MONTANA HEADWALL Volume 2.1 SPRING 2010
SPRING 2010 Complimentary
Photo courtesy of NRS
Crossing the Crazy Mountains takes skiers to the edge
FOOTSTEPS OF A FELON Chad Harder retraces the Mission Mountain traverse of a barefoot fugitive
A novice spearfisher gets three strikes
Cover photo by Yogesh Simpson
INSIDE On Belay
Grub 38 Fired up flavors
8 Head Trip 44
Head Lines 11 A new deal for timberland Missoula Marathon wins big Stimulus money gets parked
Head Light 22 Props for panoramas
Head Shots 24 Our readers’ best
Wild Things 36 Don’t eat pink snow
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF GENERAL MANAGER EDITOR PHOTO EDITOR ADVERTISING DIRECTOR PRODUCTION DIRECTOR CIRCULATION MANAGER CONTRIBUTORS COPY EDITOR ART DIRECTOR PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVES FRONT DESK
Please recycle this magazine
Matt Gibson Lynne Foland Amy Linn Chad Harder Peter Kearns Joe Weston Adrian Vatoussis
Matthew Frank, Skylar Browning Jason Wiener Kou Moua Jenn Stewart, Jonathan Marquis Carolyn Bartlett, Tami Johnson, Teal Kenny, Steven Kirst, Chris Melton, Sasha Perrin Lorie Rustvold 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.
Foray to Philipsburg
Head Out 48 Your spring recreation calendar
Head Gear 50 Survival essentials for adventurers
The Crux 58 Friendster-izing the wilderness is social notworking
WAITING TO IMPALE
16 30 40
CRAZED AND CONFUSED
ON BELAY www.mtheadwall.com
Bree Hogg finds her way up the Bishops Cap in Glacier National Park. Chad Harder
hen we launched Montana Headwall last spring, none of us involved had any meaningful experience with magazines, save for writing a few freelance stories for them. As media folk, we knew a thing or two about publishing, but the glossy terrain we hoped to roam might as well have been a white spot on a map. It didn’t really occur to me until recently how gamely our crew has advanced. Not to say that we’ve summited the Everest of periodical literature—we’re barely off the practice rock—but I’m really impressed by the collective “Yeah, we can do that” I’ve heard from all hands. We’re still learning, and hopefully you’re noticing the results. In particu-
lar, I think Headwall’s starting to look more polished. It’s like figuring out how to load your pack. Things work better when you organize them in a particular way, and that makes the trail pass more smoothly underfoot. You might also note that I’m slowly mastering the art of simile. Our adventure as magazine pros corresponds nicely with the attitude that we hope to inspire in our readers. Whatever topographical feature or open-air romp happens to capture your imagination, we encourage you to pursue it. If you’re entirely clueless about how to proceed, so much the better. To indulge our fascinations, to explore and learn, to eagerly embrace the riches that Big Sky country offers us, even if it means falling on our faces once in a while: that’s living the
good life as far as we’re concerned. And we hope all of you will partake. In this, our second spring issue, we’ve ventured high and low seeking the Headwall spirit. Chad Harder retraces a desperate fugitive’s middle-of-the-night trek across the Mission Mountains. Yogesh Simpson makes a treacherous ski traverse of the Crazies. Matthew Frank dives into Salmon Lake to take a stab at spearing some pike. And I eat a deepfried dill pickle in Philipsburg. Hey, I’ve got my ass on the line running the magazine, and a hot, battered, kosher spear is as big as I can go right now. But I had a ton of fun doing it, and you might too. Matt Gibson Editor-In-Chief
RA C KI NG U P VE RT
it’s not just for winter anymore
The Runaway Train [top photo] at Whiteﬁsh Mountain Resort is a seriously ﬁne piece of lift-ser viced freeride mountain biking. It’s one of a network of cross-countr y and downhill trails for all abilities that make Whiteﬁsh the per fect place to get some vertical this summer.
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We’ve also got Zip Line Tours that take you up to 50 mph and 300 feet off the ground, an Alpine Slide that’s addicting for adrenaline junkies and grandmas alike, the amazing Walk in the Treetops canopy tour, some of the best views in Montana, and an ice cold beer waiting for you at the top of the Danny On Hiking Trail. Don’t stay on ﬂat land this summer! We’re open late June through the end of September, and on-mountain lodging starts at
877- S K I - F I S H w w w. s k i w h i t e f i s h . c o m IIn n W H I T E F I S H , M O N TA N A
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Main Photo © Chuck Haney
Frank fell for Montana during a postcollege cross-country cycling trip, and shortly afterward moved to Missoula from his native western New York. He completed graduate school at the University of Montana and since then has been writing for a variety of publications, including the Missoula Independent, where he now works full time. When Frank’s not writing, he’s biking, hunting, fishing, snowboarding or hiking with his dog—except on Sundays in the fall, when he bellies up to the bar to cheer on his bumbling Buffalo Bills.
The author of Fodor’s Compass American Guide to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, Kevin’s articles and essays have appeared in publications like Outside magazine and High Country News. Find him embarrassing himself on the river this spring in a hot pink, third-hand playboat and tweeting about travel, adventure and culture at twitter.com/brianMT.
Despite an unexpected bout between a rock and a hard place last year (see On Belay, fall 2009) Harder, Headwall’s photo editor, continues stuffing the magazine with dynamic images of adventure. His photography appears in publications ranging from National Geographic Adventure and the Washington Post to Paddler. When not trying to one-up Aron Ralston or mountain-climbing fugitives (see “Footsteps of a Felon,” page 30), Harder has recently been spotted perusing second hand stores.
Simpson moved to Montana in 2001 to pursue postgraduate studies at the University of Bridger Bowl and went on to earn a master’s degree in photojournalism at the University of Montana in Missoula. After a stint as the photo editor at the Missoula Independent and then as the managing editor of The Molokai Dispatch in Hawaii, Simpson returned to Bozeman to be closer to big mountains and cold smoke.
Page 8 Spring 2010
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HEAD LINES www.mtheadwall.com The Nature Conservancy
A rare deal builds a wildlife corridor through former logging lands Twelve years ago, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks’ regional supervisor Mack Long eyed a prime swath of Plum Creek forestland—a vital corridor for itinerant critters—and started plotting ways for the state to buy it. Plum Creek Timber Co. had not yet morphed from a logging outfit into a real estate developer. Nor had the Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land launched the Montana Legacy Project to buy more than 300,000 of Plum Creek’s acres and transfer them to public and private hands for conservation. But Long, the supervisor for FWP’s western region, knew the Fish Creek drainage west of Alberton was in serious need of protection. This spring, after all those years of waiting, Long and an untold number of anglers, hunters and hikers are finally turning the vision into reality. As early as March, FWP is slated to close a $14 million deal to buy nearly 41,000 acres of the Fish Creek drainage from the Nature Conservancy and protect some 33,000 acres of it as a wildlife management area, with the rest potentially used for a park.
The purchase, which uses a mix of state park and federal wildlife conservation money, marks the first transfer of Legacy Project lands to the state. “Fish Creek has had a pretty rough life,” Long says. “It’s been heavily logged. It’s been burned. And in spite of all those things, it continues to function as one of the major connectivity corridors—connecting everything from Bob Marshall country over to the Mission Mountains, to Ninemile, to Fish Creek, into the proposed Great Burn wilderness area, and even down into the SelwayBitterroot Wilderness.” The landscape provides migration routes for Canada lynx, grizzly bears, wolverines and other rare carnivores. It holds important winter range for elk, deer and moose, and is home to abundant bird species, from great blue herons to peregrine falcons. It also encompasses Fish Creek and its tributaries—prime habitat for threatened species like bull trout. Chris Bryant, the Nature Conservancy’s outreach director in Western Montana, calls the watershed
the best bull trout-spawning habitat in the lower Clark Fork river system. “I have my own reasons for liking the drainage,” Bryant adds. “I can only tell you it involves huckleberries.” The park portion of the deal proposes to set aside 7,650 acres for what would become the second largest state park in Montana. Located between Alberton and Tarkio along I-90—and adjacent to the Alberton Gorge—the new Fish Creek State Park could offer everything from trails and biking to expanded campgrounds, cross-country skiing, and a campsite for horseback riders, according to FWP. Final plans for the park are expected to take three years to formulate, Long says, and will incorporate extensive public involvement. “We think we’ve worked out a solution that’s compatible to fish and wildlife,” he says. “And we need to work with the neighbors in that area to make sure that what gets built there is something that they’re comfortable and can live with.” Matthew Frank
Page 11 Spring 2010
Voted #1, a homegrown race makes it big When Runner’s World magazine this winter crowned the Missoula Marathon the best in America, local race organizers kicked off a whole new kind of endurance challenge. Call it a planning and promotion marathon. “We were told that after winning that honor, races can get three to five times bigger,” says Missoula Marathon race director Jennifer Straughan. “So we’re preparing for everything we’d need if we had 10,000 people.” At that size, the friendly, grassroots race—an event that debuted just three years ago with 1,200 people—would outrank the nation’s ninth largest marathon, the Medtronic Twin Cities in Minneapolis (7,979). Along with the potential multitudes, of course, comes potential risk. If 10,000 pavement-pounders don’t show up, Run Wild Missoula—the nonprofit captain of the event—will have wasted a lot of money and time. But if hordes arrive and preparation is lacking, Missoula
will be clogged with grumpy runners. And clogged, period. The annual 1K-5K-10K YMCA Riverbank Run, for example, draws about 3,000 people and shuts down a few streets for a few hours. The 26.2mile July 11 marathon, by comparison, will send herds of runners down more than 25 streets from Frenchtown to Missoula for 7.5 hours or more—ending on what will presumably be a jampacked downtown Higgins Avenue. “To a certain extent, we’re working on a tightrope,” acknowledges Straughan. But thanks to “an awesome crew” of about 50 volunteers and staffers, the group has won cooperation at every level, from city officials and traffic enforcement to the state Department of Transportation, she says. In recent weeks the organizers have been nailing down details for everything from first-aid stations and food to portapotties and, of course, post-race beer
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(Big Sky Brewery’s Moose Drool will be flowing). The race also got an unexpected boost from late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon. In February, Fallon’s show offered free entry in the Missoula Marathon as a prize in “cell phone shootout,” a segment in which audience members go on stage and snap cellphone photos of logos and quirky items flashing by on a screen. Marathon organizers, meanwhile, capitalized on the “best marathon” title—awarded by Runner’s World readers and published in the January issue—by buying “thank you” ads in the magazine. “It’s now or never,” says Anders Brooker, who owns the Runner’s Edge specialty store and helps direct Run Wild Missoula. “We want to be a marathon with a small-town feeling, but we also want to be an event that brings money and people to Missoula.” Amy Linn
Ernst Visscher (lying), Joel Shanight (kneeling) and Garth Scott (skiing), all of the Montana National Guard biathlon team, complete their first shooting series at the Seeley Lake Biathlon. Hugely popular in Europe, biathlon combines the endurance of skiing with marksmanship, challenging competitors to control their heart rates enough to shoot straight.
