MONTANA HEADWALL Volume 3.1 SPRING 2011
Rock Solid Real Estate
We live, work and play in your community.
Mark & Colleen Alber
Sheena Comer Winterer Holly Deluca Shannon Hilliard
Shannon Behan Carroll Anne Sowerby
The instant cool of stand-up paddleboarding
THE MADNESS OF BILL MARTIN Missoula’s champion mountain biker chases demons on two wheels
CRAGS TO RICHES
INSIDE On Belay
The nettle of honor
8 Head Trip 44
Head Lines 11 A ski season’s tragic lessons Montana campsites get reserved World-class cycling hits Missoula Bolting for Mill Creek
Wander bust: The lost trail to Ingomar Lake
Head Out 48 Your spring recreation calendar
Head Gear 50
Head Light 24 Expose yourself to greatness
These boats are made for gawking
The Crux 58
Head Shots 26 Our readers’ best
A chill paddler gets into the flow
Wild Things 36 Don’t shoot this magnum slug
Please recycle this magazine
Montana Headwall (ISSN 2151-1799) is a registered trademark of Independent Publishing, Inc. Copyright 2011 by Independent Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinting in whole or in part is forbidden except by permission of Independent Publishing, Inc. Views expressed herein are those of the author exclusively. And yeah, we’re having fun.
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF GENERAL MANAGER EDITOR PHOTO EDITOR ADVERTISING SALES MANAGER PRODUCTION DIRECTOR CIRCULATION MANAGER CONTRIBUTORS
Matt Gibson Lynne Foland Amy Linn Chad Harder Carolyn Bartlett Joe Weston Adrian Vatoussis
Doug Ammons, Skylar Browning, Jason Cohen, Jesse Froehling, Chad Harder, Caroline Kurtz, Richard Layne, Ari LeVaux, Alex Sakariassen, Aaron Teasdale, Brad Tyer
COPY EDITORS ART DIRECTOR PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVES SPECIAL PROJECTS COORDINATOR FRONT DESK
Jason Wiener, David Merrill Kou Moua Jenn Stewart, Jonathan Marquis Tami Johnson, Teal Kenny, Steven Kirst, Alecia Goff, Sasha Perrin, Rhonda Urbanski Chris Melton Lorie Rustvold
Lake Koocanusa’s scalable treasures
Cover photo by Chad Harder
317 S. Orange St.• Missoula, MT 59801 406-543-6609 • Fax 406-543-4367 www.montanaheadwall.com
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ON YOUR FEET
ON BELAY www.mtheadwall.com
oug to feature D ed ll ri th re e rpoint, we’ 8. One of th As a counte x on page 5 ru C a f e o h ip T d e in er su ting is is to ev mmons’ wri n kayakers ssion in th A io se it b o e ed ch f p th er o p ex to is ed wo stories attention accomplish tive from h ers perspec our most eadwall call ff H o es adrenav s , a ri n n d o ed ta er m n en v o m M e of fe that oft dle, A cl d n a a o n p ti a in x p fi in e ta th ed nd depth ond moun single-mind sees profou ewhere bey endurance m e s h so le fi d n ro a d p n , a ture en g left to son Cohen eled adven ining regim With nothin a fu r. tr el te n a ta li pursuits. Ja w ru f b o p really flow the to artin, whose t there was a eauty in the ied him to b th rr d s ca n u a s biker Bill M a s h re s s ven a assu there’ ce-day focu rst place. E Ammons re And then fi . e, e v rt th o ro p sp in maniacal ra e is e h the Lak prov l ranks of eeps him in to Ingomar nything to st a g n er ti er v u ev o ri n l internationa a e th su he ic unter with ds us, is all s into an ep ne, whose ca erness turn gentle enco at, he remin d Richard Lay il th d W to n t o A o . ed n rr in o creati y-Bitte too determ mystery of in the Selwa t place. ecause he’s b ly et out and st o d in the firs m te t, n a es w -f Montana. G er er r, ff o ev o su d r y u b o y es e o tsid ll it, but it g It’s right ou turn back. on, e climbers ca ti th ic d ,” d er a v Matt Gibson , fe n . bitio “Summit a enjoy it passion, am to : it es o m d a Editor-in-Chief n ll a judge. We many other ur tish. Don’t fe gister” of o en re ev e s th p n g si “ perha to te ree, despera certain deg e. jectiv peculiar ob
Cohen has written about music, food, travel and sports for everyone from Rolling Stone and the Missoula Independent to Portland Monthly and the New York Times. He is the author of Zamboni Rodeo, a book about minor league hockey in Texas, and co-editor of the latest SXSW Scrapbook, about the South by Southwest media and music fest. Days after completing his Bill Martin profile he moved back to Austin, Texas, to become a senior staff writer at TexasMonthly.com. He’ll miss the snow, walking to Costco and Biga Pizza.
Kurtz has been helping the Montana Natural History Center (www.MontanaNaturalist.org) in Missoula produce publications and public radio essays about the natural world for the past 12 years. She loves poking around in the outdoors and learning about previously unconsidered wildlife, like mantleslugs. She recently started volunteering with Missoula Writing Coaches, who collaborate with teachers in the public schools to improve students’ skills and encourage enthusiasm for writing.
A lifelong Montanan, Ammons (www.dougammons.com) is a world-class kayaker who has completed first descents on Class V rivers around the globe. Outside magazine named him “one of the top 10 game changers in adventure” for his solo expeditions. He has made films for National Geographic, ESPN and Outdoor Life Network, and has written two books, Laugh of the Water Nymph and Whitewater Philosophy. His real job is editing two international science journals and raising five children with his wife, Robin.
A writer and photographer who has explored Western Montana’s backcountry since childhood, Layne’s stories and photos have appeared in Montana Magazine, Distinctly Montana and Helena’s Independent Record. In between treks in the mountains he is writing two books about his winter trips in Glacier National Park and the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. He also runs a carpet cleaning service in Helena, where he lives with his wife, Carleen, and two dogs, Gus and Reverend. Find his work at www.richardlaynephoto.com.
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Call now and book the Big Sky Salmon Lake need only visit the FWP website (fwp.mt.gov) to do so. Reservations can be made up to nine months in advance, Reilly says, “so if somebody wants to reserve a camp spot at Placid Lake for June 25, they could make their reservation at Christmas.” Campsite reservations will come with an added $10 fee, but Reilly explains it could have been much more prohibitive The state's new reservation system affects only 20 different campgrounds. And even at those, 20 percent of the sites will remain open for walk-in visitors.
had Montana not partnered with Idaho Parks and Recreation to share that agency’s established reservation system. “We’ve been talking about it for several years, and the stars finally lined up so we had a good opportunity to get it in place at a reasonable cost,” Reilly says. There are some mild complexities involved. The reservation system only applies to about 600 sites in Montana’s 20 state-run campgrounds. More primitive areas like Painted Rocks in the Bitterroot Range remain off the grid. In the meantime, the free-spirited outdoor enthusiast need not rankle at the system’s apparent affront to spontaneity. Reilly says roughly 20 to 25 percent of the sites at the affected campgrounds will remain open for walk-on campers. The state worked hard throughout 2010 to tailor a system that would cater to all, from people who like assurances to lastminute adventurers, he adds. “There’s going to be the most amount of flexibility we could build into it.” Alex Sakariassen
For weekend warriors, booking a slice of the Big Sky is now as simple as dialing a few digits from the office or whipping out that trusty Blackberry. Never mind taking an extra few days off work just to ensure a shot at prime campsite real estate . Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) rolled out a brand-new reservation system for staterun campgrounds this spring, and with the state parks’ summer rush coming up fast, the agency anticipates a great reception from the get-go. “It’s going to be extremely welcome and utilized,” says Tom Reilly, FWP capital and recreation bureau chief. “It’s going to save folks a lot of time, frustration and gas money, which none of us have too much of.” The new formality in the state’s campground system has been a long time coming. According to FWP, one of the primary inquiries made by tourists and residents each year is whether campsite reservations are available. Reilly says summer visitors making the trek from Yellowstone National Park to Glacier National Park have regularly expressed a desire to claim a state campground plot somewhere in between. Yet Montana steadfastly remained one of the last vestiges of the more traditional first-come, first-served management style. “Montana is one of the last states in the whole country—I think Alaska might be the only one left—that does not have some kind of campsite reservation program,” Reilly says. Until now. Montana’s new system couldn’t be simpler. Campers hoping to nab a spot at major sites like Beavertail Hill or
Whitefish tree well deaths bring dangers home An epic powder year at Montana’s Whitefish Mountain Resort was marred this season when a skier and snowboarder each died after falls into tree wells, the first such fatalities on the mountain since 1999. The twin tragedies, which occurred within 10 days of one another, struck area staff and the local ski community hard, resort spokesman Donnie Clapp says. Institutionally, he adds, the two incidents were a “wake-up call”—one that snow lovers need to remember this spring and beyond. German foreign exchange student Niclas Waeschle, 16, who had been skiing alone, was found upside-down and unconscious in an off-piste area near Whitefish’s T-Bar 2 on Dec. 29. Bystanders extracted Waeschle from a tree well after noticing his skis protruding from the snow, and emergency responders tried to resuscitate him. The young man died at Kalispell Regional Medical Center two days later. Clapp says Whitefish management immediately began discussing addition-
al public safety measures, releasing tree well safety information through daily snow reports and warning skiers and snowboarders of potential risks. Whitefish quickly made plans to install tree well warning signs developed at Colorado’s Steamboat Springs resort by the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). But on Jan. 8—before the mountain could get the signs up—29-year-old snowboarder Scott Allen Meyer, a Kalispell probation and parole officer, failed to meet up with friends when the day ended. He was found dead in a tree well not far from where Waeschle’s accident occurred. A third, non-fatal incident at Whitefish occurred Jan. 7 when Montanan Pete Lev, skiing with his wife, caught an edge and flipped upside-down into a tree well on Evans Heaven, according to a letter from Lev posted at BlackDiamondEquipment.com. Lev was carrying a pack with a transceiver and also wore an AvaLung, an oxygen delivery device for avalanche safety. After
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choking on snow, he managed to find the AvaLung mouthpiece, and the burst of oxygen allowed him to calm down and search for an air pocket, Lev wrote. He was subsequently able to call his wife on his two-way radio and punch a hand out of the snow to signal her. “She was only 50 feet from me and didn’t know where I was,” Lev noted. The take-home message is clear: tree well accidents should be a primary concern for anyone shredding powder stashes. Skiers and snowboarders who fall into deep, unconsolidated snow around tree trunks often die of asphyxiation; their struggles tend to loosen more snow and bury them. In experiments conducted by industry professionals in the United States and Canada, 90 percent of volunteers could not independently free themselves from tree wells.
Clapp cautions any skier hitting the backcountry to remain wary of the dangers, especially in deep, unstable snow. Chairlift riders, meanwhile, will see increasing numbers of NSAA-sponsored signs that warn of the risks of going offpiste amid the evergreens. “People still definitely need to keep tree wells in mind when they’re choosing
Falls into tree wells have killed more than 70 skiers in the past two decades. routes and choosing how they’re going to ski and who they’re going to ski with,” Clapp says. Nationally, the issue of tree well safety is a growing concern as resorts open up more gladed terrain or backcountry access. Dave Byrd, director of education and risk for the NSAA, has worked
closely with areas like Whitefish to develop a public outreach campaign. He’s publicized information through the website treewelldeepsnowsafety.org, but says there’s no single solution. Byrd opts for a more all-encompassing message: “Be prepared and be aware.” Industry reps encourage skiers and snowboarders to always ride with a friend and keep within eyesight of one another. Vocal contact can be helpful as well; there’s a reason powder hounds tend to bark at each other in the trees. Tucking, rolling and trying to land upright can occasionally aid survival, but victims must be sure to create an air pocket if they’re submerged. Byrd also encourages skiers to keep one potentially life-saving piece of equipment handy: a cell phone. Alex Sakariassen
CORRECTION An item in the last issue (Vol. 2.4) of Headwall misidentified a parkour athlete shown leaping across a University of Montana stairwell in a photo illustration. The jumper is Kent Johns, and the idiots are us.
