Mountain High 

It sure feels good to be back in the saddle again. The saddle of my bike seat, that is. You see, I've been out of a working bike for a few months now and I've felt the affects: uneasiness in the legs and a propensity to rely on that thing called a "car." My recovery has been smooth, but I just wanted to give a shout out to all you pedaling peeps and remind you, reader, to utilize our recently revamped city bike routes and our prolific bike trail systems, at least before the first snowflake drops.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ALEX SAKARIASSEN

In fact, you'll have a chance tonight to pedal it up when you join Missoula's Thursday Night Mountain Bike Group when they meet at 6 PM at the Rattlesnake Trailhead to ride up Sawmill Gulch and then ride the Turkey Trail. Free. Head over to thursdaynightmtbr.org or give Alden Wright a call at 243-4790 or 542-1966.

Once Friday hits and you're in the mood to party, I suggest raising a toast to the Montana Natural History Center by heading to their annual banquet and auction at 6 PM in the Governor's Ballroom of the Florence Building, 111 N. Higgins Ave. $50/$45 members. If you decide to go, get ready for scrumptious food from Two Sisters Catering, drinks from the Red Bird, as well as a chance to bid on nature trips and more. RSVP by calling 327-0405.

On Saturday, you'll be summoned to duty as part of National Public Lands Day, and I've got a handful of projects to keep you bustling.

First, you'll meet with members of the Sierra Club and Westslope Chapter of Trout Unlimited for a day of restoration at Little McCormick Creek, just northwest of town. You'll do your part by planting willows, dogwood, alder and other plants to help stabilize the stream bank and provide habitat for fish and other creatures. Meet at the Missoula Public Library, 301 E. Main St., at 8:30 AM, or alternately head to the Ninemile Ranger Station by 10 AM. Don't space bringing work gloves, water and raingear, and note a celebration barbeque follows the workday. RSVP by calling 542-1192 or e-mailing rroberts@tu.org.

If being closer to home is where your nature-loving heart is, cruise over to another important waterway when the Rattlesnake Creek Watershed Group meets from 9 AM–5 PM in the Bugbee Nature Area of Rattlesnake Creek, where you'll pull weeds, plant native trees and shrubs, as well as spread grass and wildflower seeds. Free. Bring work gloves, an enthusiastic mind and wheelbarrows, shovels, pitchforks, rakes or rock bars, if you have them. Also, park on Herbert, Raymond or Charis streets and not on Missoula Avenue. Call Andrew at 531-2527 or e-mail rattlesnakecreek.watershedgroup@gmail.com.

And just when you thought you were done with nature's housekeeping, those folks at Missoula Parks and Rec found a way to snare you and your kid during a day of trail construction, pond restoration and tree planting at Silver's Lagoon in McCormick Park from 9 AM–1 PM. Free. A barbeque is also on tap for your unwavering servitude. Call 721-PARK or visit www.missoulaparks.org. Also of note to parents: In conjunction with the cleanup, there's also a free Kaboom! Play Day for Kids ages 5 and up at the same time at Silver's Lagoon and features activities like interpretive hikes and aquatic insect studies.

Maybe you aren't inclined to drudge in the dirt on Saturday. If that's the case, enlighten yourself with a safari of sorts as you join the Five Valleys Audubon Society when they mosey up to Flesher Pass to gaze at migrating raptors and visit a raptor banding site. Slurp a couple shots of espresso so you can run over to UM's Adams Field House parking lot to meet other trip-goers at 6 AM. Also, bring some good hiking boots and appropriate dress, as there will be some hiking involved. Call Larry Weeks at 549-5632 to sign up.

If raptors don't tickle your intellectual and visual marbles and you're jonesin' for an optical rush of goliath proportions, skip the raptor trip and jump on a bus tour exploring Glacial Lake Missoula's effects on the Mission Valley. You'll join the Montana Natural History Center and Glacial Lake Missoula Chapter of the Ice Age Floods Institute for this expedition, which takes you to a number of water carved locales for your viewing pleasure including the Bison Range, Mission Mountains, Camas Prairie and Rainbow Lake. The trip runs from 8 AM–5 PM and the bus departs from the MNHC headquarters, 120 Hickory St. $35/$30 members. Call 327-0405 to RSVP.

Those seeking ecstasy through physical endurance, rather than peeping rock formations, should heed the calling of those saints of physical fury, the Rocky Mountaineers, when they head up Saturday to Miller Peak in the Sapphires for a 20–25 mile mountain bike adventure which follows the Solstice ride route. Time and location to meet at is TBA. Call leader Alden Wright at 243-4790 or 542-1966.

After a whirlwind weekend of exertion, I now direct your attention to another round of UM Campus Recreation Department events: a leave no trace trainers overnight course which you must sign up for by Mon, Sept. 28, that costs $45. There's also signups for UM raquetball and squash leagues, due Tue., Sept. 28, as well as a free lecture on weight management on Sept. 30, and a recurring weight management class every Thursday from Oct. 1 to Nov. 19, which costs $25. Call 243-2804 or visit life.umt.edu/CREC.

And, for all you powder hounds out there, here's a reminder that season tickets for Whitefish Mountain Resort are currently on sale until Sept. 30 for these prices: $535 adults/$435 college students and seniors/$295 teens and $145 for juniors. Click over to skiwhitefish.com or call 862-2900.

Now get out there and dig up some dirt, hop on a bike, or amble about in the woods until we meet again next week.

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