Mountain High 

The basil is coming down tonight. It’s dark and clear and I don’t think the little green guys are going to make it through the chill. The peppers and tomatoes have already vacated the garden and toddled off to the dehydrator, or my tummy, while the potatoes are still toughing it out in their subterranean shelters. By and large, though, the time of green leafy things is drawing to a close for another year in western Montana, which makes it time to grin at the food our land has given up and maybe splurge on a celebratory harvest meal.

Among the oldest of the local entries in the autumn noshing sweepstakes is the Moon-Randolph Homestead’s annual Fall Gathering on Saturday, Sept. 29. Grab whatever apples the bears and deer haven’t heisted and haul them off to the cider pressing, which begins at 3 p.m., and keep up the pace as the party progresses to burgers, soup and beverages around 5 p.m. Access the Homestead from parking on Spurlock Road if you must but consider reaching the festivities by way of a leisurely stroll on the North Hills open space instead. Call 728-9269 for info and bring a fin to pitch in.

If the climb to the Homestead doesn’t seem sufficiently pulse pounding, you might prefer to spend Saturday, Sept. 29, scaling the Swan Range’s tallest mountain, Holland Peak, with the New Rocky Mountaineers. While you’re at it, you might want to keep snacking to a minimum just in case looking down the face of a 1,000-foot headwall heading into Rumble Lake sends some calories skyward. Why look down though when the scenery all around promises to be its usual spectacular self? Call 549-4769 whether vertiginous or not.

Holland Peak is, of course, part of an astonishing complex of public lands in western Montana and you’re welcome to spend the day freely enjoying that far away corner in honor of National Public Lands Day, Saturday, Sept. 29. Still, there are some explicitly holiday-oriented events to draw you onto this land that’s your land; most are geared to assist you in putting a little back into them too.

Apparently, some public lands close to home have not escaped the occasional recreational notice because the Montana conservation Corps has deemed there to be a need to relocate some trail in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area’s Spring Gulch. They’ve got hand tools, transportation from the MCC office at 103 Hickory St., some grub to follow the work and a good idea of how exactly to put your back into it on Saturday, Sept. 29. You’ll need some sensible woods-working accessories like boots and gloves; for the full low-down call 728-2720.

If MCC’s quasi-governmental-sounding status seems a bit too much like fence straddling for Public Lands Day, take a turn pitching in with the Bureau of Land Management on pulling out some barbed wire and fence posts in the Chamberlain Creek area of the Blackfoot River Valley. The elk will thank you for your work, and the feds will reward you with a sack lunch, late afternoon barbecue and free T-shirts. Meet at the Town Pump parking lot in Bonner at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29, to carpool and stay as long or as short as you like. Call 329-3827 to get your share of the largesse.

Leave it to the Sierra Club to take Public Lands Day a day too far. They just couldn’t resist stretching out a sedate 24-hour celebration into two days of hiking and camping. The public service premise is a little thinner than the trail menders and fence breakers but who can complain about a peaceful walk in the woods on the pretense of monitoring the area for disallowed off-road vehicle use? To head into the Allan Mountain Roadless Area on Saturday, Sept. 29, and Sunday, Sept. 30, for about 12 miles of quiet hiking and a night in the backcountry, call 549-1142.

And, hey, let’s not forget those lands made public by our local post-secondary learning unit. Thar’s weeds on that thar hill we call Mount Sentinel—be the season spring, summer or autumn and so Prairie Keepers is on the prowl for some knapweed. Bring your gloves and the spirit of Johnny Nativeseed because you’ll be yanking the invaders and spreading around the natives starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29.

Of course, what would an outdoor recreation calendar be without something set in a subterranean cavern? Well, there’s no need to guess this week because globe-circling cyclist and dynamic public speaker Willie Weir (the guy was a theater major in college and you’ll know when you see him tell a story) returns to Missoula with tales of his pedal-powered journey through Thailand and Laos. See the world by the seat of someone else’s pants Thursday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. in UM’s Urey Lecture Hall.

And if you can find the time, write down your own story. Free editing to the first person who sends it in.
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