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Missoula snags mountain biking race for the world’s top riders Professional mountain biker Sam Schultz spends the majority of the year traveling the globe, going from race to race, with only a couple of days to study, test-ride and compete on each new course. But later this year, the Missoula, Mont., native and rising star will have a rare chance to break the routine by competing on a course he helped design in his hometown. Missoula will host the season-ending Pro XCT race at Marshall Mountain on July 23. Organizers expect between 50 and 100 of the nation’s top professional riders—as well as hundreds of amateurs— to compete in front of more than 1,000 spectators. It marks the first time a race of this stature has been held in Montana.
“I’m going to know that course like the back of my hand,” says Schultz, 25, who placed fourth in last year’s Pro XCT standings and won one of the series’ six races. “When I’m not on the road, I’ll be in Missoula hitting that course. I can’t even tell you—it’ll be a huge advantage.” The inaugural Missoula race will not only determine the season points leaders for the Pro XCT (Cross Country Tour, for the uninitiated), but it will also give riders a chance to accumulate International Biking Union, or UCI, ranking points. UCI points are crucial in helping the United States qualify for mountain biking spots for the 2012 Olympic Games and determining the start order for UCI Mountain Bike World Championships.
“The fact that it’s the season finale, and that it’s a UCI race, means all of the points leaders—the best of the best— will be here,” says Missoula XC promoter Shaun Radley. “For Sam, it means he’ll be able to sleep in his bed,
Missoula’s Sam Schultz won his first Pro XCT race last July at Wisconsin’s Subaru Cup. then wake up and chase points for the Olympics.” Radley describes the Marshall Mountain course as a 6-kilometer “figureeight” design featuring multiple “short, punchy climbs.” Race organizers and local volunteers will finish preparing the
Mill Creek gives sport climbers new pitches The Missoula area’s sport climbing scene has dyno-ed to a whole new level thanks to a handful of committed rock hounds who have developed top-notch sport routes near the mouth of Mill Canyon in the Bitterroot Valley. The group of veteran climbers— Dane Scott, Ken Turley, Michael Moore, Tim Karst and Kurt Krueger, among oth-
There’s no shortage of future potential, either, since more cliffs—taller ones— line the canyon. While the routes are poised a dramatic 800 feet above Mill Creek itself, they’re mostly mild climbs in the 5.8 to 5.10 range, bolted for safety and fun. The area’s current hardman test piece is dubbed “Quod erat demon-
Several Mill Creek routes, including Involuntary Tick, Ticked Off and Tick Magnet, are named in honor of the little parasites that swarm the area in spring. ers—have spent the past year putting up routes at Mill Creek’s dramatic North Rim, one canyon north of Blodgett Canyon, turning the untapped granite into a new and much-needed cragging destination. Missoula-area climbers have always had plenty of rock to climb, but a lot of it is low quality. What rock jocks lacked were solid, mid-level crags within a reasonable walking distance from a trailhead. The Mill Creek development changes that, providing craggers (roped climbers who rely on pre-placed anchors and bolts instead of removable protection) with a wealth of new options on nearly two dozen named routes, all just a 45-minute walk from the trailhead.
strandum, m.f.” (Latin for “what was required to be proved”), created in 2010 by Scott, director of the Center for Ethics at the University of Montana, and Turley, a software developer. The route goes at 5.12b. “The routes are as good as any in Western Montana,” says Moore, a Missoulian newspaper editor who with others has established multiple routes in two spots affectionately referred to as Tick Farm (yes, it’s tick infested) and Pie Area. “The rock feels similar to Shoshone,” Moore says, referring to Shoshone Spire, the must-climb 5.8 multi-pitch in Blodgett Canyon. “But it’s not com-
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posed of cut-up crack systems—it’s a geologic formation specifically made for sport climbing.” There are still plenty of hazards, including bad weather, rock fall and wind gusts. The online guidebook for the area—available for free via Turley’s “Mill Creek Report” blog (millcreekreport.blogspot.com)—reminds climbers that they “may be making only the 2nd or 3rd ascent of a route, so expect a little loose rock and lichen, as well as the occasional breaking foothold.” Wear a helmet, it warns. With all the energy being focused on the area, it’s no surprise that Climbing Magazine gave a shout-out to Mill Creek, naming it one of the nation’s best new cragging areas in its March 2011 issue. The attention will likely draw more traffic, and Moore anticipates that he and his crew will double the number of pitches in the area, a process he’s grateful to be a part of. “We’re middle-aged guys, we have good jobs, and we’ve enjoyed putting our time in to give back to the climbing community,” Moore says. “I mean, we’ve climbed other people’s routes for years, and now’s a good time for us to give back.” Chad Harder
course in the spring, and a weekly race series will help break in the track leading up to the headliner. “I think you’re going to see a course unlike others on the tour, and a real fanfriendly event,” says Kelli Lusk, national events director for USA Cycling, the sanctioning body for the XCT series. For Schultz, it all adds up to a huge opportunity—for both him and the community. “We’re already seeing great community support and a lot of excitement from fans and sponsors who understand what a big deal this is,” he says. “Part of me realizes, crap, I better put on a good race and not make a fool of myself.” Skylar Browning Sam Schultz races in 2010.
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Page 15 Spring 2011
houldering a 10-foot stand-up paddleboard to the bank of the Clark Fork River in downtown Missoula, I suddenly felt imbued with the coolness of surfing. As a landlocked mountain junkie, this was an unfamiliar experience. A teenager on the sidewalk asked where I was going and I felt a sudden urge to call him “brah.” The glances of passing girls lingered a bit longer than usual. Then I realized, man, these paddleboards get pretty heavy after a couple of blocks. People on the river path turned and ogled, but I, in true surfer style, pretended to be too cool to notice. In reality, I couldn’t move my head—I had no idea how to carry that damn board, and angling it across my shoulder and head while holding it with one arm might
have looked cool, but I was well on my way to rupturing every muscle in my neck. At the riverbank, I laid the board down in the water and—after straightening my neck with great delicacy—I grabbed the paddle and proceeded to act like I knew what I was doing. I had high hopes this would go better than the time I attempted surfing in the ocean and repeatedly cartwheeled through the waves like a drunken rag doll in a spin cycle. It’s possible I was the most un-cool surfer of all time. I had some local pros to thank for getting me to try again. The guys at Strongwater, the kayak and paddleboard shop in Missoula, kept talking about how much fun it was and how anyone, no matter how spectacularly unskilled at
surfing they might be, could do it. Once they started renting paddleboards from their storefront near the river, I figured I had to give it a try. A website I’d read somewhere said to start paddleboarding on your knees, so I tried that as I clambered onto the board and cautiously paddled into the Clark Fork’s current. The ride felt surprisingly stable, and in a few minutes I stood up and was paddling against the moving water like, well, someone who actually knew what he was doing.
“Oooh, there’s one of those boards!” people on the path called out. Children made their parents stop and watch. This was so much better than the whole drunken rag doll thing. A little way up the shore a pair of college girls in tiny shorts appeared with paddleboards. As I drew closer I heard one mention it was her first time out. Smiling to the gods of fate, I paddled over to dispense pearls of wisdom. “It’s easier if you start on your knees,” I said, authoritatively. Turns out they’d rented their boards from Strongwater, too. Within 10 minutes, and with some expert coaching, of course, they were both on their feet and paddling up and down the river. After chatting for a while with my new friends, I turned back downriver, the sun warming my skin as I floated on my feet along the water’s smooth, cool flow. Ospreys and kingfishers winged across a robin-egg sky. Standing over the water offered excellent views
into the river itself, which on this part of the Clark Fork unfortunately meant glimpses of submerged shopping carts and beer cans. But it also meant views of fish, and it occurred to me that fishing from a paddleboard would be a snap (and it turns out they now make
SUP magazines, and paddleboard races are held in Manhattan, Tahiti, and Venice (both California and Italy). Heck, you can’t throw a silicone implant off the coast of Southern California without hitting someone or other on a stand-up paddleboard.
of the SUP revolution. In 2009, they became the first shop in Montana to sell paddleboards. Brown, now possibly the best whitewater SUP’er in the state, admits he wasn’t convinced about the sport when he first learned of it. “As a kayaker, I had trou-
sport comes along that delivers a seismic shift to the recreation landscape and forever changes how we experience the outdoors. Every so often a new
boards with integrated rod holders and tackle boxes for this very purpose). Lash points on the board’s tip meant you could easily tie down lightweight camping equipment in a dry bag, and I began daydreaming about expeditions in the canyons of Utah or on the coast of British Columbia. Later, I would learn that people had already completed multi-day paddleboard trips down the Yellowstone River. I’d only been on one for a few minutes, but it was already obvious that stand-up paddleboarding—SUP for short—had a ton of potential. Every so often a new sport comes along that delivers a seismic shift to the recreation landscape and forever changes how we experience the outdoors. Two examples from recent decades are mountain bikes and snowboards. Now add stand-up paddleboarding to the list.
ccounts of SUP’s origins vary, with conceptually similar boards used in Bolivia, China and ancient Polynesia, but everyone agrees its modern incarnation emerged in Hawaii. Surf instructors in Waikiki began paddling their longboards in the 1950s, but the sport as we know it today kicked off in 2000, when a few mavericks in Hawaii, led by surfing dons Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama, began playing with paddles during periods of poor waves. They were instantly hooked. You could see the water and incoming sets better, it was a great workout, and it was fun even when the surf sucked. The more they did it, the more other people gave it a try, and a new sport was born. The original handful of companies mass-producing paddleboards have been joined by dozens of others, and the craze is spreading like a tsunami around the globe. Jennifer Aniston is doing it! Rihanna is doing it! Today there are no fewer than four different
Of course, I wasn’t the first person in Western Montana trying it out. For the last two years, rivermen Kevin “KB” Brown and Luke Rieker, the owners of Strongwater, have been at the forefront
ble envisioning standing on a surfboard and riding down a river,” he says. Then, in the spring of 2009, as the buzz in the watersports world became too loud to ignore, he and Rieker took a couple of boards out to
Frenchtown Pond for a trial session. It only took a few minutes before Brown says he realized, “This is the ticket!” Rieker, who was equally smitten, says they both had the same thought— “Let’s get these on the river!” At the time, stand-up paddleboards were becoming established as a great way to catch ocean waves or cruise around lakes and flat water, but the idea of taking them on rivers was new, with only a few pioneers exploring the possibilities. Count Brown and Rieker among them. The day after their Frenchtown epiphany, they headed for the Blackfoot River and paddled the stretch of Class II water from Whitaker Bridge to Johnsrud. As Rieker puts it, “The floodgates were opened that day.” They not only ran the Blackfoot successfully (with a few unplanned swims, mind you), but they were also able to surf the popular play wave at The Ledge. “On our kayaks it took us three years to
JOIN THE SUP’ER CLUB WHERE TO GO One of the beautiful things about SUP’ing is that it can be whatever you want it to be. A peaceful cruise across flat water? You can do that. A Class III adrenaline surge? You can do that, too. The Bitterroot River from Buckhouse Bridge is a perfect putin for first-timers. After my first try, I became addicted to running the Clark Fork from East Missoula to downtown. It’s a great beginner’s paddle, with one notable rapid and just enough choppy water to keep you on your toes. Flathead Lake is a dream for flat water, and you’d be hard-pressed to find prettier places to paddle than the lakes in the Swan Valley or Glacier National Park. Then, of course, there’s the Flathead and the Blackfoot Rivers, when you’re ready to ramp up the challenge.