Page 13 Spring 2010
The Tracker Glacier National Park in its 100th year
10 Percentage of Grinnell Glacier remaining, compared to its acreage in 1910
27 Number of glaciers in the park today
150 Number of glaciers in the park in 1850
10-20 Years remaining to witness the last of the parkâ€™s namesakes, according to government climate models
51 Percentage of American adults in December 2009 saying they believe greenhouse gases warm the planet, down from 71 percent in 2007
2 million Average number of park visitors annually
Sources: U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, Harris Interactive Poll
Page 14 Spring 2010
Federal dollars get parked all over Montana Out of the millions of federal stimulus dollars poured into Montana, Gov. Brian Schweitzer recently took aim at $50,000 intended for resurfacing a public tennis court in Bozeman as a laughable misuse of funds. Mayor Jeff Krauss was quick to defend the plan, pointing out that stimulus money was being used to finance a variety of other outdoor recreation projects statewide. Here’s a look at where some of the funds are indeed being put into play in Montana’s forests, streams and cities. The Kootenai National Forest will get 10 new employees and will hire an additional five to eight people on a Montana Conservation Corps crew this summer to help reconstruct and clear trails in the backcountry. The forest received $1 million in stimulus funds for the trail work, which also involves rebuilding five bridges.
The St. Louis Mine Reclamation project was allocated $300,000 to keep heavy metals from leaching into Missoula County’s Ninemile watershed. Trout Unlimited is helping with the project and hopes to inspire similar efforts from conservation-minded hook-setters around Montana.
If all goes according to plan, Missoula youngsters will have four new playgrounds to romp on this summer. The state legislature allocated $380,000 for a project to revamp three playgrounds and construct a new one with design input from the community.
Bitterroot National Forest snagged $1.8 million to upgrade some of its most heavily used recreation sites. The money will be spent reconstructing trails and trailheads, rehabbing campgrounds and putting in a boat dock at Como Lake. Kyle Lehman
Page 15 Spring 2010
STORY AND PHOTOS BY YOGESH SIMPSON
’m only a few steps from cresting the ridge before it occurs to me that this route might not go. The duckbills of my tele-boots pluck blocky boulders the color of burnt toast from the crumbling ramparts as I scramble up to peer into the next drainage. Just 1,000 feet below sits Pear Lake, our destination for the night, and across the valley looms our goal for tomorrow, Crazy Peak. But just beyond my boots, what I foolishly assumed from looking at the map would be a steep snowfield leading down to Pear Lake is actually a 150-foot vertical cliff face. It’s 4 p.m., clouds are gathering in all directions, and my plan has gone to shit. I look over to where my ski partner of an old pickup, and Ryan stops our rig. The Crazy Mountains dominate the horiRyan Shaffer is reaching the ridge a couWe hop out to get a look at the deceased zon across the Shields River to the east, ple hundred feet to the south, and holler bruin splayed on a pile of snow in the bed. the highest peaks hidden by the morning out the bad news: “It doesn’t go!” “Is that a grizzly?” I ask the triclouds they’ve snagged. And I’m thinkIt’s day two of a three-day traverse umphant hunter walking toward us. I ing about the 50-foot length of cord and of the Crazy Mountains, northeast of notice the name Dale Livingston. We’d planned embroidered on his blue the trip after a successful mechanic’s shirt traverse in the Mission It to be surrounded by “Nope. That’s a cinnaMountains the previous mon black bear. I call him spring convinced us we and to have day Big Red. He’ll make the should ski across a new record books for sure,” he range every year. When it one without a single says. came time to pick the next Dale goes on to tell us, destination, I had just spent and several passing towns, madwoman or . folk, how he’s been hunting a day skiing on the west side of the Crazies and still this particular specimen for hadn’t collected my jaw three years and how the bear probably bear spray I jettisoned from my pack from the ground after glimpsing the weighs around 400 pounds. One of the before leaving the house that morning. endless steep couloirs awaiting in the passersby suggests that Dale take his “Probably no grizzers,” Ryan rugged range. fresh kill to Bozeman to “show all them hypothesizes. Isolated and imposing, the Crazies sandal slappers” (apparently synonyA few minutes later, pulling out of the rise over 6,000 feet above the gas station in Clyde Park, we notice a large, mous with tree huggers). The size of Yellowstone River Valley, and receive Dale’s trophy and his accounts of fuzzy brown ear protruding above the bed scant attention from skiers and hikers. Our route measures a mere 15 miles from east to west as the crow flies, but includes climbs of the two highest peaks in the range and steep, unfamiliar terrain that I obviously underestimated. “How’s it look over there?” I shout to Ryan, even though I know the answer. I can see that in his direction the headwall only gets more precipitous and intimidating. There’s got to be a way down from here, I tell myself. Hopefully it’s not too insane.
feels good big peaks survived encountering bear extraterrestrial
DAY ONE “Are there bears in the Crazies?” I pose the question to Ryan as we bounce down Brackett Creek Road from Bozeman toward the town of Clyde Park.
grizzly sightings send us scurrying in our Chacos to the hardware store for food-hanging rope, despite the fact that we plan to camp above the tree line for the next two nights. If nothing else, the potential for encountering a large predator in the Crazies adds to the allure and general air of mystery implied by the name. “The Crazy Mountains are so different and so peculiar,” says the venerable Roadside Geology of Montana, “that a frustrated geologist might have named them.” It’s more likely, though, that the name comes from the region’s original inhabitants. The Crow Indians called them the Mad Mountains for their spiri-
Rock Lake at the base of Iddings Peak. Our plan is to climb the north face of Iddings in the morning and then ski back to camp before packing up and continuing east up and over the pass due north of Iddings to our second camp at Pear Lake. From there we intend to climb the west ridge of Crazy Peak and ski off the north aspect down to the Big Timber Creek trailhead, where my truck is parked. Deep snow still blankets the Rock Lake basin, and ice covers the lake, but we find a rocky bench with an exposed trickle of snowmelt. The wind rips out of the east as we dig a tent platform in the rotten snow and cook dinner in the
tual power, and legends tell of chiefs and elders seeking guidance from the spirits on their highest peaks. A bartender at the Clyde Park Tavern (who identifies herself as VickiVicki-Can’t-Forget-Me) recites another popular naming story for us—that of a white homesteader woman whose family was attacked and slain by Indians. She was so enraged, the legend goes, that she killed the attackers and lived out the rest of her days in the mountains, insane and alone. The story, which appears in the 1960s Vardis Fisher novel Mountain Man, is loosely based on the life of a real character, but the tale is hardly definitive. Vicki also informs us that the Crazies are a hub for UFO traffic. The late-season snowpack, meanwhile, allows us to drive within a mile of the Cottonwood Creek trailhead, where our climbing begins. Five miles and 3,000 vertical feet of mostly easy skinning gets us to our first camp above
lee of the outcropping. It feels good to be surrounded by big peaks and to have survived day one without encountering a single bear, madwoman or extraterrestrial.
DAY TWO I’m only half asleep when my wristwatch alarm goes off at 5 a.m. The thermometer reads 36 degrees. My inflatable sleeping pad has leaked air all night and the now unfrozen snow under the tent has long since soaked through to my down bag. No more than 30 minutes ago I’d awakened to the sound of rain hitting the fly. Neither of us is scrambling to get out of the tent. Indecision plagues our morning as Ryan and I watch menacing, rain-laden clouds move across our patch of sky. Over breakfast and coffee we indulge in some epically circular speculation on the variables affecting the snow conditions and the potential of a particularly entic-
Page 19 Spring 2010
ing couloir bisecting an unnamed peak on the other side of Rock Lake to the north. It’s almost 8 a.m. by the time we decide to adhere to the original plan and boot-pack up one of a half-dozen 2,000-foot lines that rake the north face of Iddings Peak like angry claw marks. The weather improves, the snow is firm, and we make good time to the long, exposed ridge that climbs toward the summit. Once on the crest, we locate the entrance to the most continuous and enticing chute to ski back down to camp. Then we continue up the final pitch to get a look at the peak, alternately kicking steps in soft snow and scrambling on loose rock. Iddings lies at the heart of the range and its apex rewards us with staggering views of enough ski lines for many lifetimes. From the top we also get our first look into the Pear Lake basin, our objective for the afternoon. The pass to the north of Iddings looks surprisingly
sheer, but there’s a cornice visible that implies a ski descent, and we don’t think any more of it. We head back down the ridge to the chute, gear up and drop into Rock Lake basin for lunch. The ski off Iddings is glorious: long, steep and aesthetic. The middle 1,000 feet is perfect corn, and our spirits are high as we slide into camp. We take our time eating, drying gear and packing up. The sun that was so welcome earlier in the day eventually punishes us on the slog up the steep bowl to the pass leading to the Pear Lake basin.
