By Betsy Cohen
Ahhh, summer in western Montana.
Lusciously long days, gorgeous night skies, rivers to romp in and mountains to explore.
The outdoors beckon this time of year like at no other time –wooing us to step outside, to kick back in lawn chairs, to drink in the stunning sunsets, to stroll outdoor markets, to find cool shade in the woods, and to coax out at least one adventure, be it of the urban or wild variety.
Some of our favorite things those of us in the newsroom like to do this season: Sip cool drinks on one of Missoula’s many enticing restaurant patios, take a mountain bike ride through alpine glades, wander along a river trail, hike to a fire look, and indulge in an extended overnight stay on the edge of a remote lake.
There’s so many reasons to love this season, it’s impossible to count them all.
How then can you compile a top 10 list of things to do?
Well, you can’t.
Instead, you can round up a list of things you know you don’t want to miss.
From us to you, a few of our favorite summertime outings.
Try some; you just might find you’ll love them too.
Summer Missoula MADEfair, June 24 in Caras Park.
This is isn’t your average craft show. This event showcases the best of hand-made goods from regional artisans who have been carefully selected to participate in this fair. Art, jewelry, fine wood-working, photography, and clothing are just some of the beautifully crafted items for sale at this wholly unique-to-Missoula event.
2012 Arlee Fourth of July Powwow, July 3-8.
This year marks the 114th anniversary of the annual celebration held on the Flathead Indian Reservation – and everyone is welcome.
It all began back in the late 1800s when a federal Indian agent told the Salish and Kootenai there would be no more powwows. It was time, he said, for Indians to abandon their culture and traditions and assimilate into white society. If only he could see what he started. Indians quickly scheduled what was essentially a powwow anyway; they simply told the agent it would be a Fourth of July celebration to honor America’s Independence Day. The agent couldn’t say no to that. One hundred and fourteen years later they’re still gathering in Arlee over the Fourth for what has become one of the biggest and oldest powwows around. And the Native games, dances, drumming and singing are at the forefront of the Arlee Powwow. Today, thousands of people show up to participate or watch it all colorfully unfold over part or all of the five days of the powwow. For more information go to www.arleepowwow.com.
The Event at Rebecca Farm, July 11-15, Kalispell.
If you love horses, if you love thrilling, heart-stopping competition, if you want to learn more about the Olympic sport of Eventing, this is a spectacle to behold.
The Event at Rebecca Farm is the biggest of its kind in the United States, with more than 450 competitors, 350 volunteers and over 20,000 spectators. In addition to the free and accessible competition that showcases the country’s best riders, the show also offers a trade fair with arts and crafts and a wide range of food concessions.
The Event, which takes place on the lovely and sprawling private residence of the Broussard family, is free and open to the public. Be sure to dress appropriately for this outdoor venue, bring a chair, and wear comfortable walking shoes. A $5 parking donation will be collected for the "Halt Cancer at X" campaign to support breast cancer research.
Celtic Festival Missoula, July 28, Caras Park.
This festival celebrates Montana’s celtic heritage with day-long activities that focus on music, dance and food. The festival presents the culture in its historical form and as it has evolved into new and modern forms, such as Celtic Rock. Admission is free, the music is great and the spirit of the event is lively. Headlining acts for the festival include the Young Dubliners and the Screaming Orphans.
For more information go to www.celticfestivalmissoula.com.
Tube the Blackfoot, Bitterroot or the Clark Fork rivers.
When summer’s heat hits its peak mid-August, when the river’s raging spring flow has come and gone, leaving behind a much friendlier and lazier waterway, it’s time for the decadent pleasure of tubing. Local hardware stores sell tubes and local outdoor recreation shops rent tubes. One of the most peaceful floats we recommend is on the Bitterroot, with the put-in at the Stevensville bridge and pull-out at the Poker Joe Fishing Access. The float, which takes about two to three hours in low water, depending on how lazy you feel, is easy on the spirit and filled with beautiful surprises as you float by the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refugee. Make sure you pack a picnic for the pull-out.
Explore Bear Creek Trail in the Bitterroot, near Victor.
This is a favorite day hike that takes about two hours walking slowly and is about 3 miles round-trip. It’s especially pleasant on a hot day, as the hike takes you to a beautiful waterfall area that offers many whirlpools, cascades, slides and falls to play in. The flat, terraced rock slabs are great for sunning spots and picnics. How to get there: From Missoula, drive 35 miles south on Highway 93 to Bear Creak Road on the right. Turn right and continue to Red Crow Road, about 2.3 miles. Turn right and go 0.7 miles to a road junction. Turn left and continue 3.1 miles straight ahead to the Bear Creek trailhead parking lot.
Summer in Montana means it’s rodeo time!
Family fun, thrills and spills – you will find it all at the rodeo.
The Northern Rodeo Association has full schedule, which can be found at www.northernrodeo.com. Locally, the NRA hosts a rodeo in Polson, June 29-30; the Blue Moon Rodeo in Columbia Falls, July 27-28; Superior Lions Club Rodeo, Aug.3-4; Ravalli County Fair & Rodeo in Hamilton, Aug. 31-Sept. 1; the Peterson Ford Fall Rode in Kalispell, Aug. 31-Sept. 1 and the Helmville Labor Day Rodeo, Sept. 2-3.
For a full statewide listing go to: visitmt.com/categories/ListCalendar.asp?
Symphony in the Park, 7 p.m. Aug. 12 in Missoula’s Caras Park.
Even if classical music isn’t your thing, this annual outdoor concert along the banks of the Clark Fork River is one to get to. Bring a chair, bring a picnic dinner – or some cash to buy a cocktail or ice cream cone – and sit back and enjoy the Missoula Symphony Orchestra as it plays movie scores and raucous classical pieces fitting for the grand locale. The event is free and the dress is come as you are.
Sunsets on Higgins Avenue Bridge.
One of the most romantic spots in all of Missoula is the Higgins Bridge at sunset. We recommend stopping at the Big Dipper ice cream shop before strolling up the bridge’s sidewalk and lingering at midpoint to watch the sky turn into a stunning canvas of pinks and purples, and the Clark Fork River reflect the beauty as the sun drops over the horizon and behind the Bitterroot Mountains.
River City Roots Festival, Aug 25-26, downtown Missoula.
Produced by the Missoula Downtown Association as the community’s signature celebration of the city we live in, the River City Roots Festival has quickly risen to the top of Montana’s must-see-list. This two-day free festival features first-class art and entertainment for both residents and visitors. With quality live performances on a big stage on West Main Street, a juried art show, entertainment for children and families, and a 4-mile run through the heart of Missoula, Roots Fest brings a weekend of family fun to the community.