GET A BOARD Strongwater (www.strongwaterkayak.com) on Higgins Avenue in Missoula rents boards and is a short walk from the Clark Fork River. Pink Cowboy Fitness and Recreation Outfitters (pinkcowboy.net) offers rentals at a variety of locations, including Northern Lights Trading Co. in Bozeman and Seeley Lake Recreational Rentals in, you guessed it, Seeley Lake. If you’d rather buy a board, Strongwater features a variety of models, including a versatile, entry-level Surftech foam board for $700 (with paddle). Bob Ward & Sons (www.bobwards.com) in Missoula and Sportsman & Ski Haus (www.sportsmanskihaus.com) in Kalispell and Whitefish also sell boards, and Sportsman will let you try before you buy.
GET SMART Stand-up paddleboarding on flat water is about as low-risk as water sports get, but even on the calmest water, a PFD (personal
flotation device) is recommended. And once you get on moving water it’s a whole new world. If you plan to hit any sort of rapid, even a Class I, you need to be prepared. “If you’re going on the river, you need the same type of gear you’d have for a kayak,” says Strongwater co-owner Kevin “KB” Brown. At a minimum that means a PFD, helmet and appropriate footwear. Knowledge goes a long way, too. “What makes the rivers so doable for us is our kayaking background and knowing how to read the river,” Brown says. His advice before you launch? “Take a swift-water rescue course and get familiar with the river.”
GET GUIDANCE Defying the traditional pleasure curve of outdoor sports— which aren’t always a hoot for beginners—SUP’ing is incredibly easy to learn and boatloads of fun right away. As Brown puts it, “You don’t need a lesson, you just need to get out there and give it a try.” If you’re hell-bent on instruction, however, you can get lessons from Pink Cowboy, Montana River Guides (www.montanariverguides.com) and Zoo Town Surfers (www.zootownsurfers.com).
GET SERIOUS Okay, so there aren’t any SUP events in Montana yet, but that’s certain to change soon—possibly this summer. Brown, the organizer who brought the U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Championships to Brennan’s Wave in the summer of 2010, is looking into running a Milltown-to-Missoula SUP race that would play off the heritage of the old lumberjack log riders who piloted flotillas of timber down the Blackfoot in centuries past. He and Strongwater co-owner Luke Rieker are also entertaining the prospect of a race down the Alberton Gorge that Rieker says “could be one of the premier whitewater races in the country.” —Aaron Teasdale
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surf that wave,” says Rieker, “but there we were doing it on only our second day paddleboarding.” After this revelation, they returned to the Blackfoot again and again, addicted to the rush of navigating rivers standing up. Both Brown and Rieker are sponsored kayakers who had long grown tired of the relatively mild rapids on the Blackfoot, but doing it on paddleboards changed everything. As Rieker says, “My heart was racing coming into Thibodeau—it turns Class II rapids into Class IV.” Closer to home, the duo hit Brennan’s Wave in downtown Missoula; they surfed it almost every day and routinely attracted crowds of spectators. “It was mind-blowing to people what you could do,” Brown says. “Everyone was saying, ‘Whoa! Surfing on the river!’” Next up was Pipeline, the monster wave on the Lochsa. Brennan’s Wave was one thing, but Pipeline was a big, wild wave on a fast-moving river. Brown says he was able to paddle right into it and surf it on his first try. “It was so doable—that’s what sold us on it,” says Brown. “After we hit Pipeline, we hardly wanted to kayak anymore.”
Which for Brown is saying something. The formerly diehard kayaker explains paddleboarding this way: “It’s not as confined and claustrophobic as kayaking. You can see down in the water better and it’s a great workout. It’s just a really free and cool way to get around the water.”
Or, as Rieker explains, “It just feels like how you should be going down the river.” After Pipeline, there remained one obvious test—the Alberton Gorge. The region’s most notorious stretch of whitewater, an extended run of boiling Class III and Class IV rapids, the Gorge didn’t seem like a good candidate for stand-up. That’s what Rieker thought, anyway. He wanted no part of it. Surfing waves was one thing, but he wasn’t convinced that running rowdy whitewater on a paddleboard would work. “I just didn’t think it was possible,” he says. Brown saw things differently. When the water level hit 7,000 cubicfeet-per-second that spring of 2009, they went out to give it a try, Rieker in his kayak, Brown on his SUP. “I will eat an entire pine cone if KB makes it through this rapid,” Rieker said to a kayaker next to him in an eddy below the Triple Bridges Rapid, waiting for Brown to meet the first major test in the Gorge. “There is no way.” Continued on page 54
Expose yourself to greatness
by Chad Harder
Perfect photos come in threes Even today’s cheapest cameras are technological marvels compared to the sluggish clunkers we called “top of the line” a dozen years ago. Thanks to the photo evolution, cameras can recognize our friends’ faces, or even wait to fire on a group shot until everybody’s smiling. But for all this techno-gadgetry, camera manufacturers have tragically moved form in front of function on all but the most expensive cameras. Case in point: Controls for the two ultimate camera functions—shutter speed and aperture—have been removed from prominence and are now, in nearly every case, buried in the bowels of mini-button menu hell. Sure, this is fine if your only goal is to point and shoot—that’s exactly what most models are designed for. But modern cameras lack manual controls specifically to remove the biggest variable in picture taking: the photographer. This allows the camera to make every decision—about exposure, focus, and more. The camera sorts through the complex algorithms and makes the right choice perhaps 90 percent of the time. But about 10 percent of shooting situations will fool the sensors and create lousy pictures. To fix the problem, it helps to understand how light beams are recorded in your camera as photographs.
Envisioning this is not complicated: Just think of light passing through your lens as water passing through a faucet. The shutter is a timer, opening and closing the valve for a specific duration. Simultaneously, the aperture controls the volume or intensity of the light, either by reducing or enlarging the hole through which it passes. The longer the shutter is open and the wider the aperture, the brighter the image. If the sensor gets too much light, the image will be overexposed, with no details in the highlights. Give it too little light and the picture will be underexposed, with no details in the shadows. A perfect exposure lies in the middle, allowing for a touch of gray in both the shadows and the highlights. Today’s auto-everything cameras can’t always deliver this sweet spot, and that leads some photographers to go to manual mode to get back in the driver’s seat. On some cameras, persistent photographers will find manual control options hidden deep in the menu, typically only after extensive button pushing. It’s a lousy and frustrating solution. Fortunately, most cameras provide another, easier option. It’s called “autobracketing,” essentially a no-cost insurance policy for people (or cameras) that consistently bring home poorly exposed images.
To take advantage of it, search through your camera’s menus until you find “auto-exposure bracketing” (AEB for Canon and Sony, and BKT for Nikon). Select that option, frame your image and fire the shutter—your camera will, with no manual readjustment, immediately capture three images identical in every way except for exposure. One will be correctly exposed, one underexposed and one overexposed. Don’t waste your time assessing or deleting these images in the field; wait until you’re home and can see them better on your computer screen. You’re bound to find a good one. Creative photographers can take it to an even higher level, combining the best parts of two different exposures into a single, perfectly exposed image using Adobe Photoshop or other digital imaging software. For everybody else, the important thing is to remember the two potential downsides to bracketing. First, you have to wait and hold the shutter button until your camera fires a sequence of three—a guaranteed failure when shooting action. Second, you’ll record three times as many images on your memory card, requiring triple the storage space. But memory cards are so cheap these days, that shouldn’t hold you back. Thank evolution for that, too.
We know you’re out there, having epics and snapping photos. Instead of cursing them with an anonymous death in hard-drive purgatory, go for the glory and send your best
images to us at email@example.com. Include the location, your name, the names of all people shown and any information you think is useful. We’ll take it from there.
Page 25 Spring 2011
With a fat trout in its mouth, a seemingly content coyote cruises the sagebrush outside of Cooke City.
A Canada goose stays vigilant while sheltering her goslings near a small pond in Missoula.
HEAD SHOTS www.mtheadwall.com Eva Cloud completes the fourth and final pitch of No Sweat Arete, a four-pitch 5.7 in the Bitterroot's Mill Creek Canyon. Sam Wilson
Sunlight streams through frosty cottonwood trees along the Valley of the Moon Nature Trail by Rock Creek on the first day of winter. Vanessa Gaudette
hen Missoula mountain biker Bill Martin first unveiled his plan to ride Sheep Mountain, his friends decided he had reached another level of insanity—not that this was any big surprise. Everyone who follows @boneshakerbike on Twitter is familiar with his 140-character tales of whoa: blizzard-condition 80-mile rides, accidental SOS calls in the wee hours, waking up next to his bike along a trail with 50 miles of riding left. When you’re a 44-year-old world-class endurance athlete, monomania and masochism are just part of the job description. There’s always another trail to conquer, risk to take or harrowing experiment in seeing what your body can bounce back from. Torturing himself on two wheels is what Bill Martin does for fun, even— especially—when it doesn’t seem like fun at all. “Suffering brings you somewhere,” he says. “It brings you to a different place.”
“Sheep” is Missoula’s hallmark epic ride, a 27-mile counter-clockwise loop that takes you to the highest point in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, with some 5,000 feet of elevation gain through rocky, steep and somewhat technical terrain, including a barely maintained trail overlaid with beargrass. It’s a good day’s ride, and one that every hardcore MTBer in Missoula’s probably done. Martin planned to do it as part of the 2010 RMVQ, which is his personal all-day-all-night tour around Missoula’s highest peaks, something he began doing in 2008 after the death of his beloved hiking buddy Marcy, a cocker spaniel mix (RMVQ stands for Remember Marcy Vision Quest). No one has ever actually finished an RMVQ except for Martin—a handful of his friends take on a leg or two or three, some with hours of resting in between, others going just until they drop. At the first RMVQ in 2008, Martin rode 153 miles in a little more than 21 hours; the two “second-place” finishers completed 73 miles in 13 hours. “Sheep” in and of itself is a challenge. But to do one of Missoula’s toughest rides as just a sliver of a 21- or 22hour pedal, with 25,665 collective feet of climbing? Before anyone had a chance to talk him out of it, they found out there was more to Martin’s beta. “He says, ‘I’m also doing it at night,’” recalls Ed Stalling, a friend and fellow mountain biker. “And then he adds, ‘I’m gonna do it backwards.’” Meaning—no, he’s not that crazy— clockwise, which makes for steeper steeps, at least another thousand feet of elevation gain, and a gnarlier, more hazardous descent. In the dark. With nine hours and 72 miles already wreaking havoc on his body. Alone. Because even the people who ride with Martin don’t often ride with Martin. He’ll sometimes get in “team mode” (i.e., just for fun/camraderie) versus, as he puts it,
“that place I need to go to talk to my demons,” but not often. When another friend and local rider heard about Martin’s plan, he expressed his skepticism thusly: “Somebody’s gonna die.”
