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Outdoor Recreation

New Trail and Brewery-Sponsored Races Raise Mountain Biking Profile in Missoula

A new trail in Missoula, Montana, at the old Marshall Mountain ski area has riders talking. Here's a sample of how they describe it: “Technical, but twisty and flowy.” “Really steep, loose, technical with hairpin turns into the steepest stuff I’ve ever ridden.” The trail is the venue for a series of weekly mountain bike races that started last Wednesday. The plan for the Kettle House Weekday Race League is to start out with five Wednesday night races, culminating in a weekend race at the end of July. The weekend race will be the final in the US National Pro XC Mountain Bike tour. However, race organizers are hoping the series will be more than a lead-up to the national championship—they want to get mountain bikers from every walk of life out on the trails to ride, race and drink a beer. The league is designed to be all-local and all-inclusive. “The main message I want to get out is that the races are for everyone,” says Shaun Radley, race director. “A lot of my time has been spent on getting the entertainment down for the race. I want to inspire people to come back and race again and again."

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Lead Bullets Find a Champion in Tester

Last January, three endangered California condors were found dead in Arizona. The cause of death: lead poisoning. After eating carrion riddled with spent lead ammunition, the birds' digestive systems likely shut down, starving them to death. Since condor reintroduction began in Arizona in 1996, 15 have died of lead poisoning; in California, 18 condors have bit the bullet. After 25 years spent trying to recover the condor from near-extinction, the birds remain imperiled by lead in their scavenged prey. Despite growing concerns about health effects on both humans and wildlife, however, lead ammunition still flies widely unregulated across the West. Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT, wants to keep it that way. With a bill introduced last month, Tester hopes to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act to permanently exempt lead bullets, shot and fishing tackle from regulation.

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Thunder Chicken Chronicles

It starts in February, with being notified that you’ve been lucky enough to draw a spring turkey tag for our local, limited lottery. You know people who have put in for it for years and never gotten it. For two months, you persevere through exponentially accumulating snowfall, uncharacteristically optimistic that, by late April, it will mostly be gone. You spend too much time pondering the merits of various decoys and turkey calls online. Your spouse walks in on you watching an instructional video of three good ‘ol boys sitting on a porch, demonstrating calling techniques. She lifts an eyebrow as if to sardonically say, “Really?” and closes the door. You feel a bit sheepish, but quickly become engrossed again in the finer points of yelping and purring. The opening date approaches, and you start scouting. Most of this involves futilely post-holing up to your waist, and you truly begin to question why you ever thought you’d find turkeys in our valley.

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VIDEO: Hunting for Mountain Bike Glory in Utah

Having been on a bazillion photo shoots, I can assure you that the behind the scenes usually isn’t all that interesting. But when it comes to adventure shoots they almost always take place in cool, beautiful locations. Such is the case with this mission with Matt Hunter and all-star photog Sterling Lorence: As they leave Green River, Utah, to scout, the land unfolds with harsh drama and dusty opportunity.

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Reports: Bone Dry Future for Southwest Adventurers

Black Canyon of the Gunnison climbers, you’ve been warned: Pack water. Yeah, you’re supposedly right above water (the Gunnison River!), but before too long it might just be a muddy wash. Hikers in Canyonlands, don’t trust that map — it’s going to be sand for you as well. Even Glen Canyon (i.e., home of ever-shrinking Lake Powell) and the Grand Canyon are due to dry up faster than you can spit into a Mojave wind, according to two grim reports recently released. The first is a climate study by the Bureau of Reclamation (a.k.a., the biggest water resource manager in the U.S.). While the report covers the hydrology of all the of major rivers of the West, the most stressed zone now and in the future will be the upper and lower Colorado River basins, which encompass the spine of the Rockies from western Wyoming through western Colorado, eastern Utah, and nearly the entirety of Arizona. That’s a lot of territory, and within it, you’ll find many of the places hikers, climbers, mountain bikers, cavers, paddlers and fisher people cherish. And it’s all going to get much, much drier, thanks to climate change.

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How Two Women Prepared and Then Beat the Rim-to-Rim Record at the Grand Canyon

Devon Crosby-Helms and Krissy Moehl (pictured) are putting you and pretty much everyone else to shame. The ultra-endurance studs ran together earlier this month with a goal of settting the fastest time for a woman going from rim to rim and back to rim of the Grand Canyon, tracing the classic route that starts on the South Rim, goes down the South Kaibab Trail, crosses the Colorado River, ascends the North Rim on the North Kaibab Trail, and then turns back around. They covered 41.8 miles and 10,710 feet of both down and up. The record was 9:25, set by Emily Baer in 2003. The men’s record, 6:56:59, was set by Dave Mackey in 2007. The new record for women: 9:12:29! Even if you’re a fairly avid runner, Crosby-Helms and Moehl do this kind of stuff with metronome-like frequency.

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Essay: Green and Brown, a Wish for a Spring That Plumps the Fall’s Hunt

Green arrives more suddenly than brown, I have decided. A month ago, I was in southwestern Missouri buying fast-walking horses that will keep up with my bird dogs this fall. One day it rained, the kind of rain that pounds the land like an old showerhead in a fleabag motel stings your skin after a long day afield. The next morning, it was spring. Green. The horses ate at the young grass as if they were starving. And green was on the land. We loaded our new horses into the trailer and headed out, watching the green fade from the land as we chased longitude westward, into the flat platter that is western Kansas and southeastern Colorado. The diesel outran the green, but still it came, as steadily and as consistently as a truly-talented young bird dog figures it out in his second year. And so the green is here and yet I think about when it will leave. It will be more subtle, more of a fade than a swell of color, more of a wither than a burst. It will wane slowly in this country starting in late summer, when hoppers ratchet from baked fields.

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The Winter of Our Discontent

I feel cheap. I feel like I owe him a lot more. I feel like I’m trying to explain sex to my son, and I just copped out and bought him a blow-up doll instead. But it is March and the snow continues to fall and another season is so goddam far away that I have no choice but to focus on more immediate distractions and put the thought of it out of my head. I imagine that his approach is not much different.

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Where Are the Montana Snowbowl Expansion Dissidents?

Snowbowl officials claim that they wish to increase skiing and snowboarding opportunities for beginner and intermediate level skiers; however, as I’ve noted above, the Lolo National Forest Management Plan explicitly states there is no need to increase local ski-area capacity to meet demand. Regardless of which party is correct, the expansion would occur on our national forest lands. The proposed 40-year Special Use Permit would allow Montana Snowbowl to construct permanent structures on our national forest lands, for their own economic benefit. At present, the ski resort pays an annual average of only $24,000 to the Lolo National Forest for the present use and administration of 1,138 acres of public lands [4-60]. It is claimed by Snowbowl representatives that the expansion will lead to increased economic incentives for the entire Missoula community. This is a fallacy. By Snowbowl's own admission, the majority of visitors arrive from local communities. The EIS states that the resort's expansion would result in a “transfer of income, not a creation of income”.

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Keeping Up Appearances: Reflections on the Stetson

I always thought of it simply as a hat. In the days of my youth ‘cap’ meant a ball cap, preferably with Texas A&M embroidered on the front. ‘Hat’ meant Stetson. If worn stained, it meant shelter from the sun on hot days and protection from the sleet and rain of winter. Clean, with sharp corners on the brim was for dances, dominoes and Shiner beers on Saturday nights.

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