Mountain High 

Did you know there is such a thing as the Montana Bird Hotline? Apparently, it exists, and if you look closely enough the next time you’re digging in the bushes for a folf disc, you’ll find one of the little sat-phone call boxes hidden in the woods throughout Western Montana. Actually, I made that last part up. But there is a hotline and the people who run it, shadowy figures known in the birding community only as Terry and Carole, lead a Five Valleys Audubon Society field trip to Lolo Pass and Packer Meadows on Saturday, June 17. Call 549-5632 to pack yourself in with the 8 AM carpool.

While you’re up there, in addition to spotting birds, you might see Sierra Club members, some of whom are headed to Packer Meadows in search of spring wildflowers on Saturday, June 17. Their carpool kicks off at 9 AM and you’ll want to call 549-7012 to find out more.

Speaking of stuff that grows in spring, have you noticed the particularly verdant mountainside on the end of the valley? That’s Black Mountain, now almost three years after a good-sized forest fire charred its surface. From a distance, it looks like its flora is recovering well and the fauna are coming back along as well. Get up close and find out with the Montana Natural History Center, the Lolo National Forest and the University of Montana Avian Science Center when they take a trip from 9 to 11:30 AM on Saturday, June 17, entitled “Black Mountain Fire: Three Years After.” Call 329-3970 to register for the trip, which will cost you $20 unless you’re an MNHC member.

Have a sample of the food you might eat in the outdoors when REI offers complimentary grub by Backpacker’s Bounty from 11:30 AM to 2 PM on Saturday, June 17. Also useful in the backcountry is the skill to find your way home. Find out what the latest technology can do for you when REI sponsors a GPS 101 clinic on Thursday, June 15 at 7 PM. If you need help finding REI, you probably shouldn’t be wandering around the woods anyway but I’ll tell you it’s located at 2230 N. Reserve St. since Search and Rescue now has the funding they need to find you wherever you are.

No search and rescue should be necessary when the New Rocky Mountaineers plan a ski and snowshoe trip to East St. Mary Peak in the Mission Mountains for Saturday, June 17. It’s no slack-ass hike, and attendees are promised strong winds and blowing snow on the ridge above tree line. Call 549-4769 if that sounds like just the break from summer weather you need.

As summer will soon be here, it’s time to think about fall. If you plan to hunt with a bow this fall, and you’ve never done it before, Montana requires that you complete a bowhunter education class. The last ones take place at the end of this month, and they always fill up. Last year, I spent a couple of hours sitting outside the Fish, Wildlife and Parks office at 3201 Spurgin Rd. waiting for my chance to get in to the first class. This year, there is a new arrangement where registration takes place on a different day than the class; the final day to register for bowhunter ed this year is Monday, June 19, from 6 to 8 PM. Be there or be satisfied with shooting stumps until next year. Call 542-5500 for information about the times when the classes you will be registering for take place.

Talkin’ ‘bout the meddlin’ gummint just reminded me that everybody’s favorite thing about the outdoors is offering public comment on proposed federal rules. As it happens, there’s an opportunity to do just that this week because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will, on Monday, June 19, be done seeking public comment on draft management guidelines for bald eagles—including a sure-to-be scintillating discussion of a regulatory clarification of “disturb”—a species proposed for delisting as endangered in 1999. Visit to read the rules but maybe make a cup of coffee or two first and keep the phone close by so you can call 202-208-5636 in case you need clarification of the clarifications.

Once you’ve been a citizen, be a user. Maybe a way to do that is to take a recreation impact monitoring trip to the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness with the Wilderness Institute on Saturday, June 17, and Sunday, June 18, when they head on a 12- to 15-mile trip from Big Log Gulch to look for weed infestations. Call 243-5361 to get involved with the trip, which offers dinner and transportation to volunteers.

If you’re up for some purposeless wandering in the wild, the Montana Wilderness Association offers a six-mile hike on Sunday, June 18 to Castle Rock, located south of Darby. By the time you read this, the official registration deadline will be days past but those sorts of things tend to be flexible so give a call to 825-6955 to get in.

And if all that accomplished was annoying the person on the other end, I’d be happy to hear from you instead.

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