Mountain High 

I‘m pretty lucky that my commute to the Indy involves a pleasant bike ride over the river and around a neighborhood or two. Once I head south over the California Street Pedestrian Bridge, I normally turn right and take California Street down to the bike path, where I head east.

Last week, I stopped before the spray-painted metal wall that separates public domain from private, and instead turned left, toward the former site of the Champion Mill.

As you probably know, the mill site is on its way to rebirth as the Old Sawmill District, and a 14-acre riverfront strip will comprise Silver Park. As I gingerly crossed the ice-encrusted gully separating the bridge area from the new park, I looked forward to the day when the crossing can be accomplished without such effort.

While Silver Park hasn’t been officially dedicated or opened yet, a smooth new asphalt trail connects the park’s three timber frame shelters, and leads to a stretch of trail that runs behind Osprey Stadium and on to the Kim Williams.

What a ride. The trail is like glass—grippy glass—and the view of downtown is one you’re probably not used to. Allow me to leave it at this: I was filled with some ambiguous, yet overwhelmingly positive, cocktail of emotions that gave me hope for Missoula’s transportation future.

It just so happens that bike trail expansion is a theme we’ll keep riffing on for a minute. In an effort to secure funding for the Karen K. Jones bike path, which will finally link Russell and Reserve streets, the Rotary Club of Missoula hosts a Nordic Ski Outing “Search for the Missing Link” from 2–6 PM on Sat., Feb. 20, at the Maclay home at the Bitterroot Resort. Conventional wisdom regarding odd bedfellows helps this all make sense. The 2.6 miles of groomed trails await your skis, rentals are available from the Trailhead, instructors will help novices remain standing and après ski snacks and drinks are provided by Caffé Dolce. Get your car-pool and ticket money together ($30/$50 families) and contact Dolores for more info: dolores.bandow@gmail.com. For a map, visit
bitterrootresort.us.   

Backing up a bit, we arrive back in the wee hours of Saturday. It’s quite a full one, my active friends, so do your best to keep up:

It all begins with the second installment of Northwest Connections’ Animal Tracking Clinic, a two-day endeavor of love that starts at 9 AM on Sat., Feb. 21, at their historic Swan Valley homestead. Learn to recognize animals by track, gait pattern, habitat selection and behavior, and get started with the process when you call 754-3185, or visit northwestconnections.org.  

Teachers looking to raise a fresh crop of scientists—as well as normal folks like you and me—are encouraged to check out a full day of wetland and riparian education as the Wonders of Wetlands and Riparian Areas Workshop begins at 9 AM on Sat., Feb. 21, at the Lone Pine State Park Visitor Center near Kalispell. The $10 fee includes lunch, and you can get more info when you e-mail naz@centurytel.net or call Patti at 752-4220.

This next one’s got my vote for Saturday’s top event: The Glacier Outdoor Center hosts two days of Dog Skijoring—a Scandinavian pastime involving animals, skis and people—beginning at 9 AM on Sat., Feb. 21. Races and straightforward demonstrations make up much of the schedule, and the big winner is the Humane Society of Northwest Montana, which rakes in most of the proceeds. More info is yours when you call Rachel at 888-5454 or Brian at 261-6190. The web-savvy can try glacierraftco.com.

The Rocky Mountaineers have a pair of trips on tap that same day. On Sat., Feb. 21, you can join in on a backcountry skiing session in the Bitterroots, or spend the night in a cabin at the Chief Joseph Cross Country Ski Area. Contact Joshua—543-0898 or mtsurveyor@ gmail.com—about the former, and Julie Kahl—543-6508—in regards to the latter.

Considering the profusion of people-eating wolves in fairy tales—I know, I know, they were framed—it’s with more than a little relief that I announce that the Montana Natural History Center, 120 Hickory St., offers kids an opportunity to learn about critters with whom they share the woods during the class Tricky Trackers! at 2 PM on Sat., Feb. 21. Common tracks become familiar, a tracking mystery is solved and a survey of footprints occurs in the area. $2/members free. RSVP 327-0405.  

What, is it biking season again? Some people just don’t know how to take the season off, which is the case for Missoulians on Bikes, who meet for their first ride of the year in the Eastgate mall parking lot at 10 AM on Sun., Feb. 22. The 15-miler to the River City Grill is to be considered a seasonal warm-up. I wish you people all the best. Call Wayne at 721-3095.

Also on Sun., Feb. 22, the Whitefish Mountain Resort hosts Special Olympics Montana’s 38th annual State Winter Games. The call for volunteers went out a while ago, and was featured in last week’s Mountain High, and you can still sign up by calling Karen at 837-0319. Of course, your presence in the cheering crowd is requested, whether you volunteer or not.

There’s more outdoor frivolity to be had this week, but I’ve no more space, so you’re on your own. Happy bike trails.
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