MONTANA HEADWALL Volume 2.2 SUMMER 2010
SUMMER 2010 Complimentary
contemporary art gallery
111 west front downtown missoula, mt thursday through saturday, 12-5 pm 406.531.7671
Page 4 Summer 2010
Pro mountain biker Sam Schultz spins like a champ, in more ways than one
THE SICK LINE Canoeing while plagued gives the Flathead a whole new drift
THE ROAD TO WELLVILLE What’s so funny about peace, love and Boulder Hot Springs?
Cover photo by John Muller
INSIDE On Belay
Wild Things 36 Magpie murders in mind
8 Grub 38
Head Lines 11 Runners and hikers bare their soles Missoula wins a river rodeo Horns of a dilemma for sheep
There’s always room for spore
Head Trip 40 Beastly beauty on Gallatin’s Sky Rim
Head Out 48
Head Light 22 Aiming High
Your summer recreation calendar
Head Gear 50
Head Shots 24 Our readers’ best
Montana’s homegrown goods
The Crux 58 The journey beyond the gaits
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
Skylar Browning, Matthew Frank, Brian Kevin, Ari LeVaux, Josh Mahan,
Megan McNamer, Alex Sakariassen, Andy Smetanka, Aaron Teasdale, Brad Tyer, COPY EDITOR Jason Wiener ART DIRECTOR Kou Moua PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS Jenn Stewart, Jonathan Marquis ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVES Tami Johnson, Steven Kirst, Chris Melton, Sasha Perrin, Alicia Goff FRONT DESK Lorie Rustvold
Please recycle this magazine
317 S. Orange St.• Missoula, MT 59801 406-543-6609 • Fax 406-543-4367 www.montanaheadwall.com
Montana Headwall (ISSN 2151-1799) is a registered trademark of Independent Publishing, Inc. Copyright 2010 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. Chad Harder
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ON BELAY www.mtheadwall.com
made the most demanding backcountry foray of my last 25 years this spring, skiing to the summit of Trapper Peak with the Rocky Mountaineers on a gorgeous April weekend. I plodded, stumbled and gasped my way up the seven-mile ridge to the top, finally arriving about 90 minutes after the strongest members of the group, and a half-hour behind 68-year-old inspiration Alden Wright, who organized the outing. But I did it. I got the sunburn and the aching legs to prove it. And I loved it. Before this magazine came along, I never
would have dreamed I could pull it off. In every issue of Headwall, we exalt the richness of outdoor experiences available to us here in Montana, with a decisive emphasis on action—as in, get out and make some fun. It doesn’t matter if you’re spastic or spectacular, dirt baggin’ or color coordinated, on top of your game or struggling to hold down your lunch like Brad Tyer on the North Fork of the Flathead in “The Sick Line” (page 30). It’s all part of soaking up the world we occupy by actually living in it, and reveling in the odyssey.
Megan McNamer, who contemplates the crucial distinction between walking and hiking (check out Crux, page 58), understands. So does Sam Schultz, who’s learned to avoid burnout and enjoy the ride on his way to the top ranks of world mountain bike racing. Then there’s Josh Mahan and his British clients, seeking presence along the Sky Rim Trail. It’s all of a piece. The peaks and valleys await, inviting us to appreciate their elemental example—and recognize it in ourselves. Matt Gibson Editor-In-Chief
Put Some Bulk In Your Backpack This Summer Don’t hit the trail until you’ve hit the biggest bulk department in Montana. The Good Food Store stocks more than 800 different bulk items, which means you can carry a different selection of energy-rich nutrition on every trip you take this summer. Pasta, rice and grains. Dehydrated soups and cereals. Candy, dried fruit, nuts and granola. Coffee and tea. Pancake mix. Peanut butter. And, of course, 16 varieties of trail mix. So hike on over. For bulk food so healthy and delicious, it’s well worth the weight.
1600 S. 3rd St. West
7am to 10pm Every Day Page 7 Summer 2010
Brad Tyer has paddled and/or oared in Montana, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Alaska, North Carolina, Idaho, Michigan and his home state of Texas. He likes Montana’s water best, but he likes it all. He and two 14-year-old mutts, Pancho and Ladybird, currently live outside of Anaconda, where they’re paddling the Big Hole, taking loads of pictures and writing a book.
A wilderness guide and environmental journalist, Josh Mahan is the co-author of Tree Spiker, published by St. Martin’s Press, and editor of the alternative news sites Lowbagger.org and Downtheriver.org. While reporting for the latter he was shot at, but not due to his writing style, he says. Mahan has also served time at a handful of western Montana newspapers.
Megan McNamer’s essays have appeared in Sports Illustrated, Salon and Islands, and in recent years the Cut Bank, Mont., native has been a fiction finalist with Writers at Work, Glimmer Train and New Millennium. She is the administrative director of the Missoula Writing Collaborative, a creative writing program for schools, and also writes film, theater and art reviews. McNamer and her sister Kate will read your stuff, if you contact them at www.readyourstuff.com.
After covering professional and collegiate sports in Washington, D.C., for AOL and the Associated Press, Skylar Browning moved to Missoula and attempted to learn a whole new sporting culture. His first purchase was a mountain bike. He and his wife, Nicole, now have two young children, one of whom already laps her father on weekend pedals through the neighborhood. When he’s not chasing after his kids, Browning edits the Missoula Independent.
R O W N I N G
Y E R
A M E R
A H A N
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HEAD LINES www.mtheadwall.com Rusty Willis
On March 16, Montanans Rusty Willis and Loren Rausch (pictured) put up a new winter route on the Bear’s Tooth, a 14pitch mixed rock-and-ice tower deep in the Beartooth Mountains. No stranger to this impressive 11,612-foot spire, Willis finally succeeded after 13 attempts with various partners over the past decade.
“I failed in just about every conceivable way on that rock,” Willis says, noting that last year’s attempt with Rausch ended after an avalanche carried them 800 feet. This year they chose to charge the 22 miles light and fast, completing the epic climb in just 27 hours. Chad Harder
A river rodeo runs through it With sponsorship money drying to a trickle and the pro freestyle tour treading water, some observers last year were preparing a eulogy for freestyle kayaking. But if paddling was indeed in its death throes, then consider local Strongwater proprietor and curl connoisseur KB Brown a sort of whitewater ER doc. When he submitted a bid this winter to bring the USA Freestyle Kayaking Team Trials and National Point Series Championship to Brennan’s Wave in Missoula, it was the equivalent of taking a defibrillator to a sport that hasn’t seen a proper pro-circuit tour since 2002. In January, Brown got the news: Missoula was the winner.
Landing the event was a definite coup, and Brown is expecting some 200 competitors to take to the Clark Fork between June 30 and July 2, competing for an $1,800 purse and a chance to represent the United States at the 2011 World Championships in Plattling, Germany. Likely competitors include some of the biggest names in whitewater—folks like perennial rodeo booster Eric Jackson and kayak porn impresario Rush Sturges—plus a couple dozen local hopefuls. Together with co-organizer and Missoula paddle junkie Karl Moser, Brown spent the spring galvanizing sponsorships
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HEAD LINES www.mtheadwall.com
from local businesses, working with the city to improve wave access, and planning a carnival atmosphere around the event, complete with big air contests, gear demos, live music and face painting. There’s even talk of network television coverage. And with 600 spectators predicted to show up, a streamside JumboTron is already in the works. “It’s going to be a huge event, with a level of athletes that’s just insane,” says a jubilant Brown. For pro paddlers and the brains behind the sport’s governing body, USA Freestyle Kayaking (USAFK), the Missoula event represents more than just a swinging few days in Caras Park. This summer’s team trials are the first step in a major push to make freestyle an Olympic event by 2020. Recent USAFK administrative changes and a newly standardized scoring system mean the competition holds up to Olympic specs, and five of the country’s seven certified judges are flying into town to score the contest. Today Missoula, tomorrow the world. Brian Kevin
Sole baring gets outdoors crowd on its feet If Nike famously told us “Just Do It,” the latest trend for the sporting foot is “don’t shoe it.” Growing hordes of runners and hikers—and even a few Montana ranchers—are embracing shoeless-ness as a path to better health, fewer injuries and (move over, hippies) a more natural relationship with the planet. “Your body is built for going barefoot,” says Sam Maloney, a Ruby Valley, Mont., cattle rancher and member of the Society for Barefoot Living. Maloney, who says he’s never liked shoes, goes without them whenever possible, even around horses (“You can move quieter”) and on wintry hikes to mountaintops. “You just can’t be afraid to touch the ground,” he explains. The simplicity of that ethos is gaining particular traction in the running world, thanks in large part to the best-selling book Born to Run, in which author and ultra-marathon wannabe Christopher McDougall asks “Why do I keep getting injured?” En route to an answer, McDougall travels to Mexico to find the Tarahumara Indians, who
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run enormous distances in skimpy sandals or barefoot—happily and injury-free. McDougall discovers that barefoot running strengthens the feet and calves and naturally imposes a healthy, gentle stride, in which the forefoot generally strikes the ground first. Runners in cushiony shoes, by comparison, are tempted to hit heel first. Therein lies the rub, or the plantar fasciitis, as the case may be.
For a scientific perspective, visit www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu “The human foot is quite capable of tolerating all the forces we throw at it when we run, if we run correctly,” says Brent Ruby, a University of Montana professor in the department of Health and Human Performance. Ruby points to the research of biomechanics guru Daniel Lieberman, a Harvard University professor of human evolutionary biology who studies barefoot
running as well as heel striking versus forefoot striking. Forefoot strikes generate a “very minimal impact,” while heel strikes are “equivalent to someone hitting you on the heel with a hammer using 1.5 to as much as 3 times your body weight,” Lieberman writes. Barefootin’ has its downsides, too. The human foot evolved to run on natural surfaces, not pavement strewn with glass. Americans, meanwhile, are shod nearly from birth, leaving their feet especially weak and tender. Without careful, gradual practice, “running without shoes on pavement is going to get you into trouble,” warns Ruby. An Ironman competitor, he prefers barefootin’ on grass or dirt, and spent nearly a year integrating it into his regimen. It corrected bad running habits and helped him erase tendonitis and lower back pain, he says. For the more cautious, there are minimalist alternatives like Vibram’s FiveFingers “foot gloves,” with ultrathin, flexible rubber soles that let you feel the grass between your toes. Any footwear that’s lightweight, low to the
ground and flexible can help boost balance and agility, fans say. “The really positive thing is that people are thinking about their form, how their foot is doing, and how to stay injury-free,” says runner and trainer Anders Brooker, owner of the
Runner’s Edge store in Missoula. “I think it’s great.” Maloney does, too. He might not run barefoot, but he climbs trails that way. “Any time it’s above 25 degrees out,” he says, “I’m all right.” Amy Linn
Sam Maloney bares it.