Univision Computer) whose one-word self-description is not “athlete,” “racer” or “champion,” but rather, “doofus.” As
raised in Roundup, graduated in Roundup. Left Roundup,” he says of the little town north of Billings—Martin never knew his father growing up. His mother raised him on her own until she met the man he still calls dad, who made his living as a logger. One day the family joined their father in the woods, and 12-year-old Martin darted off to get his Mom a Kleenex from the car, right as his father felled a tree into his path. Martin tells this story with the same affectless nonchalance he brings to con-
a redhead, Martin bears a slight resemblance to Archie from the comic books, but put him on a bike and he turns into Moose combined with Reggie. “On the exterior, he’s the kind of guy you could go out for a weekend riding trip with anytime,” says Colorado racer Ben Welnak, who went head to head with Martin in the November 2010 season-ending “25 Hours in Frog Hollow” race in Hurricane, Utah. “Behind the exterior, he’s a fierce competitor who not only wants to win, but would be content with ripping your legs off and beating you with them.” He’s suffered for that fire. A Montana native—“Born in Roundup,
versations about biking mishaps. “I had a tree fall on my head once. It put me in a coma for a year or so,” he says. When you’ve had a branch barrel right into your skull, what’s 100 miles of riding without solid food, or your 13th “slight” concussion? All Martin remembers from the logging accident is waking in the hospital, agitated by the sound of crying from a patient in the next bed. He’d missed the whole 6th grade. Physical therapy taught him to walk again, and then he says, “I just progressed into walking so fast that I became a fast runner. I just kept going. Like Forrest. Just kept going.” He ran
artin is lean and unimposing, a genial, boyish, self-deprecating softM ware engineer by day (for Missoula’s
cross-country and long distances through high school, racking up the miles and the medals. After graduation, he bounced from town to town (Casper, Spokane, Salt Lake City) and job to job (power washer in the mines, door-todoor salesman, grocery store clerk). He also put in one semester at what was then Eastern Montana College (now Montana State University-Billings), and was married long enough to have a daughter and recreate his family history. “She was maybe six months old and I was gone, and her mother wasn’t good at
could train and recover.’ So they put me down for computer science.” He now wishes he had chosen photography, or perhaps nutrition and exercise physiology, since he has a certain expertise in those fields. “I think I like that more than the race itself,” he says. “Preparing the body for battle.” In 2006, Martin moved back to Montana, this time to Missoula. He fell in with Missoula’s “Thursday Night Ride” mountain biking group and started doing cross-country and cyclocross races. When he won the rugged Butte
much pain it was,” Martin says. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to go there!’ “And then my dog died.”
t happened after the first 8 Hours of Labor race on August 31 at Homestake ILodge outside of Butte. After Martin won with 13 laps, everybody gathered at their campsites and around the lodge, which has an outdoor staircase to the second floor. Marcy and some other dogs were playing on it when she took a freakish fall, and since it was the Sunday of Labor Day
100 for the second time on August 10, keeping in touch,” he says, aware of (and weekend, no one could find an open vet’s 2008, organizer Bob Waggoner made sure office. Martin got into his car and headed not untroubled by) the parallels with his he realized that this made him an autoown absent father. “They moved around east, but pulled off near Anaconda when matic qualifier for the 24 Hours of a lot, and I moved to the East Coast.” he saw that Marcy wouldn’t make it. She Adrenaline Solo World Championship in He landed in Plattsburgh, N.Y., and died in his arms along I-90. Canmore, Alberta. The July 2009 race worked in a carpet factory that laid him He was already toying with the idea would draw more than 1,400 competitors of a lengthy ride around Missoula. Now off every summer, which gave him time to Canada from around the globe. to kill and put him on a bike. His first it would be for Marcy. At each RMVQ, one was a Huffy, which folded Martin tacks up photos of her, in a ditch almost immediately. many of them shot at that very He’s a competitor who Then he fell in love with his spot during hikes with her. One first Trek and started racing. of the photos from the 2008 Too broke to own a car, he ride is still up at Snowbowl’s not only wants to , but would became known as the guy who A-Frame chalet two years later. got to and from races on his Martin also brings her ashes to be content with your legs bike, even when they took most races. At the 2010 8 Hours place 60 or 100 miles away. off and you with them. of Labor, Martin and his friend Between 1992 and 2001 he Sten Hertsens were on the trail won 45 cycling races around together briefly when Martin “I was like, ‘right,’” Martin says. New England at the expert, elite and pointed out, ‘Oh, there’s Marcy’s bones!’” He’d done several 24-hour rides during semi-pro levels, spending part of that The rides themselves inspire awe or his Plattsburgh days, largely of his own time as sponsored racer on the K2 angst. During the 2009 RMVQ, 53-yeardevising. But to go from that to organFactory Team. Then he stopped, in large old Ed Stalling couldn’t ride because of ized 24-hour racing, and at the very part because his racing success made broken ribs—suffered while riding with highest level, would be like going from him confident enough to take another Martin on Sheep Mountain—then got lost throwing a baseball in the backyard shot at college. When SUNY-Plattsburgh driving up a logging road while trying to while pretending it’s the bottom of the told him he had to pick a major, Martin meet Martin for a 3 a.m. support stop. ninth in the World Series, to pitching in recalls, “I was like, ‘Well, if I had a job Knowing Martin would just keep riding the actual World Series. “I knew how where I could just sit around all day, I if nobody was there, Stalling fretted that
win ripping beating
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stops, they could barely get him to take tunnel-visioned, physically wrecked his friend would bonk without refills of in some calories or give himself a natural—at surviving on a bike for one water, Carbo Rocket and, if he could take breather. All he cared about was his full day. “It’s like an entire lifetime in in solid food, a camp-stove-steamed position in the race. 24 hours,” he says. “You start out, you Marie Callender pot pie (1,000 calories!). “The accumulated suffering of my go through all these tremendous chalMeanwhile, Martin could see headwhole life doesn’t seem to hold a candle to lenges, overcome a lot of obstacles and lights as he pedaled up the ridge. “I’m what I saw him go through that night,” discover a lot of things. Self-discovery thinking, ‘Oh no! That’s Ed. He’s gonna says Shattuck. “He was a shell of a person.” is a bigger motivator than competition. run out of gas and die!’” Martin rememWhich is something Martin finds Because a lot of shit happens in 24 bers. He imagined the worst: “The first quite liberating. “Everybody’s trying to hours. Your body’s releasing melatonin person to die in an RMVQ was the guy get so comfortable,” he says. in the car!” “But change never comes about Stalling did eventually catch When you’ve had a barrel in comfort. It only comes about Martin, but three hours later, when you go through pain.” the solo rider hadn’t checked in And that still beats the pain with another text or tweet. His right into your , what’s miles of actual life. Even in his friends started to panic; Stalling, Plattsburgh days, Martin peda former search and rescue of riding without solid food, or your aled to get over a bad break-up, worker in Alaska, was ready to as well as that failed marriage. call S-and-R in Montana. 13th ? “Oh shit, he brought his Of course, Martin turned demons,” rival racers would say. up at the next pre-arranged aid “You’re racing, and you’re going hard, station ahead of schedule, unaware that and you start to dream while you’re and you’re like, well, this doesn’t hurt as anyone was ever worried. awake.” bad as getting your heart broken, so you go The next year, Stalling was one of Sometimes the intensity brings him to harder,” Martin says. “The bike heals.” For three riders who joined a regretful Martin tears. More than a few times, he’s found for “Sheep Backwards” in the 2010 himself asleep next to the bike. “He would him that includes not just romantic heartbreaks, and the loss of Marcy, but the way RMVQ, albeit two hours behind him. go out on a lap and literally pass out in he still senses his parents’ guilt over the “That is so dangerous,” Martin said the woods,” says Rich Shattuck, who logging accident, his own guilt at the finanwhen he rolled into the parking lot at joined Bob Waggoner and Hertsens on the Lincoln Hills after 10 p.m. He looked pit crew at the Worlds in Canmore in 2009. cial burden that it put on them, the absence
shaken. “If I broke a bone up there I’d be dead. I feel bad, like I misled people. They shouldn’t do it.” They did (with lots of portage on the hairy parts). “He’s inspired me to do things I would have never done,” says Stalling. “He pulls and inspires us to do our own personal best.”
Martin ever doubts it, finishing a 24race like the RMVQ reminds Ihimfhour he’s a natural—a hallucinating, Montana Headwall
It’s the only 24-hour event Martin hasn’t finished first in. But to come in as a virtual newbie against the entire world, instead of just the smaller fields of mostly local races, and finish 6th (and second among all Americans), was no small thing. “I swear, he was out of his mind for like 14 hours,” says Hertsens. “The guy can just turn himself inside out. When we saw him at the last aid station, we were in tears. Because it was just like, God. What an achievement. The sacrifice, and the suffering.” During pit
Page 34 Spring 2011
of his birth father (whose new wife sends a Christmas card each year) and his own estrangement from his daughter. “I know where she lives and I can see her Facebook page, but I have to wait for her to contact me,” he says. “It’s what my ex-wife suggests.” Martin’s demons are both extraordinary and completely ordinary. Most great athletes (or artists) have them. There’s always something just a little off from “normal” life in those who do great things, an unsettling intensity and ability
to live with pain. They are inspiring, not just for their actual achievements, but because they’re willing to take on the dark stuff many of us won’t. Martin is unusually self-aware about this. It’s certainly occurred to him that if he ever soothes his soul, it might affect his cycling. It’s not just the racing, but also the training that gives him purpose, and a challenge, and control. “It gives you something to work on every day,” says Adventure Cyclist deputy editor Jill Homer, another one of Martin’s riding friends.
“Whereas if you have a career or lose your job or a relationship fails, that really throws everything into flux.” “I don’t have anything else,” says Martin. “That’s what I do. It’s my mistress.” But, he says, he’s lonely, and could imagine slowing down for someone (though he’d rather it be someone who could actually keep up). “I don’t need any more wins,” he says. (With no sponsor and a day job, he couldn’t give the World Championship another shot, since the 2010 race was in Australia). “And I’ve always failed at relationships. So that seems more challenging to me.”
t his final race of 2010, 25 Hours in Frog Hollow (it’s an extra hour because it takes place when A clocks turn back to Standard Time), Martin made a truly shocking move: He sat down early. The Utah race was not one that he’d planned to do, or at least not solo. It was supposed to be a team ride with a female friend from Washington, Martin doing two laps for her every one. But that didn’t work out. Continued on page 55
Clockwise, from the top: Martin refuels 100 miles into his RMVQ ride; sunset on Mount Jumbo; racing the Rattlesnake’s Sidewinder trail; a Thursday group ride; Martin ahead of Justin Doll at the 2010 Rolling Thunder Cyclocross race, before finishing third. Montana Headwall
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WILD THINGS by Caroline Kurtz
hey’re all special in their own way: Magnum P.I., a .357 Magnum, a magnum of champagne, a magnum ... mantleslug? The first three are large and impressive; the last one, not so much, at least at first glance. Even within the realm of slugdom, the species doesn’t hold a candle to the banana-sized garden slugs that mow down marigolds and leave slime trails all over patios in more temperate places. Yet in our corner of the world, Magnipelta mycophaga does stand out. The magnum mantleslug—a mushroom-eater, as its scientific name suggests—is the largest of Montana’s nine native slug species. But it’s discrete for a celebrity. As the name also implies, these slugs can get big—for its kind—or up to 3 inches fully extended. The mantle refers to the thicker, cloak-like part on its back that covers its flexible internal shell (snails have external shells; slugs do not), in this case extending about two-thirds of its length. While I had hoped that this magnum might be all twinkly-eyed and mustachioed, it actually looks more like something I might find rotting in my refrigerator vegetable drawer. The creatures resemble “an unusual lump of dirt or decaying vegetation,” says Paul Hendricks, a zoologist with the Montana Natural Heritage Program and the author of a forthcoming Guide to Land Snails and Slugs of Montana. They’re described much more poetically by Canadian artist and naturalist Aleta Karstad on her website: “Its richly mottled mantle is like a cape, and its body beneath like pleated gray skirts—a most elegant slug.”
Also known as the Idaho-Montana slug or the spotted slug, the mollusks are a regionally endemic species—you don’t find them anywhere else, Hendricks notes. They’ve survived in the pockets of habitat left over after connections to the wetter forests of the Cascade Mountains were cut off during the Pleistocene Epoch and earlier. As far as anyone knows, they exist only in northwest Montana, northern Idaho, southeastern British Columbia and extreme northeastern Washington. Yet despite being studied in the 1950s by University of Montana professor Royal Bruce Brunson and Philadelphia’s Henry Pilsbry, the “grandmaster” of North American land mollusks, not very much is known about them. What do they eat and what eats them? What does their life cycle look like? How many exist, and where? For this reason, and because their habitat seems so restricted, magnum mantleslugs are a state species of concern. (The Montana Natural Heritage Program would be happy to hear if you should find any.) Hendricks says they’re chiefly found in moist, forested areas, munching away on fungus and green vegetation, one of the army of decomposers that nutrient recycling depends on. He’s discovered them in mature and old-growth stands of western red cedar, grand fir and western hemlock, but he’s also come across them in unburned patches of subalpine fir and lodgepole pine in the Sapphire Mountains, and along various creeks.
