Mountain High 

This past weekend I ended up sleeping in a bedroom next to some wetlands. I was in my grandma’s house within a mile of the southern coast of Massachusetts, a landscape pervaded by serpentine tidal channels, small-bore trees living on saturated ground and little creatures that love to live there. Every night I fell asleep to a chorus of peepers, creepers and boisterous amphibians—an auditory testament to the teeming life that dwells in places like these, places inhospitable to housing, golfing and shopping malls, but somehow just right for so many species without earth-moving engines.

My trip back East was unexpected, and not entirely welcome, but at least fortuitous in one respect because wetlands were already on my mind. You see, departing Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton last week fired a parting shot at said wetlands from her soon to be former perch atop the Department of Interior. Her announcement was phrased as a triumphant hailing of success in meeting President Bush’s goal of “no net loss of wetlands,” because, as she measured it, the acreage occupied by wetlands increased by almost 200,000 acres since 1997.

Here’s the folly. Since man fancies himself the measure of all things, he and his accomplices among the fairer sex have made it possible to drain half a million acres of naturally occurring fens, bogs and the like (which drainage was accomplished during the period studied) and still say more wetlands were created; all you have to do is count golf course water hazards, apartment complex retention ponds and other artificial repositories for groundwater as wetlands, and—presto—ecological footprint erased. Shoot, why don’t we just redefine poverty and insurgency away while we’re dancing in the Orwellian wonderland. And be sure to tell the golf course guards that you’re just there to bird watch.

If that news seems too heavy and remote to do anything but make you feel ill at ease, consider that wetland eradication is proceeding apace in the Bitterroot as you read this, and then consider an issue considerably more local and susceptible to public pressure than the semantic shenanigans of the Bush administration’s environmental advocates.

I’m talking, of course, about transportation planning. Right now, people in local government are prioritizing roadwork, and if you use your bike for commuting around town, you’ve likely got a couple spots that make you hot. For instance, I’ve already had one bike decommissioned by the Madison Street railroad crossing, a stretch of road so rough it busted spoke after spoke on the back tire of a bike I had ridden for years.

Anyway, Bob Giordano of the Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation is collecting information on rail crossings, grates, impassable patches of shoulder and whatever other obstacles may be small enough to go unnoticed by drivers, but still present impediments to bike travel. The information collated will be submitted to ensure that bikers have some say in the city’s roadwork priorities. So look for fuschia flyers you can fill out in your local bike shop and expose those hot spots, or just drop an e-mail to with your input.

Tenacious road bikers go for out-of-town rides and Missoulians on Bicycles seems to be their meeting ground. MOB has three trips planned this weekend, a Saturday/Sunday overnight to Superior, a Saturday, April 8, trip to Rock Creek, and a Sunday, April 9, trip from Beavertail Hill to Drummond. Visit if you want to know more because I haven’t got the space to give you all the details.

Bikes are gear, and probably just some of what will be for sale at the Used Outdoor Gear Sale taking place on Wednesday, April 12, from noon to 5 PM in the atrium of the University Center on the UM campus. So if you need a boat or a backpack, or just have some sort of fetish for other people’s stench on your stuff, head on down and pick up some quality, worked-over sporting goods. If you’ve got some gear to ditch, call 243-5172 to find out how to put it on display in this consignment sale, in which UM gets 15 percent of the proceeds.

If you pick up some skins at the gear sale, you might want to get in on the Rocky Mountaineers’ Saturday, April 8, trip up Trapper Peak, the Bitterroots’ biggest mountain, a trip that promises some runs back down through some snow that should be big fun. Call 542-1966 to learn more about the ups-and-downs being planned.

If you’re curious about what these tenacious alpiners are up to, you could also head to the Rocky Mountaineers’ monthly meeting; this month’s features presentations on terra caching, GPS navigation and creative camouflage in addition to the normal trip planning and whatnot. The meeting takes place Wednesday, April 12, at 7 PM at Pipestone Mountaineering, 129 W. Front St., and is open to whoever wants to show.

Finally, you better run like hell because a couple of foot races are coming to Missoula this week. On Sat., April 8, at 10 AM, there’s the 5K Run for Respect with some ladies interested in pointing up the strength and endurance of sexual violence survivors. Call 243-6429 to find out how to get your name on the roster.

Also, on Thursday, April 13, at 6 PM, you can run upstream along the Kim Williams Trail during the 5K Kim Williams Trail Run. Call 243-2802 to find out how you’re getting back to town when the race is done. Bonus points to anyone riding an inner tube on the return trip.

Said points will be awarded upon delivery of photographic proof.

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