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Bighorns of a dilemma Last November, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, a hunter at the Darby game check station told wildlife officials about a dead bighorn sheep that appeared to have been hit by a car. Turned out, the sheep had been hit by pneumonia. “For all we knew,” recalls Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) wildlife manager Mike Thompson, “maybe we found the first sick sheep.” It was the first of many. Five months later, wildlife biologists in Montana and four other western states find themselves scrambling to contain nine bighorn die-offs, a pneumonia epidemic the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies describes as “unprecedented.” Before the outbreak, wildlife officials estimated there were about 1,000 bighorn sheep in the four wild herds
surrounding Missoula—in Bonner, the East Fork of the Bitterroot, and upper and lower Rock Creek. To prevent the spread of the pneumonia, known to kill up to 90 percent of a herd, FWP culled about 225 infected animals. Scores more have been found dead. “By the time this is over,” Thompson predicts, “I would say that we might have lost upwards of 500 sheep”—half of the regional population. This past winter and spring, Wyoming, Utah, Washington and Nevada have also seen deadly pneumonia Chad Harder outbreaks, but none as severe as in Montana, home to an estimated 5,700 wild sheep, excluding the populations in Yellowstone and Glacier parks. Biologists are puzzling over how nine geographically distinct herds could all suffer from the same infection. “It’s certainly possible that, just as a matter of coincidence and probability,
herds in a wide scattering of areas encountered the source of the pneumonia,” says Thompson. Still, he adds, “It’s remarkable that it’s happened in so many places.” Wild sheep risk getting pneumonia if they have contact with domestic sheep or goats carrying the pathogens. Stress can be a culprit, too, Thompson says. One factor contributing to the spread of infection, he suspects, is that the beginning of the epidemic coincided with the rut, a time when rams move great distances to breed, making contact with a great many sheep along the way.
More than half of the estimated 1,000 bighorn sheep surrounding Missoula might have died over the winter Whatever the cause, the epidemic is not only affecting wild sheep—it’s also affecting sheep hunting. FWP is not offering any 2010 tags for hunting bighorns in Bonner, lower Rock Creek or upper Rock Creek (hunting districts 283, 210 and 216, respectively). The agency is offering only one either-sex license for district 270, near Darby. Matthew Frank
399 McCarthy Loop • Hamilton, MT 59840 (406) 363-2662 www.redbarnbicycles.com Montana Headwall
Page 15 Summer 2010
ate last April, Missoula native Sam Schultz lay awake deep into the night, staring at the ceiling of his Offenberg, Germany, hotel room, hoping to just chill out. Normally, thatâ€™s no problem for the perpetually laid-back professional mountain biker. But on this particular night, Schultz will tell you, things were a little different.
standard, it’s-all-good drawl that makes “It was pretty horrible,” he says. “I The way Schultz describes it, that almost nothing seem very horrible. “I was definitely not having a good time.” day’s UCI World Cup race left him have to make it sound, you know, a little Schultz does, however, have a good especially wiped. He’d just competed tough every once in a while. Truth is, I time recalling every queasy detail. While against more than 225 of the world’s the particulars suggest he’d just hit a wall, was back on my bike a few days later.” top mountain bikers, including decoor become yet another casualty in a punrated European riders accustomed to ishing sport that seems to test its competithe type of celebrity akin to American tors’ capacity for pain as much as it measstick-and-ball athletes. He’d also just am Schultz spends his off-season in ures riding skills, Schultz tells the tale completed a grueling three weeks of the foothills of Tucson, Ariz., as with gleeful pride. In fact, he’s smiling—a travel that included consecutive weekassistant chef and chief storyteller at The goofy, ear-to-ear beam that makes him end races in Pietermaritzburg, South Cycling House. A fellow rider from Africa, Monterey, Calif., Missoula, Owen Gue, and then Offenberg. The founded the top-flight travel, the race, probably “The , you know training retreat five years both, left his legs aching ago as a place for and his muscles shot. Sleep endurance athletes to he’s going to . wasn’t an option. immerse themselves in a “I could feel my heart He has a way of taking any and professional-level beating through my whole environment. For four body,” he says. “I wished I months every winter, the finding some way to into could calm down, but my legs facility offers semi-pros and were aching, my muscles—I serious weekend warriors ” something could just feel that beating.” the chance to eat, sleep and That sleepless night, as train under the guidance of he continues the story, led to accomplished riders like look like a guilty adolescent. And lest the a morning of violent illness. He wasn’t Schultz. But according to almost listener think he’s complaining, or trying sure the airline would let him on the everyone, they remember him most for to make the life of a professional mounlong flight home or how he’d make it if his stories. tain biker sound like the most unrelentit did. Half asleep and looking like hell, “People are drawn to him,” says Gue. the battered 24-year-old somehow sweet- ing, wretched job on the planet, he takes a “I think part of it is, the guests learn who swift turn toward the story’s end. talked his way onto the plane—only to he is and what he’s doing—the level that “I get crap all the time for getting spend most of the trip heaving into an he’s competing at—and they want to paid to just pedal my bike,” he says in his hear all about it. But he also has this airplane toilet.
thing with Sam is push through bad luck spin it positive or funny.
Schultz, interval training on Mount Jumbo’s southside trail. Tom Robertson
Schultz fights to stay ahead of eventual winner Max Plaxton at the U.S. Cup race in San Dimas. knack of telling these ridiculous stories that sound terrible, but are actually really good. Like, he had this flight back from Germany…” What Schultz leaves out of a story is almost as telling as what he includes. For instance, with the Germany adventure, he modestly omits the fact that he finished in the race’s top 20, a result that cemented his status among the best in the sport and prompted Bike magazine to claim Schultz had “officially arrived” on the international stage. Another favorite travel story—one in which he hustled straight from a Chilean racetrack to a flight, sans shower or even washing his face— similarly neglects to mention that the dirt covering him came courtesy of a
second-place finish in the prestigious Continental Championship. In general, for all of Schultz’s stories, he deftly avoids talking about the fact that he’s considered the country’s best young mountain bike rider—or, perhaps, the country’s best rider, period. “The thing about Sam,” says Gue, “is that he’s so unassuming and lowkey about what he does. He just looks like this guy who loves to ride and hang out. It takes a while for guests to get that he’s ranked 33rd in the world, and even then they’re like, ‘Really? But he’s a cook.’” Schultz’s humble nature started early in his career. He first entered a race at age 13, and the experience hooked both Sam and his older brother,
Andy. The two competed in semiprofessional regional events throughout high school, with Andy usually winning. “When we first started racing I was beating Sam purely because of the twoyear age difference,” says Andy. “Then, near my senior year of high school, Sam got a little more serious, trained all through the winter on a stationary rider and, not only did he start beating me, he started beating local pros from Washington, Idaho and Montana. That was kind of an eye opener. At that point it definitely wasn’t cool to have my little brother beating me.” Sam pushed Andy, and Andy pushed Sam. Both say the competition was always filled with more respect than sibling rivalry. Today, Andy races professionally for the Kenda-Felt team in two national series, and also works at The Cycling House. He credits Sam for keeping him in the sport, but also acknowledges a recent difference between them. “Back when we first turned pro, it kind of went back and forth. In any given race, we could beat each other,” says Andy. “But last year and already this year, Sam has started out at a whole other level. He’s the next great American rider, for sure. He’s ready to be the rider who takes America forward.” The brothers’ uncle, Charlie Schultz, never anticipated Andy or Sam’s current level of success. He introduced the boys to mountain biking at an early age, taking them on trail rides and teaching them basic skills. When both showed an interest, he fed it, supplying training books and racing jerseys as gifts for the holidays. When the brothers visited Charlie at his home on the coast of Washington, he’d borrow nicer bikes with proper suspension and easy gears for climbing, then challenge the boys with increasingly difficult rides. “I remember one time Sam and Andy came out and we have this trail out here called ‘The Beast’ that’s really steep,” recalls Charlie. “So we go about three-quarters the way up and Sam can’t make it. He’s young, I don’t remember how old. He turns to me and says, ‘I’m going to make it.’ Then he turns around and starts to go back again, and he doesn’t make it. So, he turns around and starts back up again, and he doesn’t make it. He’s always had this incredible energy for the sport that’s not very common.”
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For a stretch of his early career, that same drive worked both for and against Schultz. After conquering the regional races, he focused on the U.S. National Series and, at age 17, made the World Championship team as a junior. That success landed him a spot on USA Cycling’s U-23 National Team, where he spent three years based at the team’s training facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., while balancing a half-time schedule at Colorado State University.
the U-23 Continental Championships in Villa La Angostura, Argentina, and second in the U-23 National Championships in Mount Snow, Vt. Last year, in addition to the 16th-place finish in Germany, he placed second in the Continental Championships in Santiago, Chile, and third in the National Championships in Granby, Colo. He talks today as if the lingering pressures from his early success were nothing but lessons well learned.