They hide in the coldest months, hibernating in or under pieces of downed wood. A better time to seek them will be this spring and next fall, when they are more apt to be out doing their slug-y things, like poking around in search of hermaphroditic rendezvous. (Slugs have both male and female reproductive organs, but that doesn’t stop them from mixing it up like other species.) Hendricks says he once found about 30 magnum mantleslugs in an hour of searching along the west fork of Petty Creek in May, and has observed some mating during that time as well. Perhaps this is when they pull out the tiny red Ferraris and start waving the bubbly. Among all the magnums—guns, TV detectives and booze—mantleslugs are certainly the meekest. They might not be inheriting the earth, but they’ve done well enough eating it. What makes them of particular interest otherwise is hard to say. Though perhaps lacking the charisma of Tom Selleck, to me they are rare creatures, vestiges of an earlier landscape, a story of evolutionary survival, pieces of the diversity puzzle. Now that they’re on my radar, I’ll pay a little more attention to dirt clumps along the trail, and hope that some might turn out to be alive.
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GRUB by Ari LeVaux
mid howling wind gusts one morning in Glacier National Park, two friends and I— lugging three 60-pound backpacks—paddled a canoe with a pair of rowboat oars borrowed from a nearby dock. (We’d forgotten our own.) We managed to stay afloat and landed on a beach of rainbow-colored stones, happy to have saved 10 miles of walking, even happier to have survived the frigid whitecaps and violent crosswinds, and trying not to think about our scheduled return crossing a few days later. After a few miles of hiking we entered a field overgrown with primeval-looking vegetation. Stinging nettles. My friends taught me how to pick the small, tender nettle leaves from the youngest plants, the ones worth eating. You pluck the leaves and carefully rub the stingers with a finger to break them, then roll the leaves between your hands. I took a few stings in the process, but my mouth got away unscathed. The leaves gave me a vital, refreshing boost, kind of like spinach or wheatgrass, and the energy felt longer lasting than trail mix—or maybe that was lingering adrenaline from the lake crossing. Before we left the field I cleaned several stems from the oldest, tallest plants and stuffed the long, fibrous material in my backpack. I figured it might come in handy in case I needed to make rope. Unfortunately, I did. The next day, on a jagged, windy, razorback ridge, I used the nettle-cord to tie myself to a miserable stunted tree while my friends played on the edge like those guys on the Brooklyn Bridge in Saturday Night Fever. On the way back to camp, pleased that I survived, I let down my guard and twisted my ankle. The nettles were my friends again that night, in a simple feast of rice tossed with soy sauce, sesame oil and garlic. My comrades had collected them in the primeval field, and they came in handy, since I’d forgotten the seaweed flakes I usually used in the dish. Nettle stingers—scary as they might sound—collapse at the first hint of heat, making the leaves perfectly edible. Their meaty flavor comes packed with iron, chlorophyll and protein, which constitutes as much as 25 percent of their dry weight in late spring. The next day the wind rattled the treetops on our hike back toward the lake. My friends began talking about ditching the canoe and oars and retrieving them some other weekend. It’s a long, thin lake. Paddling across was less than half a mile; walking around it added 10 miles to my swollen, tender ankle. I was inclined to trade a few minutes of stressful canoeing for hours of painful trudging, not to mention a return to the dock without the oars we’d borrowed. But my comrades, bless their hearts, were having none of that. Just a few miles before the rainbow beach (where the whitecaps were indeed ferocious) we crossed the
primeval nettle field again, and I gathered some leaves for the looming march. I took the shoe and sock off my injured ankle and used medical tape to secure nettle leaves all around it. It stung like crazy, of course, but it distracted me and didn’t feel any worse. Who’s to say whether it was the hiking, the ibuprofen or the nettles, but after a few minutes the ache went away. And by the time we got back to the car, the swelling was down. As it turns out, there is a long tradition of urtication, or deliberately stinging yourself with nettles (Urtica dioica). The plant’s tiny, needle-like hairs inject toxins into the skin, causing a nasty sting and itching. But if you’re already injured (no open wounds, please), applying nettles can reduce the pain. Herbalists prescribe them to help treat muscle and joint pain, among lots of other conditions. But be warned: If you’re allergic to nettles, any contact with them is a bad idea. First-timers should always try nettles or any other natural remedy in a small dose under controlled circumstances within reach of medical care—in other words, the opposite of what I did. Harvest nettles with scissors and gloves and load them into paper bags. After you get stung for the first time—and you will, no matter how careful you are—put down your collecting gear and take a moment to check and make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction. Once you pass the test, you won’t have to visit Glacier to find your new friend: Just look for the young leaves near creek bottoms as the snow recedes. The ambitious can make nettle ravioli or quiche. For a quicker fix, just enjoy them steamed or sauteed with soy sauce and garlic. Dried nettles can last for months. Cooked, they usually only last a few seconds, and you’ll wish you’d netted more.
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Page 39 Spring 2011
by Jesse Froehling
Lake Koocanusa’s scalable treasures
tone Hill, on the western shores of Lake Koocanusa, is not Yosemite. It’s not Smith Rock. It’s not Joshua Tree or Red Rocks or Zion. In fact, it’s not even Blodgett Canyon, the Montana big-wall mecca that the rest of the world hasn’t heard of. Instead, it’s sub-100-foot climbs on giant buttresses in the Kootenai National Forest. It’s beers on weekends. And it’s parking at the base of the route, sitting shotgun, and belaying your buddy—or, in my case, my girlfriend— as she powers through a top-roped 5.10 on Hold up Bluffs while friends watch her 5-year-old daughter. In short, it’s ease and accessibility—coupled with some of the most aesthetic climbing in western Montana. The combo was just what we needed. Randi, my aforementioned girlfriend, had just moved to Montana after four years in Houston. She hadn’t climbed in months. She had, however, once led a 5.10c (read:
a reasonably-difficult roped ascent) near Austin, Texas, that I tried and failed for more than two hours to match. “Try mantling,” she yelled at me that day. Silence. “You’re almost there.” Silence. “You want me to stop talking?” she finally called. “Yes!” More silence. Lots of silence. The full-blown tantrum I had on that climb did nothing to diminish my grudging respect for Randi’s athletic prowess. Later that day, she put up a 5.10d, her hardest to date. I didn’t even try. At Lake Koocanusa, our party of five was rounded out by similar badasses who wanted to enjoy good company (or good crayoning) as much as good climbing. Randi’s daughter, Shaeli, climbs when she feels like it, and that weekend,
she didn’t feel like it. (Her favorite part of climbing is jumping sideways off the wall while a belayer lowers her down. If she could get to the jumping part without the climbing part, she’d like climbing a lot more.) Instead, she mostly spent the weekend with coloring books at the base of the wall or playing with our friend Kara, who came with her boyfriend, Chad. As for me, I hadn’t done a Montana climb in months. Stone Hill was a great reintroduction. A series of steep cliffs, bluffs and crags with more than 250 well-protected routes, it offers mostly easy or moderate singlepitch climbs, where you can walk off at the top or get lowered down if you want to quit. The views are spectacular and, even better for us, non-death-defying. The first night we didn’t even look for the crags. Instead, we stopped at a rural lot that Kara’s family owns near Libby, a rustic setup that was just the
Photos by Chad Harder
ticket for a late summer evening. There was running water and an outhouse; logs set on end served as chairs. But the centerpiece was the fire pit. We cooked elk steak on a grill over the flames and went to bed early. Our itinerary the next morning included a jaunt through Libby, a waypoint we’d originally included solely for the purpose of visiting the Libby Cafe. Kara, a Libby native, assured us that a large breakfast of waffles and huckleberry
convert her sweatshirt into a basket to carry her stash. Finally, we managed to herd her away from the candy ladies, across the street and into the restaurant. Kara’s pick didn’t disappoint. After a fabulous breakfast of waffles and pancakes, we’d all carbo-loaded enough to summit Everest. As we left, the waitress, most certainly somebody’s grandma, approached Shaeli and asked, “Would you like a chocolate?” It was time to go climbing.
jolly neighbors to the north pioneered many routes, frosties in hand, and at least one route, Solid Coorage, bears testament to those days.
pancakes would convert to major climbing fuel later on. As we approached the town, however, something seemed amiss. Parking, in a town of about 3,000 people, was proving to be seriously difficult. “This is strange,” Kara commented in her usual understated sort of way. “Wait, wait. I think it’s Libby Logger Days!” Turned out, it wasn’t Libby Logger Days. It was the Libby Nordicfest, and our parking difficulties stemmed from the massive parade passing along Ninth Avenue before it headed down Mineral Street where, I noticed glumly, it separated us from our destination across the pavement, the Libby Cafe. Shaeli, however, grew ecstatic. Like pretty much anybody with a single-digit age, Shaeli absolutely loves parades. Now I understood why. Every float seemed to contain somebody’s grandma who would ask Shaeli, “Want some candy?” Soon, she was forced to
ituated by Lake Koocanusa along Highway 37, Stone Hill is scenic but not totally remote: The town of Eureka is 17 miles northeast, Libby is 50 miles south. Its solid black and grey quartzite draws a steady stream of visitors, but it doesn’t host the social scene of some of western Montana’s climbing hot spots: Kootenai Creek, for example, or Lost Horse Canyon. Lake Koocanusa, a 90-mile-long reservoir, features cliffs along deep shore-side pools where the adventurous try unroped climbs that use the water as a safety net (deep-water soloing, the kids call it). If you’d rather not hit the water at terminal velocity, the lake is a moderate hike down from the road. Canadians first discovered Stone Hill in the late 1970s. Our jolly neighbors to the north pioneered many routes, frosties
in hand, and at least one route, Solid Coorage, bears testament to those days, according to Randall Green’s Rock Climbing Montana. Americans discovered the spot by 1980, and by 1988 it was home of the Koocanusa Crank climbing festival. The Forest Service, citing usage concerns, shut down the fun in 1993. Today, you’ll generally find about a dozen weekend craggers at Stone Hill instead of the crowds that once crawled over the rock. The majority of routes are on the east side of the road, not far from the blacktop. If you crave more isolation, there are also climbs up the hill or by the lake. In terms of ratings—the numbered and lettered system that ranks climbs, with the toughest-ever a 5.15b—nothing at Stone Hill gets much crazier than about 5.12. That means it won’t exactly challenge hardcore types, people who climb 1,200foot Moonlight Buttress in Utah’s Zion National Park or Half Dome in California’s Yosemite National Park, for example. There is at least one 5.13, however. Local legend has it that the sole clean ascender—someone who didn’t fall or rest en route—was an Italian who bagged it once. For the rest of us, climbing at Stone Hill is generally a picnic. In fact, I wish I’d have been able to bring a snack up with me on my favorite route, Room With a View.
f there’s one thing at Stone Hill worth climbing—repeatedly, in my case—Room With a View is it. The roadside route on the east side of the highway ascends a towering cliff above the water. I climbed it three times. The truth is, I would have been content to climb it over and over with longer and longer rests in its natural sitting room, a rock cavern about 7 feet wide and 5 feet high, with unparalleled views of the lake. The easier of the climb’s two routes involves navigat-
ing a small roof, or overhang, as you start out. Once you’re past that, there’s a straightforward stretch of wall before you’re standing (or rather, hunching) in the room. The place is something of a head trip. The view draws you forward; even sitting down with my legs dangling over the edge I experienced a touch of vertigo. I felt like I was a nanosecond from doing a header over the rim. Maybe it’s because the view is so incredibly big. It’s when you leave the room and continue upward that the route gets nasty. Since the roof of the cave extends out about four feet past the floor,
Map by Kou Moua; image courtesy of USDA
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you have to stand with a toe or two hanging over the edge, lock your fingers somewhere with one hand and lean waaay out to get the next hold with your other hand. From there, you have to swing your feet out over the abyss with little in the way of footholds. Then it’s a pull-up until you can place your feet and make one more move to the top, some 60 feet above your belayer on the ground. “You can do this,” I told Randi and Kara when I’d finished my first trip up and down. “I don’t think I need to,” Kara replied, before making it look easy. Then Randi gave it a try. Despite her climbing-
In that way, the wall provided little more satisfaction than the plastic in the gym at the University of Montana.