Page 20 Spring 2010
When I arrive at the saddle first, my heart drops. The corniced patch of snow we spotted hours earlier disappears just a few feet down, where the rock wall steepens to vertical. It’s immediately clear that we won’t be descending through this pass, and the realization isn’t as crushing as it is embarrassing. After yelling out the news, I’m thankful that Ryan is far enough away that I can’t hear him cursing my route planning. Picking his way up the ridge back toward Iddings, Ryan looks for a way through the headwall to the snowfield below, but finds nothing. We reconvene on the next high point to the north, hoping to down-climb an eastern ridge, but that proves to be too exposed to negotiate in our ski boots with cumbersome packs. We spend over an hour on a thirdclass traverse of the ridge to the north— the loose rocks looking for any excuse to give in to gravity. Our progress is painfully slow. The sound of goats peri-
odically unleashing cascades of rock in the distance punctuates our flailing. Towering clouds crowd the sky, and we decide to cut our losses and head back to our first camp. Out above the Shields River Valley, the lowering light of the evening sun illuminates golden veils of rain.
DAY THREE When the 5 a.m. alarm sounds this time, we’re both compelled by the looming sense of the unknown to get out of the tent and make the most of our daylight. We’ve given up on summiting Crazy Peak and our plan today is to boot-pack back up to the west ridge of Iddings, cross the top of one alpine basin and descend through a pass into Smeller Lake basin. From there, the route between Smeller Lake and Pear Lake looks only moderately steep on the map. The preceding pass into Smeller Lake, however, is a big question mark, and the map contours look disconcertingly like the ones on our failed route yesterday—as close together as they can be without touching. Following our tracks from the previous morning, our packs now laden with all our gear, we find the snow has softened significantly. For most of the climb we’re sinking past our boot tops with every step. When we finally gain the ridge, we resist the urge to congratulate ourselves. My truck still sits three drainages away and after yesterday it’s hard to be confident about another route we haven’t seen. We climb for a few minutes before strapping on our skis to begin our traverse to the pass en route to Smeller. The afternoon thunderstorms, however, are not waiting for afternoon. It’s only 11:30 a.m., and nearby peaks are disappearing in the clouds when we realize our only option for descending the pass is outside both our comfort zones: about 75 feet of 45-degree snowfield before it rolls over to vertical rock. I do a little recon and see that if we can get to the bottom of the snowfield there’s a diagonal gully that cuts through the cliff face. Releasing a wet slide over the headwall is inevitable. The gully is questionable. But this is our only choice if we don’t want to spend a wet, hungry night in the backcountry. I go first and make a fast ski cut across the snowfield. I can hear the top few inches of the wet, heavy snow release behind me Continued on page 54
HEAD LIGHT by Chad Harder
Loaded question Are photo props worth the weight? Packing for backcountry travel is a well-considered balancing act: you must be prepared, but can’t let crushing loads undermine your chances of success. For most of us, the list of “must-haves” starts short, but grows with every broken derailleur, busted binding and pad-less night we endure away from home. Photographers have it even worse, tempted by extra lenses, lights and various other burdens that aren’t heavy at all ... until you’ve lugged them six miles into the mountains. Why bother? Gallery-quality panoramas of alpine wildflower splendor require maximum depth of field—and slower shutter speeds—to get both the flowers and the mountains razor sharp. Slower shutter speeds, however, can cause camera blur. Image stabilization helps, but has real limits. Therefore, some shooters lug along a tripod—emphasis on the word lug. I find tripods heavy, clumsy and rarely worth their weight and price (some carbon fiber models cost hundreds of dollars). But if I can catch the annual carpeting of Indian paintbrush in Glacier National Park’s hanging meadows, I’ll bite the bullet and strap on the sticks. Less convenient but cheaper substitutes involve using whatever you can—a stuff-sack packed with snow, a quickly constructed cairn, the top of your pack—to prop up your camera. Take it to the next level by using your camera’s timer to assure steadiness. Lastly, bring extra memory cards and shoot each shot multiple times if you sense you’ve found a winning image—then sort out the sharpest when you get back home.
Page 23 Spring 2010
HEAD SHOTS www.mtheadwall.com
The notorious north face of Mount Cleveland—Glacier National Park’s highest—towers above the peak’s namesake creek. Jake Hanson
HEAD SHOTS www.mtheadwall.com A mountain goat in Glacier National Park fixes an eye on photographer Matt Tipton. Matt Tipton
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Page 27 Spring 2010
HEAD SHOTS www.mtheadwall.com 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, the names of all people shown and the technical beta like shutter speed and aperture. We’ll take it from there. Now get outside and start shooting.
Ski patrolman Tim Crawford photographs himself while chuting the trees at Great Divide Ski Area. Tim Crawford
Following the fugitive
Completely naked except for his jeans, Kelly A. Frank emerged from a thicket of deadfall and limped barefoot along an abandoned logging road. Slinking unseen across relentlessly rugged country, a tangle of logging debris and rocks shredding his feet, he climbed out of the Swan Valley and up the eastern flank of the Mission Mountains. If he’d stopped to rest that warm June day, on this or any of the slope’s logging roads, he would have had a bird’s-eye view of the commotion left in his wake, a gathering of serious, wellarmed men that materialized in a few short hours. From four or so miles away, he probably wouldn’t have noticed the man-tracking K-9 units and dozens of state, county and local law enforcement officers knocking on doors, setting up roadblocks and scouring the valley to find him. But he could not have missed the hovering Homeland Security helicopter, its infrared tracking devices scanning the dense forest. As the sun’s last rays blinked out in the west, officers put their heads together under the bright canopy of a hastily assembled command center, trying to anticipate the escaped convict’s next move. While they pored over maps and reports and investigated possible leads, Frank beelined in the opposite direction, up over the high crest of the Missions, padding his way across a wild country teeming with grizzly bears, in
Kelly Frank’s 2007 feat might very well be the most audacious barefoot mountaineering adventure in Montana since John Colter’s legendary run in 1809, when a charitable Blackfeet warrior stripped him of all his clothing and gave him a head start before the tribe gave chase. Like Colter, Frank faced dismal odds—he was unarmed, outnumbered and desperately alone. Could he even have known what he was in for? Did he envision 10 treacherous miles of travel when he bolted? Was he fearful of grizzlies in the darkness, or did tangling with wildlife pale in comparison to the horrors of prison? Did he pause to rest his ravaged feet, or just keep moving? Did he even have a plan? With Frank serving a 10-year sentence in Montana State Prison—and unwilling to talk—these questions gnawed at me until last summer, when I realized I could try to answer them myself. I could head north and follow in his footsteps. I’d go at night and attempt to recreate Frank’s route, but my adventure would be less difficult, and (I hoped) less painful. I’d pack a map, compass, a light and food. I’d wear shoes and carry bear spray. I’d also give myself a big advantage that Frank didn’t have: a destination, in the form of a car stashed above Flathead Lake. I analyzed the terrain and considered how a fugitive might find his way up and over the range in a single night. I made a few assumptions about how a barefoot traveler would choose routes: on paths of least resistance whenever possible, hesitating to leave flat(ter) logging roads for steep(er) hillsides, and taking the shortest, most direct routes possible. The topography here comes together like a funnel, drawing anyone ascending any of the three drainages into a common saddle. A westbound traveler would likely pass through there, and I made the saddle a midway destination.
Kelly A. Frank the dark, and with a Blackhawk helicopter hot on his shoeless ass. Clearly, Frank’s outlook was grim. Even if he still had skin on his feet when he reached the shores of Flathead Lake on the other side, he’d only gain a short lead on his pursuers. He’d have no place to go, no safe house, no getaway car, no waiting cache of food or money or even a shirt to tide him over until the heat died down. But whatever dangers lay in that black forest, they were apparently more attractive than the confines he’d known in the state pen at Deer Lodge. And so he continued, past the sharp rocks and clawing thickets that must have slashed his flesh at every step. He’d already come a long way against impossible odds. Maybe he thought he could beat them.
Unlike the spectacular, soaring panoramas defining the southern Missions, the northern part of the range has more subtle features. There are few rocky outcrops, cliffs or promontories, and few mountain lakes to attract backpackers, anglers or climbers—and instead just dense, nondescript forests squared-off by decades of heavy logging. With the impressive Swan Range luring adventurers to the valley’s more photogenic side, few humans, other than firewood cutters or the occasional hunter, ever find themselves in the northern Missions. In his urgency, Frank had stumbled into the middle of nowhere. I wanted to follow. So at 6 p.m., on June 12, 2009, exactly two years to the day after Frank put up his unprecedented route, I attempted the same. I skipped the trespassing portion at lower elevations and parked at a gated logging road at the base of the mountains. I slipped on my pack and began climbing straight up, toward the sun through the thick timber.
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Even before attempting his remarkable escape across the Missions, Frank had established himself as someone unafraid to go big. Placed within the context of a spectacular criminal career, a barefoot chase across the Missions amounted to little more than a footnote. His first turn in the spotlight came in 2005 after scoring a gig painting a house on David Letterman’s ranch outside of Choteau. Already convicted for intimidating and stalking an exgirlfriend—she claims that he also kidnapped and raped her—Frank allegedly hatched a plan to kidnap the talk show host’s 16-month-old son
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Harry, along with his nanny, for a $5 million ransom. During the course of the painting project, Frank, then 43, managed to filch a key to the Letterman house. But court documents show his plot was foiled when an acquaintance learned about the alleged scheme and turned him in. Authorities eventually dropped the kidnapping charge in exchange for a guilty plea on a
Attorney Joe Coble told reporters at the time.
