Mountain High 

Obviously you love to play outdoors, but how many of you like to really geek out on nature by researching, studying or creatively writing about it?

If you just gave an enthusiastic "Hells yeah," then check this: UM's Wilderness Institute is currently soliciting proposals for its Matthew Hansen Endowment, which grants money for historical research, creative writing and wilderness studies that focus on Montana's lands and people, with the intent of encouraging stewardship as well as preserving our state's cultural heritage. The submission guide is lengthy, and it's due by March 1, so I'll direct you to click over to cfc.umt.edu/wi for more info. And while we're on the subject of the Wilderness Institute, I've got another piece of news. They are currently looking to hire a Wilderness Field Leader for this summer. You'll be paid $15 an hour to monitor weed invasions, recreation impacts and other nifty things in the Ten Lakes Wilderness Study Area. Visit the link above to find out more.

With that, let's move on to something weedy that you can't puff but that you can certainly appreciate: On Thu., Feb. 11, The Clark Fork Chapter of the Montana Native Plant Society hosts a talk by Jennifer Palladini about alien weeds titled "The Bee Stands Alone: Montana's Solitary Bees and their relationships with Native and Introduced Plants." It starts at 7:30 PM in Room L09 of UM's Gallagher Business Building, so don't space it. Free. Visit mtnativeplants.org.

On Sat., Feb. 13, make sure you're ready to get ill with raptors under the guidance of birding master Denver Holt during the Montana Natural History Center's "Saturday Discovery Day–The Wonder of Winter Raptors with Denver Holt," which starts with a meet up at the godly hour of 7:30 AM at the MNHC headquarters, 120 Hickory St. $50/$45 members. Holt plans to guide you towards birding ecstasy all day, at least until 5 PM, so expect to get intoxicated with raptor history and ID tips, as well as ogle at what could be hawks, falcons and other rapturous raptors. RSVP quickly by calling 327-0405 and visit montananaturalist.org.

Or you could spend Sat., Feb. 13, in the company of an ascending master when Chris Dunn of the Rocky Mountaineers leads a snowshoe/ski trip up to St. Mary Peak in the Bitterroots at a TBA time on Saturday. Dunn indicates he'll scale the peak in snowshoes, and might also stay the night if anyone else is down, so e-mail him at hammaneater@gmail.com or ring him at 203-4962 to finalize plans and a time to meet. Visit rockymountaineers.com.

If you find pleasure in watching skiers shoot through gnarly pow, scoot up to Montana Snowbowl on Sat., Feb. 13, to watch the MSEF Classic and Masters Race, a USSA Master's Competition that features slalom races for women and men starting at 10 AM. The race runs all day, each day, through Mon., Feb. 15. Free to spectate. Visit montanasnowbowl.com and missoulaskiteam.org.

The planet Neptune gets a holla on Sat., Feb. 13, during the Montana Natural History Center's Saturday Kids Activity titled "Planets, Moons and Stars," which blends solar system facts, stellar stories and a comet building activity into one tasty astral smoothie starting at 2 PM at the center, 120 Hickory St. $2 per child/free MNHC members. Open to children ages 5 and up. Call 327-0405.

Getting soaked with sweat and panting heavily seems like a fitting activity for Valentine's Day on Sun., Feb. 14, during the Scrumpy Jack Scramble, a two-mile partnered relay race through McCormick Park which starts with registration at 8 AM at the Currents Aquatics Center meeting room, 600 Cregg Lane. $20 team/$10 per person, with teams formed just before the race if you don't have a partner. The race itself starts at 9 AM and serves as a benefit for Hellgate High School's cross-country team. Visit runwildmissoula.org for an entry form and call Em or Tory at 829-1313 with questions.

Then get a full body wax of knowledge during a Missoula Nordic Ski Club adult skate ski clinic on Sun., Feb. 14, at 1 PM at the Pattee Canyon trailhead. Kellie Carim and Dennis Feeney lead the clinic with their mad ski skills, so you best recognize. They also host a kids' skate ski clinic at the same place starting at 2:30 PM. Both clinics appear to be free, but you should stop being such a leech and join their club already. Also, the location could change due to weather, so click over to missoulanordic.org for updates.

On Tue., Feb. 16, dot your poles and cross your skis by signing up for a beginner cross-country ski trip which occurs on Sat., Feb. 20. $30. Lee Metzger, retired wildlife bio prof and outdoors swami, hosts the trip and will review basic techniques and run through practice exercises. He's also likely to drop some serious deets about animal tracks and winter ecology along the way. RSVP by calling 243-5172.

Seasonal affective disorder gets a pink slip on Wed., Feb. 17, during the program "Siyeh Pass Virtual Wildflower Field Trip," which starts at 7 PM at Glacier Discovery Square, 540 Nucleus Ave. in Columbia Falls. Expect Jen Asebrook, a botanist with Glacier National Park, to visually tell winter to screw off as she teases you with pictures of the diverse wildflower habitats of Glacier's Siyeh Pass. Free. Call 863-9630.

I'll finish off by informing you of yet another Pipestone Mountaineering and Marshall Mountain sponsored snowshoe adventure in the backcountry of Marshall Mountain that starts at 10 AM on Sat., Feb. 20. You'll explore snowy terrains, cram your head with avalanche awareness info, as well as build a snow shelter. $21/$17 with resident discount card. The deadline to sign up is Thu., Feb. 18, so hurry and call Missoula Parks and Rec at 552-6271.

Now hop to it, and write something visionary about your adventures this week, will ya?

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