Mountain High 

There’s a gusty wind blowing a smoky smell into the valley as this is being written, late Tuesday night, and a look out into the week ahead finds Labor Day—which Americans have always weirdly insisted be celebrated with rest—plopped down in the middle of it like a hot dog in a bun. So the week’s prospects for outdoor exertion might not seem terribly promising from this perspective. But Missoulians have some funny ideas about what does and does not constitute restfulness, so rest assured I’ll find something for you to do.

But whatever it is, don’t plan on doing it in the Crazy Mountains of central Montana. The mountains themselves encompass parts of the Gallatin and Lewis and Clark National Forests, but the surrounding land is almost entirely privately held. And the news is finally gaining traction that Sen. Conrad Burns has inserted a sweetheart clause into an appropriation bill directing the Forest Service to grant a large-ranch owner in the area an easement for a new road through Forest Service land. An effectively private road. With no public access. Despite public ownership of the land the road would traverse, and despite a well-established Forest Service precedent of requiring access reciprocity. Because some rancher wants it and because Conrad Burns says so. Not much you can do about it, either. Except maybe vote.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Jesus Jumping H. Christ on a Golden Pogo Stick, do we have to have read about Conrad Burns in this column, too?

No. Get out of the house. You will assuredly not run into Conrad Burns out there. (If you do, send us a picture.)

Start by snagging your free surplus turkey permit from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (conservation, Upland Game Bird and fall turkey license required). Turns out only 110 of 300 available turkey permits were applied for this year (what? Good Food Store got ya spoiled?) and FW&P wants to put the leftovers in your turkey-shootin’ hands. Any retail license provider should be able to set you up, starting Tuesday, Aug. 29.

Now that you’ve got your Thanksgiving plans rolling, let’s turn our attention to the long-neglected discovering duo Lewis and Clark. That’s what the Lolo National Forest, Travelers’ Rest Preservation and Heritage Association and the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula are doing anyway, with an evening program titled “Lewis and Clark’s Natural History,” scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 31, at the Earl Tennant Recreation Area about 18 miles west of Lolo on Highway 12. Bitterroot National Forest wildlife biologist Sharon Ritter presents the free hour-long program, part of the Uncover Montana Speaker Series. Call 329-3936 for info, and tell ’em not to uncover too much. It can get chilly up there.

The drive out past Lolo not strenuous enough for you? Try a different route and take your bike and your thighs, and maybe an extra pair, up to Big Mountain for the Huckleberry Hillclimb on Saturday, Sept. 2. Masochists and crank-and-chain junkies in multiple categories will vie for the titles of Ultimate King and Queen of the Mountain. To win it, they’ll have to climb 13 miles and 3,700 vertical feet from the bottom of Big Mountain Road to the Summit House, and they’ll have to do it faster than everyone else. Early registration ends Sept. 1 and day-of registration is from 7-8 AM. Call 862-2911 or check out for more info, or to volunteer to help out.

If that doesn’t wear you out, or if you’re just curious to take your fresh memories of Big Mountain and superimpose them on what developers hope will someday be Lolo’s Bitterroot Resort, hurry back down 93 to catch the Resort-sponsored Montana Off Road Series mountain bike races. They’re hosting the Montana Downhill State Championship on Saturday, Sept. 2. The next day, Sunday, features cross-country races. There’s more information at Plenty more information.

Smoke or no smoke, it wouldn’t be a week if the Rocky Mountaineers weren’t climbing something, and sure enough, from Friday through Sunday, Sept. 8-10, they’re planning a trip to Glacier National Park, where they plan to camp at Bowman Lake, wake up and row it, then climb Rainbow Peak and Mount Carter before coming down and going home. Organizers describe the route as physically demanding with difficult terrain. Sounds about right. Call Steve Niday at 721-3790 to tag along.

And once you get back, don’t forget the Canoe Rack’s Wednesday night floats, a pleasant evening group paddle on a near-town stretch of moving water to be determined. They’ve got one scheduled for Sept. 6, and the price is right ($5 if you use a Canoe Rack boat, free if you bring your own). Advanced notification is required, so call 251-0040, then show up at 6 p.m. sharp. You know what happens to latecomers at a paddling party.

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