Jailbreak The first two years in the can went by without incident for Frank. By the summer of 2007, the 45-year-old had earned a spot working in a prison rehabilitation program. The years of good behavior had scored him
detection and frustrating authorities until four days later when the stolen vehicle was spotted at a trailhead outside of Swan Lake. Immediately, the Department of Corrections deployed its SWAT team to the valley, soon joined by local, state and federal agents converging on the scene. That evening, two U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers spotted Frank and Willcutt washing in a creek just
Left to right: Looking for game trails beneath the Mission Mountain crest; Kelly Frank leaves court in 2005 following felony convictions related to his work for David Letterman; the Swan River. south of Swan Lake. The fugitives fled in felony charge for overcharging Letterman an outside-the-fence assignment, driving a opposite directions, with Frank barely on the paint job. Topped off with a truck on the prison ranch. With a troublehaving time to pull on his jeans and misdemeanor count of lying to an FBI free record and a parole hearing coming up Willcutt sporting only underwear. agent, plus a poaching violation, the plea in three months, Frank would hardly have Officers found no weapons, but did find bargain sent Frank to the Montana State been considered a flight risk. But sometime Prison in Deer Lodge for a decade. on the sunny afternoon of Friday, the eighth an inhaler for asthma and camping supplies, as well as an address Even the poaching offense book containing Willcutt’s underscores Frank’s heedless name, confirming the bathers’ appetite for the big score. While Frank up over the identities. executing the search warrant Missing the breath-giving issued during the kidnapping of the medication in his inhaler and probe, agents found a massive trophy buck hanging on , padding nearly naked, Willcutt wouldn’t get far. But Frank, seeing those Frank’s wall. The mount turned wild mountains rising on the out to be the biggest mule deer his way across a valley’s west side, snuck across ever killed in Montana, besting Highway 83 and the broad the previous record with a rack teeming with bears, in the Swan River floodplain through that scored 207-7/8 on the a checkerboard of public and Boone and Crockett scoring , and with a private property and ascended system. Based on a tip, agents into the Missions. Pulling off an charged Frank with poaching all-but-impossible mountain the animal on the Letterman helicopter hot on his ass. crossing might buy him some Ranch, but after Frank’s time, the barefoot fugitive must vigorous denials, prosecutors have hoped. eventually settled on “possession of an of June, he and convicted burglar William But whatever Frank was thinking, illegally taken game trophy animal,” also Willcutt, 22, jumped in the prison’s old he’s not saying, at least not to Headwall. a felony. spray truck and hit the gas. In researching this story, repeated Frank’s odd sentence—10 years for They hightailed it down the road and attempts to contact Frank via mail overcharging on a paint job—has been through town before abandoning the went unanswered. Eventually, after widely questioned on Internet forums, telltale rig and stealing another from a discussions with prison information but it’s something the prosecutor quickly quiet house in Anaconda, along with officer Linda Moodry, I confirmed that shrugged off. guns, ammo and supplies. Frank had received my “Kelly Frank needed to go to prison. Now considered armed and correspondence. This gets that done,” Teton County dangerous, the escapees laid low, evading
beelined high crest Mission Mountains wild country grizzly dark Blackhawk shoeless
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“He got your letters,” Moodry told me over the phone, “but he doesn’t see how talking with you would help his case. So he’s not going to respond.”
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Page 34 Spring 2010
The route up the east face of the Missions is more or less a sweaty and unremarkable bushwhack through alternating sections of replanted clear cuts. A drab, sometimes creepy understory hides downfall ready to rake the hide off even seasoned soles. I’m wearing footwear and it’s tedious; moving through here barefoot would require heroic determination. I push on, exploiting every game trail and logging road that breaks up the darkening, dismal monotony. Just over a week remains before the year’s longest day, and with a faint glow still warming the sky to the west, I don’t need my headlamp until I reach the range’s spine—my midway destination—a little after 10 p.m. Flipping on my beam, I notice a solitary patch of snow hiding beneath pine needles and wonder if it would have comforted Frank’s ruined feet. Either way it would have provided his first water since the Swan River and his last before Flathead Lake. I chug on my Camelback and scan the horizon for anything recognizable, like a road or a ridge. I can identify nothing. Night comes on strong, bringing with it renewed fears of losing my way in the forested maze. Bears jump out from behind distant stumps, willows become crouching fugitives. I do not go quietly. Sensing the need to clear my mind, I take a compass reading and again start moving just south of west. I push through more foliage and in a few steps emerge onto an overgrown two-track that would lead to a junction, and another, and others after that. Presumably, somewhere down
I’ve been walking for about 10 hours. The With no leads yet to follow, officers road lies my car, its stash of comforts and purple pre-dawn sun is already touching began a stakeout, but called it off when my sleeping bag. the eastern sky. My headlamp is the two felons were spotted bathing on Locating the road brings confidence, dimming and nearly worthless. So am I. the other side of the range on June 12. and I no longer feel rushed. I sit down, lie My feet ache, but I’m careful to avoid Shortly before noon the next day, a back on the hardpan and conjure Frank. complaining. I shake out my bag in the Lake County undersheriff was driving Without shoes, the road would have been grass next to my car, toast my success from Polson to the Swan Valley to aid in both godsend and curse—mellower going and push Frank out of my mind. I soon the search. On a whim he swung by than the tangled east side, but every crash into the deep sleep of a free man. Willcutt’s uncle’s cabin by Highway 35. pebbly step leading closer to a civilized After sitting quietly in his car and seeing world hell-bent on locking him up. nothing unusual, the officer Frank would have passed by was about to leave when he here in the same darkness, Already for intimidating heard glass breaking. He gauging his situation, without turned to see a shirtless man any reasonable options in any closing a broken window from direction. His tortured feet would and an ex-girlfriend, inside an adjacent cabin. The steer him toward the easiest path, this road, down to the lake and Frank allegedly hatched a plan to officer radioed for backup, and soon Frank was in custody. directly past the spot where my Hours later, Willcutt was car waited. I can’t imagine his David Letterman’s busted without incident after anxiety, and then realize I don’t slipping into a house on the want to: I’m not interested in son, for a other side of the mountains, channeling a convicted stalker just a short distance from his and alleged would-be kidnapper. ransom. bath. Separate vehicles I shudder, imagining myself transported both men back to asleep in my Subaru and waking Deer Lodge. Frank’s feet were to the sound of breaking glass, a too raw to walk, so the warden had him desperate fugitive outside who’d stop at Nowhere to run transferred to maximum security in the nothing to get a ride. A flashy jailbreak. Stolen guns. Six prison version of a golf cart. Frank and I dig out my map again and attempt days on the lam. As incredible as their Willcutt each pleaded guilty to escape and to get oriented. With a weak moon recess was, the ending of the odyssey received 10 additional years on their offering no clues, I just can’t match the for Frank and Willcutt would prove sentences. labyrinth of logging roads on this piece mercifully dull. Frank has not stopped going for it. Last of paper to the dark monotony before Willcutt in his younger days had May he appealed his escape charge to the me. I again make assumptions and press enjoyed vacationing at his uncle’s cabin Montana Supreme Court, citing six issues. forward west and south. I make multiple on Flathead Lake. When the uncle heard The court shot all of them down, and he wrong turns at unmarked junctions and that his nephew had escaped from the continues to serve his time in state prison. add hours of demoralizing backtracking state pen, he warned authorities that the He’s next up for parole in May 2011. to the trip. When I finally reach my car, fugitive might seek refuge at the cabin.
16-month-old $5 million
Map by Kou Moua; satellite images courtesy of NASA
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WILD THINGS by Andy Smetanka
It’s not just the yellow stuff you shouldn’t eat.
s we all know (and are occasionally reminded by friends who quote from their extensive Zappa collections): You don’t want to eat yellow snow. But how about the pink stuff? Have you ever seen a pink-streaked snowfield, perhaps even tromped across it and found your boot soles and pants legs stained the same vivid color? Looks like a giant watermelon Sno-Kone. Kinda smells like one, too! Dare you take a lick? “Watermelon snow” at high altitudes has puzzled human observers since antiquity. The first known mention of it appears in the writing of Aristotle, although it would take another two millennia or so for naturalists to agree on what caused the vivid pink color. The next big development after Aristotle came in May 1818, when a
British explorer grabbed a few handfuls of icy snow from a corner of Greenland and brought it home to England for laboratory analysis. En route, the snow melted into a port-hued “liquor” with a mysterious sediment. Academic investigators were correct about the sediment being “of an animal or vegetable nature,” but wrong about what caused the red color. Meteoric iron dust was their best guess, and a pretty good one, but nope. We now know watermelon snow is caused by a type of green algae called Chlamydomonas nivalis that occurs chiefly, though not exclusively, in alpine areas with year-round deposits of dense, icy snow. The red color comes from a carotenoid pigment (similar to what colors tomatoes, and what flamingos get from shellfish) in the algae,
which protects it from solar radiation. The pigment also absorbs heat, providing the algae with drinking water from melted snow. Walking on watermelon snow compacts and ruptures the algae’s globular, pigment-filled cells to make pulpy red footprints. So can you eat it? Watermelon snow has been reported to cause diarrhea, which could spell trouble in remote high country. But those tummy woes could also come down to the other ingredients in this inviting pink slushie: protozoans, ice worms and springtails that feed on the algae. Ice worms. Now there’s a tale for another day. In the meantime, add pink to your list of snow colors to avoid eating. Buy a granita latte or something on your way home from the mountains, instead. Or a regular old Sno-Kone.
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GRUB by Ari LeVaux
I never thought much about the expression “chewing the fat” until I shared a meal with some mochileros at a campsite in Argentina. Mochileros are Argentine travelers who live out of their backpacks and prowl the backcountry and its gateway communities. By night they can usually be found around a fire, passing around the yerba maté and perhaps a guitar while meat cooks over the coals. When the meat is done, wine replaces the maté, and feasting ensues. One starry night after the meat ran out, I found myself gnawing on a bone. Attached to the bone were pieces of fat and connective tissue and whatnot, and the morsels gave up flavor as I chewed, interacting pleasantly with sips of red wine. It occurred to me that language evolved in ancient scenes like this, as our ancestors sat around the fire, chewing the fat and working on their communication skills. It’s possible that fire did more for the brain than stimulate language development. As Harvard University’s Richard Wrangham, a biological anthropologist, tells it, “Cooking produces soft, energy-rich foods.” Over the eons, this allowed us to extract food energy more efficiently. We spent fewer calories on digestion, leaving a higher margin of caloric recovery, which allowed our brain—the most energy-intensive organ we have—to get big. Though fire was the original stove, today’s cooks have largely left it behind. And as we’ve lost fire, we’ve lost touch with the feelings and flavors it brings. But fire remains available, like a genie in a bottle that can be conjured anywhere, anytime. When we call on it, the very experience of tending the hot coals brings us to an archetypal place, and the flavors it brings to the table sweeten the deal. “The right amount of burning or charring can be delicious and seductive,” Argentine chef Francis Mallmann writes in his book Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way. “A burnt tomato, for example, has a dark crust bordering on bitter, while the inside is soft and gentle in texture and taste.”