Everything appeared to be dialed in, but Sam, still a teenager, started to push too hard. “Living at the training center, focusing everything on riding my bike, nothing was going well,” he says. “I was too single-minded. If you’re too focused and things aren’t going well, it’s a snowball effect. All you think about is that it’s not going well and it’s not going to get better. It’s not healthy.” Schultz switched coaches and refocused his efforts both on and off the bike. In 2006, he was named to the “long team” for the 2008 Olympics, meaning he was a finalist for a chance to compete in Beijing. That same year he was also crowned the U-23 National XC Champion. He signed with the SubaruGary Fisher team in 2007 and launched his pro career, promptly earning a series of top-five finishes, including second in Montana Headwall
“I realized that if you want to make a career out of it, if you want to be a normal person, you have to throw some balance into it,” he says. “I was stupid about it. I think I’m smarter now.” The switch is apparent to those closest to him. “There have been times when we’ve both struggled and talked it through with each other,” says Andy. “There are going to be bad stretches. The thing with Sam is, you know he’s going to push through. He has a way of taking any bad luck and finding some way to spin it into something positive or funny.” When he’s asked for an example, Andy barely hesitates. “Well, he probably doesn’t want it in print,” Andy says. “But last year he had this flight back from Germany…”
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risten Dieffenbach studies athletes, and even she’s stumped by Schultz, beyond categorizing him as “a rare breed.” An assistant professor of sports psychology at West Virginia University, Dieffenbach met Schultz when he was still competing at the junior level with USA Cycling. For the last six years, she’s served as his personal coach, sending him weekly training regimens via e-mail and talking with him every couple of days on the phone. “In my job of working in sports and coaching psychology, we look at hundreds of athletes and what makes them successful,” says Dieffenbach. “Sam’s right up there with what you look for in the elite-level athletes for having the passion to put in the hard work, and still be laid-back when he wants to be. He’s in that rare class for an elite athlete.” Dieffenbach describes Schultz’s early challenges as typical of a “very talented teenager.” He used to overwork, lie about injuries and fight with his coach about going too easy on him. Now, he’s proven more patient, savvy and in tune with his body. “He’s gotten better with the big picture,” she says. Schultz offers a perfect example of that perspective when talking about the highlight of his 2009 season. During a rain-soaked World Cup race in Bromont, Canada, last August, he navigated the narrow, rock and root-encrusted course and found himself near the leader’s wheel midway through the race. “Everything was completely clicking, shaping up to be the race of my life,” says Schultz. “I was in fifth position and feeling really good.” Then he felt his back tire go flat. Later, mechanical issues slowed him even more. The race of his life left him in 39th place. “It didn’t end up with the best result. In fact, it was a pretty horrible result after the problems,” he says. “But it was a breakthrough for me personally because I can actually ride with those guys at the front. I was comfortable because I was completely riding within myself, and I was mixing it up with some of the best guys in the world. I realized, you know, I can be there.” Dieffenbach says that attitude—the one that allows Schultz to call a frustration-filled 39th place finish the highlight of his season—comes entirely from the rider. Genetics? Mental make-up? Training? She’s not sure what instilled
pretty important to finally get it out of the way.” Schultz missed the license plate number of the Buick. He reported the attack to local police, but knew nothing would come of it. He stopped the bleeding and inspected the damage, which wasn’t more than a cut on his cheek and some swelling. Then, in typical Schultz fashion, he figured the . best thing to do was go on his scheduled five, hour training ride. “It was great,” he go on his says without a hint of sarcasm. “I don’t know . if it was the extra adrenaline or what, but it was one of my best rides.” Schultz’s ability to channel a crazy The punches left Schultz with a brush with road rage into a positive bloody nose, scratched face and the training experience is already paying off. unexpected pride of taking his first During his first ride of the 2010 season, a two hits. cross-country race in the inaugural Triple “I had no idea I could take a Crown national series, Schultz reached punch,” he says. “It’s actually comforting to know that I can. I mean, I the podium with relative ease. waited 24 years to learn this. It feels Continued on page 54
next light, the driver of the Buick hopped that ethic in Schultz, but it’s what sets from his car, approached Schultz’s open him apart. window, and sucker-punched him with a “There are always going to be one-two combination. mechanical mishaps, flat tires, other “He asked if I wanted to fight, and I things that can derail a rider in compesaid no,” says Schultz. “I guess I should tition,” she says. “Sam seems to have have said yes.” the ability to go, ‘Huh, okay,’ and then cope with it. He can battle through that and still keep that—how do He I say this…Let’s just say he’s always got and inspected the that big grin on his face. I don’t know how Then, in to explain it. Sam’s special. It’s the sort of he figured the to do was thing people in my field spend a career studying.” scheduled
stopped the bleeding damage typical Schultz fashion best thing five-hour training ride
chultz collected another classic story on the eve of his current season. During a routine drive across town for his morning training ride in Tucson, a swerving Buick cut off Schultz’s team-issued, stickered-up Subaru. Schultz mustered a scowl when he eventually passed the Buick, and instantly received a double-bird in return. At the
Missoula triathlon pro Matt Shryock (right) provides late-night encouragement to Schultz at the local Rolling Thunder Cyclocross Race in October 2009. Schultz won.
HEAD LIGHT by Chad Harder
Be the zoom For knockout photos, aim for adventure Today’s adventure photographers have no shortage of techno-gadgets to choose from in the quest for that perfect shot. We have powerful image sensors in lightweight cameras capable of recording 18 million pixels of light at 10 frames per second. We have optically or digitally stabilized zoom lenses at our disposal, and our images are miraculously digitized into files, stored alongside thousands of others on a memory card smaller than a single 35mm slide frame. Add the explosion of non-photographers using image-capturing devices in cell phones and other digital media, and one thing really comes into focus: More than ever before, 21st century adventure photographers must go
big—or at least get away from the road. Statistics from national parks are conclusive—very few people ever leave the trailhead. Take a Google Earth spin through Glacier National Park and you’ll see that nearly every clickable photo link involves a shot taken from the road or a couple of trails. So set yourself apart. Turn your sights toward something different this summer. Find a wild place just a bit farther, higher or deeper. A spot you’ve always wanted to explore. The payoff will be a visual reward so clear and personal you can almost touch it. Because you almost did.
Mount Logan’s east ridge, Glacier National Park.
The staff of Montana Headwall knows you’re out there, having wicked adventures and documenting your exploits photographically. Problem is, even excellent images often get dumped onto a hard drive, never again seeing the light of day. We’re ready to fix this tragedy by dedicating a few pages of every issue to our readers’ best photos.
The criteria are simple: go outside, play hard, and take a bunch of pictures. Then send your best to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, the location pictured, and the names of all people shown. We’ll take it from there. Now get outside and start shooting.
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HEAD SHOTS www.mtheadwall.com
Sinopah Mountain reflects on Two Medicine Lake, Glacier National Park. Tony Bynum
HEAD SHOTS www.mtheadwall.com
Chris Russell takes in Mount Wilbur from Iceberg Notch, Glacier National Park. Morgen Lanning
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Page 27 Summer 2010
The fish rise and the sun sets on the Smith River.
RA C KI NG U P VE RT
it’s not just for winter anymore
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Main Photo © Chuck Haney
nyone who’s ever traded small talk at a put-in has heard the phrase, no such thing as a bad day on the river, but there was no way around it: I was having a bad day on the river, and coming off the worst night I’ve ever spent in a tent. It didn’t amount to much in the well-stocked annals of adventure discomfort, no death or dismemberment, just a throat that wouldn’t swallow, a flashing fever, vomitous heartburn and a saliva factory putting in overtime. When I wasn’t on my knees puking into a bush, I was shivering fetally inside my sweaty bag, a coffee mug at the runoff corner of my mouth collecting drool. I felt like a rabid dog, not least because I harbored the fantasy that someone would put me out of my misery. Every time I tried to lie on my back the bile rose. If I could have fallen asleep that way I’d have drowned on dry land. At least I would have gotten some rest. As it was I got none, and the next day
I could barely keep from toppling out of my canoe. I was drifting half-conscious down the prettiest part of the North Fork of the Flathead River, and all I could do was keep mumbling to myself, over and over, keep it together. I don’t know if I was talking out loud or not. I was visiting Missoula for 10 days, and on the third day, friends Matt and Jori and I packed our boats and drove north to the Canadian border for this two-night float down to Polebridge, as we’ve done four of the past five years, in early July. It’s about as close to an annual tradition as I have, and I look forward to it the way some people anticipate Christmas morning. The year before I’d had to cancel the trip just before I was scheduled to fly out of Austin when my dog ate the wrong kind of spider and went into something close to a coma, ruining the week for both of us. He survived, deaf as a post but otherwise no worse for the wear, and a year later here I was back on the North Fork,
twice as eager to renew my acquaintance with tradition, with Matt and Jori, with the river. And now I was the sick one, borderline incapacitated, and more than a little pissed about it. I’d felt the tickle in my throat on the drive up, and by the time we’d paddled a few hours Friday afternoon and set up camp, I was fully messed up. A diet of PBR, blackberry schnapps and Montana Jerky Co. dried bison probably hadn’t bolstered my immunity, but if I was going to float the North Fork sick, so be it. It’s not the line I would have chosen, but moving water is unforgiving of the late-changed mind. Once you’re committed, you’re going where it takes you.
ny trip on the North Fork begins when the pavement turns to washboard north of Columbia Falls. For years the battle has raged between people who would like to see that road paved—and I know more than a few axle struts that sympathize—and another contingent that prefers to leave well enough alone. The road is work, and it discourages crowds. And like many things that discourage crowds, the North Fork Road encourages individuals. Matt
and Jori and me, for instance. We grimace when we hit that road, which, Jori rightly observes, gets longer every year, but we smile too, through rattling teeth, because we know where it’s taking us. In September, Flathead County began spreading bentonite clay on the road as a dust-reduction measure, and some locals say it’s provided a measure of relief from the washboarding, too. I hope I’ll be forgiven for hoping not too much. By the time you hit the North Fork Road out of Columbia Falls, there are only a few places you might be going: 35 miles to Polebridge, then into Glacier National Park via a little-used, west-side entrance there; home, if you’re one of the 200 or so North Fork summer homers or the roughly 25 who live there year-round; or the Forest Service privy at the Canadian border, where the road dead-ends another 18 miles north of Polebridge at a border crossing that’s been decommissioned since the mid1990s. We’ve always stopped at Polebrige Mercantile, to fill out forgotten provisions, to buy the famed baked-on-site
pastries, and usually to hire a local to drive our shuttle. The shuttle service is informal, but it’s never let us down. This was my first visit to Polebridge since the Mercantile and its 22.5 acres of grounds, including the hostel cabins, were purchased in May 2009 by Flannery Coats and Stuart Reiswig, a 20-something couple from Missoula. The pastries were as warm
A diet of PBR,
schnapps and Montana Jerky Co. dried bison probably hadn’t
bolstered my immunity, but if I was going to float the North Fork sick, so be it. and savory as ever. The next-door Northern Lights Saloon, under independent ownership, had let its liquor license lapse, so there was no beer at the bar that day. Coats says the saloon remains closed “for the season,” though the Merc stocks plenty of beer and wine to go. It’ll likely need it this summer, when Polebridge’s annual July 4th parade coincides with Glacier’s ongoing centennial celebration. It’s another rough ride from Polebridge to the border toilet. On several trips we’ve camped not far from that box-topped hole in the ground, off to the southern side of a narrow, shaved boundary-marking swath that runs like a shot through the forest, climbing the horizon on both sides of the Montana Headwall
Page 32 Summer 2010
river. One night a scrawny fox sniffed around our site looking for scraps while we sat around a fire and watched it. It was very polite. Probably a Canadian. In the mornings—or afternoons, those years we’ve arrived early enough to launch without camping—we put our canoes in the water there, driving down a dip and across a shallow side-channel onto a rock bar in the river to unload the truck and pack the boats. Then we climb in, a little jittery from being too long away, and point the boats downstream.
he North Fork of the Flathead melts out of British Columbia, about 31 miles north of the border. Under the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, it’s federally designated and partially protected from the Canadian border to its confluence with the Middle Fork, which doglegs in from the south, 58 miles downstream. Then the South Fork release from Hungry Horse Dam joins in before the snugged braid spills into Flathead Lake.
