Mountain High 

Well, the Calendar Playa's a little tuckered out from an action packed weekend of music at Total Fest, but that doesn't mean he forgot about you, outdoors enthusiasts of the Zoo. I've got a lineup of events that weaves you through conservation, light-to-moderately-heavy hikes, kayaking classes, a triathlon and even hunter education courses for novices.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ALEX SAKARIASSEN

We'll dive into the week with yet another opportunity to offer your services to Mother Nature when you head to Rawhide as part of the National Forest Foundation and Great Burn Study Group's 2009 volunteer monitoring backpacking trips to the Great Burn Wilderness area. You'll depart Fri., Aug. 28, and return Sun., Aug. 30, on a journey to monitor weeds, wildlife, trail conditions, signs and other info critical to understanding management of this precious wildland. If that sounds up your nature-devoted alley, call Beverly Dupree at 240-9901 or e-mail thegreatburn@yahoo.com.

But if you fancy tweaking and pulling rather than taking mental and physical notes for stewardship purposes, I think a knapweed pull trip on Sat., Aug. 29, to the North Fork of the Blackfoot suits your needs. Once you head off at a TBA time with members of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, your diligent hands will yank those pesky weeds away as you wander along the river like an aimless hippy near the Scapegoat Wilderness. You're asked to RSVP one week ahead of time, but hurry up and call 387-3808 or visit www.bmwf.org.

Perhaps you'd rather be closer to home whilst restoring our ecosystem. Well then, allow me to recommend Watershed Wednesdays, a weekly get-together where you sop up information about plants and wildlife native to the lower Rattlesnake. Plan to bring a good attitude and work gloves, since you'll donate those nimble fingers to ongoing restoration activities. If that sounds stimulating, plan to meet this and every Wed. at 6 PM at the Bugbee Nature Area, off Missoula Ave. in the lower Rattlesnake, and do it before you plan to have pints with your buds downtown. Call Andrew at 531-2527 or e-mail rattlesnakecreek.watershedgroup@gmail.com.

Mucking around in dirt isn't always so fun, and I don't blame you if you're not in the mood to toil away and would rather play. If so, I think it's time for some climbs and hikes suited for both the experienced and the greenhorn. Specifically, I'll pitch that you join fellow trekkers Fri., Aug. 28, and Sat., Aug. 29, at the Rising Sun Campground in Glacier National Park for the Rocky Mountaineers Fifth Annual Glacier Classic. Once you've pitched a tent, get ready for class one (hiking on trails) to class three (rugged off-trail hiking with some use of hands to ascend rocks) hikes, climbs and scrambles. One such jaunt includes a 10.5-mile climb/scramble up to Little Chief Mountain, where you'll reach elevations of 5900 feet. Of course, there's plenty more in store, so head over to www.rockymountaineers.com for a full rundown on this trip, which is free (besides camping) and open to the public. Once you've made up your mind, signup and secure yourself a campsite by contacting Forest Dean at 240-7612 or e-mailing him at mtnear@gmail.com. You can also try Steve Niday at 721-3790 or seniday@yahoo.com.

Some of those hikes might be too excessive for your fragile body. If that's the case, and you're a student at the University of Montana, then I think two different day hikes with the outdoor program at UM's Fitness and Rec center should fit your bill. The first is an excursion to Lolo Peak on Sun., Sept. 6, but you must register by Wed., Sept. 2. The trip costs $25, but the rewards are plenty, including extravagant views of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, as well as guides and transportation. If homework ruins your Sunday plans, relax on Labor Day, Mon., Sept. 7, with another trip, this time to Cha-Pa-Qnn Peak. This 8-mile trip, which you should be signed up for by Thu., Sept. 3, also costs $25, but offers you the ability to explore a gorgeous alpine summit west of town, along with transportation and guides. For both trips, call 243-5172.

Once you've fully exerted your leg muscles from hiking, give those arms a hefty workout during intro whitewater kayaking classes which run Sept. 4, 8 and 10 from 8:30–10:30 PM at UM's Grizzly Pool. You're bound to paddle into being a pro with additional classes Sept. 15 and 17 from 5:30–8:30 PM on the Clark Fork River, as well as an all-day class Sept. 20 on the Blackfoot River. Also note you'll have to shell out $185 for the course, and make sure to sign up by Tue., Sept. 1. Call 243-2802.

Still, before you hurry off to register, be even speedier in order to land a spot at the First Annual Zootown Sprint Triathlon on Sat., Aug. 29. Registration is $55 and is now full, but you can still secure your name on the waiting list for the affair, which starts early in the morning with a swimming competition at Splash Montana, then moves to a 12.81-mile bike race and a ends with a 3.3-mile run. Click over to www.zootowntri.com.

Before I send you off for the remaining week, here's a reminder to all novice hunters in Seeley Lake and Frenchtown to register for free hunter education classes. The course in Seeley Lake starts Mon., Aug. 31 and registration is Fri., Aug. 28, from 5–7 PM at Seeley-Swan High School, 456 Airport Road in Seeley Lake. Call 542-5500. The class in Frenchtown meets Sept. 18, 25 and 26, with registration on Mon., Aug. 31, at the Frenchtown Fire Hall administration building, 16875 Marion St., at 7 PM. Call 542-5518.

And for now, that is all. Whether you aim to contribute to the lands, or romp around with Gaia and her fearless waters and mountain peaks, keep on keepin' on while the sun still burns bright.

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