Mountain High 

The Ides of March have now come and gone without a Caesarian episode of much magnitude. A bit of bad luck did strike one of Montana’s athletes, though. Lincoln musher Doug Swingley was forced to drop out of Alaska’s 1,150-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race after frostbite crept into his corneas on March 8. The damage occurred as he descended into the Dalzell Gorge, a notorious section of trail. Forced to remove his goggles due to problems with fog, the 50-year-old musher then faced wind-chill temperatures of 70 below zero. Swingley pushed on for several more miles and finally hung up the reins at Tokotna on the Kuskokwim River. Having to drop out was heartbreaking for Swingley, whose team was considered one of the fastest in the race. Swingley is still grappling with blurred vision, which could be permanent. Mountain High wishes a swift recovery to one of Montana’s most rugged sons.

Endurance tours occur in many sports. Dog sledding is just one of them. If you’re interested in a more casual event, the world of cycling is offering a 10th annual “ride in the best of the last best place.” The Scenic Tour of the Kootenai River starts on May 8 and runs through the weekend. A couple of options are available. On day one you can either tackle a 98-mile loop into the Yaak, or coast on a 45-mile option up Lake Creek. May 9 offers a 40-mile loop along Lake Koocanusa. (OK, trivia fans. How did that lake get its name? From the native Kootenai tribe, and the two powers that later settled their lands, Canada and the U.S.A.) For more info, call Nancy Nichols at 721-1776, extension 219.

Running: It’s wonderful stress relief and it’s good for you, even if you do gulp down a couple breaths of Missoula air in the process. Whether your running routine has kicked in yet or not, a short race is available this weekend. Spring Into Action, a race designed to promote healthy lifestyles for all age groups, hits its heels to the ground at Playfair Park on Saturday, March 20, at 10:30 a.m. There’s a 5-kilometer race or a 1-mile fun run. Register at St. Patrick Hospital, University Dining Services Main Office, or the Runner’s Edge. One dollar from each $15 registration will go to fund nutrition and exercise-related equipment or programs for schools in Missoula.

If you feel like taking a drive before running on Saturday, head north to Arlee and help the school kids at the same time. Friends of the Arlee School will be hosting its second annual Buttercup Scholarship Run, a fundraiser for scholarships. 5K and 10K races are available. Late registration begins at 10 a.m. in front of the high school, with the race starting at 11 a.m.

In other running news, the American Cancer Society is in the process of planning for Missoula County’s Relay for Life. While the event doesn’t take off until June 25, pre-planning is underway. Anyone interested in volunteering to work on the relay, or in forming a team, should contact Cate Sundeen at 542-2191.

If you’re interested in weeds, the Lolo Watershed Group presents “Weeds on the Loose” on Wednesday, March 24, at 7 p.m. at the Lolo Community Center. The free presentation will focus on noxious weeds and how landowners can get financial assistance to rid their land of pests like knapweed. Alan Knudsen, the grants coordinator for the Missoula County Weed District, will speak about general requirements for applying and qualifying for weed control grants.

While sheep are effective weed control, true marksmen (and women) have been known to practice for bow season by shooting off the flowering heads of noxious weeds. If you have trouble with your aim, or are concerned about shooting your neighbor’s dog, two bow hunter education classes are available. All first-time bow hunters are required to complete the course before they can purchase an archery license in Montana. There is no fee for the course and also no pre-registration. If you want to attend, show up at the Fish, Wildlife & Parks headquarters at 3201 Spurgin Road. The first class starts Monday, March 22, and students are required to attend class on Tuesday and Wednesday, as well. The second class starts Monday, April 12. Class times run from 6:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. with a field trip to Blue Mountain on April 15. Class size is limited to 30 on a first-come, first-served basis.

Though Doug Betters’ name has been stripped from the title, the race this weekend at Big Mountain will always be his. The 2004 Winter Classic kicks off with proceeds going to For the Children. This year’s Winter Classic will see traditional returning activities including a basketball game at Columbia Falls High School between National Football League players and local high school basketball all-stars, an autograph-signing session by NFL players at Big Mountain’s Summit House, a live auction and VIP dinner at Grouse Mountain Lodge, a snow party barbecue lunch on Gray Wolf run, and many more events. Local hero turned Cincinnati Bengal Thatcher Szalay will be in the house, along with a host of other NFL names.

And finally, the New Rocky Mountaineers are climbing on the ice once again this weekend. Destination Mission Falls or Swan Slabs. Call Gerald Olbu at 549-4769.

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