for organizer Seth Warren begins at the Elk’s Lodge immediately following the day’s contests. On Sun., May 18, the finals competition kicks off at noon at the Triple Bridges on the Alberton Gorge, with an awards ceremony to follow. Check

If your paddling takes less of a sporty tack, this option will be more to your liking: At the same time as the Best in the West, Bigfork hosts the 16th annual Paddlefest on Sat., May 17–Sun., May 18 at 10 AM at Wayfarer’s State Park. Two days of sea kayak-centric events—demonstrations, lessons and tricks—are punctuated by a Sat. evening slide show and appearances by an enigmatic west coast kayak guru known as “Dubside.” According to reports, Dubside will perform a roll with a brick in one hand and a lit stick of incense in the other—and the incense will remain lit when he’s finished! That clinches it for me. Call 862-9010.

If you’re feeling less than fluid right now, perhaps a nice, grueling death ride on your bike is the answer. If so, feel free to join the 38th annual Tour of the Swan River Valley (TOSRV) on Sat., May 17–Sun., May 18. The fun begins at 7 AM on Sat., when the ride leaves from the UM campus and begins the Missoula-Swan Lake-Missoula course of action. You’ll chug around with a posse of 300 riders, which is reason enough to jump in. Of course, there’s a registration fee and paperwork involved, as well as the expectation that you’ll be reasonably fit, so hopefully this little ride’s no surprise to you. Either way, visit

Now that the multi-day muscle-a-thons are out of the way, let’s focus on learning a thing or two. If MechWarriors are your kids’ only experience with exoskeletons, an opportunity to introduce them to Earthlings bearing impressive protective armor comes as the Montana Natural History Center presents Big on Bugs! at 2 PM on Sat., May 17. Your little one can join the under-aged search and capture—and release—party when you call 327-0405.

Later on that same day, the Montana Natural History Center is back at it with a chance to echolocate your way into the lives of flying mammals—just don’t call them rodents—when Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Native Species Coordinator Kristi DuBois leads an Evening Bat Walk at 7 PM. You’ll listen to and learn different bat calls and discover the many uses of DuBois’ dubious “bat detector.” $20/$15 members. Call 327-0405.

A nice simple hike to one of local Mario Locatelli’s favorite places is on tap from the Rocky Mountain-eers, who invite you
to scale Goat Mountain in the Bitterroots on Sun., May 18. It’s a hike on a relatively steep trail, but the payoff in terms of mountain wildflowers will make it worth your while. Call Steve at 721-4686.

Finally, an exotic treat comes to downtown Missoula in the form of Maasai mountain guide Kambona Ole Tirra Mollel, who appears at the Trail Head, 221 E. Front St., at 8 PM on Tue., May 20. The Tanzanian has scaled Mount Kilimanjaro in excess of 86 times and presents a slide show and a light-hearted look at his life’s work and environs. Call 543-6966.

Now get out there and keep the sun shining, people. And send me word of next week’s outlandish exploits.

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