Above the Canadian border, the river, there called the Southern Flathead, was until recently unprotected, and it remains remote in the extreme. Long-contemplated mountaintop-removal coal mining and coal-bed methane proposals near its headwaters earned the North Fork the number five spot on the American Rivers organization’s 2009 list of the most threatened watersheds in the United States. In February of this year, officials in British Columbia announced a moratorium, in partnership with Montana, on mining and energy development in the Flathead Valley. The deal included a promise from Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer to buy out energy and mining interests on the state’s side of the border. The North Fork is too cold to be a topnotch fishery, and it’s got nothing like the Middle Fork’s raft-friendly whitewater or the South Fork’s mule-pack remoteness, but it’s a recreational canoeist’s dream, at least come summer, when the water is dropping and the sweepers don’t sneak up so fast. The water looks like jade-green ink spilled in a turquoise dish of skim milk. The ostrich-egg-sized rocks beneath it shine like they’re submerged in glycerine. The water moves purposefully, especially in the
narrower upstream reaches, necessitating a reasonably deft paddle, with all the attention and pleasure that demand delivers. There aren’t many places to just sit and drift if you don’t want to end up broadside in a shoal or bow-butting a bank. “It keeps coming at you,” Matt likes to say. The weather in July is usually within a tolerable window. I’ve been cold there at night, but nothing a fire and a bit of fleece couldn’t cure. Last year’s trip was my first after the Forest Service implemented 2008 regulations requiring the use of fire pans on the river. A big round baking pan works just fine. (The new regs, implemented in response to an upswing in usage, also require leakproof portable toilet systems for packing human waste out.) On other trips in early July it’s been so blazing hot on the water that swimming has started to seem viable. It’s really not. I can stay in for about as long as it takes me to get back out. The river’s western bank is Flathead National Forest, and the east bank is Glacier National Park, the boundary of which runs the river’s middle. Bald eagle
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sightings are frequent. We’ve seen several deer swimming the river. Moose are not uncommon, but hard to see. I’ve never seen a bear, though they’re there, and the mere possibility of a grizzly effects a clarifying force on the mind. It’s a good idea to hang your food, or at least seal it well and stash it away from camp. We’ve seen plenty of beavers and, less frequently, marmots. Or people. Certain stretches of the North Fork feel so otherworldly that it seems impossible you could be sharing the watershed with other humans. In fact, the North Fork Road shadows the river for most of its length, though you rarely notice its presence. There are houses along the river, mostly on the western shore, but it’s rare to see any sign of habitation. Occasionally you will pass or be passed by locals out for a day trip, or rafting fishermen or, increasingly, fellow canoeists. At a right-bank meadow access just above the Kintla II rapids, sometimes called the Wurtz airstrip, about 10 river miles from the border, you’ll probably cross paths with some kayakers putting in for a short run. Kintla II, named for nearby Kintla Lake in Glacier, is the only whitewater on this reach of river worth paying much attention to, and I say that as an only moderately capable paddler who’s canoed bigger water, but never lost his adrenal fear of even minor turbulence. Every year I’m sure I’ll hit it wrong and get blown out of the boat, and every year, so far, I’ve run it upright
way. The air feels thin up there, like it hasn’t yet taken on the weights of the world below, and the skeleton forests that periodically dominate the horizon, remnants of fire, charred trunks bare as telephone poles, always look to me like a dioramic tableau from another, older planet. This is where I come to clear my head, not lose it. It’s where I come to reconnect with myself and with friends like Matt and Jori, who introduced me to this river, and who are now being extraordinarily patient with my mental Continued on page 55
and washed out with no more carnage than a hull third-full of cold North Fork sloshing around my knees. You want to enter the rapid center and draw toward the right to skirt a big rock above an even bigger hole. This trip I was too fogged and weak to pull into the right line, so I gave up and let the current slip me around the rock to the left. Apparently you can do it that way too. At a certain point, there’s not much profit in working against the river. A guy coming down after us in a canoe, shirtless and pfd-free, dog in bow, let himself get sucked over the rock and blown out in the hole, and swam it all to shore without the slightest hint of anything having gone wrong. I envied his elan, but shivering on shore I was awfully glad not to be in that water.
t seems churlish to whine, but the highly localized black cloud following my head down the river felt especially cruel, given that the prime appeal of a North Fork trip for me has always been clarity, the mental refresh button of it. As someone born and acculturated to Texas, I don’t think I’ll ever familiarize myself with the feeling of paddling clear, cold water under close, hot sun in sight of snow-capped mountains, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it. The North Fork isn’t literally the top of the world—all rivers, by definition, occupy low spots, and the elevation at Polebridge is only a few hundred feet higher than Missoula’s—but to someone raised in southern climes, where all waters eventually trickle down into the brown Gulf of Mexico, even the illusion of altitude is powerful. Our trip starts at the top of the map, for one thing, and the North Fork flows along an intuitively satisfying northto-south axis, unlike, say, the Clark Fork or Bitterroot, which stubbornly go the wrong
Map by Kou Moua, satellite images courtesy of NASA
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WILD THINGS by Andy Smetanka
An inglorious history and penchant for crime keep magpies on the avian world’s most wanted list hough their black-and-white plumage suggests formal attire, magpies are actually the thuggish gatecrashers of the bird world, loitering in the alley, picking butts out of the ashcan, rifling through the party rubbish for tidbits and trying to hit on underage chicks. Or eat them, actually: the magpie’s penchant for plundering nests and devouring baby birds is the barbaric behavior most often pointed up by people who plumb don’t like them. It doesn’t improve their image that when something dies in the great outdoors, magpies are among the first on the scene. Easily startled, they are quick to return to their roadkill feasts, always play-acting like they just happened to be hopping past and—who me?—couldn’t possibly have been plucking the eyes out of that dead skunk just seconds earlier. That seems to be the problem for most people: It’s nasty enough eating carrion and baby birds without going around looking like such a sneak about it. Thus, perhaps, the folk-logic leap from magpies as eaters of death to harbingers of it. The bird’s reputation as a bearer of ill tidings goes back to at least the Middle Ages in Europe: When pyes chatter upon a house, as the fella said in 1507, it is a sygne of ryghte evyll tydynges. The old English divination “One for sorrow, two for joy ...” was originally about magpies, not blackbirds. Generally speaking, seeing odd numbers of magpies is supposed to be unlucky. The word magpie grafts an older name for the bird, pie or pye, from Latin, to an archaic nickname for Margaret that insin-
uates a certain feminine tendency toward idle chatter. The Latin word itself, preserved twice over in the scientific name Pica pica, is simply a feminized form of the term for woodpecker. Loaded with connotations of ravenous and indiscriminating appetite, pica is also the name for a medical condition characterized by a hunger for mostly non-nutritive substances like clay and chalk. Living among the birds as I do (in spring, the MoonRandolph Homestead is practically a magpie timeshare), I’ll allow that most unsavory magpie stereotypes are grounded in fact: The birds are tip-top egg thieves and committed scavengers who will go to great lengths to procure things they’ve come to like. Some things, like all my clothespins, they steal for no apparent reason. Then again, they’re part of nature’s clean-up crew: somebody’s got to do it. They also mate for life, which is always kind of endearing. Maybe that’s what I like so much: their natures seem so much more mixed up in them than in other birds. They’re like killers and cradlerobbers who are also devoted family types—the Tony Sopranos of the bird world. It’s helpful that we’ve got choices to describe a flock of them. Call it a charm of magpies. Or a murder.
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by Ari LeVaux
There’s always room for spore Once you find them, it’s hard to part with morels t’s no secret that fire plays an important role in keeping forest ecosystems healthy. Fans of morel mushrooms know that forest fires help keep their bellies full, as well. For barely understood reasons, these fabulous fungi—one of the most prized edible mushrooms in the world—pop up en masse like armies of elves from the ashy floors of year-old burns. Mycologists, aka fungus scientists, believe that flames somehow create a habitable growing environment for morel spores, which are present by the gazillions in the air. While the exact science remains a mystery, one thing is certain: If you find a good stash you’ll have a morel dilemma on your hands. The mushrooms are worth good money, sometimes more than $20 a pound. But you can get so attached to the little funguys that you won’t want to part with them. Their delicate musky flavor recalls a walk in the woods and whiffs of pine, duff and whatnot that make you wonder, “what was that?” At the table, they go well with wine and wild edibles like elk— which, interestingly, are also often found in burned areas. But there’s a charm that extends beyond the taste buds. Each morel is special, uniquely shaped, and mesmerizing to the point that finding and plucking one is a bonding experience that makes you feel like it’s a friend. Chasing morels—equal parts art and science—can become such a maddeningly consuming activity that, as with love, people end up doing strange things for it. They
drive down roads they shouldn’t, into blackened, mosquito-infested forests, crawling through the ashes and returning home looking like the village chimney sweep. In the summer of 2005 I chased morels as far north as Alaska, and lived in a picking camp filled with adventurers, entrepreneurs and misfits. Each day I’d walk for miles through soggy bogs in grizzly country, under burnt trees known as widow-makers for their eagerness to fall on heads. Despite the expense of getting to Alaska and surviving there, I was loath to sell any of my haul—much to the chagrin of the local mushroom buyer. I returned home with a monumental stash of dried morels that I’m still eating on. If you know someone who’s found a cache, it’s natural to ask where it is. But there’s a saying among hunters: “Anyone foolish enough to ask a morel picker where he got ’em is foolish enough to believe the answer.” If the person you ask is a good friend, you can at least expect a courteous “none of your effing business.” But strangers
have been known to send fools on wild goose chases. So you’re better off looking for yourself. Before you start, learn the morels’ distinguishing characteristics—eating the wrong mushroom can be deadly. (And as
with any untried wild mushroom, start by nibbling a small amount to ensure you don’t have a reaction.) Next, study last year’s fire areas and scheme a way to access them. Morels poke through the ashes when springtime soil temperatures exceed 50 degrees. They emerge first on warmer south-facing slopes, then west, east and north faces. One clue that a crop is imminent is the appearance of fire-following fairy cup fungi, which look like dull orange contact lenses, and often precede morels by a few days. The first wave of morels is usually followed by two or three more. Use a knife to cut them at the stem, just above ground level. Place them in a well-ventilated container, like a plastic bucket with holes drilled in it. Keep them as dirt-free as possible, and never store fresh morels in plastic bags. (They’ll melt into slimy goo.) It doesn’t take much to bring out the goodness: Sauté them in butter with salt, with maybe a squeeze of lemon. Fresh morels can only be eaten for a few days; after that, you’ll need to dry them. A small quantity can dry in a few hours on your dashboard. Set larger amounts out on screens in the sun for a few days, turning them every several hours, and bring them in at night. For more than a year’s storage, dry them in a dehydrator. To eat dried morels, rehydrate them in heated water or stock—about a half-cup of liquid per cup of ’shrooms. Let them sit, covered, for a few hours, stirring occasionally. Using too much liquid can pull out the flavor, so add just enough so that a bit isn’t absorbed. If all of the liquid disappears, add more. I like to sauté morels in butter with chopped yellow shallots or onions and sherry. Every time the pan starts to dry out, I add more sherry. You can do this for a long time: as long as nothing burns, you can’t really overcook a morel. When you’re almost done, add a pinch of nutmeg. You can also add cream (the heavier the better) at the very end. Serve them with a nice elk steak or other wild game or meat. Or toss them with wild rice and almonds. Sip a good wine, contemplate the forest from whence they came, and imagine new riches in next year’s burns. It’s a story with a morel ending.