The choice of wood makes a big difference in the outcome. In general, hardwoods (non-evergreens) are best for cooking. Apple, perhaps the king of hardwoods, burns hot without too much flame, and has sweet smoke. Cherry is another good bet. Alder burns quicker and with less heat, but has good flavor. Cedar, a softwood, burns well and has a soulful smell. If you’re camping, of course, you can’t be too picky: just use wood that’s driest. But if you’re in Montana, keep your eyes open for mountain ash, a fine one for cooking. Once you’re properly fired up, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a mouth-watering steak, Argentinestyle. Salt the (room temperature) meat, and oil or rub fat on the grill. Grill an inch-and-a-half-thick steak for five minutes, then lift the edge and check the sear marks. They should be visible, but not charred. Rotate the meat 90 degrees to make a crosshatch pattern and prevent overburning. Leave the steak for four more minutes, then flip it and again turn it 90 degrees after five minutes. After that, the steak will need another two minutes to be medium rare. (Dish-claimer: Results can vary, and thinner pieces of meat, hotter coals and grills closer to heat will cook your meat faster.) For a finishing touch, here’s a recipe for chimichurri, an Argentine steak sauce, adapted from Mallmann’s book: Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a Morgen Lanning small saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon coarse salt; stir until it dissolves. Remove from heat, allow to cool. A little charring can make a dish more Mince a head of garlic very finely; put interesting; so can a bit of smoke. But there’s in medium bowl. Mince 1 cup fresh parsley a delicate balance. Too much charring or and 1 cup fresh oregano; add to garlic, smoke, and that’s all you taste—not to menalong with 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper tion the extra carcinogens. Flame flavors flakes. Whisk in 1/4 cup red wine vinegar should add to the dish without upstaging it. and 1/2 cup olive oil. Whisk in the salt One common rookie maneuver, water. Refrigerate. whether you’re in the backyard or the Prepare the sauce at least one day in wilds, is to grill over a wood fire that hasn’t advance, so the flavors can blend. If you burned down to coals. This makes the take chimichurri camping, it will last as smoke very strong and exposes your food long as any meat you’d bring along. to licking flames that will likely over-char it. With luck, you’ll be able to savor some A rule of thumb is to start the fire about nice pieces of fat on your steak, with a good an hour before cooking. After coals form, red wine on hand. As you chew by the spread them evenly under a grill grate warm glow of the coals, prepare for the harplaced three to four inches above them. Let monic dissonance between the ancient, prithe coals cover over with a thin white layer mal act of cooking flesh by fire and the of ash before you throw on the food. You refined pleasures of wine and sauce. And should be able to hold your hand over the company, be it of the primal or sophisticatgrill for about two seconds before the heat ed variety, is always appreciated. forces it away.
Lower Rock Creek
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HEAD TRIP by Matthew Frank Michael Schweizer
Waiting to impale A novice spearfisher strikes for pike and glory
ichael Schweizer, clutching a long fluorescent spear in one hand and snorkel gear in the other, walks along the shore of Salmon Lake and boils down his fixation on spearfishing to this: “It’s like fly-fishing—but not boring.” I carry a spear, too, which, even out of the water, I find endows a certain primal potency. I accept his derision of flyfishing—sacrilege, here in Montana—with a nod. But this will be my first try, and if my spear were to reflect my confidence in actually sticking a northern pike today, it Montana Headwall
would sag in my hand like a rope. Schweizer and I arrive at a beach bordering a small, weedy cove on the northeast
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side of the lake, the spot where he most often comes to hunt piscine prey. “The biggest thing is that you get to see underwater,” he
explains as he pulls on his shorty wetsuit, and I fidget with mine. “You actually get the physical act of finding the fish, not just hoping it’s where you’re casting.” Schweizer, 29, an Ohio native who moved to Missoula six years ago to feed his skiing and photography habits, finds that spearfishing, to some small degree, satisfies another of his loves that Montana doesn’t well accommodate— scuba diving. He’s a dive master who explores reefs in exotic locales around the world every year. A couple
of years ago he was shopping for scuba gear in Missoula’s Gull Dive Center when he happened upon their stock of spears. He was intrigued enough to buy one. “And since then I’ve fly-fished way less and spearfished way more,” he says. With wetsuits and flippers on, Schweizer grabs the two six-foot-long spears, called “Hawaiian slings” for the stretchy elastic band on the end that propels the spears slingshot style. One of the spears has a three-pronged tip, called a “paralyzer.” The other is double-barbed, designed to keep the fish from flipping off after you impale it. To shoot, you loop the elastic band over the crook of your hand, and then grab far enough up the spear to create tension. The higher up you grab, the more tension, and the faster the spear flies through the water.
“Now, which ones are the pike?” I ask. “The ones with heads that resemble alligators,” he says. Which makes me think I’d rather be casting for boring ol’ trout right about now. But we
Clearwater River drainage, including Salmon Lake, Lake Alva, Lake Inez, Placid Lake and Seeley Lake. Pat Saffel, the fisheries manager for Region 2, will tell you that northern pike, or Esox lucius,
“Which ones are the pike?” I ask. “The ones with resemble
spit into our masks and rinse, slide the masks over our faces, bite our snorkels, and slip into the cold green water. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) allows spearfishing for northern pike just about anywhere in the
is a voracious carnivore in Montana lakes, streams and reservoirs, an ambush predator that can grow to 40 pounds and three feet in length. It’s native to Montana only in the Saskatchewan River drainage on the east
side of Glacier National Park, and made its unwelcome appearance in the Clearwater drainage in the 1990s. “Essentially someone decided on their own how to manage a state resource,” Saffel says. “That’s all I can guess.” Ever since, northern pike have been out-competing native species, killing off trout and wreaking havoc. Because of their gluttonous fish-eating habits, pike can eliminate their food supply in only a few years, leaving a population of terminally stunted “hammer handles,” as small pike are sometimes called. It’s a fishery manager’s nightmare. The state encourages pike spearing, but few people do it. In fact, Schweizer says that last summer, while spinner fishing off a dock at Salmon Lake, a couple of FWP survey-takers asked if he had been doing any other type of fishing during his
visit. “I said I’ve been spearfishing,” Schweizer recalls. “And they said, ‘Yes!’ These FWP guys were so pumped to be able to check off ‘spearfishing’ on their sheet. I think one of the guys even gave me a high five.” However uncommon, here we are, gliding from the shore into the murky weeds, where Schweizer says the pike like to loiter. We kick our fins gently and then float over the weeds, our bodies still, and scan for our big-jawed targets, which also tend to lie still, scanning for their own unsuspecting prey. The circumstance is altogether different from hunting in the woods, but nonetheless, it brings a similar adrenaline rush: my eyes widen, my senses are piqued, my heart rate quickens. This, I think to myself, is fun. Montana Headwall
I’m a little unsure, though, about how to actually spear a fish—and how it might feel. It seems prudent to shadow Schweizer, who is only a few feet away and appears to have a pike in his sights. I watch as
He releases, triggering a flash of movement. A cloud of sediment covers the scene. It dissipates, only to reveal his fishless spear. He missed. We make eye contact and move along.
Because of their
habits, pike can eliminate
their food supply in only
a few years,
leaving a population of
stunted he hovers silently, slowly extending his arm and pointing the spear, cocked in his right arm, in the direction of something. I can’t see what. Page 42 Spring 2010
“hammer handles.” Schweizer spots another. He inches closer this time, perhaps only two feet away from a smallish, motionless pike. He points just behind its gills
and releases, skewering the poor fish like a hotdog over a campfire. Schweizer raises his spear out of the water, and we watch as the fish’s shimmering green body flails futilely and dies quickly. “I would have an issue with killing these fish if they weren’t an invasive species,” Schweizer would explain later. “All the reports from FWP say that they are definitely a voracious predator just killing all the trout and all the other game fish that we’re used to catching in the lakes and rivers around here.” We swim to shore and Schweizer slides the slippery pike off the spear. He usually fillets them, he says, but this one is so puny—about 14 inches at most, compared to the 30-inchers he’s caught in the past—it’s probably not worth the trouble. He takes a
few photos and tosses it into the brush. The heat of the September sun is welcome after the cold of the water. We’d only been in the lake for about 10 minutes and we’re both shivering. I face the sun for a few moments to warm back up, and Schweizer slips off the top of his wetsuit, content to watch from the shore when I go back in for another try. Turns out, I probably needed a full-length wetsuit this time of year instead of the shorty I’m wearing, as Tim Wagoner, the manager of Gull Dive Center, tells me. For pike spearing, “most folks wear at least a 3millimeter wetsuit just because you’re not very active,” he explains. “Also, the wetsuit gives you a little
bit of buoyancy, making it easier to tread water, and obviously keeps you warm. And if it’s hot it keeps you from getting your back sunburned.” Gear-deficient or not, I return to the weeds determined to impale a pike. I find one quickly, but when I try to
get a good angle I turn my body so clumsily that the fish easily darts away. I move along, see another, take a careless shot and miss badly. Shivering again, I head back to the shore. Schweizer tells me to get within a foot or two of the fish before releasing the spear. I
soak in the sun for a moment, then wade in for one last try. Back in the weeds I’m stunned to come across a massive pike, three feet long or so, hovering like a blimp, utterly motionless, and somehow unaware of the conspicuous black blob above it. I breathe slowly, paddle awkwardly with one hand so I’m perpendicular to my prey, and inch the spear to within two feet of its gills. I pause, and release. A furious whirl of commotion ends with my spear skewering nothing but my own short-lived hope. The pike is gone. I sidestroke back to shore, too cold yet to consider what my miss will surely mean—not for that unsuspecting pike, but for unsuspecting little trout.