free summer, she still insisted on leading—clipping the rope through bolts set in the rock rather than relying on the anchor I’d set at the top. The method is less forgiving and the falls are twice the length of the rope between you and the last bolt below you, but the psychological reward is substantial. Professionals won’t claim an ascent unless it’s done on lead. Randi was stymied, though. After she managed to struggle over the first roof section, her arms were rubber. Grudgingly, she returned to the ground. We next moved to a 5.8 route called Roadside Distraction, an edifice created by blasts of dynamite when construction crews built the highway. Stone Hill is full
aturday was almost over. The sun was beginning to set and our muscles were feeling the fatigue, but Randi wanted one more shot at a lead. She picked Right Hook, a 5.9 climb up the face of a buttress with a bigger challenge than Room With a View. A stubbornly determined person, Randi does not like to quit, but the rock wound up winning on this day. After making it most of the way, one roof proved extremely dif-
“Are you ...?” “Yes, I’m sure.” I knew better than to try to change her mind, but I did talk her into climbing Room With a View on top rope. “That,” she said when she returned to the ground, “was amazing.”
of these road cuts, not something you see at the majority of your local crags. Still angry over Room With a View, Randi insisted on leading. This time, she sent it. Then it was my turn. Although I relied on her anchors, limiting my potential fall to a foot or two, I felt uneasy the whole way up. I wasn’t sure what rattled me: it wasn’t the height or the difficulty. But I think maybe nature’s lack of input had something to do with it. Far different from the elegant beauty of Room With a View, the road cut was just that—a climb that never would have existed if explosives hadn’t ripped open the rock so cars could get through.
ficult to conquer. She gave it serious hell until she was fuming with frustration. “You can do this,” I coaxed her. “I’ve seen you do way harder!” I was thinking of Austin. “C’mon baby,” I yelled. Silence. “I know you got this.” “OKAY!” she yelled. Translation: “Shut your mouth before I come down and put my foot in it.” So I did. There was more silence. Lots of silence. A few tries later, she wedged her foot below the roof, reached, reached some more, slipped, and whipped off the rock. “Bring me down,” she said.
For our last night we stayed at Peck Gulch campground on Lake Koocanusa’s west shore. It’s a beautiful spot, perched high above the water on a wooded hillside, and our tents were the only ones there. The five of us feasted again on elk steak, potatoes and marshmallows, and slowly, Shaeli drifted off on Randi’s lap. Eventually, Randi passed Shaeli to me. Her arms, she said, were pleasantly shot from climbing, and she needed a little break to stretch out her hands. She stood up, cracked her knuckles, and rubbed her sore forearms. Then she sat down and took her daughter back, a hold that wasn’t difficult at all.
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The trouble with Ingomar
by Richard Layne
Where do you find monster trout and a mythic lake in the Bitterroots? On the path of most resistance.
y late afternoon, cloud cover had replaced the morning’s blue sky. It didn’t seem to matter, though. The July heat continued its relentless assault on the south face that my dog and I were traversing. Gus, a black-lab-goldenretriever mix, was 10 feet from me, partially hidden in some bushes in an attempt to elude the swelter and a swarm of insects. His energetic snapping at the bugs earlier in the day had all but disappeared. Like me, Gus was exhausted. A short break two hours earlier had done little to restore us. All I wanted to do now was find some water, make camp and then escape this great outdoor adventure we were having. Without water or a level spot on the steep slope, my options seemed limited to one. I’d have to go down the avalanche chute 200 feet and bushwhack through the jungle of trees, bushes and
deadfall to reach the creek on the canyon floor. I’d set out in the heat two days before, packing an eightday food supply and a dream of finding the fabled Ingomar Lake above Sawtooth Canyon in the Bitterroot Valley. Now I was finding out what the fabled part meant. On the second day out, the trail disappeared at a stock
camp, leaving us to fight the foliage and boulders. Had we even traveled four miles since then? Gus was eating into his load, but he was still probably carrying 13 pounds in his doggy pack, and I was toting nearly 90. I didn’t feel fit enough to hike up the rest of Sawtooth Canyon, let alone follow it to a side canyon and make the steep climb to the lake. My 59-year-
plus-4-day-old body was desperate for a good night’s sleep. I also wanted to avoid what happened the evening before, when I’d dropped off the canyon wall in hopes of finding a clearing to make camp near Sawtooth Creek and instead had to turn around and climb back up the wall again to find a flat spot. As miserable as yesterday’s travel had been, however, today’s was even worse. “Let’s go Gus,” I said. The dog opened his eyes and stared at me, disbelieving. “Come on,” I coaxed. “We’ll have some shade and water in a little bit.” Slowly, Gus got to his feet. Then seeing my new direction—down, not up!— he seemed to find a source of energy and bounded ahead of me; his tail no longer slumped near the ground. The dog, it turned out, would survive this trip just fine. I wish I could say the same for me.
ngomar Lake, an alpine cirque that guidebooks describe as mythical, has gotten that label for good reason: Few people ever find it. The lake lies west of Hamilton, about 12 miles from the Roaring Lion Creek trailhead above the treacherous north-face terrain of a side canyon in the nearly trail-less Sawtooth Canyon. Exploring Sawtooth had been on my to-do list for, well, since almost forever. When I was a teenager and my family lived south of Hamilton, my brothers and I had hiked on Ward Mountain and inside Roaring Lion Canyon. Somehow I never ventured into Sawtooth to the north. In later years I’d read about the legendary Ingomar Lake, a hidden treasure at 6,865 feet, but I didn’t think about it much until 2000, when I stopped at Angler’s Roost, a sporting goods store near Hamilton. I was en route to a hike in Roaring Lion and asked a store employee if he knew about the small lakes up there. Nope. But a local angler joined the conversation and talked about the huge trout in nearby Ingomar. Have you been there? I asked him.
Well, no, he said. But everybody knew there were monster trout in that lake. With the fish story going ding-a-ling in my head, I used my topo map to make a detour
stream, which gave Gus plenty of reason to holler. A half hour later we stopped and made camp. Sawtooth Canyon’s scary reputation was vastly overrated, I told myself with an inward smirk.
vanished— deadfall and the worthless vestiges of an old trail were all I could find. This was how people got to Ingomar? The next morning the trail
on my Roaring Lion hike. I climbed the south face of Goat Mountain in search of Ingomar—and there it was. I could see the jewel-like, deep blue water about a quarter mile away and 600 feet below. I promised myself I’d pay it a visit someday and find out about those trout. A decade later, it was time to get after it before I got too old to try. Gus and I started into Sawtooth Canyon from the Roaring Lion Creek trailhead on a well-maintained path paralleling the boisterous Sawtooth Creek. After three relaxed miles, we saw a bull moose standing in mid-
The next morning, however, the trail vanished at the stock camp—deadfall and the worthless vestiges of an old trail were all I could find. This was how people got to Ingomar? I hesitated for almost an hour before I hefted my monster load and began bushwhacking. I was no longer smirking. Gus and I spent the next two miles and four hours fighting through the forest and scrambling up canyon walls to find any semblance of a clear route. That’s when I made the fruitless decision to descend to Sawtooth Creek to find a tent spot. We wound up sleeping near a spring on a cliff.
That evening—after I retired with Gus to the tent to escape the biting flies and mosquitoes— I began to think about quitting. My back hurt, the bushwhacking was horrific, and my pack weight was ridiculous. But the next morning, with the refreshed feeling and unwarranted optimism that can follow a good sleep, it seemed silly not to keep trying. My spirits were further buoyed when, shortly after leaving camp, I saw a cairn ahead and even located a vague trail. When we found a small spring an hour later, Gus flopped down in it. We already needed the break. And the trail had disappeared again. Thereafter, each time we ran into water, Gus sprawled in it and cooled off until the biting insects got him moving again. We continued to run into the trail, though I learned not to try to find it once it evaporated. Instead, I pushed up the canyon on the route with the least resistance. By 2 p.m. both of us were exhausted, and I was a mess. My rear was hanging out through the tattered seat of my pants. I’d lost a rubber boot on the tip of one ski pole and the other pole was breaking. By 4 p.m. I was going downhill, figuratively and literally.
Gus and I were headed back down to the canyon floor to once again search for a clearing big enough to make camp, and I admitted defeat. Tomorrow morning I’d hike back to the car, I told myself. And then I looked down, stunned. What the hell? Right in front of us was a maintained trail complete with boot prints, horse droppings and fresh-sawed logs. Mystified, Gus and I followed the path for another two hours until it disintegrated again. The side canyon to Ingomar was probably a quarter mile away. ••• On the morning of day four, I misread my dog. I spent two hours trying to repair the $200, one-month-old tent that Gus shredded after I left him inside it while I went out for toilet chores. I’d somehow gotten the idea that he would rather stay in the tent, away from the bugs. Afterward I admitted to myself that this incident, like most of the others on the trip, was borne of a bad decision. I also took it as a sign: It was time for a layover. as long as I didn’t bump the finThe next morning, Gus and I gertip. finally entered the drainage Then I spotted the lake, leading to Ingomar. about 100 feet below us. I’d repaired my ski poles “What’s that down there?” I with duct tape. My torn pants said excitedly to Gus, pointing weren’t a pretty sight. My tent with one of my non-aching digits. was tattered. I was still carrying The lake was beautiful. Gus more than 80 pounds. And now and I walked to the western side, it was time for a 1,200-foot nearwhere greenery replaced the vertical climb. burned trees. I removed our packs, At about 900 feet, Gus and I entered a burn area clotted with fallen trees and, beyond them, a massive boulder field. I nearly fell among the huge granite rocks, tearing the skin off the tip of my middle finger and tenderizing the others. The bleeding and pain were soon replaced Map by Joe Weston; image courtesy of USDA by throbbing, Montana Headwall
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sat down and numbly stared at the scene, while the dog dropped into a deep slumber. I wanted to lie down like Gus and not move for a long time, but I knew I couldn’t. With the camera bag still strapped to my chest I pulled the equipment out and shot scenes from where I sat, too beat to find a more photogenic spot. Not far from the lake’s edge I
found a luxurious alpine lawn near a well-built campfire ring. Delighted, I hefted the pack for the last time that day and dropped it on my one-night home. I pulled out the fishing gear, kicked off my boots, slid into my soft, feet-loving Oxfords and headed for the shore. Twenty-five casts and the loss of one lure later, I returned to camp with a beautiful west slope cutthroat trout. (I’d caught two, but the first one got away). Both probably weighed over two pounds—not the lunkers I’d heard about, but at least three times bigger than the trout in the lower creeks. While the fish steaks slowcooked in lemon pepper, I set up camp. And as the sun started to set, I finally sat down in the camp chair and ate one of the finest meals of my life. ••• Gus and I made it safely down from the lake the next morning. But as I wearily crossed a small tributary of Sawtooth Creek a few hours later, my right ski pole slid off a submerged rock. I landed face down in the stream. Desperate to keep my camera gear dry, I frantically tried to push myself up and out of the water, but the camera bag and heavy pack slowed my efforts. When I made it to shore and fumbled with the zipper to open the camera bag, my right hand didn’t cooperate, either. Then I noticed something odd about the
third and fourth fingers. Each was pointing skyward at the last joint, nearly 90 degrees different from the rest of the hand. Were my fingers broken? Thinking I probably wouldn’t damage them any further, I grabbed them one at a time and straightened each back to where it belonged. Intense throbbing soon replaced the painful shock. I now had only two working fingers on my right hand. Equally painful was thinking I’d wrecked my camera. I spread it out in the sun, waited about half an hour, and—it worked. Relief spread through me, bolstered by the realization that my fingers were only sprained. Another rude awakening awaited me. As I neared the stock camp the next day, by this time moving about one mile per hour, I found the vanished trail that foiled me on the incoming trip. If I’d simply walked along the edge of Sawtooth Creek and continued around a small bend, I would have seen it on the south side of the creek—not the north, as my topo map showed. The trail looked in darned good shape, too; if I’d found it, I could have saved myself miles of pain. Maybe getting lost was part of the bargain, I tried to comfort
myself. Can’a place be mythical if it’s easy to reach? Gus and I made it to the van on day eight in a mist-like soothing rain. The seat of my pants, a huge section of the tent, and the ski poles were covered in duct tape. I had sprained fingers and a bruised ego. But I’d done it. Two and a half weeks later, sitting at my desk with my morning coffee, I spotted an online news article from the Ravalli Republic: “Sprucing up Sawtooth.” Hard-toiling volunteer crews complete with pack mules were reworking the trail, clearing brush, cutting branches, and building bridges to make the “canyon of doom” userfriendly, the story said. If I’d set out just a month later, I could have sauntered most of the way. That sudden roar in my ears could have been Fate’s deepthroated laughter bouncing off the canyon walls. But it was probably only the boiling blood rushing to my head. I now think I ought to revisit Ingomar Lake before the snow flies—in keeping with that old saying about falling and getting back on the horse. I wonder if my wife would like to go this time.
