Mothers = survival (and adventure buddies)

Mothers, Greg Tollefson writes in this week’s column, are responsible for our survival, which can be uncertain at times in the Montana wilderness. His mom often reminded him of safety and made sure he was always well prepared before heading off.

And it was Mom who tended the blisters and sprains, poured salve on the sunburns and scrapes, and mended and replaced the tattered clothing.

His mom was adventurous herself, but turned in her compass after having children.

To be sure, there was a time when her wanderings were farther, wider and more adventurous. … Somehow though, after the war, and with the coming of family, she left that behind her and did her adventuring vicariously through her children. It was expected in those days.

Now, moms have different expectations.

Today’s children get to share the exhilaration of the wild with their mothers. These days, when a mom exhorts her children to tie on their life jackets, as often as not, she ties her own on, too. Then she takes the oars.

Greg’s musing made me think back on all the times my mom shared in adventure with us. Some of my fondest memories are from the canoe or inner tubes on the New River, or while avoiding fiberglass splinters on the crab boat as we dangled weighted lines into White Point Creek.

Even though I’ve moved 2,000 miles away, the confidence she instilled in me to try new things and chase the horizon is the same and has enabled me to whole-heartedly embrace Montana and all the adventure it provides.

Sometimes, we still have adventures together and I love sharing this Big Sky with her, whether it’s in the snow …


… or sunshine …


I only wish we got to venture off together more often.

Make sure to read Greg’s full column here.

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Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation creates new membership category just for kids

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation‘s Elk Country Visitor Center in Missoula has long been a family go-to spot. It’s open year-round, making it a sure thing in any kind of weather. It’s kid-friendly, with interactive exhibits that keep even very young children engaged. And it’s free – if you don’t let yourself get suckered by your kids in the gift shop.

But membership with RMEF has been more the domain of adults – until now. The Foundation just announced that it is launching a new, child-friendly membership category. It’s $20 for an annual youth membership, making it the most wallet-friendly category as well.

Here’s the press release from RMEF in full:

RMEF Launches Youth Membership

MISSOULA, Mont. – In an effort to better promote and protect the present and future of conservation, a love of the outdoors and hunting, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation initiated a new youth membership category.

“We remain committed to ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat, and our hunting heritage. And who holds the keys to that future if not our sons and daughters and grandchildren?” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “As far as gifts go, this membership ranks right up there with your first rifle or bow. It will attract, engage and help young hunter-conservationists fall to love with elk, the places they live and the challenge of hunting them.”

The new RMEF Youth Membership costs $20 per year and is designed for girls and boys age 17 and under. It will offer six digital issues of Bugle magazine, e-newsletters, an RMEF hat, a membership card, member discounts and decals. Members will also have access to social media sites specifically designed for them that include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and a blog to share their photos and videos. There will also be online contests for outdoor gear and other interactive activities.

Since its founding nearly 30 years ago, RMEF invested in tomorrow’s future by reaching thousands of youth through the sponsorship of quality programs like the National Archery in the Schools Program, 4-H Shooting Sports, state hunter education courses, the Boy Scouts of America, the Future Farmers of America and scores of hunting, shooting, archery, fishing and other outdoor-related camps and programs.

In 2013 alone, RMEF promoted and sponsored more than 200 youth activities and programs across the country and introduced thousands of young and novice shooters to safe, responsible and enjoyable firearm use at nearly 60 SAFE Challenge (Shooting Access for Everyone) events.

“Right now, we’re busy passing on our hopes and dreams and the things we love most to our youth,” said Allen. “Before we know it, though, we’ll be passing on the reins to this next generation of hunters and conservationists. We need to make sure their ranks are strong.”

RMEF welcomes Remington as the first sponsor of the youth membership category.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

RMEF is leading a conservation initiative that protected or enhanced habitat on more than 6.3 million acres—an area larger than Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain and Great Smoky Mountains national parks combined. RMEF also is a strong voice for hunters in access, wildlife management and conservation policy issues. RMEF members, partners and volunteers, working together as Team Elk, are making a difference all across elk country. Join us at or 800-CALL ELK.

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Open kids’ eyes to wonders of wildlife with family friendly films

If the heat is getting to you but you can’t bear to keep the kids inside, take the family down to the Roxy Theatre tomorrow morning for some Wildlife Film Festival fun. It’s the next best thing to being outdoors yourself.

The International Wildlife Film Festival and Media Center has started up its Wild Theater Thursdays once again, so starting July 7 and continuing through August 18, the Roxy will screen wildlife films specifically aimed at enthralling and educating kiddos. It’s every Thursday at 10:30 a.m., and tickets cost $3.

Check out what’s showing at

The Roxy is located at 718 S. Higgins Avenue here in Missoula. For more information call 728-9380.

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Seeley Lake kids get an education in cross-country skiing

My family swapped and traded and waited for sales, and finally managed to get ourselves almost all outfitted with cross-country ski gear. We have a line on the last piece of equipment we still need: a pair of ski boots for our 6-year-old.

Not the kind of people to let a lack of equipment stand in our way, for our first run up in the Rattlesnake rec area we simply swaddled our little girl in snow gear and blankets, plunked her on a sled and took turns towing her. It’s certainly not a method I’d recommend, but for our first ski outing of the season it worked just fine. In fact, it was bliss.

And boots or not, our daughter has figured out a way to tromp all over the yard with her skis and poles. I just love seeing how much she loves being outdoors. And I love watching her interest in a new activity awaken.

And so, of course, I just loved the story in today’s Missoulian about Seeley Lake’s plans to get every one of its elementary and middle-school students outfitted with cross-country ski gear.