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Page 43 Spring 2010
Down the Hatch
by Matt Gibson
Love and fishing make a trip to Philipsburg worth relishing
y fiancé Renie and I blew down Interstate 90 to the Pintler Scenic Route on a Friday night in late June, making the drive from Missoula to Philipsburg in an easy, leadfooted hour after our workday ended. Ostensibly, we’d come for fly fishing glory on nearby Rock Creek, planning our arrival for the peak of the June salmon fly hatch. But the real objective was romance. With our wedding coming up a short six weeks later, I wanted to bask for a weekend together on the blissful precipice. We packed a bottle of Grand Cru burgundy for the occasion. Visitors to Philipsburg can’t miss the honest effort. Cuter than Bigfork, refreshingly unvarnished compared to Whitefish and Big Sky, and a much more comfortable distance from the grubby plains than Red Lodge, the historic settlement in the panoramic Flint Creek Valley has clearly inspired its citizens with a collective desire to make their town the niftiest little mountain getaway in the state. What’s more, they’re succeeding. Once a booming center of mining activity back in the
days of sidearms and saloons, Philipsburg now trades on its past with a collection of gaily painted vintage storefronts lining its main street. The Broadway Hotel, a lovingly restored 1890s landmark, stands out among them as a
our quarters in the spacious, ski-themed Discovery Room, Jenner invited us to join them for the show—a chick flick, she said. But we had designs on steak at the Philipsburg Cafe just down the street, where we put that burgundy to good use.
Fishing guide Adam Spenner shows the proof. delightful anchorage in the heart of town. Arriving near dark, we found our key in an envelope tacked to the back door, a homey gesture reinforced by the hospitality of owner Sue Jenner, whom we found preparing for a movie night with a couple of her friends in the hotel’s comfy lounge. After showing us to
he weather had turned unusually cold and gray for late June, but Rock Creek was running clear, and we knew the salmon flies had been popping on the lower section for a while. With hopes that a halfway decent day would push the hatch upstream, we made for Rock
Creek’s upper reaches the next morning with our guide Adam Spenner, who launched the raft where the headwaters meet Skalkaho Road. For those familiar only with Rock Creek’s well-traveled lower course, near its confluence with the Clark Fork River and the Interstate, the seclusion of this stretch will come as a surprise. Upriver from the narrow, forested valley that characterizes the lower 40 miles or so of the stream, the terrain opens to reveal broad, grassy slopes in the Sapphire Mountain foothills. Where the lower section offers generous public access along the dirt road that follows the stream bottom, the upper portion sweeps through miles of private ranchland, effectively barring entry for all but intrepid floaters who take advantage of high springtime flows. Once July comes around, forget it. The state bans floating after June 30. But the upper and lower sections share key characteristics. Both run swiftly and without pause, with the skinny water upstream demanding unwavering concentration on the oars. Both sections also hold lots of trout.
Spenner, who tells us he grew up fishing Rock Creek, says when the salmon flies are on, “you can’t unhook the fish fast enough.” Unfortunately, this would not be one of those days. The damp, chilly weather had smothered the hatch. The few bugs we saw that weekend clung motionless to streamside brush, their twoinch wings waiting for sunlight and warmth before braving flight. Nevertheless, we had good luck drifting San Juan worms for cutthroats in the 12-inch range, and Renie landed a 19-inch bull trout, the biggest catch of her angling career. In fact, she was pretty tickled about the whole experience. We landed plenty of fish, floated a gorgeous piece of water, and saw only one other group until we neared the take-out—a merely terrific day, as opposed to the orgy of lip-ripping I’d envisioned. Spenner comforted us by admitting that it’s hard to hit the hatch right. If the weather’s too warm, heavy snowmelt and high water can scuttle the fishing altogether. He estimated that in a lifetime of fishing Rock Creek, he’s probably only nailed the salmon flies five times.
ormented with visions of the thousands of bugs that would probably burst from the water as soon as the work week started again, I returned with Renie to Philipsburg that
evening seeking cheer, which turns out to be the local stockin-trade. From the popular (and massive) Sweet Palace, purveyor of sundry old-fashioned confections like salt water taffy, to Schnibbles, a florist and knickknacks dealer that leaves its inventory of container plants on the sidewalk overnight without any
complete with a genuine marble soda fountain, circa 1920. In Big Sky—or even Missoula—a joint like Doe’s might come off as a mawkish excuse for overpriced ice cream cones. But unlike vendors of corny Americana at exit ramp theme-schemes, Doe Bros., with its 120 years of heritage at the same loca-
impress his future wife, “beer battered pickles with spicy seasonings deep fried & served with our secret To a fella trying to
spicy dipping sauce” sounded like an
safeguards, Philipsburg peddles chirpy nostalgia and small-town charm with remarkable unity of purpose. “A group of people happened to arrive at the same time, with great ideas and being able to work together,” explained our innkeeper Jenner, who bought the Broadway 20 years ago and completed the restoration in 2003. “Everyone wanted their buildings to look nice and painted them.” After a stroll around town to take in the vibe, we wound up at Doe Brothers, a wellpreserved drug store and restaurant from days of yore,
tion, serves up potent authenticity—right alongside a full menu of diner fare prominently featuring “PBurg pickles.” I was intrigued. To a fella trying to impress his future wife, “beer battered pickles with spicy seasonings deep fried & served with our secret spicy dipping sauce” sounded like an opportunity. Surely, Renie would admire my bravado, and positively swoon at my iron will as I nonchalantly chewed and swallowed a deep-fried dill smothered in mustard sauce without so much as blinking. But I knew my limits. Just in case I needed a liquid assist, I
ordered a Salmon Fly Honey Rye to wash it down. Luckily for me, the actual ingestion was a non-event. The flavor, which lends a spicy kick to the traditional slice that garnishes deluxe cheeseburgers around the world, put Doe’s fried pickles squarely in the pub-grub realm of wings and wasabi peas. But there was something about a piping hot kosher spear that struck me as a violation of natural law, like baked lettuce. For what it’s worth, I don’t like cold soup either. I dared Renie to take a bite. “It tastes exactly like I thought it would,” she reported matter-of-factly, vanquishing any pretense of machismo on my part. Subdued, I pushed the rest aside in anticipation of the dinners to come. Minutes later, we observed an otherwise normal looking couple at the next table put down an entire order like it was no big deal. Meanwhile, Renie happily sucked on a chocolate milkshake, perhaps wondering if marriage would magically transform me into a more inspiring dinner companion.
e had planned to take an exploratory day hike on Sunday in the Flint Creek Range, but with rain threatening, we opted instead to drive the long dirt road along the lower stretch of
Rock Creek, looking for salmon flies along the way. If the sun came out and the fish came up, we’d pull on our waders and wet a line. Along the way, we saw a cow moose, admired colonies of blooming phacelia, came upon some big horn sheep, and encountered the expected swarm of weekend anglers. But no bugs. So instead of fishing, we stopped at Welcome Creek and loaded up a pack for a two-hour walk. Crossing Rock Creek at the wobbly suspension bridge, we strolled through recently burned timber decked with abundant wildflowers. Ambitious walkers can follow the path to an abandoned prospector’s shack about five miles away,
but we only made it about half that distance. It was already getting time to head back home, so the day would have to be a short one. We lingered where the trail traversed a steep hillside about 30 feet above the gurgle of Welcome Creek. Renie stopped to examine some twinflower, a low-growing, matted plant with tiny, bellshaped blossoms of white and pink barely as large as a pine nut. Nearby, a deep run interrupted the otherwise incessant tumble of water, and a group of little trout fed hungrily on hatching caddis. The sun, which had started a game of hide-and-seek just as we set out, finally broke through, piercing the water to illuminate the gravel bottom.
LAY OF THE LAND LODGING The Broadway Hotel offers cozy and convenient accommodations right in the center of Philipsburg. Fully renovated in 2003, six rooms and three suites each feature a different theme, from rustic cowboy décor in the Wrangler Room to South American artifacts in the Andes Suite, a nod to owner Sue Jenner’s years in Ecuador. A spacious, common sitting room provides lots of cozy nooks to nestle with a paperback. Rates from $80 to $130 per night include continental breakfast. For reservations, call 406-859-8000.
LOCAL OUTFITTER We booked guide Adam Spenner through Flint Creek Outdoors, a well-stocked fly fishing shop across the street from the hotel. Flint Creek’s guides drift just the top 16 miles of Rock Creek, and only until June 30, when the state ends the floating season. Later in the summer, they can take you wading anywhere along the 51-mile channel, but book early because their special National Forest Service permit limits them to 30 client days a year on the lower section. Email email@example.com or call 406-859-9500.
Boulder Lakes Montana Headwall
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Guidebooks will point you to the numerous world-class day hikes of the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness, just south of Philipsburg. For something a little less glamorous but no less rewarding, explore the Flint Creek Range, with peaks rising above 9,000 feet from the forested flanks on the eastern edge of town. The hike to Boulder Lakes makes for a very pleasant 6-mile round trip to seldom-visited alpine country. To get there, drive north on state Highway 1 to Maxville, then turn right on the Princeton Road and follow it up Boulder Creek. Look for an unmarked parking area where an obvious stream washes across the road (N46 22.716-W113 07.023), about two very rough miles past the Copper Creek trailhead. Scout for the trail heading south, then follow it up the timbered slope for a long mile-and-a-half before it rounds the crest of the ridge and the views open up. You’ll reach the first lake at 7,500 feet, after 1,200 feet of climbing.
We made our way down the steep slope to the bank for a better view of the splashy rises. Perfectly camouflaged against the rocky streambed, the trout seemed to appear from nowhere to ambush the drifting caddis with reckless zeal. I admired their vitality, wondering whether they’d fought their way upstream in the spring runoff or wintered here in an icy trickle. Either way, they were tough customers. We crept up to the water’s edge to get a closer look. Renie, my beautiful bride-to-be, craned to get the best view of the trout, clearly fascinated by the scene, while I became entranced by the movement and sound of the water, its constant yet everchanging flow. The sun felt warm, and life teemed all around—the fish, the flowers, the forest surrounding. Here was abundance, more than enough to sustain us. And better shared.
Map by Kou Moua; satellite images courtesy of NASA
APRIL April 3 Branch out at Missoula’s 18th annual Run for the Trees, a 5K or 1-mile race that raises money to replace aging sylvan citizens. Dash to 552-6271 to sign on. April 3 It’s kickstands up for the Turtles, Bison and Bikes ride, a 38.5-mile cycling trip through Ravalli, Dixon, Charlo and Ninepipes, sponsored by the folks you can’t refuse: the MOB (Missoulians on Bikes, that is). Get in the loop and call 250-7228. April 14-18 Some might consider the Lewis and Clark Trail Adventures’ 4-Day Whitewater Workshop a perfect excuse to run the startlingly beautiful Main Fork of the Salmon River before permit season opens. Whatever your motive, this course (offered again April 21-25) teaches guides-in-training and others about the fundamentals of whitewater rafting, starting with the fact that any excuse for running a river is a good one. Respond rapidly to www.trailadventures.com.
