Mountain High 

If there’s one thing you probably weren’t thinking about as you awoke this chilly morning, it was the potential for our valley to burst into flame at the drop of a hat. Or a match, rather.

Yet that’s exactly what should be on all of our minds, says the Missoula Rural Fire District. According to Deputy Chief Brent L. Christopherson, the warmish heat wave we’ve been experiencing this week has increased the threat of wildfire, and as I’m no conflagration professional, I’m inclined to believe him.

Their advice is simple: Be firewise. Hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts—what else is there to do in the woods?—are encouraged to take all the precautions they’d normally take during the hot summer months, like bringing extra water, a fire extinguisher and a shovel along, and postponing the phonebook and lighter games for the winter time.

Also, a heads-up to all you theme week junkies: Beginning Sun., Oct. 5, Fire Prevention Week will have everyone across the valley dousing pilot lights, cigarettes, barbecues and other errant sources of combustion. Actually, this year’s theme is “Prevent Home Fires,” so keep an eye on those woodstoves and fireplaces just in case they’re in need of a proper hose down. 

Before we get to this week’s shizzle, allow me to remind you that the snow’s not too far from flying, which means many of you will be looking to kamikaze down the hills at your favorite resort. Whitefish Mountain Resort understands this desire, and they want to make things a bit more affordable for you: Until Tue., Sept. 30, season passes are offered at steep discounts, so point your winter sports browser toward

The fun begins with the Missoula Aquatic Club, which features the opening ice cream social for their annual Texas Gold Clinic at 6 PM on Fri., Sept. 19, at Paxson School. Olympian Eric Shanteau, who postponed cancer treatment in pursuit of Beijing bling, gives an inspirational talk to the lapping lappers. $3/$10 per family. Call 243-2763.

Talk about advance planning—these people are maybe a bit OCD. Whatever, maybe they just want to get out in the woods, which is fine as long as they arrest their sparks. On Sat., Sept. 20, join a contingent of Rocky Mountaineers to plot the course for April 2009’s GrizzlyMan Adventure Race at Lubrecht Forest. Trail running, biking, orienteering and challenges unspecified will be in place to torture contestants, and you get to devise it all. Get in touch with Joshua for more info: or 543-0898.

It’s been a while since the Montana Natural History Center, 120 Hickory St., offered a Saturday Discovery Day, or maybe I’ve just been too busy putting out fires to notice. On Sat., Sept. 20, kids aged five and older meet a live saw-whet owl during Winged Wonders at 2 PM. $1/$.50 kids/members free. Call 327-0405.

Perhaps you want more of a challenge, both physically and fundraisingly. If so, put your legs where your mouth is on Sun., Sept. 21, when the Two Bear Marathon and Half Marathon begins at 7:30 AM at the Two Bear Gate on Skyles Lake Lane, due west of Whitefish. The money raised buys memberships to the Whitefish Community Aquatic & Health Center—aka The Wave—a fact that will make the pain seem well worth it. Visit

And we’re back to the swimming, which is a great fire prevention activity, by the way. On Sun., Sept. 21, the Missoula Aquatic Club’s Texas Gold Clinic kicks off with registration at 7 AM at UM’s Grizzly Pool. Your wee aquatoids can benefit from instruction from Aaron Peirsol, Neil Walker, David Cromwell and Jeri Moss once you call 243-2763. 

Could you assess the health of a stream if your life depended upon it? Let’s hope it never does, but just in case, consider attending one of two Community Water Monitoring Trainings offered by the Watershed Education Network, both of which begin at the Greenough Park Pavilion: Sun., Sept. 21 at noon, and Tue., Sept. 23, at 4 PM. Call 541-9287.

And once you’ve enjoyed a weekend in the wilds, take a trip inside to see if you’ll enjoy the same freedoms next year. On Mon., Sept. 22, the 32nd annual Public Land Law Conference—which continues through Wed., Sept. 24—kicks off with a keynote address from John Leshy at 7 PM in UM’s University Center Theater. Fees vary. Visit

Nothing but biking from here on out, folks: On Tue., Sept. 23, the filthy-clean Dirt Girls invite both of your X chromosomes to meet at 6 PM at the Rattlesnake Trailhead for a spirited roll through the hills and dales. In consideration of the fire danger, please limit the peeling out.

And our final offering this week comes late in the game, as intrepid bike traveler and journalist Willie Weir presents tales from his travels in the program “Colombia and Venezuela: Biking Beyond the Headlines” at 7 PM in UM’s Urey Lecture Hall on Thu., Sept. 25.   

Good riding, happy trails and keep it moist, Missoula.
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