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APRIL April 1 Get carefree, car-free and feefree during Cycle Only Days at Yellowstone Park, where bicyclists pay nothing to ride in and around the park before it opens to all those autos and buses. Roll to cycleyellowstone.com for details or call 646-7701. Steep yourself in competition or just watch the skiers and snowboarders climb up and carve down during the Headwaters Spring Runoff 2011, on the famously steep terrain at Moonlight Basin. The event near Big Sky kicks off with ski movies and a pasta feed, followed by the contest on day two. Catch the drift at moonlightbasin.com. April 2 Find re-leaf at Missoula’s Run for the Trees, a 5K run/walk from McCormick Park that celebrates Arbor Day and raises money for sylvan citizens. Plant questions at missoulaparks.org. Catch big air at the Montana Snowkite Rodeo, a freestyle and racing competition at Jackson Hot Springs, in (you
guessed it) Jackson, where participants use a kite to help their skis fly. Get the blow-by-blow at montanakitesports.com. Mind your P’s (you won’t need your Q’s) during the Whitefish Pole, Pedal, Paddle Triathlon, a relay race that includes boating, biking and skiing. Pick up the particulars at skiwhitefish.com/triathlon. Shred on wicked terrain during the Montana Park Riders Roundup at the Great Divide Montana ski area, northwest of Helena. The competition for terrain park skiers and snowboarders features slopestyle, rail jam, big air and X-course events. Get extreme at skigd.com. April 16 A waist is a terrible thing to mind at the fifth annual BustA-Gut 5K, a race that begins and ends at the University of Montana Oval, with a pancake feast at Gerald and Beckwith Avenues. Proceeds will support scholarships for UM physical therapy grad students. Use your full range of motion to email firstname.lastname@example.org for info.
Give your best for soldiers who risked their lives at Helena’s Wounded Warrior’s Project Run, a 5K race/walk or 1-mile run to benefit seriously injured veterans and their families. Ring 324-2599 to lend support. April 17 Break on through to the winning side during the Ice Breaker Road Race in Great Falls, a 5mile road race, 3-mile run and 1-mile run/walk that has been called one of the best road races by Runner’s World magazine. Fall in at icebreakergf.com. April 23 Embrace your inner bruin at the fourth annual GrizzlyMan Adventure Race and Black Bear Challenge, two races at the Lubrecht Experimental Forest and Resort at Paws Up. Both events require trail running, orienteering, off-trail trekking and mountain biking; the GrizzlyMan Adventure Race— which is 12 hours long—also includes whitewater paddling and water navigation. Check out the beastliness at grizzlymanrace.com.
April 30 Get loopy during the Georgetown Lake Loop Ride, a 110-mile bike ride from Deer Lodge to Anaconda and Georgetown Lake, ending with an overnight stay in Philipsburg—all sponsored by your favorite mob, Missoulians on Bicycles (MOB). Get pumped at missoulabike.org or call Tim at 250-7228.
JUNE June 4 Happiness is a lot of warm guns at the Powder River Buffalo Shoot near Broadus, where participants use single-shot or lever-action rifles to blast metal targets up to 1,000 yards away. Load up on details at 436-2270 or email broadusfire@ rangeweb.net.
MAY May 3 Ogle the avians in the wild blue yonder (and green grass) at the Glasgow Feather Fest, a twoday bird-watching fete with field trips and seminars for beginning birders and pros. Point your binoculars to glasgowmt.net or call 228-2222. May 6 Get a bang out of life at the Missoula Trap & Skeet Club’s Ron Hoppie Memorial Trap Shoot, a multi-day shooting competition that attracts top talent from around the Northwest. Fire questions at missoulatrapandskeet.com or call 549-4815.
June 5 Either a single-shot or a double will get you buzzed at Run Wild Missoula’s Pengelly Double & Single Dip, featuring a half-marathon with a 2,700foot elevation gain or a single-dip 10K, starting at UM’s Riverbowl Fields. Get the scoop at runwildmissoula.org.
May 7 Roll for the dough at the Great Falls Bike Club’s annual Belt Creek Road Race, featuring a time trial and a road race with a $500 prize. Cash in at greatfallsbicycleclub.org or call 761-7021. May 14 Hate fences so much it makes you prickly? Sign up for the Don’t Fence Me In Trail Run sponsored by the Prickly Pear Land Trust, featuring a 30K, 12K and 5K run, and even a 5K dog walk through Helena’s south hills to benefit open lands. Reach out (carefully) to pricklypearlt.org or call 442-0490. Check out the tweets during the National Bison Range’s International Migratory Bird Day in Moiese. The celebration includes bird watching on Red Sleep Mountain Drive (weather permitting), plus bird ID workshops and a seminar
on gardening for feathered friends and other wildlife. Call for flight info at 644-2211 x207. Rock n’ reel during the Koocanusa Resort & Marina’s Salmon & Trout Derby, a twoday challenge to catch the big ones in Lake Koocanusa, upstream from Libby. Cast off to koocanusaresort.com or call 293-7474. May 21 Enjoy hill, vale and velo during the MOB-sponsored Tour of the Swan River Valley, a two-day cycle through the Potomac and Swan Valleys, with an 85-mile or a 110-mile route to choose from. Gear up at missoulabike.org. May 28 Embrace rapid transit and watch 200 kayakers from around the globe compete at the Bigfork Whitewater Festival, a two-day event that features kayak races on the “wild mile” of the Swan River. Put in at bigfork.org or call 837-5888.
June 18 Catch breathtaking views (or just catch your breath) during the Wulfman’s Continental Divide 14K, a race between Homestake and Pipestone Pass near Butte, for 240 runners. Proceeds will help build and improve trails in southwest Montana. Make the cut at buttespissandmoanrunners.com. June 19 Get derailed by epic scenery on Adventure Cycling’s Cycle Montana Road Bicycle Tour, a 360mile, week-long trip that begins and ends in Bozeman, with stops in Ennis, Dillon, Wise River, Butte and Three Forks. Take the wheel at adventurecycling.org/tours or call 721-1776. June 25 Got legs? Put ’em to the test during Ride Around The Pioneers In One Day (RATPOD), a single-day, 130-mile bicycle trek that starts in Dillon and winds through three mountain ranges around the Big Hole Valley. Preregistration is required, and the race—benefiting Camp-Mak-A-Dream—is limited to the first 650 riders. Scurry to ratpod.org or call 549-5987.
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HEAD GEAR by Brad Tyer ertain of life’s finer pleasures—custom footwear and tailored suits among them—refuse to lend themselves to mass production. A man knows he’s made when he can parade in finery built just for him. (I suspect women tend to be less sentimental about these sorts of things.) Thus my maternal grandfather, though not a particularly successful man by traditional standards, walked tall in the knowledge that the leather of his cowboy boots was hand-tooled to the contours of his own damn foot. Few things say you’ve made it in Montana like a handmade boat. Thus Missoula billionaire Dennis Washington, a swimming success by anyone’s measure, spends tens of millions retrofitting
successive iterations of his yacht(s) Attessa. He’s reportedly working on IV at the moment, re-imagining and rebuilding it from the hull up to his exacting personal specifications. Off the rack won’t do. Neither, for most Montanans, will a yacht longer than the average alley. And most of us can probably live without the status boost that roars into play with Attessa III’s 4,000 horsepower worth of Caterpillar diesels. We use our boats to get out on the water, not pretend we can walk on it. But walking tall isn’t always bragging. Sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing how to appreciate finer pleasures. One of the finest of which is a boat of one’s own. Ian Provo
Big Sky Inflatables www.bigskyinflatables.com For a company whose core product is a chamber that holds air, Big Sky Inflatables’ backyard factory in the hills above Stevensville is a bit drafty in early January. This is the home of the Water Master Raft, and employee Jeremie Lobell and the shop woodstove are both hard at work in the dead of winter. He just shipped a flagship Grizzly model on New Year’s Day. Two more rafts are plopped on plywood platforms just to confirm that they’ll hold air for a few days—part and parcel of the Water Master’s lifetime warranty. They’ll ship out soon. The Grizzly ($1,395) is a dual-chamber inflatable ring raft designed to sit in, shins dangling, and propel with fins and aluminum oars. It’s specially well suited to fishermen, though BSI owner Rich Stuber, the University of Montana marketing grad who bought the company five years ago, says he’s found a notably appreciative niche among wildlife photographers who like his boat’s stability, stowing options, and a nifty optional drop-down seat that lets shooters sit closer to the waterline. The boat’s not wildly different in concept from the inflatable pontoon fishers sold by everyone from Walmart to Cabela’s, but in execution, the Grizzly is a different beast entirely, built around a patented seat-mounting system that obviates the need for an external frame.
The 7-foot-10-inch boat folds down into a self-contained 38-pound waterproof backpack that will check as baggage on a plane or fit nicely in the back hatch of a Subaru. The pointy-nosed Kodiak model, a foot longer, is four pounds heavier and carries 750 pounds. Lobell and Stuber build the boats by hand in the Stevensville shop. They used to cut the 30-ounce 1100 Denier PVC fabric themselves; the aluminum patterns they used are still stacked in the rafters. But today the material is shipped here preshaped from a factory in Korea. The two men join the pieces with a heat-welding machine, assemble and install the seat, and cement on a neat array of straps and D-rings. They customize the crafts with foot straps, floor wraps, cargo nets, rod holders, stripping aprons, anchors, motor mounts, or heavyduty dry bags made in-house (and also sold at Grizzly Hackle–one of just a few retail components to Stuber’s mostly word-of-mouth business). For a nominal charge they’ll probably glue a nylon badge on the stern announcing the coming of Attessa V. That’ll show those trout who’s who.
