Mountain High 

Norman Maclean may have preferred otherwise, but the fact that a river runs through it means different things to different people. For some, it’s an obvious invite to don the tourist cap, walk midstream near the Red Lion Inn and cast a line for an auspicious cutthroat. For others, it’s a reason to yank the threadbare snow tires out of the shrubs, toss them in the rig, drive to the bridge and watch the splash.

As a result, The Clark Fork Coalition, the Missoula Downtown Association and REI have teamed up for the annual Clark Fork River Clean-up on Saturday, April 23. Last year 300 volunteers ferreted 150 bags of river scum from the banks, holes and beaches of the river. If you’d like to help, hit the Caras Park Pavilion at 10 a.m. for an easy two hours of cleanup followed by a BBQ. All ages welcome, team leaders needed, and if you’ve already got a group together you can reserve your own section of river. Call 542-0539 or e-mail for more info.

Waterphobes and mountain lovers might prefer to instead meet at the M Trailhead at 10 a.m. April 23 to help restore the Missoula side of Mount Sentinel to the urban prairie it once was. You’ll pull weeds, replace them with native wildflowers and feel right good about yourself, too.

And, you know, springtime is for lovers, and the tangible odors that fill the nose when digging hands in dirt combine blissfully with longer evenings and the occasional bare shoulder to get Missoula’s “let’s get together!” juices flowing. Even those frisky tumbleweeds on Mount Sentinel’s western flank are not exempt, tossing about the countryside in a procreating frenzy.

A transplant from Siberia in the late 1800s, just one of these “naturalized weeds” can unload as many as 50,000 offspring in its path. Folks living near Pattee Canyon or O’Brien Creek are finding impressive piles of the spent husks, clogging up driveways, spooking cats and spicing up the path for runners working their lungs on Mount Sentinel’s windswept flanks.

Speaking of great workouts, some recreationalists prefer to enjoy their wildlands by working little more than their throttle and brake fingers—plus, perhaps, the effort required to load a snowmobile onto a trailer. But not all.

Some skiers, for instance, are more likely to use the phrase “high speed quad” to refer to a leg muscle group than a chairlift, or even a morning beverage.

If that sounds like you, a backcountry skier and snowboarder group is forming to represent those who prefer to enjoy our nearby national forests in a quiet, safe and nonmotorized fashion, and they need your input.

As the Lolo, Bitterroot and Flathead National Forests are currently revising their respective forest plans, backcountry users with a preference for the pristine can make sure their voices are heard. Group leaders Charles Savoia and Bryce Jones (you might know them from their business, YurtSki) have already met with the Forest Plan Revision Team and are eager to have human-powered activities well represented as the document is drawn up. Contact Jones ( or Savoia ( to learn more, or to get involved.

In the meantime, run don’t walk (and for god’s sake don’t drive) to the front desk of a hip business near you (or log on to and pick up a schedule of events for this week’s BikeWalkBus Week. From the incredible Festival of Cycles (noon on April 23) to free muffins, this impressive undertaking has something for everyone looking to engender a more sustainable Missoula.

Missoulians on Bicycles are keeping the summer of cycling alive, offering another two rides this weekend. On April 23 you can head out with Phil Stauffer (728-8262) on a 55-mile ride from Missoula to the Ninemile Remount Depot. Meet at the Mullan Road Perkins at 10 a.m., and count on five miles of gravel. Or, as part of BikeWalkBus Week, you can head out on a 20-30 miler exploring the “New Trails to Milltown.” Meet at the Eastgate parking lot at 11 a.m., and bring an appetizer or finger food. Call Stauffer (728-8262) for more info.

The Rocky Mountaineers have two trips planned this weekend, starting with a kid-friendly jaunt to the top of Mount Sentinel led by Julie Kahl (543-6508) on April 23. Or join Steve Niday (721-3790) on April 24 for a long day up Stewart Peak. Be prepared for variable conditions, an 18-mile roundtrip and an elevation gain of more than 4,000 feet.

Big-lung types will want to head to Blue Mountain April 23 for the annual Bitterroot Endurance Runs. Compete in a Road Marathon, a Marathon-Distance Trail Run, and 10-mile or five-mile races starting and finishing at the Montana Athletic Club. Starting times vary and entry fees range from $20 to $35, so contact Bill Rideg at 626-1500 for more info.

But if the thought of running 26 miles on a trail sounds daunting, head instead to REI for a free clinic on trail running at 7 p.m. April 28. Alison Hanks will discuss local trails, running gear, nutrition, training tips and “women’s specific concerns.” Show up and they’ll even toss you a free water bottle and fitness logbook. Call REI at 829-0432 for more.

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