Two falls ago, I experienced the alarming silence of the wilderness while elk hunting. It was one of the most frightening and comforting moments I have ever known. I sat in the crevice of a shattered boulder, overlooking a drainage in the saddle of the area's tallest ridge. The sun had slipped west and a whorl of thick gray clouds full of heavy, cold air blew in from the north and quickly obscured previously visible peaks. The wind actually howled. Like a wounded creature. Shards of snow flew and pinged off my exposed head. In minutes, I could see neither the bowl below me nor the sky above. Everything was white and loud. Trees cracked and whistled, clapped and screamed. I considered whether to haul myself back down to the pick-up right-quick or sit out the high country tempest. The cold air got colder. I stood to leave and it all ended. A switch flipped. It was as if my standing up was the command for the fury to end. Large flakes of snow began to silently and deliberately drift to the ground. I made my way back to the rig. Silence reigned. These sorts of moments make one appreciate the power and beauty of wilderness, and the people at the Montana Wilderness Association help make them a reality for others during their Wilderness Walks, which celebrate their 50th anniversary this year. The mission of the MWA is to connect people with the wilderness and to protect the state's wilderness heritage through education and advocacy. The MWA has several Wilderness Walks planned within two hours of Missoula this summer (and a total of 150 statewide) and plans to celebrate the anniversary with a screening of 3 Miles An Hour, with an introduction by noted backcountry outfitter Smoke Elser (star of the film and of the Bob Marshall Wilderness) as well as by the film's producers, John Twiggs and Alison Perkins, at the Roxy Theater.
The 50th anniversary of the Montana Wilderness Association's Wilderness Walks takes place at the Roxy Theater, 718 S. Higgins Ave., on Thu., May 31, at 6:30 PM. Visit wildmontana.org.
THURSDAY MAY 31
For summertime learning and such, the Montana Natural History Center's miniNaturalists Pre-K Program has moved to the Fort Missoula Native Plant Gardens. Bugs, dirt and explorations abound. 10–11 AM. $3/$1 for members. Visit montananaturalist.org.
FRIDAY JUNE 1
Active outdoor lovers are invited to the Mountain Sports Club's (formerly the Flathead Valley Over the Hill Gang) weekly meeting to talk about past glories and upcoming activities. Swan River Inn. 6–8 PM. Free.
Get back in shape and learn something new at Freestone Climbing Gym's Intro to Bouldering course, which introduces basic techniques, safety stuff, ethics and more. Class includes 1.5 hours of instruction and two weeks of unlimited climbing. 935 Toole. 7–8:30 PM. $40.
SATURDAY JUNE 2
You use the M trail, I've seen you. Well, it didn't get there magically. And it doesn't maintain itself, either. So hop on board with REI, Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership and Montana Conservation Corps for National Trails Day and do some maintenance. 8:30 AM–1 PM. Register at rei.com/event/39976/ session/50625.
Don't vegetate, re-vegetate some riparian areas in need of your assistance with the aid of the fine folks of Trout Unlimited during their Burnt Fork Creek Volunteer Restoration Day. Meet at the old Walmart on Brooks Ave., on the westside of the parking lot at 9 AM or at the Stevi Ranger District Office at 10 AM. RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-1195.
Make good on your resolution to be a better person and join some good eggs and some Boy Scouts, too, for National Trails Day at Milltown State Park. Volunteers will assist with planting native greenery. Meet at Milltown Bluff Overlook, 1353 Deer Creek Rd. Lunch provided, gloves are not. 10–2 PM.
Get out of town and learn a thing or two at the Big Hole National Battlefield Opening Celebration, where things have been renovated and new exhibits abound. Take Hwy. 43 east at Lost Trail Pass for about ten miles. 1 PM. Free.
It's The Great Insect Hunt: Charlie Brown and the Montana Natural History Center provides nets, so now you have no excuse not to capture several Ixodes scapularis. Fort Missoula Native Plant Gardens. 2 PM. $3/$1 members. Visit montananaturalist.org.
SUNDAY JUNE 3
Get back in shape and learn something new at Freestone Climbing Gym's Intro to Bouldering course, which introduces basic techniques, safety stuff, ethics and more. Class includes 1.5 hours of instruction and two weeks of unlimited climbing. 935 Toole. Noon–1:30 PM. $40.
MONDAY JUNE 4
At Slacker Mondays, from 6 PM until close, slackline fans can come to Freestone Climbing Center at 935 Toole Ave. to test their balance. $13/$10 for students. Visit freestoneclimbing.com.
THURSDAY JUNE 7
You'll be climbing up a wall at Freestone Climbing Center's Ladies Night. 935 Toole Ave. 5–10 PM. $6.50/$5 students.