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Page 39 Summer 2010
Walk on the Wild Side
by Josh Mahan
A family of Brits faces beauty and the beasts along the Sky Rim Trail
he small herd of bighorn sheep tensed at first glance of us. Wide-eyed, the sheep inspected the row of stinky humans straining with bulky backpacks on a trail above them. We must have been quite a sight after four days out. Their furrowed brows did not mask the disdain on their faces. Whaddya doing up here? This isn’t your home, their expressions said. And indeed it wasn’t. We were a short distance from the top of 9,932-foot Big Horn Peak, the jewel of the Sky Rim Trail, on the crest of the Gallatin Mountains. My mission, as a Big Wild Adventures backpacking guide, was to safely escort a British group of four through the wilds of Yellowstone National Park for
a week. Jane was a nurse and Paul was a scientist, both from London. They were traveling with their daughter, Emma, a traffic engineer, and her boyfriend, Robin, who set up speakers at music gigs. For now the gang was happy. We had been quiet for long enough to sneak up on some wildlife. The crotchety bighorns examined us a bit more, then begrudgingly stepped off the trail and trotted down a talus slope. They moved like smoke—smooth and flowing, as if their hooves never touched the shattered stone. We walked farther up the trail—a ribbon of dirt along a rock wall hundreds of feet above the valley, barely wide enough for single-file traffic. I stood at the front, making
room for everyone to get a view of the sheep. We strained to make out their forms below. Suddenly, I heard a stone overturn nearby. Another bighorn had wandered around the corner of the mountain and onto the path behind us. It was an older ewe, her fur matted, horns thick. She didn’t run. Instead she locked her eyes on us, squared her body and grunted. She was the herd’s sentinel. She grunted again and stamped her hoof. Five people stood bunched in a line. It was the worst possible spot for a bighorn ambush. One misstep could lead to a serious tumble. Closest to the angry sheep was the scientist, Paul, who had a fear of heights. He’d
never seen a bighorn before. Now he faced one pawing menacingly at the ground 75 feet away. “Come on guys, let’s get moving,” I said. Paul put a shaky hand on the rock wall. We began shuffling along. Our movement startled the ewe, or perhaps she caught scent of her herd. In one jerky motion she swung around and ran down the scree field after her flock. “Is everybody all right?” I asked. “That was the proper way to see some wildlife,” Jane managed to answer. We had finally seen large animals up close—too close. We pushed on to the grassy summit of Big Horn Peak for lunch and feasted on the views. To the east
stretched the muscular Absaroka Range: stout, angular, sure. Behind those mountains was a mass of uplifted earth, the plateau of the Beartooths. The rugged backbone of the Gallatins extended to the north, and in the distance were the High Crazy Mountains. A westerly view revealed the Taylor Peaks of the Madison Range, sharp with scraped, colorful cliff faces. And to the south, gazing across all of Yellowstone, the Tetons appeared on the horizon. The Brits poked halfheartedly at the hummus and crackers I laid out for them. But there’s no cook like hunger, and they eventually loaded the grub into their bowls. Sitting on the rocky pinnacle of Big Horn Peak, they were a world away from London. “What a view,” Jane said, leaning against her pack.
t’s hard not to feel like a blip in the geologic record on top of a peak like Big Horn, with the Earth cinched into mountains all around. Twenty miles in the distance I could see Lone Peak and the sun reflecting off a car driving a mountain road. It seemed like cheating that people could reach a vantage point by pressing a gas pedal. My group had done it the hard way, and I felt we’d accomplished something special trekking to the summit. I had met the Londoners at a hotel in Bozeman three days earlier, and driven them south on Highway 191 to begin the hike at the Specimen Creek trailhead in Yellowstone. We spent two days wandering up the broad meadows of Specimen, a drainage littered with petrified wood. The first night a massive storm lit up the
carry a gallon of water and start out at first light so they can get off the mountain before afternoon lightning storms hit. The Brits had never backpacked before, let alone at elevations where they could get zapped by weather or stricken Lake Howie Wolke with altitude sickness, tious guy, and he’d mapped evening with thick, purple dehydration or heat stroke. out an itinerary with short forbolts of lightning. So here we were, on Big ays on the trail and overnights It was four miles to our Horn Peak, well above the in the safer valley below, second night’s camp at the tree line. We’d been high and including a stay at Black Butte remote Shelf Lake, where the dry on the Sky Rim all day. Creek and two nights at Daly Specimen Creek Trail joins the We wouldn’t be able to fill our water bottles again until we hit Black Butte Creek four Closest to the was miles below. Storm clouds began to brew. “Time to leave this world the scientist, Paul, who had a behind,” I called out. It was hard to turn away . He’d never seen a from such a beautiful place. But we couldn’t stay longer. For the bighorn before. Now he faced next couple of hours we punished our calves and quads on one the downhill, descending through the whitebark pines. at the ground 75 feet away. Grizzly bears would be thick up here in September, gorging on the pine nuts. In fact, there Creek. It wasn’t smart to sub10.6-mile Sky Rim Trail. But could be a griz around the corject clients to undue risk on we wouldn’t tackle the whole ner of the trail now, in late July. Sky Rim at once. The owner of the ridge, Howie knew. Even We all kept bear spray handy Big Wild Adventures, my step- experienced backpackers on and kept moving. the trail need to be fit, fast, father Howie Wolke, is a cau-
fear of heights
The storm swept past us without incident, leaving nowhere to hide from the sun. Trail dust caked our legs. A layer of it sanded my teeth. My shirt clung to my body; the straps from the pack pulled. We kept walking, draining our water bottles to the last warm swallows. Whitebarks gave way to fir and spruce. Chitchat on the trail quieted; everyone found a different mind space to handle the discomfort. Then the trail dipped into a forested draw. I crossed from hot, dry air into the fertile smell of moisture, moss and ferns. I felt a cool breeze coming off the creek. I could almost taste the iciness, bubbling from a spring up the hill: sweet, pure Rocky Mountain water. It’s so clean here I rarely treat it, a decision many clients make as well. I shrugged off my pack and plunged my face in the creek, the cold burning in my nose. I sucked it down like a moose, then pulled my head out and blinked the water out of my eyes. My British cohorts, a bit more civilized than their guide, looked at me flatly, filled their bottles, and sipped. “How long ’til camp?” the daughter, Emma, asked.
We were only a quartermile away, but I gave her my standard answer. “Depends on how many grizzlies we run into. Someone could snap their ankle. We could get pinned down by a lightning storm. A tree could fall and crush someone... ” They rolled their eyes. It was probably the 10th time I’d rattled off the list. But I wanted them to focus on the journey. I wanted them to feel self-reliance and wonderment, to experience the unpredictability, something they’d traveled halfway around the globe to feel. We were on our own. We were in the wilderness.
e made it to camp without a mishap. Our tents skirted a large meadow and we watched a herd of elk dine on a lush hillside nearby. Fat blooms of flowers greeted us, one of the best blooms in meory. Fat clouds of mosquitoes also said hello, happy for a blood meal after the aperitif of the wildflowers. I was glad I’d packed my head net. I tied a bandana around my neck and covered the rest of my body in clothing.
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“They don’t show a horsefly buzzing past your face in the pictures of Yellowstone,” Jane exclaimed at one point. We hiked to Daly Creek for our next overnight, and woke on our sixth morning to fresh grizzly scat on the edge of camp. The day hike back up to the Sky Rim Trail was like enjoying the company of an old friend. Once again, the threat of a storm in the west drove us downhill to the wildflowers and mosquitoes. The final morning we packed up. As we walked across the upper meadow of Daly Creek we spooked a small band of elk, antlers in velvet. We continued on until one of the clients spotted something large and brown—a grizzly?—in the nearby trees. I squinted. We tensed. It was a cow moose. Relief washed over the group. Jane had been petrified of seeing a bear all week. “This has been just an amazing trip,” she said, flushed. “Oh, c’mon Jane, let’s find a bear,” Paul said, teasing her. “I could stay here for another week,” Robin chimed in. But we were just visitors here. A bald eagle watched overhead as we finished the hike out. Montana Headwall
Page 43 Summer 2010
HEAD TRIP by Skylar Browning
friend of mine likes to say she finds god at the top of a mountain. I keep my expectations a bit lower and hope to discover a nice view, or perhaps simply catch my breath. It’s not that I don’t discover those few sacred moments of clarity on a peak, or some sanctified peace of mind at the end of a trail—I do, honestly. It’s just that getting there can sometimes be such a bodybeating hassle I end up more lightheaded than enlightened. All I want is the visual payoff.
That’s the only thing I can think on a foul-weathered trek through the edges of the Elkhorn Mountains. Clouds and misty rain blind any promised vista, and the muddy terrain makes it seem like every two steps forward slide me one step back. After a two-hour slog, I reach the top of a small ridge that supposedly overlooks the winding Boulder River and, on a clear day, puts the 9,415-foot Crow Peak into view. But all I see is gray. Defeated, I rest for a few minutes and head back down. Any sense of accomplishment, I tell myself, will have to come in the form of a comfortable bed and cold beer at day’s end. God is in a rain delay.
