Mountain High 

I’ve bragged about having one of the sweetest commutes on the planet before, and I mention it now not as a means of “rubbing it in” or anything, but to remark about the exciting environmental times in which we live.

On my way across the California Street Pedestrian Bridge this morning, it all came together, and it all came together in a concerted effort to kill me. I’ve no beef with Gaia, but when the vicious Hellgate wind slammed my little chromoly frame sideways, it became clear She had nothing but disdain for me. As my angle of tilt became increasingly pronounced, I glanced through the approaching handrail and down at the Clark Fork.

Ah, the swollen, muddy Clark Fork. So, that was Her plan: To knock me, bike and all, off the bridge and into a great turbulent opacity from which escape is seemingly impossible. If humanity is indeed a festering disease on Her skin, and a pox needs to be unleashed for cleansing purposes, I guess I’d prefer such a demise to one involving boils, frogs or locusts. Or swine flu. Which is now officially here in Missoula County.

Anyway, I share this brush with death to illustrate the need for increased vigilance in the face of an angry Goddess. Keep that in mind as you read on.

You might appease her temper and avoid her wrath by engaging in an act or two of selfless giving this summer. Along to the rescue comes the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, which offers a grand slew of trail maintenance and restoration projects through the summer. They’re especially excited about a wire phone line maintenance project on the South Fork of the Flathead River, which takes place from June 19–26, but there are all kinds of other choices, so visit bmwf.org, or call 387-3808.

Flee from the Earth Mother on Interstate 90, if you wish, and by heading east from Missoula for about 26 miles, you’ll soon arrive at Beavertail Hill State Park. At 8 PM on Fri., June 5, Richard Ellis presents the program “The Changing Image of Native Americans in Film,” the first weekly portion of the park’s Humanities Montana series. It’s free, and you can call 542-5533.

No amount of forewarning can sway the stout hearts of the Rocky Mountaineers (TRM), the peak-bagging posse that has a trip all arranged for your daring attendance. On Sat., June 6, join them for an ascent of the Bitterroot’s Canyon Peak, which involves 13 miles of movement, as well as 4,300 feet of elevation gain. Gear requirements include harnesses and helmets, and possible snowshoes and/or crampons. RSVP with Forest at 240-7612, 721-6384 or fdean@midlandimplement.com.

Later that day, you’ve an opportunity to learn a thing or two, courtesy of the Montana Natural History Center (MNHC), 120 Hickory St. At 1 PM on Sat., June 6, Larry Evans hosts a Springtime Mushroom Hunt, where you can learn to identify some of our more common annual fungi. This one runs $25, or $20 for MNHC members, and it’ll fill fast, so RSVP 327-0405.

Perhaps a less dirt-encrusted option is yours that evening at Salmon Lake State Park, just five miles south of Seeley Lake. You see, on Sat., June 6, at 8 PM, former FVCC professor William Rossiter presents the musically accompanied program “Lincoln and Liberty: Songs as Sound Clips from the Civil War.” Learn a bit about the life and times by considering the tunes humming across the stained battlefields and dark woodlands. Call 542-5533.

Fall asleep that evening humming “Lorena,” and awake rested and ready for another early season adventure with those Rocky Mountaineers. On Sun., June 7, hike the Continental Divide Trail from Rogers Pass to Green Mountain—it’s roughly five miles each way—where the wildflowers serve to assure you of the existence of a benevolent spirit somewhere in the universe. Call Julie at 543-6508.

The Big Hole National Battlefield, outside the town of Wisdom, stands on the site of one of the nastiest conflicts of the American West, and this weekend, they’re switching over to their summer hours. On Sun., June 7, the Big Hole Battlefield commences their daily summer hours—9 AM–6 PM every day—and announces the beginning of a weekly speaker series on July 4, so keep your eyes glued to this column. Actually, don’t. That’s nasty.

The Bitterroot National Forest wants to help you get right with Goddess, and they have just the activity to start your bloody knee-walk of penance. On Sun., June 7, the first event in their Walk By The Light Of The Moon Series—this one’s called “Bear Moon”—begins at the Blodgett Canyon Campground at 7 PM. Learn about the supposed existence of some creature called a “bear,” and about the efforts of the Wind River “Bear” Institute to use Karelian “Bear” Dogs to train these mythical beasts to avoid humans. It’s free, it begins with a guided hike and you can keep any “bears” you can catch. Call 375-2606.

Your kids are already starting to stink up the house with all that breathing of theirs, am I right? Send them into the hinterlands with the help of Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures (MOLA), which offers roughly three months of outdoor day camp—with a weekly overnight on Thu.—beginning on Mon., June 8. It’s open to those between the ages of 6.5–17, and you can get more info when you call Porter at 240-2458, or when you visit missoulaoutdoors.com.

And until next week, keep out a wary eye for the sinister hand of the One Above, and stay away from high, exposed ledges.
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