Mountain High 

Well folks, it seems as though the prime time to camp has finally arrived. Heck, I'm sure many of you have already started pitching your tents in yonder hills. But if you're like me, and you're sorely lacking in quality camping equipment—or your good stuff is beat to shreds from years of use—I have a solution. A very cheap and sustainable solution.

On Thu., April 29, bring your wallet and get ready for a treasure hunt of sorts during the UM Outdoor Program's Used Outdoor Gear Sale, which runs from noon—5 PM in the University Center. It's free to attend, and if you'd like to get rid of some of your own gear, be sure to bring it by the UC between 7 and 11 AM. Here's one other piece of info you should know: The outdoor program collects 15 percent of the sale price of your gear. Call 243-2804.

Also, Fri., April 30, marks the final day that you can drop off your used outdoor gear for the Nature-Link Institute's Gear for the Garhwal drive. Drop-off locations are at UM's Outdoor Program, Pipestone Mountaineering, The Trail Head and Aerie Wilderness Medicine. Visit nature-link.org and call Eric at 370-2294.

If you have a soft spot in your heart for elk, you can do your part to help conserve their natural habitat by snatching a ticket to the Five Valleys Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Banquet, which occurs at the Hilton Garden Inn at 5:30 PM Sat., May 8. But in order to go, you must purchase a ticket by Fri., April 30. $105 couple/$70 per person. Admission includes a one-year membership to the foundation. Call Hailey at 825-0140.

Then, aim your sights (and I don't mean your Beretta) toward two elegant rock formations on Fri., April 30, when the Rocky Mountaineers hit up Glacier National Park for a three-day excursion to Gunsight and Edwards mountains. Free. The plan is to hike and ski up the Gunsight Pass Trail to the Sperry Glacier area on Friday, and to ascend the peaks on Saturday and Sunday. Conditions could be dicey, so be sure to pack skis/snowshoes, an ice axe, crampons and winter camp gear. Call Forest Dean at 240-7612, or e-mail him at mtnear1@gmail.com, for the departure time.

Or go deep into a fungal jungle Fri., April 30, during a screening of Know Your Mushrooms, a doc which follows mushroom experts Gary Lincoff and Larry Evans on their hunt for wild mushrooms and begins at 7 PM at the Montana Natural History Center (MNHC), 120 Hickory St. $4/$2 MNHC members. Call 327-0405.

Once the fungus has exited the building, snag some sleep and be an early bird Sat., May 1, so you can join the Five Valleys Audubon Society during a birding trip to Brown's Lake and the upper Blackfoot Valley, which starts with an 8 AM meet up at UM's Adams Center parking lot. Free. As for the avian ogling, expect to witness waterfowl, raptors, sandhill cranes and other migrant birds. Call Larry Weeks at 549-5632 and visit fvamissoula.org.

Pack it up and pack it in Sat., May 1, during the Smoke Elser led Wilderness Outfitting and Packing Course, which runs from 9 AM–5 PM, and at the same time Sun., May 2, at the Glacier Outdoor Center in West Glacier. Elser—who's considered an outfitting legend of sorts—will cover horse handling, packing, camping techniques and other pertinent topics. $175. Space is limited, so RSVP quickly by calling 888-5454.

You can pull these weeds, but I wouldn't advise smoking them: The Mount Jumbo Advisory Committee hosts its annual Mount Jumbo Weed Pull, which begins Sat., May 1, with registration at 9 AM. The pull follows from10 AM–1 PM, and costs $5 to register. Besides pulling up nasty weeds, you'll get trained in native plant ID, and you'll reseed the areas where you pulled. As a green bonus, all "champion" pullers get a cash prize for their efforts. Call Giles at 543-2532.

Push your chain to the limit Sat., May 1, when you glide with members of Missoulians on Bicycles (MOBI) during the Rock Creek Ramble, a 52-mile ride which departs at 10 AM from the Eastgate parking lot off of east Broadway St. Free. There's also talk of lunch at Eckstrom's Stage, so bring an appetite. Call Eleanor at 728-8636 and visit missoulabike.org. Also, MOBI has a ride scheduled for Sun., May 2. It's the 55-mile Cheese Burger Boogie to Stevi, and departs at 9 AM from Montana Lil's, 3801 Brooks St. Free. Call Tom and Sue Roy at 728-8319.

Or turn your yard into an isle of earthly delights on Sat., May 1, during the MNHC's Native Plant Garden Workshop, which runs from 1–4 PM at the center, 120 Hickory St. David Schmetterling leads the class and will no doubt rock your gardening world with info on garden design, and use of space and structure. $40/$35 MNHC members. RSVP required by calling 327-0405.

On Mon., May 3, getting wet and doing kayak rolls isn't just a dream anymore when you sign up for the UM Outdoor Program's Kayak Roll Clinic, which runs from 8:30–10:30 PM on May 4 and May 6 at UM's Grizzly Pool. $45. Call 243-5172 to RSVP.

Finish things off Wed., May 5, by bursting your senses with the fecund during the Clark Fork Chapter of the Montana Native Plant Society's Wildflower Hike on Mount Sentinel, which starts at 6:30 PM. Free. Meet at the corner of Beckwith and Madeline Avenues, east of UM's Forest Service Research Lab. Forest ecologist Paul Alaback leads the hike, which could include up to 130 different flower species for your perusing pleasure. Call Paul at 728-4696.

Now go pitch a tent, and feel free to fill me in on your favorite camping hotspots.

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