Mountain High 

Get out the Tri-Flow and grease your chain because mountain biking season is back.

I took my first trail ride of the season last Thursday and made it up to Beeskove Creek on the Rattlesnake’s main trail, but only by ditching my bike and post-holing the last mile or so through some snow that drifted hip-deep at times. The rest of the trail is covered to lesser degrees in ice and mud but is pretty passable if you don’t mind a little extra work when your back tire busts through the ice. And with another week of warm temperatures, it’s all getting closer to mud every day anyway.

Now apparently the return of biking season also signals the return of bikers to places where they’re not wanted, sometimes by people who are on the right side of the regulations in keeping them out. I’m thinking, in particular, of the Blue Mountain Recreation Area, specifically the large portions of it that are closed to everyone except horses and hikers.

This week, Missoula District Ranger Maggie Pittman sent out a letter warning anyone who would listen about increased enforcement of the mountain bike restrictions, particularly in the area north of Blue Mountain Road No. 365, the main road leading up to the lookout tower. The fines are steep and you don’t want to get busted, so call 329-3948 and get the specs if there’s any question about where your riding is prescribed and proscribed.

In case you’re wondering, I got in some end-of-season snowboarding during the week as well, heading up to Snowbowl on Sunday with the hopes that Saturday night’s precipitation would make for some good conditions. There were top-notch corn turns throughout the day, but it was mostly a matter of catching the snow in transition from rock solid to soup. I had a good time chilling in the bar though.

Snowbowl has got a couple more weeks left, with an end-of-season barbecue scheduled for Sunday, April 9; they’re already closed Mondays and Tuesdays, so hope for early-week snow and one more powder day on the 5th. Other areas are also paring back hours; Lost Trail is going to weekends only and Sunday, April 2, is going to be their last day of operations. Big Mountain is gradually closing down, shutting sections of the mountain for lack of snow or because the grizzlies are emerging from hibernation and are hungry enough to make snow bunnies seem like legitimate prey.

I’m not going to run down all the areas because there’s just not enough space, but be advised to seek advice from your favorite mountain before heading up above the valley’s springtime sunshine.

The New Rocky Mountaineers report a good trip above the valley floor during their excursion to Mollman Pass last weekend, with about a foot of fresh snow in that portion of the Missions. This weekend, on Sunday, April 2, they’re heading toward Boulder Peak in the Bitterroots. It’s a trek that will take them up a trail to the Boulder Point lookout tower, at which point at least some of the group will head along the ridge toward Boulder Peak, a trek that might not be possible to complete yet. To join them for any or all of the trip, call 549-4769.

With all this business about snow and melting snow, it might be tempting to forget that fire season is just a couple months away. For some of you, that’s living. And for those of you for whom that’s true, some training will be required. Blackbull Wildfire Services sponsors firefighting training courses throughout the spring. The first of those takes place on Thursday, April 6, when a $75 “Annual Fire Refresher” course goes on at 8 AM at Ruby’s Inn on Reserve Street. Just show up if you need the class; no pre-registration is required.

That’s not true for the “Basic Wildland Firefighter Class” scheduled for the weekends of April 8–9 and May 6–7; the four-day, $150 class is required to become an entry-level firefighter or water tender operator and pre-registration by calling 543-0013 is required.

Get prepared for medical care with Aerie Backcountry Medicine’s 16-hour Wilderness First Aid course, going down at the Big Creek Outdoor Education Center north of Columbia Falls on Saturday, April 1, and Sunday, April 2. If you’re really enthused, you can catch an optional CPR course on Friday, March 31. Call 542-9972 for registration information.

Finally, the promises of and perils to the Rocky Mountain Front will be the subject of a slide presentation and talk by naturalist Ralph Waldt, author of Crown of the Continent, at 7 PM on Wednesday, April 5, in room 123 of the Gallagher Business Building on the UM campus. He’ll be accompanied by photographer Rick Graetz, who is interested in talking about the situation on the Front with respect to energy exploration and off-road vehicle use, particularly the latter since the Lewis & Clark National Forest’s travel plan for the area is currently under development. The pictures in the slide show are stunning, and what you’ll find out about plans for this public resource might also set your jaw swinging open a little bit.

Extra credit to anyone who reports back on the contents of the lecture.

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