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Montana Boatbuilders www.montanaboatbuilders.com Jason Cajune, owner of Montana Boatbuilders in Livingston, arrived at his trade along a traditional route, but tailors his wares to a more contemporary market. “If you’re gonna make wooden boats in Montana,” he says, “you’ve got to kind of target the audience, you know?” In fish-happy Montana, that means driftboats. Growing up near Flathead Lake, Cajune’s parents ran the boat concession at Glacier National Park, so he “just kind of ended up working on old wooden boats as a kid.” After stints studying architecture at Montana State University, working for a boat builder in Washington state, and guiding fly fishermen in Montana, Cajune finally figured he could build a better boat. He gave it a shot in his garage, and someone bought it from him. A few rounds of that and Cajune quit guiding and went into the business. That was 1996, and since then Cajune has more or less perfected a hybrid wood-and-composite driftboat that’s as much fun to ogle as it is to row. His modified dories have lightweight bottoms built of Kevlar, fiberglass, carbon fiber and extruded polypropylene, glassed-and-painted Okoume marine plywood hulls, and strategically applied hard polyurethane bed-liner coatings. Aboard, it’s all white oak, mahogany and ash hardwoods finished to a spar varnished shine with hand-built accents like the bronze anchor pulleys Cajune casts himself. Cajune produces just a few of his flagship handmade driftboats annually (the wait for a new one is several years out, which will give you plenty of time to take out the second mortgage you’ll
need to buy one of his top-of-the-line models). His Kingfisher driftboats start at $12,595. But he floats the better part of his business on a line of build-ityourself driftboat kits, computer-cut to his design and shipped from his shop in the Paradise Valley. There are four models, mimicking his most popular hand-built boats, starting at $1,775, and how fast you can put one together depends on how far you want to go with the finish work. There’s a slideshow and options chart at montanaboatbuilders.com/kitsplans that’s so sexy you probably shouldn’t watch it at work. In addition to his five driftboat models, one duckboat, and the kits, Cajune seems willing to take on just about anything. There’s an old stripped-down canvas canoe hanging from his shop rafter awaiting repair, a mold in the back shop for the custom-ordered strip-built rowboat he’s working on, and the carcass of a brandnew Kawasaki Jet Ski in the yard; Cajune recently liberated the engine from it for an 18-foot jet version of his driftboat aimed at steelheaders. Oh, and he’s building a 20-foot sailboat for a client in the Flathead. “I’ll make anything, but I can only do so much. It’s a handmade item,” he says. Like anything handmade, Cajune’s boats are inherently rare. He estimates he’s built not many more than a hundred of his highend driftboats, spending close to 300 hours on each of them, and his clientele is correspondingly rarefied. “I used to sell a lot to guides, but I’ve kind of priced myself out of that,” he says. “It’s sort of like having a really nice sports car.”
Montana Cabinet & Canoe
Jim Zielanski won’t mar his boats with ego. He says he’s already butted heads with the Coast Guard over a requirement that he affix serial numbers to his hand-built wood and canvas canoes, and he didn’t budge. The Coast Guard wanted the number stamped on the fore hull. Zielanski etched it on a little metal plaque attached to the underside of the bow deck. It’s not that Zielanski is inflexible, it’s just that he’s not going to be the one to uglify an otherwise beautiful boat. Aesthetics is his thing, and the more traditional the better. Zielanski runs Montana Cabinet & Canoe, a shop near Bigfork that dovetails nicely with his lifetime passion for canoeing—an avocation born of juvenile inundation in the lore of George Washington Sears and Daniel Boone. Brought up in semi-rurality outside of Philadelphia, Zielanski went west to explore the then-undesignated Boundary Waters of Minnesota right after high school, saw his first canvas canoe there, and never forgot it. He built his own first boat from a kit in the 1970s, moved to Plains, Montana, following “the lure of no people,” spent 13 years working in Idaho, and landed in Kalispell 10 years ago, where he found his high-end carpentry skills well rewarded and in boomtown demand. He spent the last couple of years building his family home in the woods and the expansive, well-lit shop where he works. He’s only just started making canoes again, and in any case he only makes a few every year, on a mold of his own design and construction. Occasionally somebody will bring a battered old canvas canoe to his shop; he does repairs, too. Zielanski’s canoes are 16-foot, half-ribbed, wood and canvas, with shallow-arch hulls and moderate rocker for moving water, suitable for paddling tandem or solo from the center—good allpurpose boats that Bill Mason would have been proud to paddle. They take about 140 hours of labor and cost $4,500. Part of the price involves paying top dollar for the boat’s 16-foot-2-inch gunnels—a few inches over standard length, and available only at specialty shops. Zielanski says he could easily build a two-piece gunnel and save the hassle, but he doesn’t. “I can’t break tradition, because to me that’s giving in.”
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Stand-up paddling CONTINUED FROM PAGE 22 But there was. Brown charged straight into the rapid and made it without falling. In fact, he made the entire churning gauntlet of the Gorge with only a couple of swims. Here was yet another revelation—you could stand-up paddleboard Class III rivers. The very next day they were back running the Gorge again, except this time Rieker was on a paddleboard, too, and the deal, as they say, was sealed. “From that day on our lives have never been the same,” says Brown. “We started running rivers on our boards all the time.” When Brown says “all the time,” he means it. They’ve been out every month of the year since, frequently paddling during the winter in dry suits whenever the water is up. “There’s only a handful of people in the world doing what we’re doing,” Brown says about their passion for stand-up river running. “But it’ll get big—it’ll be bigger than kayaking.” He may be a true believer, but he also may be right, especially if you include flat water and mellow river paddling in the mix. There might never be a flood of people paddleboarding Alberton Gorge, but as I experienced on my first paddle on the Clark Fork, placid water is a blast, too. Whether you know what you’re doing or not.
Bill Martin CONTINUED FROM PAGE 35 “So now I got demons,” he says with a self-mocking Cheshire grin. But Jill Homer and her boyfriend Beat Jegerlehner rode in Frog Hollow as a team, giving Martin pit help on a handful of his 20 laps. Some of their friends refer to Homer, a recent transplant from Alaska, as Martin’s lost sister or doppelganger; her first book, Ghost Trails, is about snow-biking the multi-day Iditarod Trail Invitational. For the better part of 14 hours, Martin dueled Ben Welnak, who is 16 years his junior, but eventually he took a one-lap lead. “I should have kept trying to push him during the early evening hours,” Welnak says. “My inexperience made me nervous about continuing the fast pace, when, in reality, I probably could have. He’s really strong and has a lot of experience. That was hard to match.” Then the sun began to rise. Needless to say, Martin’s not a stop-and-smell-the-
roses guy. “I don’t really want to,” he says. “There’s a different journey going on. I think I interface differently with the wilderness than other people. I don’t go out and hug the trees—because one of them fell on my head. Bastards!” But when he came on Homer at an overlook amid the pink-lit desert land-
scape, something stirred. “The sun was coming up and I’m going over these rocks, one at a time, kind of suffering, and I look up, and Jill’s just standing there, smiling,”
Martin says. “So I just stopped right there and watched the sun come up.” “For him to make a 15-minute stop without having any purpose beyond watching the sunrise was sort of unique for him,” says Homer. They rode together for a final lap and Martin stopped an hour before he had to, settling for a win against the field (he bested Welnak by 68 minutes) instead of going to his utter outer limit. Of course, he still rode 256 miles, which is a pretty giant laurel to rest tired quads on. “My big goal this year was to beat 200 miles,” Martin says. “At 24 Hours of Rapelje I got 230-some and thought, ‘Holy shit, that’s amazing.’ But I haven’t even touched the surface of what I can do.” That morning in Frog Hollow, Homer asked him, “So, if somebody really supported you, how far do you think you could go?” “Not too many people would ask me that,” Martin says. “I said, ‘I think I can get to 300.’ And she said, ‘Yeah. Let’s go for 300 next year.’”
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The Crux CONTINUED FROM PAGE 58
push and pull of the current, and the owls that then slowing, eddying and swirling to push perch silently in the big willows along the river, and tumble ahead, never the same but always just as silently swooping away unseen. downward and onward. The paradox is that I’m as enthusiastic now The slush islands crack and snap as my in my mid-50s as I ever was when I was paddle cuts into them, shattering the frozen younger. It’s just the focus that has shifted. In surface. Ice forms on the paddle and boat, layer after layer as the frigid air touches each splash of water. The lights on the river trail and the buildings downtown cast faint shadows, highlighting the ragged edges of the slush piles. The river is a dark ribbon sliding between the ice shelves, black through white. A frost-laden breeze bites my cheeks. Stray droplets freeze in the air and patter gently on my jacket. Threads of mist curl up from the water, supercooled, releasing the river’s heat to the air and slowly icing over, caught for a moment at a magical interface of water in all its forms, gas to liquid to solid. It is cold enough that the water between the islands of slush is laced with long ice crystals like spears, forming in the few minutes of calm as they float from the riffle above the Madison Street bridge to the play wave at Caras Park, where they will be broken again. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told I’m crazy for going out when it’s this cold. People ask how I stay warm, and how I keep from turning upside-down. I started padAmmons on the Clark Fork River dling at night because I got tired of explaining to people youth we seek the excitement, the rush of that no, it was not crazy, that no, I’m not going intense action and decision; we revel in the to practice my Eskimo roll, and that yes, I’m challenges. Caught up in the instant, the fun just going for a workout. I don’t add that I’ve and the danger around us call for awareness, spent 30 years paddling the hardest rivers in the world, and am less likely to flip over during and each moment in the sun-sparkled water stands out like a jewel. a workout than a normal person is to fall out of It’s not that I don’t still deeply appreciate all a chair at home. these things, it’s that I’ve found there is so There is no use in arguing. So I go out at much more. Perspective changes, beauty and night when nobody is around, to commune wonder remain. with the whispering water and the mist, the Montana Headwall
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The water is a constant reminder to me that we are capable of continual evolution, that every shape is only temporary, that time is always moving, that the world is constantly creating itself anew. Science suggests that all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium have been through the life of at least one star. The oxygen and iron in our blood, the carbon that is the backbone of our metabolism and life tissue, the potassium and sodium that allow us thought and action—they all have an ancient pedigree billions of years old, born of stellar explosions, of planets dying and being reborn, of life beginning and evolving. Everything within us has gone through this most epic journey. And through it all, a true miracle–that somehow we are given self-awareness. Over time everything within us flows like the water. Our very being is as transient as the surface of this river. Orion is overhead amid a welter of stars cast across the black sky. I turn and paddle back downstream in the frozen mist and bite of the wind. It strikes me yet again how unfathomable it all is. The river speaks all this and much more. It speaks of time and the currents of the world, of shaping canyons and cutting through continents. Of this instant and Chad Harder eternity. Naturalist Loren Eiseley said “We are made of dust, and the light of a star.” Paddling alone I glide on a fluid surface between galaxies of stars above and galaxies reflected in the water below. Cars rush overhead on the bridge. I look upstream at the water and hear it murmuring faintly, speaking a language of eons and change. I shake my head again until the next time, awed and thankful for the gift of the river.
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by Doug Ammons
Clark Fork currency Ice, night and the river bring a paddler’s wonder to the surface
seeking the hardest rapids on the planThis morning the thermometer outast night I went paddling in my et with small teams of close friends. side my kitchen window said it was kayak. It was another wonderful But for all the excitement and reward minus ten, and here by nightfall the temhour, one of tens of thousands in of those experiences, my favorite times perature has dropped further. In the my 50-year love affair with water. are here paddling on the quiet water darkness, dense islands of slush slide by There were no huge waterfalls or rapids, by myself. the boat, hissing against the hull as I no adrenaline-laden dice being thrown, make my way upstream, rhythmino epic journey to a faraway foreign cally stroking, extending the paddle country. I slipped in over the ice in There is no other where into the dark water, catching and the middle of town, just upstream of the Higgins Street bridge in to experience so releasing. Stroke melds into stroke; the paddle blades eloquently relay Missoula, and was reminded yet the water’s moods. again why I love rivers so much. vividly how Flowing water is time itself Some people might think that into the future as on a . unfolding. There is no other place compared to the thrill of Class V where it’s possible to experience so wildwater it would be boring to vividly how time moves into the future paddle anything less. But in my forays Water transforms the world. To enter as on a river. It is not the inexorable on the river in town I’m never bored the water, even right in the middle of march of seconds, each the same as the for the simple reason that, wild or town, is to enter another universe. The next, or the hands of a watch ticking quiet, no river is ever the same from river takes the solid world we walk away. On a river, time moves because day to day, season to season. I’ve around in every day and shape-shifts it the world flows, now accelerating and kayaked whitewater all over the world, into another reality, a fluid reality of descending dramatic canyons and change and flow. Continued on page 56
place it’s possible time moves river
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