Mountain High 

If the sight of warblers or thrushes in flight electrifies your senses, you're in for an epic avian treat this week. At 3 PM Fri., June 4, any and all Montana birders should descend to the Holiday Inn-Downtown at the Park in Missoula, 200 S. Pattee St., for the Montana Audubon Society's annual festival known as "Wings Across the Big Sky." As I mentioned last week, this fest—which runs from June 4 through Sun., June 6— is basically the Lollapalooza of birding, and features a host of speakers like raptor master Kate Davis, and includes over 30 bird watching trips to various locales around Missoula. Prices vary to attend, from $75 for the weekend to $55 for Sat. only. Visit mtaudubon.org for a complete schedule and to register, or just go to the convention at 3 PM to sign up in-person. Call 443-3949.

If for some reason you're a bird hater, take a hike Fri., June 4, during a Lake Missoula Hike from 4–7 PM, starting with a meet up at the Pattee Canyon Gravel Pit at 4. From there, you'll ascend up Mount Sentinel to the Lake Missoula high water mark, where local experts with the Ice Age Floods Institute will pour heady knowledge into your noggin about the Ice Age and surrounding rock formations. Afterwards, you'll get refreshed with a no host beer and pizza party at the Kettlehouse. Free to attend. E-mail Jim at james.shelden.@bresnan.net.

Or you could gear up for your upcoming jaunts in the wild with a shindig on Fri., June 4, during The Montana Wilderness Association's 48th annual Wilderness Walks kickoff party, which occurs from 5–8 PM at The Trail Head, 221 E. Front St. Free. The soiree celebrates the organization's walking series—which offers participants the chance to hit the trails with125 free guided hikes across the state—and offers you the chance to sip on local beer, munch on barbecued kabobs, as well as a check out a performance by local bluegrass faves The Lil' Smokies. You'll also be able to grab a copy of the 2010 Wilderness Walks Guide Book, as well as snag some sick info on sweet local hikes. Call Gabriel at 541-8615.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHAD HARDER

Later on Fri., June 4, take your lover to the stars when you gaze at planets and distant galaxies during Blue Mountain Observatory's first public observation of the year, which begins at 10:30 PM. Free. Visit physics.umt.edu/bluemountain for a map and call 243-5179 for updates.

Then, on Sat., June 5, you best head north to Glacier National Park, since the park is offering free admission all day Sat., June 5, and Sun., June 6. Of course, camping, concessions and the like will cost you. Visit nps.gov/glac/index.htm.

Or better yet, pedal like a supa freak for a good cause on Sat., June 5, during the American Lung Association's "Breathe Ride," a 100-mile or 35-mile ride (depending on your preference) along the stunning Rocky Mountain Front that begins with day-of registration at 6 AM at the Sun River Methodist Church in Sun River, which sits north on Hwy. 200 near Great Falls. Registration is $60, and you also need to raise $50 in donations, but know that these proceeds benefit Montana's American Lung Association. Visit montanabreatheride.org and call 442-6556.

If you're in the mood to give in different way, hook nature up with your mad service skills Sat., June 5, during two National Trails Day services projects. The first is at 8 AM at the Rock Creek Trailhead, where you'll use your nimble hands to reconstruct a turnpike on the trail. $10. Be sure to bring essential outdoors gear like hiking shoes, appropriate clothing, lunch and a cold beer (just kidding). Contact Hannah at hannah.riedl@umconnect.umt.edu.

The second project begins at the Van Buren pedestrian bridge and Kim Williams Trail junction at 8:30 AM and is slim on details, but it looks like you'll do your part to protect natural spaces. Free, with lunch served at 11:45 AM. Bring gloves, water, sunscreen and dress appropriately (that means leave the bling at home). Registration required, so go to rei.com/stores/72 to RSVP.

Little runts get their birding on Sat., June 5, during the Montana Natural History Center/Montana Audubon Society's Kids' Bird Fest, which begins at 8 AM at the Montana Audubon Society table at the Clark Fork River Market, just below the north Higgins Ave. bridge. An array of bird scoping follows, including a bluebird hike at 9 AM, and naturalist walks at 10 and 11 AM. Free. Open to kids ages 5 and up. Call 327-0405 and visit montananaturalist.org.

If you're in the Flathead on Sat., June 5, enjoy a stroll among a range of flora when the Flathead Chapter of the Montana Native Plant Society hosts a hike up the Johnson Mountain Terraces. Free. Meet at 9 AM at the soccer fields across from the Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish, 2 Fairway Drive, and bring lunch and water. Call Betty at 892-0129 to RSVP.

On Mon., June 7, runners get an edge on the competition during a talk with Courtney Babcock titled "Formulating Your Race Strategy for the Missoula Marathon," which begins at 7 PM at the Good Food Store, 1600 S. Third St. W. Free. Visit runwildmissoula.org.

Bow out from the week on a vegetative note when the Clark Fork Chapter of the Montana Native Plant Society hosts two plant-a-riffic events. The first is the John Toole Park weed pull, which occurs Tue., June 8, at 6:30 PM with a meet up at the park, just east of the Missoulian building and near the Kim Williams Trail. Free. Call John at 542-2640.

The second outing is a flower scoping expedition that takes you to the Nine Mile Prairie up the Blackfoot, and begins at 5:30 PM Wed., June 9, by meeting at the northwest corner of UM's Adams Center's parking lot to carpool. Free. Call Kelly at 258-5439.

Now let the bird ogling commence!.

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