By Alan Sorensen
Montana Wilderness Walks booklets detail trails, guides and hiking opportunities for the state in 2001.
Ed Spinler of Havre is among the many hiking guides who take tours into beautiful and exciting locations. His venture this year is a 10-mile round trip to the Big Snowies Ice Caves near Lewistown on Aug. 4. He also provides unrelated treks through the Bear Paw Mountains south of Havre on occasion.
The 39th annual Wilderness Walks program is sponsored by the Montana Wilderness Association (MWA) and includes more than 100 outings.
For those who want to stay a little closer to home, Darlene and Arlo Skari lead a walk into the East Butte area of the Sweet Grass Hills on June 23. That walk is co-sponsored by the Sweet Grass Hills Protective Association.
The booklets details hiking opportunities for all ages, levels of ability and interests. Each walk is described to include mileage, difficulty, elevation gain, group limitations and reservation deadlines and requirements.
In a news release issued this week, MWA said that families with children, grandparents, seniors, new hikers and seasoned backpackers will all find outings to their likings. The hikes highlight Montana's wilderness heritage, quiet trails, natural history and the incredibly rich diversity of habitats and topography.
Included in the booklets are several trail projects co-sponsored by MWA and the Bob Marshall Alliance, plus information about summer volunteer programs with the Hungry Horse Ranger District in the Great Bear and Bob Wilderness and in the Great Burn proposed wilderness.
MWA President Ross Rodgers of Bozeman credits the success of the Wilderness Walks directly to the response from MWA's members who are the volunteer leaders.
"At each of our local chapters, there is great enthusiasm to help broaden public awareness of these treasured wild places, and the best way to do this is to help folks experience the joys of hiking the trails. Plus, this program is an MWA tradition," Rodgers said.
He added that the popularity of the walks increases every year, matching the growing awareness of Montana's unique wild places and efforts to protect its wilderness values.
MWA was founded in 1958. Its mission is to protect and preserve Montana's public wildlands. It has the support of more than 4,000 members.
To request a copy of Wilderness Walks 2001, visit the Central Montana Field Office of MWA at 1400 First Ave. N. in Great Falls or call (406) 453-9434.
Spinler said he has a few extra copies and will gladly answer any questions about the program or the walks. He can be reached at 265-1547.