Words to the wise 

Basic Missoula terminology you need to know

The Bowl (bõl), n. 1. Slang for Snowbowl, Missoula's closest ski area, approximately 20 minutes north of town. Assuming the snowfall's good, the slopes could be open as early as Thanksgiving. 2. Thing you should pass at parties to avoid getting yelled at by your friends.

Charlie Bs (smõ-ki tav-ern), n. Legendary watering hole on Higgins with no markings on the outside of the building other than the stained glass "B" on the front door. (A propped sign on the sidewalk may direct you to the café and its daily Cajun specials in the back.)

Folf (folf), n. Bastard child of Frisbee and golf, this game is the unofficial pastime of Missoula. Leagues and courses abound at locations including Blue Mountain and Pattee Canyon.

Gorge (gôrj), n. 1. Just west of Missoula is the Alberton Gorge of the Clark Fork River. The canyon's Class II and III whitewater draws countless kayakers, rafters and a few brave canoeists all summer long. 2. Farther west is the Gorge Amphitheater near George, Wash. Located on cliffs overlooking the Columbia River, this venue hosts some of the biggest and best concerts in the Pacific Northwest, and, um, Dave Matthews Band.

Growler (grou-ler), n. 1. Reusable glass container filled with beer at local breweries and bars. A local necessity, and a good way to avoid glass trash, given Missoula's aversion to glass recycling. (See also "pig.") 2. A bothersome dog.

Hellgate (hel-gãt), n. 1. The canyon through which the really chilly-ass winter winds blow. 2. Artsy high school on Higgins. 3. (historic) American Indian tribes once traveled east from the valley through the narrow canyon that Interstate 90 now bisects. Blackfeet warriors used to ambush Salish hunters as they traveled between the steep walls, and somewhere along the way French travelers found scattered human bones and named the canyon "Porte d'Enfer" (Hell's Gate) because it seemed safer to pass through the gates of hell than to brave this constricted route.

Inversion (in-vûr-zhen), n. 1. The act of Mother Nature that traps clouds and smoke in the valley making the entire city look like Sleepy Hollow for days or weeks at a time. 2. (Meteorological) What happens when colder air gets trapped near the surface of the earth and hangs around like a cast-iron lid of gray, even on blue-sky days.

The L (el), n. The "other" mountain with a letter, Mount Jumbo received its decoration courtesy of Loyola Sacred Heart High School. Originally placed there in 1961, the "L" is maintained by the school during an annual trip up the mountain to clean and whitewash the symbol.

The M (em), n. Mount Sentinel's "M" has been around since 1908 and in its current location since 1915, marking the location of the UM campus. The trail to the M covers 11 switchbacks and gains 620 feet in elevation.

Maggots (mag-ets), n. Local rugby team in existence since 1976 that competes at the Fort Missoula complex. Best known for the springtime Maggotfest that includes much beer, much revelry and a good number of rugby teams from across the country.

The Ox (oks), n. Another legendary watering hole, open 24 hours, and best known for front room card games and 3 a.m. breakfasts that include the famous JJ's gravy.

Peace Sign (pes sìn), n. For almost 15 years, a giant peace sign adorned a 40-square-foot microwave reflector atop the hills north of Missoula. Legend has it that wily groups of peaceniks would hop the barbed-wire fence surrounding the reflector and paint the sign while hanging from ropes. The controversial symbol was frequently painted over by Qwest Communications, the reflector's owner, only to have it reappear the next day. In 2001 the peace sign/reflector was dismantled, but the memory and controversy surrounding the longtime landmark continue to exert a psychic influence on the valley below. Today, supporters of the peace sign have created a peace rock cairn in place of the reflector.

Pig (pig), n. An 8.5 liter (2.25 gallon) reusable beer dispenser that keeps beer fresh and carbonated. (see also "growler").

Rattlesnake (ratel-snãk), n. 1. Rattlesnake Creek flows through the Rattlesnake Valley at the northeast end of Missoula, but as far as we know, no rattlesnakes hang out in those parts. 2. About five miles up Rattlesnake Drive, you'll find the Rattlesnake Wilderness and National Recreation Area, a 61,000-acre oasis for outdoor lovers.

Rocky Mountain Oysters (rok-i mount-en ois-ter), n. Testicles of a bull. Once cut off, they are thrown in a bucket of water, then peeled, washed, rolled in flour and pepper, and fried in a pan. Considered a delicacy, and best eaten at the Rock Creek Lodge's annual Testicle Festival in September.

Waterworks (wô-tèr wûrks), n. This is where you go when you feel like climbing a hill in town without a massive letter on it. Waterworks Hill, immediately north of downtown, has a massive cistern on it that was once filled from Rattlesnake Creek via wooden pipes and used to hold Missoula's water.

Yard sale (yärd-sãl), n. 1. That thing at least four people on your street have every Saturday morning with the same pile of polyester shirts, dirty baby clothes, a broken dining room table and the omnipresent cardboard box of god-knows-what labeled "FREE" that will reside in the corner of the lawn for another six days before the next Saturday. 2. Skiing term to describe massive wipeouts on the steep terrain of Snowbowl; refers to your gear being scattered across the hill upon impact, looking like a yard sale.

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