If you're a gear hound looking to unload some of your old but still quality wares for a good cause, check this out: On Sat., March 19, the Nature-Link Institute (NLI) kicks off its Gear for the Garhwal drive. If you're unfamiliar with the initiative, here's some background: The NLI is a local, nonprofit study abroad organization that's accredited through UM and offers students the chance to study at the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, in the high Himalaya region of Northern India. Over time, the organization has developed a close relationship with the Mountain Shepherds, an eco-tourism organization located in the reserve that's owned and operated by 44 youths who are certified mountaineers and guides. Unfortunately, these youth can't afford the gear necessary for alpine travel.
Here's where you come into play: The NLI is looking to accumulate quality used gear to donate to the group. This includes seasonal tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, technical shells, trekking/hiking boots and other mountaineering and backpacking gear. You can drop these off at the locations listed below. Then, in mid-May, UM students will hand deliver the gear to the Mountain Shepherds. It's a service that, according to NLI's website, has helped keep the shepherds well equipped for travel, while also helping to maintain an important socio-economic drive in that region.
The Gear for the Garhwal Drive begins Sat., March 19, and runs through Sat., April 30, with drop-off locations at UM's Outdoor Program, The Trail Head, Aerie Wilderness Medicine and REI Missoula. Call Eric at 370-2294 or visit nature-link.org for more info.
FRIDAY MARCH 18
Carve some time into your schedule to witness local and regional figure skaters compete for medals during the Missoula Figure Skating Club's annual Glacier Challenge Competition, which kicks off from 2–6 PM at the Glacier Ice Rink, 1101 South Ave. W. The competition continues Sat. from 8 AM–6 PM. Free. Visit missoulafsc.org.
SATURDAY MARCH 19
Praise the gluten goddess during the Wheat Montana 5k, a race that benefits Missoula Aging Services and begins with race-day registration at 7:30 AM, followed by the race at 9, in the parking lot of Wheat Montana, 2520 S. Third St. W. $17 on race day/$15 advance, with registration forms at Wheat Montana and Runner's Edge. Call 546-1619 for more info.
Walk to victory when Run Wild Missoula presents its Missoula Marathon Walk Training Class, which features coaching from veteran marathon walkers and meets every Sat. at 8 AM until July 10 at the Rehab Gym of Community Medical Center, 2827 Fort Missoula Road. $35. Visit runwildmissoula.org to register and for more info.
Get up to snuff on your bird ogling when The Five Valleys and Bitterroot Audubon Societies present a Beginning Bird Walk that covers avian ID, plus use of field guides and binoculars, at 10 AM at the headquarters of Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, 4567 Wildfowl Lane, outside of Stevensville. Families and children are welcome. Free. Call Larry at 549-5632.
Cycle away that frown when Missoulians on Bicycles hosts the Happy Trails to Stevi Big Loop, which departs at 10 AM from Kmart, 3626 Brooks St., and takes you 40 miles south on a bike path with a side trip to the Bass Creek Campground, plus lunch in Stevensville. You can also meet riders at the Conoco in Lolo at 10:30 AM. Free. Visit missoulabike.org for updates on other rides.
You just might hum that Lynard Skynard song "That Smell" when the Clark Fork Chapter of the Montana Native Plant Society meets for the program Tropical Montana, which features the chance to see rare and endangered orchids from Madagascar, plus other plants, starting at 2 PM at Botanica Ltd., 3112 S. Third St. W. Free. Call Kelly at 258-5439.
Kids ages 5 and up tap into some turtle power when the Montana Natural History Center, 120 Hickory St., presents its Saturday Kids' Activity: Turtle Time!, a program on the reptile that features the chance to meet one, and begins at 2 PM. Children must be accompanied by an adult. $3/$1 members. Call 327-0405.
SUNDAY MARCH 20
Who's the best skier and snowboarder of them all? Find out during Snowbowl's Best of the Bowl, a race at Grizzly Chute that judges alpine skiers, telemark skiers and snowboarders on speed and style, and begins soon after Snowbowl opens at 10 AM. Free to enter. Size up at montanasnowbowl.com and call 549-9777 for more info.
WEDNESDAY MARCH 23
Perfect your "Eskimo roll" and get wet when you sign up for the UM Outdoor Program's Kayak Roll Clinic, which meets March 29 and 31 at 8:30 PM at the Grizzly Pool. $45. Participants must have some kayaking experience. Register by today by calling 243-5172.
Get your mid-week cycling kicks with a pedaling mob when Missoulians on Bicycles hosts it Wednesday Weekly ride, which starts at 6 PM at Bernice's Bakery, 190 S. Third St. W., and whisks you 23 miles through back roads to Butler Creek. Free. Visit missoulabike.org.