Considering my mission, the missed view doesn’t constitute a total loss. The goal is more about recovery than recreation, about healing rather than hikes. This part of southwestern Montana, on a stretch between Butte and Helena that’s surrounded by the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, is known as a place of rehabilitation. American Indians reportedly referred to it as Peace Valley, a sort of old-world Switzerland that invited tribes to gather, rest and temporarily put differences aside. Mineral baths in Boulder provided therapeutic waters to the native people, and continue to cater to the sick and sore to this day. Radon mines in nearby Basin offer a more radical method of treatment: according to believers, hours of exposure to the odorless gas can cure anything from asthma to arthritis. I’m hoping my tangible aches and pains will disappear in this valley after a brief visit. Any lingering disappointment from the hike is a different story.
Boulder Hot Springs rises like an enormous Spanish mission in an otherwise empty meadow a few miles south of the town of Boulder, population 1,300. The facility, first constructed in 1863, sits atop mineral-laden, geothermal water and fancies itself a healing center. Two tiled indoor pools—one for men, one for women— pipe the main ingredient from deep within the earth and mix it with colder spring water to create 105-degree baths that draw visitors from all over the globe. I know this because the day after my hike I sit across from a German family at breakfast. You tend to get to know your fellow travelers when everyone wears bathrobes. Part of this hot springs’ charm comes from the management’s invitation to wear a supplied bathrobe everywhere in the facility, including in a long, art-filled dining room where an organic breakfast is served daily. I learn over fresh fruit, homemade muffins and scrambled eggs that the German family traveled here for Boulder Hot Springs’ dedication to spiritual growth and holistic healing—meaning, in part, the proprietors want us to build a better relationship with ourselves, those around us and our environment. I can get down with that. But the approach also means no drugs or alcohol in the 12 guest rooms or on the nearly 300 acres of surrounding property. This proves a harder “amenity” to digest, especially for someone who’s already suffered the buzzkill of bad weather.
“It’s all part of promoting a healthy way of life,” explains general manager Kerri Kumasaka. “It eliminates distractions.” Fine, but the truth is, nothing could distract from the hot springs’ charm. After a soak in the indoor pool and half-hour in the natural sauna, I set to exploring the spacious grounds—in my bathrobe, of course. The east wing of the hotel features the Simone Suite, a guest room named after a “woman of the night” who once worked at the hot springs and might still haunt the place. A veranda full of rocking chairs fronts the hotel’s west wing, an enormous section of the facility no longer open to guests. Through the main windows of the otherwise vacant wing, someone’s arranged life-sized cowboy mannequins around a card table, with another playing the piano and a scantily clad faux woman looking on. Beyond the strange scene, the inside of the old lobby looks dusty and untouched for decades. My guess is that if Simone still frequents the joint, her main hangout is here. Out back sits the hot springs’ coed outdoor pool. About 15 degrees cooler than the indoor plunges and open yearround, it’s a more family-friendly option and the only couple-friendly one for guests. During the last day of my stay, when the weather warms up and the sun briefly shines, it has the feel of a relaxed community pool, minus a diving board—and, thankfully, chlorine. A morning of relaxation and history leads to an afternoon of anxiousness. With the weather still uncooperative, I embark on an easy stroll back behind
the hot springs to a statue called “Seven Generations.” A thin trail follows a few rolling hills, weaves past wildflowers, crosses a short wooden bridge and runs past the remnants of sacred sweat lodges still used by local American Indians. The statue—a series of seven metal cutouts depicting seven generations of a family—stands on a cliff with the hot springs still in sight, as well as the Boulder River below. The clouds block the Elkhorns again, but I see enough of Peace Valley to get a sense of its serene landscape. A friend recommended heading farther to another “unofficial” statue, but I end up sitting here for an hour. I catch my breath. I find some peace of mind. I only wish I was still wearing my bathrobe.
√∫◊ Compared to soaking in mineral water—or to almost anything, for that matter—spending 32 hours in the Merry Widow Health Mine sounds like a dubious idea. A dark, 500-foot tunnel dug into the side of a mountain, the Merry Widow offers visitors the chance to absorb radon gas created by decaying uranium in the granite. Picnic tables or benches furnish little nooks off the side of the former gold mine, offering some modicum of comfort. Hand-painted rocks with individual signatures and dates dot the tunnel and fill the corners of each nook, like a sprawling geologic guest book. A sign outside the front entrance reads, “Fountain of Youth: Feel Young Again!” Despite its arguable creepiness, people swear by the healing properties of the mine, just a 10-minute drive east of Boulder. The sick and mostly elderly
50 50 Single-Malt
habitués, who fill the nearby campgrounds and guest rooms, file into the tunnel three times a day for one-hour sessions over 11 days—the number prescribed by the proprietors—in hopes of feeling better. Considering many of them return annually, there could be something to it. God might rest not only at the top of a mountain; he can reside inside it, as well. I haven’t built up enough pain or courage to try the mine for longer than a few minutes. The tunnel is narrow and chilly, lit by bare bulbs that cast an orange glow over water dribbling down the walls into rivulets along the floor. The afternoon I visit, the place is empty—as in, not a single other soul in this dank little channel. Aside from my personal reservations about radon (the Environmental Protection Agency links it to cancer, although Montana health authorities say 32 hours of exposure
per year is acceptable), I get the heebiejeebies like a 3-year-old afraid of the dark. Miracle cures or not, there’s no way I’m staying. My return to Boulder is a literal breath of fresh air. The BeaverheadDeerlodge is full of accessible hikes, and with the weather more cooperative I try for another steep approach that will get me far above the valley. I’m determined to make up for the first day and find that my pace is quicker and my rests shorter. Not an hour into the scramble, the day breaks into blue sky and I see what must be a snowcovered Crow Peak far in the distance. It’s quiet. Not a thing can be seen around me on this unmarked trail except lodgepoles and open space. This, I figure, is my payoff. I don’t have any expectations on this hike. I feel no pain. And any lingering disappointment is cured.
Craft Beers On-Tap
One Great Location
Charge in and get your horn wet.
158 Ryman Street Downtown Missoula 406/721-6061 Skylar Browning
Boulder Hot Springs offers 12 guest rooms, each individually decorated and themed. We recommend the Simone Suite (ghostly visitations not included) and its large bathroom with double shower (Simone certainly had it dialed), or the railroad-themed Northern Pacific suite. Most rooms cost $99 to $139 per night, and include full access to pools, as well as an organic breakfast. This last point is especially important considering that dining options in and around Boulder are slim. For reservations call 406-225-4339, or visit www.boulderhotsprings.com.
The Merry Widow Health Mine is located in Basin about 10 minutes from Boulder off Interstate 15. The mine recommends that first-timers make 32 one-hour visits spread over 10 or 11 days. Guests pay $5 per hour, $15 per day or $250 for the year. Full hookups in the campground cost $22.50 per night, and guest rooms in Basin run from $49 to $85. Packages are available. For reservations, call 406-225-3220 or visit www.merrywidowmine.com. Skylar Browning
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JUNE June 5-6 Stay on target at the annual Powder River Buffalo Shoot, held in an ammo-friendly zone west of Broadus, near the air strip off Highway 59 North. Participants fire traditional single-shot or lever-action rifles at metal targets up to 1,000 yards away. Scope it out by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. June 12 Give health care a run for the money in the 37th annual Governor’s Cup race in Helena. The 10K, 5K or 1-mile events raise cash to help kids get medical and dental care; race fees will be matched four-to-one by a federal grant. Get benefited at www.govcup.bcbsmt.com. June 18-20 Bring your pops to Anaconda for a Father’s Day celebration of pedal power: the Anaconda Bicycle Festival. Saturday’s 25-, 50- and 100-mile road courses are the highlight, but there are shorter trips, too. Get the wheel spiel at Sven’s Bike Shop, 563-7988.
June 19 Traverse the spine of the Rockies outside Butte (nonchiropractically) during the Wulfman’s Continental Divide Trail 14K between Homestake and Pipestone Pass. Butte’s Piss & Moan Runners extol the virtues of this race with “just one hill” and a barbecue at the finish. Get in line before 240 other people do at www.buttespissandmoanrunners.com. June 20 Outshine your competitors during Kalispell’s Summit Solstice Triathlon/Duathlon, offering a half-mile open water swim, 13-mile bike and 5K run. The event is limited to 200 sun-lovers, so sign up fast at www.summithealthcenter.com. June 26 Enjoy gasp-worthy views in the Mountain to Meadow Half-Marathon and 5K Fun Run through alpine forests by Lolo Pass. Races kick off at 7:30 a.m. (Pacific Time) at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center. Climb to www.runlolopass.org to register.
June 26-27 Go for stoke in the 4.2- or 8.4-mile Beartooth Run, the 24-mile Beartooth Ride or the combined bike-and-run time trial of the Beartooth Challenge— formidable endurance events staged on the stunning Beartooth Highway between Red Lodge and Yellowstone. Bite in at www.beartoothevents.com. June 27 Why not tri? The East Gallatin recreation area has a spot for you at the Treasure State Triathlon, one of Montana’s most challenging sporting exhibitions, including a 1.5K swim, 40K bike race and 10K run at 4,900 feet. Use it as a tune-up for July’s Headwaters Half-Iron, brought to you by the buff brigade at www.tri-mt.com.
JULY July 9-11 Retrace the strokes of Lewis and Clark during the 47th annual Yellowstone River Boat Float from Livingston to Laurel, including three days of paddling and partying. Call 222-4414 to join the flotilla.
July 10 Got the gumption for more than 50 miles of running, paddling and pedaling? Get in line for Flathead Youth Homes’ Glacier Challenge multi-sport race in and around Whitefish. Compete solo or tap into a relay team by visiting theglacierchallenge.com. July 10-11 Join fast-twitch fanatics and spin-masters in the Tour de Bozeman, a two-day, three-stage cycling smackdown with a $5,000 purse. Shift into gear at tourdebozeman.com.
2010. Experienced skydivers can fling themselves from airplanes for as little as $25. Chute up at 888-833-JUMP. July 25 Get a runner’s high in the third annual Madison Marathon, reputed to be the nation’s highest-elevation road marathon. Get highlights about the full or half-marathon at madcoedc.org.
July 11 Check out the throngs at the third annual Missoula Marathon—the nation’s best, according to Runner’s World readers. Lace up at missoulamarathon.org.
