Mountain High 

Missoula hosts a bounty of institutes and foundations that exist solely to make the outdoors better for someone. It may not always be you they're trying to sate, but they have their constituency and it's nice to know there are groups who aim to protect, understand and share the wondrous landscape that we live in. The Wilderness Institute is one of these entities. Rather than being mysterious and all scientific about what it is they do, they invite you to join them. Established in 1975 at UM's College of Forestry and Conservation to provide research and interdisciplinary education for scientists, land managers and citizens alike, the group currently has a project that most any of us are capable participating in: the Big Snowy Mountain Wilderness Study Area trips. The Big Snowies are located near Lewistown and appear like a dark, bony spine on an old man's back over the tawny plains that surround them. These backpacking trips range from three to four nights and are led by experienced field leaders who guide scientists and Luddites alike on the trips. While in the mountains, attendees aid in the monitoring of the the various wilderness study areas. WSA's are less wilderness and more akin to National Forests in that they allow wheeled vehicle use and see more traffic in general, yet still cling to the character of wilderness. While in the out-of-doors and with the aid of the leaders, the group hikes and monitors weed growth, critter activity, sounds and visual intrusions such as cell towers, as well as looking for recreational impacts such as tire tracks. Essentially, the group members act as an extra set of eyes and ears for the institute. And that seems like an amazing opportunity. To go where you may never have been. To be guided by experts in the field. To participate rather than bellyache. Most importantly, to have your dinner made by the aforementioned experts as you rub your feet and listen for the next big discovery.

The Wilderness Institute's next Wilderness Monitoring Backpack Trip begins Fri., July 20, ends Tue., July 24, and takes place in the Big Snowy Mountains Wilderness Study Area. There are four trips left this summer. For more info. or to RSVP, call 243-5361 or email citizenscience@cfc.umt.edu.

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THURSDAY JULY 19

The Wine and Walk at Travelers' Rest gives you the chance to sip from the copa de vida and learn more about the park and where it is headed. 1/2 mile west of Lolo on Hwy. 12. 5:30–7:30 PM. Call 273-4253.

FRIDAY JULY 20

Active outdoor lovers are invited to the Mountain Sports Club's 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.

SUNDAY JULY 22

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 JULY 23

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.

TUESDAY JULY 24

Save the fish and make it all better by helping Trout Unlimited to spread native seed on recently decommissioned roads in the Piquett Creek watershed, located in the Bitterroot National Forest. Meet at 8:30 AM in the Safeway parking lot in Hamilton and carpool to the site. Volunteers will return to Hamilton by 5 PM. There is up to 5 miles of hiking necessary to access the planting sites. Bring hiking shoes, gloves and water. A sack lunch and seeders are provided. To RSVP by calling Heather at 531-8657.

WEDNESDAY JULY 25

Get in shape the Hemingway, ugh, with Run Wild Missoula during the Beer Run at the Silver Dollar Bar. Runs tend to be about five-milers and directions are posted at the bar. Upon your return, enjoy an ice cold Coors. See runwildmissoula.org.

THURSDAY JULY 26

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.

Learn about or comment on the Center Horse Landscape Restoration Project during the Seeley Lake Ranger District Project Meeting and Field Trip. The trip includes a 30-mile ride to scope it out. 4 PM. Ovando Fire Hall, 700 Pine St. Call Tami at 329-3731.

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