April 17 Have a blast and take one when the Hellgate Civilian Shooters Association hosts a Shooting Black Powder Cartridge Silhouette event, where contestants aim at metal silhouettes with old-time rifles that leave smoke trails you can’t miss. The action unfolds at the Deep Creek Shooting Range, on Deep Creek Road in Missoula. Shoot your questions to 543-3075 or hellgatecsa.org. April 17 Endure awesome terrain at the 3rd annual GrizzlyMan Adventure Race and Black Bear Challenge in the 28,000-acre Lubrecht Experimental Forest and 37,000acre Resort at Paws Up. Sponsored by the Rocky Mountaineers, both races require trail running, orienteering, off-trail trekking and mountain biking; the 8-to10-hour GrizzlyMan, a qualifier for the 2010 U.S. Adventure Racing Association nationals, also includes whitewater paddling. Advance registration (required) is no sweat at grizzlymanrace.com. April 17-18 See the Oreo cows and Fjord horses dotting the countryside between Ravalli and the historic Symes Hotel in Hot Springs during the 14th
annual Hot Springs Overnight Ride, featuring 62 miles on Saturday, 41 miles on Sunday, and food, entertainment, lodging and soaking at the Symes. Get in gear before April 6 by calling 728-4126. April 18 Pound pavement for the planet at Bozeman’s Run for the Earth, featuring 10K, 5K and 1-mile races starting at 10 a.m. to promote Earth Week. Courses begin and end at the Story Mansion. For a cool T-shirt by race day, hightail it to 994-6653 before April 9. April 24 Give your best for people who’ve given theirs during Helena’s Wounded Warriors Project Run, a 5K (race-walk) or 1-mile run to benefit severely injured veterans, their families and their caregivers. Get your support dialed at 324-2599.
MAY May 1 It’s open season on one of America’s most thrilling Wild and Scenic rivers at the Lochsa Rendezvous, an annual bash to christen a fresh spring of whitewater on the Lochsa River. Ferry over to www.trailadventures.com for details.
May 1-2 Celebrate the silver anniversary of the Georgetown Lake Loop ride with two days and 120 miles of cycling, including an overnight at the Inn at Philipsburg and a stop at the famed candy store. Reserve your sweet spot at 549-2226 by April 22. May 8 Get flighty at the National Bison Range’s International Migratory Bird Day festivities in Moiese. The event heralds the opening of the 19-mile Red Sleep Mountain Drive (weather permitting), with workshops on bird watching, identification and photography. Wing it to 644-2211 for the lowdown.
JUNE June 4-6 Get thee to a wingding and join Five Valleys and Bitterroot Audubon chapters at the Montana Audubon’s Annual Bird Festival in Missoula. The bird’s the word at www.fvamissoula.org.
June 19 Traverse the spine of the Rockies outside Butte (non-chiropractically) 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” that’s run north to south in even numbered years such as this one. A bus will return runners to the starting area where a barbecue awaits. Get in line before 240 other people do at www.buttespissandmoanrunners.com.
May 15-16 Hook a live one during the Koocanusa Resort & Marina’s Salmon and Trout Derby, just upstream from Libby. Cast in the direction of 2937474 for more info. May 22 All abilities are welcome but you’ll need peak performance to win The PEAK Triathlon—a 500-yard swim, 12.4-mile bike and 3.1-mile run event with beginner, elite and PEAK employee heats. Exercise your index finger at www.peaktri.com to register. May 22-23 Pedal meets mettle at the 40th annual TOSRV (that’s Tour of the Swan River Valley), offering two days of 85- or 110-mile scenic rides in the Potomac or Swan valleys. Missoulians on Bicycles will take care of snacks, water, lodging and logistics, so rock ’n’ roll to www.missoulabike.org.
June 18-20 Bring your pops to Anaconda for a weekend-long Father’s Day celebration of pedal power: the Anaconda Bicycle Festival. Saturday’s 25-, 50- and 100-mile road courses are the highlight, but folks looking for a town ride or 11-to-21 mile course will find those, too. Sven’s Bike Shop at 5637988 knows the wheel spiel.
June 6 Explore the way Lewis and Clark might have—if they had running shoes—at Bozeman’s Lewis and Clark Marathon, offering half and full marathons, a 5K and a kids’ run through the picturesque Gallatin Valley. Jog to www.lewisandclarkmarathon.com for the skinny.
May 29 Get thinspirational and battle juvenile obesity at the Children’s Health River Run, with 5K and 10K courses starting in Livingston’s Sacagawea Park. Burn calories by jogging in place as you call 223-6559.
June 10-12 Go for the gold in your pre-golden years at the 25th annual Montana Senior Olympic Games in Kalispell, where athletes 50-and-over compete for a berth at the 2011 National Senior Games. Events include track and field, tennis and 10 other sports (horseshoes, anyone?). Throw a ringer at www.montanaseniorolympics.org.
May 29-30 Join hordes of expert kayakers braving Class V spring runoff— or sit on shore and watch them—at the 24th annual Bigfork Whitewater Festival on the Swan River’s Wild Mile. Festivities include slaloms on Saturday, a Down River Race on Sunday and, for landlubbers, a triathlon. Dial 752-2880 for triathlon details or 892-2256 to get on water.
June 12 Health care reform might never fly in Washington, but Montanans will give it a run for the money in the 37th annual Governor’s Cup race in Helena. The 10K, 5K or 1mile runs 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 20 Exercise your love of sunshine during Kalispell’s Summit Solstice Triathlon/Duathlon, offering a 1/2-mile open water swim, 13-mile bike and 5K run. Open to beginners and experts alike, the event is limited to 200 participants who race to www.summithealthcenter.com to sign up. June 26 Enjoy gasp-worthy views in the Mountain to Meadow Half-Marathon and 5K Fun Run through forests and alpine wildflowers by Lolo Pass. Races kick off at 7:30 a.m. (that’s Pacific Time) at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center on the Idaho/Montana border. Trek 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-andrun 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, all at 4,900 feet of elevation. Use it as a tune-up for July’s Headwaters Half-Iron, brought to you by the buff brigade at www.tri-mt.com.
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HEAD GEAR by Aaron Teasdale
Every explorer needs a pack-up plan. Here’s one for life. The trail had disappeared into a wild and thickening forest, but we were brimming with the bravado of astoundingly unprepared youth, so we shouldered our mountain bikes and marched deeper into the mountains. The farther we went, the worse it got. Downed trees were everywhere, alder grew in impenetrable walls, and our bicycles seemed to snag on everything we passed. After many hours of brutal bushwhacking, my friend and I were exhausted, soaking wet, and stumbling like drunks. Night was looming and we had no food, no means of starting a fire, and no spare clothes. In a final masterstroke, we’d told no one where we were going. It was the pinnacle of poor planning. In the end, after almost abandoning our bicycles (by far our most valuable possessions at the time), we finally reached a dirt road that delivered us, spent and shivering, to my family cabin in the valley below. We were lucky. But every year in the Mountain West there are people who aren’t—people who head into the backcountry and never make it out. As one survivor
who was near death when rescued after three days in the mountains put it, “One thing I learned is that nature is completely indifferent to outcomes.” The hard truth is, everybody makes mistakes out there— and not just oblivious kids. No matter how skilled, savvy and shrewd you are, something will eventually go wrong. When that happens, your survival may depend on one simple thing: how prepared you are. What follows is a list of items the prepared adventurer won’t go into the backcountry without. Once you’ve compiled your survival kit, put it in a small waterproof stuff sack that you can throw in whatever pack you’re using, whenever you head into the backcountry. I have one friend who calls this a “possibilities bag.” Another friend uses the less euphemistic “when-my-day-goesto-shit bag.” Whatever you call it, if you spend time adventuring, you need to have one. The list and accompanying gear reviews cover the basics. After that, it’s up to you to stay safe out there, wherever your disappearing trails take you.
Your standard Bic lighter works fine as a primary fire starter. Bics are cheap, available at the corner gas station, and they work—as long as it’s not windy or raining, which is why you should always bring a foolproof backup. Tip: Get them in bright colors. They’re easier to see in your pack.
This stuff has uses limitless enough to fill this magazine. To keep it handy, wrap it around your ski or hiking pole, bike frame, or, for inside your possibilities bag, around a trimmed piece of drinking straw.
Backup Fire starter The old standbys are waterproof matches (in a waterproof container), which are easy to strike and hold a strong flame for several seconds. Some people prefer flint strikers, which produce sparks even in heavy rain, but require easily flammable tinder.
Tinder This is an absolutely critical piece of your survival kit. When it’s cold, the skies are weeping, and you’re borderline hypothermic, you need dry, quickburning tinder to start a fire fast. Vaseline-soaked cotton balls stored in a film container is an old trick that works well—the cotton will catch with one spark and give you a couple minutes of strong flame. Many commercial tinders work well, too. Just make sure they’re stored in a waterproof container.
Lightweight bivy or insulating bag For the affluent adventurer, MontBell makes a 6-ounce, waterproof DryTec sleeping bag cover that makes an excellent lightweight bivy and packs down to the size of a soda can. (For a bargain, see the Heatsheets bivy review.) At a bare minimum, carry a heavy-duty garbage bag or trash compactor bag that can function as a pack liner, a clean surface for first-aid work, and a torso insulator if sleeping out.
First-aid kit Many people make their own kits and keep them in waterproof plastic bags. Adventure Medical Kits makes a series of lightweight kits in resealable, waterproof bags that are also worth a look. If you DIY, be sure to include pain medication, and don’t be afraid of the heavy-hitting stuff (hello, codeine!). If you need it, you’ll be really, really glad you have it.
Super Glue It’s useful for fixing broken or cracked things, but also highly effective for sealing open wounds.
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Whistle If you’re lost, channel your inner gym teacher and whistle at regular intervals. It might scare away your new chipmunk friends, but you’ll be much easier for humans to find.
