Mountain High 

Our swiftly spinning planet zipped passed a milestone on June 21, the day when the Northern Hemisphere points most directly toward the sun. Although it’s rarely the hottest day of the year, it is the day that we up-North folks are most assaulted by our resident fireball, and receive our most direct dose of solar radiation. And ever since, the days have begun to grow shorter.

So why does it keep getting hotter?

Blame the oceans, says NASA, which warm and cool slowly and act to keep large-scale temperature fluctuations in check. Currently the oceans are still holding on to some of their winter chill, and the seas of the Northern Hemisphere won’t reach their maximum temperatures for another month and a half.

Locally, it rarely seems appropriate to apply the phrase “maximum temperature” to Montana’s alpine lakes and tumbling rivers. But excepting Montana’s very hottest days, jumping into the pristine, snow-fed bodies of water most often amounts to an in-and-out affair, better used as a way to recharge the senses or scrub off trail dirt than for leisurely swimming. (See newlywed Andy Smetanka giving it the old heave-ho into the Blackfoot River, at left.)

But if the cyclical jump-in-cold-water, soak-sun-on-hot-rocks, repeat-to-failure pattern isn’t enough to keep you satisfied, consider the multi-sport team or individual races known as the Second Annual Glacier Challenge. This burly 50-mile adventure will have contestants running, kayaking, road biking, mountain biking, canoeing and then running again, starting and ending at Smith Youth Sports Park in Whitefish. Race day is Saturday, July 3, so log on to to join the cross-training world of the septathlete!

The Rocky Mountaineers are heading south into the Bitterroot Valley where Steve Niday (721-3790) will be leading a three-day trip up to Kerlee Lake July 3–5. This solitary gem lies beneath some of the most dramatic but easily accessible terrain in the Bitterroots, with the Lonesome Bachelor, El Capitan and the Como Peaks all within a day’s scrambling distance. Plan on an easy approach to the lake, then a world-is-your-oyster location with excellent (but not technical) rock-hopping opportunities in all directions.

Fellow Rocky Mountaineer Fred Schwanemann will lead an Independence Day six-mile hike this July 4. The posse will meet at the main Rattlesnake trailhead and then head up, up, up to the Snowbowl lookout before dropping down into Grant Creek, where previously shuttled cars will be waiting to pick them up. One-way hikes can be a logistical nightmare, so take advantage of the shuttle and call Schwanemann at 542-7372 to get this ball rolling!

Über-explorer William Clark will rise from the dead on Saturday, July 2, at the Big Larch Campground near Seeley Lake, giving Clark-ophiles a unique opportunity to shake hands, quiz and heckle the man. Actor, reenactor and Clark scholar Ritchie Doyle will be playing the part, and folks who have never seen Doyle bring his character to life should not miss this opportunity. While Doyle’s performances are based thoroughly on the historical record, the all-ages humor and attention to detail has over the years impressed many a skeptical viewer. The show begins at 7:30 p.m., and is free and open to the public. Don’t forget the bug dope!

Hey parents! Got some kids with an excess of free time and a burning desire to go fishing? Consider Missoula Parks and Recreation’s Fly-fishing Day Camps for kids ages 10–16. Experts will be on the scene to help tie the little buggahs, give pointers on casting and keep the hooks out of their tender young skin. All gear and highly trained experts will be provided, and by the time the li’l pups come home they might just have a better understanding about how to locate the elusive trout than their parents. Just as importantly, this highly supervised clinic will be held on ponds to keep enthusiastic kids from washing downstream, and they’ll even be able to bring home two fish per day for the grill, although no mention was made about who gets to clean the bounty. If they’ve got you hooked, gather $115 and call 721-PARK to sign up. Four-day sessions begin on July 5, 12 and 19, so start thinking marinade, and don’t delay.

Glacier National Park’s Lake McDonald District Interpretive Programs run daily throughout the summer, with informative talks held every evening at 8 p.m. in various locations throughout the park. Discussions range from the popular “Birds of Glacier” to “Of Moose and Men,” from “The Art of the National Park Idea” to “Melting the Mountains—Climate Change in Glacier and Beyond.” The presentations take place at the Apgar Campground Amphitheater, the Lake McDonald Lodge Auditorium, the Fish Creek Campground Amphitheater and the Avalanche Campground Amphitheater, and can provide an excellent way to relax and learn following a day scrambling about the park’s unique and expansive high country. They are free and open to the public, so to find out more, call the park headquarters at (406) 888-7800.

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