Mountain High 

Ira Sather-Olson

We've now made it into the part of summer where Mother Nature isn't sure whether she wants us to sweat like pigs or be soaked by torrential downpour and hail, as has been the case around Missoula this past week. Still, fluctuations in weather aside, the Calendar Playa has a plethora of outdoors-related activities in store for you this week, running the gamut from volunteer based camp trips to farm tours, lectures and more.

Speaking of volunteer trips, Fri., July 31, brings us two opportunities to do our part as stewards of the land.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHAD HARDER

The first is the Wilderness Institute's series of summer backpacking trips that include conservation work in the Sapphire and Blue Joint Wilderness Study areas. This week's trip starts Fri., July 31, and runs until Tue., Aug. 4, and will take campers to Razorback Ridge where you'll get to see views from elevations of 8500 feet. Campers should also expect to learn about invasive species, native plants and monitoring methods on weeds, recreation impacts and wilderness character. Call Sarah Potenza at 243-6956 or visit www.cfc.umt.edu/wi.

The second trip, which also starts Friday and runs until Aug. 2, takes hikers up to Roland Point as part of the Great Burn Study Group and National Forest Foundation's volunteer monitor outings. Once at the site, you'll be monitoring weeds, wildlife, trail conditions and signs. So if the volunteer spirit is in you this week, give Beverly Dupree a call at 240-9901 or send an e-mail over to thegreatburn@yahoo.com.

On Saturday, after you sleep in a bit, you'll have a chance to learn about all things ursine and how to live with them during the Second Annual Bear Fair in Condon, which runs from 11 AM–3 PM. You can expand your knowledge of bear vs. human relations with presentations from a host of bear experts including Chuck Jonkel of the Great Bear Foundation and Tim Manley, grizzly bear specialist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Plus, there'll be free brats to eat and beer to drink (and soft drinks for those of us that don't imbibe) from noon to 2 PM. And, after gorging on said items you'll probably want to take a walk on the Bear Aware trail, to burn off some of those calories, of course. RSVP at 754-3137 or click over to www.swanecosystemcenter.org and www.northwestconnections.org.

If you're not able to make it up to Condon, you can still head outdoors on Saturday during a 5-mile day hike to the Big Hole Lookout Cabin for a citizen science hike led by American Wildlands. Once there you'll be able to see spectacular views of the Bitterroot and Mission mountains and you'll help experts compile information on evidence of wildlife and habitat conditions. If interested, prepare yourself by bringing a notebook to jot down notes, as well as a still or video camera. Plan to meet at 10 AM at the junction of Weeksville Creek Road 887 and Highway 200, eight miles west of Plains. Once at the junction, turn onto Weeksville Creek Road, go past the cattle guard and park for carpooling. Call Kim Davitt at 728-2087.

After a long Saturday, relax with a beer or two that night and head into Sunday with a tour of four Moiese Valley farms that provide us with a host of delightfully tasty foods. Those who go on this trip—sponsored by the Western Montana Sustainable Growers' Union—will head to the Blue Barn farm, Thunder Head Gardens, as well as the Ploughshare and Lowdown farms. The cost of the trip is a $15 donation and lunch will be provided. Plan to meet at the parking lot adjacent to the Good Food Store around 9:45 AM with the group leaving at 10 AM. Call Sally at 543-7576. Separate carpools are encouraged.

After some Sunday rest, Monday brings fun for those of you who have teenagers during the Liam Wood Fly Fishers and River Guardians Program, which runs until Aug. 7. Your teen will learn about fly tying, river ecology, guided fly fishing and field journaling from instructors including local author David James Duncan, UM creative writing professor and fly fisher Chris Dombrowski, as well as Josh Gubits, program coordinator for the Watershed Education Network. The weeklong workshop costs $300 and imited scholarships are available. Call 541-9287 or visit www.montanawatershed.org.

After you've gotten over that case of the Mondays, Tuesday brings us a lecture about those animals known as cougars and pumas during the talk "Mountain Lions in the West: Natural History, Conservation and Co-Existence" in Room 301 of UM's Forestry Building at 6:30 PM. Free. Call Wendy Keefover-Ring at 303-819-5229 or e-mail wkeefoverring@wildearthguardians.org.

To send you off for the middle of our week, UM's Flathead Lake Biological Station is holding an open house from 1–5 PM on Wednesday for those with a keen interest in what scientists do all day up on that beautiful lake. Free. To get there, head up to Polson and go 17.5 miles north on Highway 35. Call 982-3301.

And just before you thought the day was over, you'll have yet another chance to give back to nature before you punish your liver at Wasted Wednesday when you drop by the Rattlesnake Creek Watershed Group's weekly Watershed Wednesday meeting. Come down to the Bugbee Nature area, off of Missoula Ave., from 6–8:30 PM if you like learning about plants and wildlife native to the area and want to help with restoration activities. Call Andrew at 531-2527.

Well then, that was a lot, wasn't it? Hopefully this mix of invigorating events for your body and mind keeps you sweating bullets and firing synapses through next week. As always, keep shooting me e-mails, phone calls or snail mail about outdoors related events by 5 PM on Fri., July 31. Until then, take advantage of Mother Nature, but remember to give back what you take.

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