July 24 Take your racing off-pavement during Bozeman’s Bohart Bash, a Bridger Canyon mountain bike race with courses up to 25 miles long. Get the dirt from email@example.com. July 24 - August 1 To air is human, so take a flying leap during Skydive Lost Prairie’s Boogie
August 7 Climb single-track trails and ford mountain streams when the Helena Ultra Runners League (HURL) gangs up with the Helena Vigilante Runners for the HURL Elkhorn 50-Mile and 50-K Endurance Runs. Join the rumble at vigilanterunning.org.
August 28 Style matters during the Big Hole Cow Pasture Golf Tournament, which eschews manicured greens in favor of prizes for the “Most Original Golf Cart” and “Most Original Golf Attire” during this unique take on Twain’s proverbial good walk spoiled. Lie about your handicap at 689-3800.
July 15 Whitefish Mountain Resort kicks off the summer session of its Thursday Night Race League with a dirtchurning challenge for mountain bikers. Enroll at skiwhitefish.com.
July 24 More remote than its Italian namesake (but only 90 minutes south of Missoula), the Bitterroot National Forest’s Lake Como is the magnifico setting for the Lake Como Triathlon, limited to 100 racers. Bid your cohorts buon giorno at lakecomotri.com.
August 7-8 Fall hook, line and sinker for the 12th annual Great Montana “Mac Attack” on Flathead Lake, where contestants compete to land the largest lake trout and whitefish. Call The Happy Hooker at 261-6445 to test the waters.
July 11 The Spring Meadow Lake Triathlon challenges you to an Olympic 1.5K swim/40K bike/10K run, with a shorter course if you’re only feeling half-Olympian. Tri it at www.runmt.com/SMLTribrochure10.pdf.
July 16-17 Spend a family-friendly weekend watching log rolling and 15 other events during Darby’s annual Logger Days. Pit your little sawyers against each other in the watermeloneating contest at darbyloggerdays.com.
the three-day, 232-mile Headwaters Relay. The run on dirt and two-track trails starts near Three Forks and ends at Hellroaring Creek. Get sourced at montanamtnrec.com/hwrelay.
July 25 Improve your socks appeal at the Wild Horse Creek XTERRA and “Just Tri Off-Road” triathlons in the Hyalite Canyon outside of Bozeman. Participants can whack at a 1,200-yard swim/16-mile mountain bike/6-mile trail run or tackle a shorter course. Either way, you get free DeFeet mountain biking socks. Enter your size at bigskytri.com. July 29-31 Montana’s first 100-mile ultra race, the Swan Crest 100, dares you to trail-run from the town of Swan Lake to Columbia Falls along the spine of the Swan Range. Sweat it at swancrest100.com. July 30-August 1 Lewis and Clark might have meandered when they scouted for the source of the Missouri River, but you’ll hustle during
SEPTEMBER September 3-4 Celebrate the art of fly fishing, as well as Ennis’s skill at throwing a party, during the Ennis on the Madison Fly Fishing Festival, sponsored by the Madison River Foundation. Get reel at madisonriverfoundation.org. September 4 Lube your derailleurs—you’ll need every gear working to complete the 14-mile Huckleberry Hill Climb, an uphill mountain bike race with 3,800 feet of vertical at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Find a spokes-person at skiwhitefish.com. September 4-6 Channel your inner Paleolithic slayer during the annual Montana Atlatl Mammoth Hunt, an exhibition of traditional hunting weapons like the tomahawk and atlatl (an aid to spear throwing) at First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park. Aim for info at 866-2217.
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HEAD GEAR by Aaron Teasdale
he thought of spending a night in the backcountry spooning a bunch of guys in Lycra shorts was all it took to inspire James Davies to start his new Polson-based company, GearPods. That mountain-bike ride gone awry 10 years ago—and the threat of a cold night without warm clothes or shelter—got Davies thinking about a better, more convenient way to package survival, first-aid and minimalist camping gear so anyone could carry it. His company launched last fall, and it won’t be long before GearPods are available in stores nationwide. While you might be thinking “a gear company in Polson?” most out-of-staters are scratching their heads and thinking “a gear company in Montana?” Which is
understandable—the treasure state has always been rich in wild country, but it’s been something of an outdoor-gear hinterland. Sure, we’ve had some artisans handcrafting birch canoes and hunting knives, but outside the fishing industry, which boasts Simms in Bozeman and Winston in Twin Bridges, few marquee or nationally known manufacturers have roots here. Colorado, Utah and Washington, by comparison, were swimming in successful companies making bikes, skis, boats, backpacks, shoes and more. Montana was a great place to use your gear, but the places making it weren’t often based here. Thankfully, that’s starting to change. In recent years, outdoor gear companies have been popping up like fireweed. Here’s a look at a few of the best.
Hammer Gel headquarters in Whitefish
Fit to be tubed GearPods • $18 to $200 www.gearpods.com Originally from England, and later California, the outdoor-loving Davies moved to Polson in 2006 after a Montana vacation exposed him to the state’s natural beauty and vast backcountry. He’d been studying survival gear ever since that ill-fated but ultimately fortuitous mountain-bike ride, when he and his friends spent most of the night in the woods trying to find their way back to the trailhead. What he invented as a result is a unique, customizable system of “modular adventure gear” made of interlocking polycarbonate cylinders you can throw in a pack, put in oversized bicycle water-bottle cages, or stow in your car, snowmobile or boat. About the same diameter as a can of soup, GearPods come in a variety of heights and can be used alone or threaded together with other tubes to create longer, stacked compartments. The waterproof container system is a potentially useful way to protect your stuff from impact, liquids and other insults. But the products that really shine are the pre-built kits, including first-aid, cooking and shelter packages. The 8-ounce GearPods Cook kit ($50) uses a minuscule but effective Esbit solid-fuel stove that nests in an aluminum mug, which also doubles as the system’s cook pot. The Survival CS ($80) uses the same cook kit and fits a full-featured survival pack into the mug—including everything from a whistle and water tablets to fire-starters—for a slick, graband-go, save-your-ass system. Perhaps the ultimate GearPods kit is the Wilderness ($165), a deluxe, 29-ounce affair that includes the cooking and survival gear, plus a first-aid kit and a Spartan shelter, complete with a silicon-coated nylon tarp, space blanket and nylon cord. The beauty of the package is the simplicity—just about everything you need for a night out or emergency is here. No wracking your brain or forgetting crucial items: just grab it when you head out and you’re set. If you’re a backcountry vet and already have your gear systems dialed, you might have no need for GearPods. But for the casual crowd, the search-and-rescue professional, or anyone searching for well designed survival and outdoor goods in tightly organized, cool-looking containers, the pods are an excellent choice.
You’ll be excused for asking why. There are already dizzying varieties of pre-packaged energy bars on the market, and a lot of them are pretty darn good. But the power-packed, nutrient-rich Hammer Bar truly stands apart. Simultaneously satisfying the needs of both performance junkies and natural-food diehards, Hammer builds every bar on a foundation of nut butter, dates, agave nectar and brown rice protein. In case that doesn’t sound healthy enough for you, Hammer then adds a bunch of sprouted flax and quinoa, spirulina and barley grass juice. Everything’s organic, and most ingredients are raw foods: Short of adding ground unicorn horn powder, you couldn’t do much to make them healthier. The endurance crowd, Hammer’s main market, is happy because the bars are easy to digest while exercising, have a high amount of alkalizing protein to help reduce muscle soreness, and contain no refined sugars, so there’s no energy spike and crash. In short, these bars stick to your ribs. They also get more than a third of their calories from fat, which might surprise some people. But they’re what Hammer calls “healthy fats,” otherwise known as essential fatty acids, which improve endurance and contain a host of important nutrients. What’s better, the bars actually taste good. Available in three flavors—Almond Raisin, Chocolate Chip, and Cashew Coconut Chocolate Chip—they’re great on the trail, on the bike, or even when you’re desk jockeying and need a calorie infusion. And since they don’t get teeth-shatteringly hard in the cold, they’re also a good choice for winter sports. Each bar contains 220-230 calories, depending on flavor, and you can find them at bike and outdoor shops, natural food stores or at Hammer’s website. Besides bars, Hammer offers an array of electrolyte capsules, performance drinks and nutritional supplements. Of particular note, the company sells Heed, a natural and highertech version of Gatorade; Recoverite, a drink mix that accelerates recovery after hard workouts by replenishing depleted muscle glycogen; and Hammer Gel, a tasty carbohydrate gel that delivers quick energy in a variety of flavors, including a huckleberry version made with real huckleberries. Now that’s endurance fuel, Montana-style.
If I had a Hammer Hammer Bars • $2.50 each www.hammernutrition.com Whitefish-based Hammer Nutrition, an early pioneer in the state’s outdoor-business boomlet, set up shop in 1995 after founder Brian Frank, another California outdoorsman, moved to Montana seeking a better place to raise his family. The expanding company now has 35 employees creating all-natural fuel and supplements for endurance athletes, including its own line of energy bars. Aaron Teasdale
Boyz in the hoodie
by Aaron Teasdale
Beartooth Merino Wool Hoodie $110 • www.backpackinglight.com After being banished to the outdoor gear wilderness by the shimmering allure of synthetic fabrics for the last few decades, wool has made a triumphant comeback in explorers’ wardrobes. The reasons are many. Like synthetics, wool breathes well and insulates when wet, but it also offers a greater comfort range, delivering more warmth for its weight. Unlike petroleumbased synthetics, it’s also a renewable resource (thanks, sheep!). Lastly, and in sharp contrast to synthetic fabrics that seem to capture and magically amplify body odor, wool’s inherent anti-microbial properties keep it amazingly stink-free, even after several days of use. The value of this for activities like backpacking cannot be overstated, especially by your hiking partners. The ultralight gurus over at Bozeman-based Backpacking Light know a thing or two about functional garments, which is why they created the Beartooth Merino Wool Hoodie. Ryan Jordan and Alan Davis, both outdoor-loving engineers, launched the Web site Backpacking Light in 2001 to give intensely technical
reviews of lightweight backpacking products, and soon became some of the foremost authorities on lightweight gear and techniques. Their site also sells 150 products, 70 of them carrying the Backpacking Light brand, including titanium cookware, 3-ounce fly rods and clothes. The wool hoodie is Backpacking Light’s top-selling clothing item and it’s full of smart features to lighten your load. Thumb loops and a balaclava-style hood mean you can leave the gloves and hat at home in midsummer, or get by with lighter ones in shoulder seasons. The partial zipper vents well on warm days and, combined with the hood, offers excellent temperature regulation. For minimalists, this 8ounce shirt combined with a light shell might be all you need for lightweight summer trips. It’s also a fine base layer in colder temps. As you would expect for a $110 shirt, overall quality is high, with stout seams and edging, and ultra-smooth, itch-free 18.5-micron wool. It’s a technical top and looks it— this is not a piece you wear to look dapper around town— but for the savvy backcountry enthusiast, it might just be the perfect shirt. Note: besides the dizzyingly informative website, Backpacking Light also operates a wilderness trekking school with multiday courses on ultralight backpacking techniques.