According to the story,

Soon, all Seeley Lake students will have the opportunity to learn how to cross-country ski thanks to a new school program. Thanks to the generous support of the community, the school was able to purchase new Nordic ski equipment for every fourth grade student. In the next four years, the goal is to outfit every student between fourth and eighth grade with Nordic skis, boots and poles and making the sport a part of the children’s exercise curriculum.

Alas, it’s an expensive proposition to buy all the necessary gear for every student: an estimated $192 per kid. That’s why the schools’ fundraising for this effort is ongoing. I wonder if they might be interested in some donated secondhand equipment? If you have some, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to ask.

Photo by TOM BAUER/Missoulian

Photo by TOM BAUER/Missoulian

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MT license plates fight ‘nature deficit disorder’

“No child left inside.”

That’s the lettering on the bottom of the new Montana license plates designed by state painter Jamie Hoffman. According to today’s Missoulian story, money raised from the sale of the plates will help the National Wildlife Federation run programs that encourage kids to get outdoors.

“We just want kids to spend more time outside, even if that’s just walking down the street,” Susan Scaggs, manager of operations for the National Wildlife Federation’s regional cent in Missoula, says in the story.

For each plate sold, $20 will be given to the organization for its kids programs in Montana – including the Great American Backyard Campout later this month. That’s taking place June 26-27 at Travelers’ Rest State Park near Lolo. For more info, call Missoula Parks and Rec at 721-7275 or check out the website.

– MM

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Any trip outdoors with kids is sure to reveal something new

By the time we reached the trail, midway up the mountain, the night was black. No moon, no streetlights or porch lights, not a flashlight among us.

The little boys, a half-dozen of them, no more than 8 years old, huddled closer around. One grabbed my hand. Another whispered, “I don’t know if we should do this.” The others made not a sound.

“Trust me for just a minute, guys,” I assured my little Cub Scout den. “You’re really going to like this.”

Our quest: a nighttime hike on Mount Sentinel, less than 1,000 feet above the gravel pit, within shouting distance of my house. But all of those familiar sights and sounds had disappeared in the 10 minutes it took us to dash uphill. It was dark as could be, and I had six very frightened boys on my hands.

I grabbed a little piece of each one, a shirt, a hand, a finger, and started walking. “This is the trail we walk on all the time during the day,” I said. “It’s just dark. Be super quiet and something very cool will happen.”

We headed away from the canyon, toward the bend in the trail that would take us onto the face of Mount Sentinel. Gradually, our eyes adjusted to the darkness and our breathing quieted, keeping time with our slow march along the trail. Soon enough, still in the darkness above Pattee Canyon Drive, I whispered to the boys, “Stop. And look up on the hill.”

Sure enough, there above us on the hill were a half-dozen or more deer, their eyes the only clue to their presence. The night’s sentinels upon Mount Sentinel.

“Deer,” came the whispered announcement. “Lots of deer.”

“Cool, huh? Let’s keep going now.” Hands clutched my shirttails again, and we continued along the path, bound for that elusive bend.

When it came, and we curved onto the face of the mountain, the boys’ gasps were audible.

“We’re seeing something no one has ever seen before!” one announced.

“What is that?” another asked.

“It’s Missoula,” I said.

Their fears forgotten, the boys scurried along the trail, pointing out sights and “discovering” their town. Getting them to eventually turn around and head back for home was a struggle. This time, when we headed back into the darkness, no one held my hand.

Fact is, I soon “lost” the boys in the darkness.

That is, until they popped out of the trailside bushes and yelled, “Boo!”

I thought about that nighttime hike recently when an e-mail arrived from Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell, lamenting how little time children spend outdoors these days. My Cub Scouts are grown now; some are schoolteachers, some medical students, some businessmen. It was hard to believe that children had changed so much in two decades. And sad.

We ran Kimbell’s letter on the Missoulian’s Opinion page last week, hoping to help get children – and their parents – back outside. The more I thought about her words, the more I remembered the joy of sharing the outdoors with my children as they grew up: Going to Girl Scout camp at Stillwater Lake with my daughter, leeches and all! Building giant frontyard snow forts after the biggest snowfalls. Canoeing across Lake McDonald in a big, way-too-heavy canoe my dad and brother had built one winter long, long ago. Hiking to Grinnell Glacier and Hidden Lake and Avalanche Lake and the Ptarmigan tunnel, all in Glacier Park, and other just-as-wondrous trails across the border in Waterton Lakes.

All of which prompted me to write this overly long blog entry, cajoling anyone and everyone to get outside with their children or grandchildren or just their friends and neighbors. How else will we ever hear: “We’re seeing something no one has ever seen before!” And know, in our own special way, that it is true.

– Sherry Devlin

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Weekend news story roundup

Here’s a sweet story about two longtime educators retiring from Missoula County Public Schools. Caroline Pockolick is leaving Washington Middle School after 41 years in the Missoula school system, and George Sendon is leaving his post as Willard Alternative High School’s principal.

Also on Sunday, a report from the American Enterprise Institute gave Montana’s universities poor marks for graduation rates. According to the story, the study lists the University of Montana’s grad rate at a measly 42 percent, and Montana State University’s at 48 percent.

I also want to point out this opinion piece from U.S. Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell, urging folks to get their kids involved in National Get Outdoors Day this past Saturday. I can say we participated – the whole family went camping Saturday night, and we had a blast. Willow and the dogs played in the dirt, played in the water – heck, they even played with salmon flies – and got eaten by mosquitos despite the gallons of bug spray we used. Can’t wait to do it again!

– Tyler Christensen

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