Signal mirror When used properly, a good one can flash reflected light for miles and help that chopper or tracker find you. In a pinch, use your iPod, cell phone or even a watch face.
Water purification tablets Forget iodine: The latest tablets use chlorine dioxide, the same chemical used to treat municipal water supplies, which works better and imparts no odor. Katadyn’s Micropur tablets are a good choice. Though the instructions say to leave tablets in water for four hours, this is only for cryptosporidium, which you are unlikely to get in Montana’s backcountry if you choose your water sources carefully. Giardia is neutralized in 15 minutes.
other essentials For good measure, you should also bring a multi-tool; compass and map (and know how to read them); a lightweight headlamp or other light source; extra food and clothing; a sewing kit; and a cell phone (but spare your partners and only use it in an emergency).
More options You could also add a fixed-blade knife; bailing wire; nylon cord; paper and pencil; aluminum foil; a plastic sheet and four tent stakes; fish hooks, sinkers and line; and orange flagging, the bright plastic you can tie to things to avoid losing your way. Once your bag is ready, it’ll only take a second to toss it in your pack. And it just might save your neck.
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HEAD GEAR by Aaron Teasdale
Adventure Medical Kits Heatsheets Emergency Bivvy www.adventuremedicalkits.com • $16 For decades, outdoors folk have carried Mylar space blankets in their packs as insurance against potentially fatal nights out. Then came the space blanket bivy sack, which was better. Now Adventure Medical Kits has updated the space-blanket material with the cozy-sounding “vacuum metalized polyethylene” and introduced the 3.8-ounce Heatsheets Emergency Bivvy. Like Mylar, it reflects 90 percent of your radiated body heat, but the new material is significantly more durable, stretchy, and much more orange, which should help search teams find you as you sleep peacefully in your vacuum-metalized cocoon. For winter use, or for those who prefer a slightly warmer miserable night out, check out AMK’s S.O.L. (Survive Outdoors Longer) bivy sack ($34), which is twice as heavy and bulky but warmer and more durable.
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Leatherman Juice S2 www.leatherman.com $60 There’s one simple reason why Leathermans have displaced pocket knives in many people’s packs: pliers. Whether it’s to bend damaged bits on your ski bindings or bicycle, pluck porcupine quills from your dog’s nostrils, or remove arrows from your abdomen, you never know when you’re going to need one. At only 4 ounces and just over 3 inches long, the Juice S2 is the smallest, lightest Leatherman you can buy that still has reasonably
functional pliers. Its svelte, stainless steel body also manages to pack in screwdrivers, scissors, a bottle opener, wire cutter, and a knife with an undeniably wussy-looking 2.5-inch knife blade that is nevertheless capable of cleaning fish, whittling wood and light carving.
Adventure Medical Kits Pocket Survival Pak www.adventuremedicalkits.com $34 A lot of small survival kits contain tools more suited for Happy Meals than actual life-and-death situations, but not the brilliantly designed Pocket Survival Pak. Packing a miraculous number of useful items in a 4-ounce, waterproof package, it stands out as a kit that really could save your bacon (if not your burger). Thereâ€™s a fire starter and tinder, signal mirror, whistle, compass, fishing kit, sewing kit, duct tape, paper and really tiny pencil, steel wire, nylon cord, safety pins, aluminum foil, and, in a final masterstroke, thorough survival instructions printed on waterproof paperâ€”all in a resealable, clear plastic case the size of the average wallet. If anyone ever comes up with an award for the all-time best tiny survival kit ever made, this will definitely win.
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Crazed and Confused CONTINUED FROM PAGE 21 er, are not waiting for afternoon. It’s only 11:30 a.m., and nearby peaks are disappearing in the clouds when we realize our only option for descending the pass is outside both our comfort zones: about 75 feet of 45-degree snowfield before it rolls over to vertical rock. I do a little recon and see that if we can get to the bottom of the snowfield there’s a diagonal gully that cuts through the cliff face. Releasing a wet slide over the headwall is inevitable. The gully is questionable. But this is our only choice if we don’t want to spend a wet, hungry night in the backcountry. I go first and make a fast ski cut across the snowfield. I can hear the top few inches of the wet, heavy snow release behind me and cascade over the cliffs below. I aim for two stunted trees above the gully entrance, and my skis come to an abrupt halt on their trunks as I hip-check the uphill slope. Ryan follows without incident and from our precarious perch we wrangle our skis back onto our packs and descend the chossy
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things are going, I’m half expecting to run into a hungry bear before we’re done. From the shore of Pear Lake we survey the cliff face that had looked so innocuous on paper and the long, bare ridge we would have walked to reach the highpoint of the range. I try and console myself with the thought that the skiing from Crazy Peak wouldn’t have been that good—but, of course, it’s not about the skiing. I’m pretty sure the Crow elders didn’t need skis to find inspiration on these summits. I suspect they sought something similar to the exuberance, vitality and gratitude I feel after being challenged and humbled by these mountains. Our ski descent from Pear Lake to Big Timber Creek is fast and scenic. In less than two hours we reach the trailhead where the snow has all but gone, exposing mud and green grass. It’s a relief to get my punished feet out of my ski boots and slap on some sandals. My truck is right where it should be, but somebody has raided our cache of cheap beer. Thankfully, we have enough scotch left to celebrate, make a toast to the mystery, and tip one back. It goes.
Map by Kou Moua; satellite images courtesy of NASA
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The Crux CONTINUED FROM PAGE 58 press and the wide-mouth can as one of civilization’s defining achievements. I forward pictures of lol-cats on an almost daily basis. Each year, I give $50 to Trails.com for access to its guidebook library, although even that site has become some sort of crunchy-granola Facebook stepchild, complete with a profile screen to remind me that I currently “have no friend requests.” (Thanks for the ego boost, guys.) I’ve even downloaded the Webcompatible TOPO! Explorer software, only to find a light-up yellow icon on the menu encouraging me to “share” my trip “with the community.” The braggadocio element aside, if I wanted to be part of a community, I’d be doing something with my Saturday nights other than sitting alone in the woods, un-showered and eating spaghetti out of a plastic bag.
the chapters on his MySpace blog? “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep
I’m a simple man. I like my beer cold and my outdoorsmen ruggedly individualistic. And does not the outdoor lifestyle,
If I wanted
something with my other than
I’d be doing
sitting alone in the woods,
un-showered out of a
at its very foundations, rest upon a bedrock of surly iconoclasm? Let’s be frank—Ed Abbey and Sig Olson wouldn’t have been caught dead on Facebook. Would Walden be as powerful if Thoreau had posted
Page 56 Spring 2010
and suck out all the marrow of life, and be able to give a true account of it and share GPS waypoints and pond-cam vids with my buddy R_Waldo03.” The fact is, mass dissemination is not the same thing as
sharing. And those people on the Internet—they’re not really your friends. Part of the appeal of climbing or surfing or paddling—and what sets these activities apart from team sports or marathon running or ritual sacrifice—is that they each represent an experience shared with relatively few people, if shared at all. We go outdoors, in part, to escape our tangled social networks, and what we bring back can’t be distilled into byte-sized bombast. If you’re dying to share the story of your latest expedition, do it with a real friend, and not a throng of virtual ones. Put down the GPS and the digi-cam. Close down your online friends list. Get a map, an honest-to-god photo album, and a six-pack of pale ale. Then invite me over, and we’ll share.
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Page 57 Spring 2010
by Brian Kevin
Antisocial climber One man’s plea: May online adventure networks byte the dust
vibe, that sense of paddling through ne day last summer, I an undiscovered country. I’d become a logged onto National mere Scott to mn_hiker’s Amundsen. Geographic’s TOPO! And to think, I’d added that blowhard Explorer website, hoping to to my friends list. use its satellite-view feature to scope Sure, nobody forced me to click out forest cover near a couple of through all those pushpins. I’m a Boundary Waters campsites. What the guilty party here, too. But I’m curious screen threw back at me, though, was and tech-savvy, and I avoid work by a different sort of forest, made up of red and blue digital pushpins— tiny pixilated markers—planted along my proposed route like the Would flags of an imperial conqueror. It seemed mn_hiker08 had been here powerful if had posted before—and he wanted to tell me all about it. Each pushpin linked to an elethe chapters on his ment of mn_hiker’s “trip report”: uploaded photos, GPS coordinates, trail reviews. And as a diligent consumer of Web 2.0, I surfed through playing Facebook Scrabble just like each of them with unrestrained everybody else. I wanted to see what voyeuristic glee. the TOPO! community had to offer. Weeks later, though, when I took And if National Geographic’s venture is my own trip, mn_hiker08 followed me any indication, swarms of people out through the Boundary Waters like there are ready to chase down similar Banquo’s ghost. All the landmarks rabbit holes. seemed weirdly familiar. Everywhere In 2008, Business Week singled out I looked there were giant blue pushsports-related social networks as some pins hovering above the shoreline. of the web’s fastest-growing phenomThere’s the outcropping where ena. The year before, no less a visionmn_hiker camped! There’s where his ary than Bode Miller launched the daughter caught the walleye! schuss-centric MySpace knock-off Altogether gone was that voyageur
Walden be as Thoreau
SkiSpace.com, and the social media company Lifefitter recently announced an entire fleet of 20 new “affinity-based” networking sites, each one micro-targeting a different outdoor-rec demographic. Their roster includes sites for mountain bikers (TrailGrind), kayakers (PaddleSpin), climbers (CrankJam), and even paintballers (PaintSmack)—no, I’m not making that one up. Presumably, there is money to be made. But the Friendster-ization of outdoor pursuits is disturbing in the way that it’s disturbing to see a fat man in a Speedo—it just isn’t a good fit, and it mostly results in a lot of nauseating posturing. Social networking applications allow members to announce each and every peak they’ve conquered, breathlessly promote their own shaky-camera amateur ski porn, and expound with excruciating detail on their most recent capers. In other words, they let you do all the things that nobody likes about their smarmy peak-bagger brother-inlaw. For decency’s sake, I beseech would-be digital showboaters: Keep your adventures off the Web. It’s not that I’m anti-technology. I rank Google Earth alongside the printing
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photo by Chad Harder
Outdoor Adventure Under The Big Sky