Sole non-sacrifice Sawtooth Shoes • $100 www.obozfootwear.com If you’re making outdoor shoes in Montana, they’d better be tough and trail-worthy, especially if you’re putting a satellite image of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem on your shoeboxes. Fortunately, Oboz understands this. The company doesn’t make shoes for corporate meetings, subway rides or driving to the salon. It makes shoes for the great unpaved—from trail runners and multi-sport shoes to full-blown, waterproof hiking boots. And it makes them to be used hard. Oboz, whose name is an amalgam of “outside” and “Bozeman,” its home base, was started by Josh Fairchilds and John Connelly, outdoor-footwear veterans who once worked for the climbing shoe company Five Ten. The brand was unveiled in early 2008 and already sells at more than 150 retailers, including REI and Pipestone in Missoula. Perhaps the best allpurpose Oboz is the Sawtooth, a low-top hiking and cross-training shoe clearly meant to go places. When you slip your dogs in the Sawtooth the first thing you notice is the super-supportive sole—it’s beefy, plushly cushioned and clearly designed to eat up miles of trail. The footbed tilts forward, too, putting you into an active, ready-to-go stance. It’s clear the founders know something about traction. The proprietary rubber
on Sawtooth soles is ultragrippy, while the heavily lugged, triangulated tread pattern digs into soil at all angles for unbeatable purchase. The tread also wraps around the sides and heels of the shoe to help with sidehilling and scrambling. (It’s no surprise the shoe shares the same sole construction as some of Oboz’s hiking boots.) You can really feel the Sawtooth’s robust heel support. It cradles and holds your foot solidly in place when you’re hiking on uneven ground. For people who appreciate non-toe-mangling footwear, the wide forefoot is another nice touch, keeping the Sawtooth supremely comfortable on all-day treks. And Oboz puts in a legit insole instead of the skimpy foam wafers most companies use. No need to buy expensive, after-market footbeds— these shoes are good to go out of the box. In a final flourish, Oboz makes trees grow on money; for every pair of shoes sold, the firm plants a tree through a nonprofit eco-group. That’s not to say you can’t wear Sawtooths in the world of pavement. They’ll certainly keep your feet happy. And even if you won’t be getting into the hills that day, it just feels better knowing you could. If an opportunity presents itself, the Sawtooths will be up for the challenge.
Filling out the field
Quickly establishing itself as the center of the Montana gear universe, Bozeman hosts a constellation of additional gear companies. The welded-seam specialists at Pacific Outdoor Equipment (www.pacoutdoor.com) craft sleeping pads, dry bags, panniers and other assorted products. Carl Strong over at Strong Frames (www.strongframes.com) handcrafts steel and titanium cyclocross, mountain and road bikes. Backpack guru Dana Gleason and his company Mystery Ranch (www.mysteryranch.com) sell innovative backpacks and bags for recreationists, firefighters, and the military. Simms Fishing Products makes a full line of innovative waders, boots and other fishing attire (www.simmsfishing.com). Missoula is the home of Nargear (www.nargear.com), a young company specializing in rugged backpacks for firefighters and skiers. Up in Kalispell, there’s Counter Assault, whose canisters of grizzly-repelling spray have become fixtures on the hips of hikers everywhere (www.counterassault.com). Yet another noteworthy company, Boulder Creek Packs in Hamilton, sells durable wildland fire packs, gear bags, backpacks and hunting gear (www.bouldercreekpacks.com). The good news is that even when these companies grow fast, they’re staying true to the Montana outdoor-junkie ethos. As Oboz co-founder Josh Fairchilds puts it, “When there’s more than 6-to-8 inches of snow, the phones aren’t getting answered that morning.” That’s the kind of business we need more of in Montana. And if the last few years are any indication, they’re on their way.
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Spokes of Fortune CONTINUED FROM PAGE 21 “The first race of the season is all about seeing where you’re at, how your training stands up to the competition, and I felt really good,” he says of the third-place finish. “I was able to stick with the leaders, make a few moves of my own just to see how my legs held up, and I felt solid. I couldn’t have asked for a better start.” The biggest tests for Schultz will come later, when World Cup races in Belgium and Great Britain measure him once again against top international competition, including an Aug. 28 race in Windham, N.Y., the first such event on domestic soil since 2005. The July 15-18 Mountain Bike National Championships back in Granby, Colo., are also circled on Schultz’s calendar.
“With the way last year ended, I feel good about things,” he says. “I’m never really completely happy with my results— I always want to squeak out a little better finish—but looking back, I definitely have something to build on.” But first things first: Back in Tucson, Schultz had more pressing matters. The assistant chef needed to help his brother finish dinner, and a full slate of guests at The Cycling House needed to hear how, exactly, the world-class mountain biker acquired a bruised cheek and swollen nose. Holding court among hardcore fans and lifelong friends and family, the resident storyteller couldn’t have been more in his element. “He tells the story, and the whole time he’s smiling,” says Gue. “He gets attacked, and he’s laughing about it. With Sam, even when you get punched in the face, it can be a really good day—as long as you got your ride in.” Montana Headwall
Page 54 Summer 2010
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absence and solicitous of my health. They offer to abort the trip with me at the Ford Landing point, but I have the minimal presence of mind to realize that if we do that, I’ll just be sick as a dog in the back seat of a car for the next four hours, and then sick as a dog on a borrowed Missoula couch. If I’ve got to be sick as a dog, and apparently I do, I might as well do it out in the sun, on the water, letting gravity spin me home at its own pace. It does, and then we’re there. When we pull out of the water in the shadow of the first and last bridge of our trip, the way into Glacier, just down the dirt road from Polebridge, I feel almost human again. I feel the same way I always feel when I see that bridge come around the bend: like the trip is over too soon, like I wish it wouldn’t end. Even fogged and spent, I already know it’s not the crappy night in a tent that I’ll remember so much as another couple of blissful days on the water. Already I’m remembering that there are ultimately no bad days on the North Fork. I’ll be sick for another week, snotty, weak and hoarse, but I can’t see that from this sluicing rock bar where we’re stowing our gear for the drive home. I’m already too busy looking forward to next time. Montana Headwall
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The Crux CONTINUED FROM PAGE 58
gist. Certainty is an illusion. What seems apparent is, in fact, air. Itineraries get trashed, trails disappear. Hiking carries expectations because it has a public aspect—Here I am hiking!— while walking is private. Locale and mode of transport is beside the point. I’ve traversed the same expanse of highway—from my hometown of Cut Bank to Fort Peck—both hiking and walking. On the first trip I was hurrying. I was 19. I was to be the piano player at the Fort Peck Summer Theatre, a big job for me at the time, and our first rehearsal was that night. I drove for hours down the straight line of Highway 2, the high engine whine (my car would only go in third gear) matching the anxiety in my heart. On the repeat trip, 30 years later, I turned into every little town along the way, reaching back past that brief theater job to all the long summers of my childhood, a blur of meadowlarks and vacant
I was so tired near the trip’s end I was ready to puke. But I wanted to stay close to him and keep up the pace. He was going to college soon, and our relationship would be relegated to text messaging and Facebook, and while he might come home again, and even live at home, he would never live at home in the same way he had before We are by leaving. But I didn’t want to seem vulwilderness, is the . Certainty nerable or clingy or evoke the ravages of age and passage of time or is an . What seems go off on uncertainty or illusion. Who needs that when trying to sign is, in fact, air. up for classes? So I maintained a Itineraries get trashed, steady gait. I managed this by look. trails ing no further than five feet in front of me, the viewable space within the brim of my cap, pretending that the end of the trail was just beyond it. I subI went on a hike with my son. We mitted to the trip and let the idea of a hiked into Sperry Chalet from the east destination pull me. side, and then up to Sperry Glacier, and I finished the hike, and, sure then down to Lake McDonald. (Yes, we enough, a few weeks later, my son did have dinner and an overnight at the walked away. chalet, but that distracts from the story.) lots. I parked the car, got out, and just batted around in the wind, remembering. In the end, it is not a moral question. One thing leads to another. And sometimes, I will concede, you need to hike before you walk.
surrounded gist illusion apparent
Page 56 Summer 2010
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Page 57 Summer 2010
THE CRUX by Megan McNamer
Beyond the gaits The journey changes, depending on how you hoof it
here is a difference between hiking and walking and it has nothing to do with shoes. Hiking is canoeing a river, walking is paddling a lake. Hiking is boarding a flight, walking is hopping a train. Hiking is reading the damn book for your book club, walking is flipping through old diaries. There are action words associated with each. “Stride” has to do with hiking, while “amble” is for walks. “Depart?” Hikes. “Venture?” Walks. It has little to do with rigor and everything to do with stance. You can hike from here to the post office; you can walk to Khartoum. The difference lies in the idea—though not necessarily the actuality—of a destination. When we hike, we believe we are going somewhere, and along a delineated path. We place great faith in
the minutes and hours that divide up the celestially patterned events we call days. There is an estimated time of arrival. When we walk, our legs carry us over the face of the earth, but we exist in an arbitrary space with its own time. We ring a mental bell and the end of the walk is signaled by its last reverberation. My husband returned from a trip. It was to have several facets, mostly work, but also play, a reunion with old friends in Denver, a number of hotels, and one rental car. None of those things occurred, because god intervened with 23 inches of snow at the Denver airport, and my husband got stuck in Salt Lake. He was gone roughly four hours: one hour in flight, two hours fuming at an airport, one hour in return flight home, and
that was that. The trip didn’t happen because my husband, who gets nervous with air travel, thought the only option was to hike, when, in fact, he might as well have been out walking. Here’s what “out walking” would have meant: a night in the Peery Hotel in Salt Lake City, two books read, a reunion with different old friends, and then a belated segue back into the original trip, the one that was a hike, only now shorter. To me, this was an opportunity missed. But he was on the clock and there was work to be done. Off he marched, in a forward direction. I went for a walk after his return. I mused on our differences. I lectured in my head on a topic I’ve made up called pedestrian existentialism. We are surrounded by wilderness, is the Continued on page 56
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