It's the middle of summer, 2010 (ah, the old days), and I'm in an inner-tube gang on the Clark Fork, celebrating my birthday. For some reason, I'm in charge of the beer. It's a successful system, for a while anyway. I think I just wanted to be the first to watch it all go down. Well, I was. Just past the beach and around another bend, I reach down into my lap and yell, "Who needs a ... ." Gone. Eight brews had disappeared below me in my tent stuff sack, because apparently no one had invented float bags or rope yet. We pull over to the shallows and regroup. Everybody carried their own (and my own) empties, but I'm the only one with the fulls. I was, anyway. So we're standing on these pebbles when a wise man (that's actually his last name) spots what appears to be a silver ball floating down the river. Then another and another, and we realize we've been saved by gravity. We carefully position ourselves across the river and recover all eight PBRs. There was much rejoicing.
But the stuff sack went missing, and I've felt a debt to the river ever since (and always use rope). Luckily, I'm able to redeem some karma this weekend on the Blackfoot: The Montana FWP is hosting the ninth annual Blackfoot River Cleanup and barbecue at Johnsrud.
Pack it in, pack it out and pay it forward: Head to the Johnsrud access site, 10 miles east of Bonner on Highway 200, at 8 a.m. if you have a raft, snorkels or scuba gear, or carpool down at 9 a.m. if you intend to join a raft or walk or wade. There will be shuttles, and volunteers get some free food following the garbage hunt. Call 542-5500 for more, and remember: Never give the birthday boy (or girl) the burden of the beer.
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.
FRIDAY JULY 27
The Bitterroot Valley Sportsman's Expo takes over the Ravalli County Fairgrounds, 100 Old Corvallis Road, Friday and Saturday with over 80 vendors hawking, well, everything you need to recreate in the Bitterroot. Expect music, food, drinks and more in the hot July sun. 4-9 PM Friday and 10 AM-6 PM Saturday. $5/$10 per family. Call 241-4176 for more.
SATURDAY JULY 28
Help kick off World Breastfeeding Week at the Bitterroot Baby Run & Stroller Stampede, where parents and kids alike can partake in the K and 5K and learn more about breastfeeding, too. 9 AM. For costs and specifics, visit bitterrootbreastfeedingcoalition.org.
Book'n It for the Library is MSO's newest footrace and it benefits our dope as hack-darn library. 3K and 8K options, with a discount for having a library card. Prizes for literary costumage, too. $20. Visit missoulalibrary.com/events.
The Big Pine Summer Wildlife Program Series hosts a kids' wildlife safari that's great for those 6 to 10 years old. Take I-90 to Exit 66, then head south on Fish Creek Rd. for 4.5 miles (look for the big pine tree...seriously). Free. Call 722-1533.
Join Blackfeet "poetsinger" Jack Gladstone at the Big Hole National Battlefield as he delivers more than a lecture to the masses of Kansans who've recently disembarked from their motor coaches. From Lost Trail Pass, take Hwy. 43 east for 17 miles. Noon–3 PM. Free.
The Mule Deer Banquet goes down at the infamous Hole in the Wall Ranch 18 miles up Fish Creek west of Alberton. Join the Mule Deer Foundation for BBQ, games, buffet and auctions starting at 2 PM. Visit mtmuledeer.org for pricing, directions and general info.
SUNDAY JULY 29
The Foy's to Herron Paddlethon Race takes your breath away with a wacky triathlon that takes athletes three miles aboard a canoe, kayak or paddleboard, six miles on a mountain bike and four miles on foot to Herron to raise funds for the Foys to Blacktail Trails group. Registration starts at 7:30 AM and costs $22-$55. Call Steve at 261-9250 for more info.
MONDAY JULY 30
Learn how to fly with the Liam Wood Fly Fishers and River Guardians Program. This week-long outdoors class is open to high school students and offers fishing and ecology lessons and more. $250, partial and full scholarships available. Visit montanawatershed.org for more.
At Slacker Mondays, from 6 PM until close, slackline fans can come to the Freestone Climbing Center at 935 Toole Ave. to test their balance. $13/$10 for students. Visit freestoneclimbing.com.
TUESDAY JULY 31
Minimalist Running Basics is a class at REI on Reserve that starts at 6:30 PM.
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 1
Learn to keep 'em safe during the Hunter Education Class at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. Orientation is Wed., Aug. 1, with classes beginning on Wed. or Thur., depending on scheduling choice. To learn more or to register, go to mt.fwp.gov.