Bargain Bins

by Jamie Rankin

Self-control. Responsibility. A savings account. If you live in Gallatin County, aren’t a trustafarian, and have a gear closet, you’re probably lacking one of these former attributes. Outdoor recreation can be expensive. Take a stroll around town and you’ll likely come across a garage where the value of the gear inside exceeds your net worth.

But if you’re just starting out, it builds character (and even skill) to make use of budget-friendly equipment offerings. To spare yourself the inevitable hit from buying brand-new gear, Bozeman has a great selection of places to pick up secondhand outdoor items.

GVBC Bike Swap
In May, the Gallatin Valley Bicycle Club hosts its annual fundraising swap. With hundreds of bikes for sale and local experts volunteering their services, this is a great spot to find the right bike or accessories.

BSF Ski Swap
Update your winter-sports arsenal while simultaneously supporting a local nonprofit. In November, Bridger Ski Foundation holds its annual ski swap. Local skiers and snowboarders clean out their gear closets, selling all manner of snow-sliding equipment—alpine, backcountry, and Nordic.

MSU Outdoor Rec Sale
If you’re an MSU student, staff, or alum, head to the MSU Outdoor Recreation Center’s annual sale. Every October, they retire gear from their rental fleet. You can score hefty discounts on gear for camping, climbing, boating, skiing, and more.

MSU Bike Auction
Believe it or not, some poor bicycles really do get left behind. MSU Parking Services makes the rounds after spring semester to scoop up abandoned bikes, and auctions them off the following September.

Play It Again Sports
Water sports. Snow sports. Land sports. You name it and you’ll probably find it. This is a great spot to pick up new or used gear year-round. The shop is well organized, so you won’t spend hours searching around. They also buy gear if you’re looking to put some cash in your pocket.

Second Wind Sports
Entering Second Wind is like beholding the ultimate gearhead’s garage. They’ve got just about everything, and you’ll most likely leave with something you didn’t come for. If you’re looking to refresh your outdoor wardrobe, this is a solid spot.

Pawn Shops
These small, local stores often have great selections of outdoor gear. Debos on N. 7th Ave is one of our favorites—they take the cake with used guns, but they also have a wide assortment of other equipment.

Thrift Stores
Don’t overlook Bozeman’s thrift stores. Finding outdoor apparel, shoes, and accessories is a breeze at Four Corners Thrift and Cash 4 Clothes, among others. It’s hit-or-miss, so don’t be dismayed if you strike out. Head back in a few days and try again.

Giving Back

by Cordelia Pryor

Although you may not be a longtime local, while you’re in Bozeman, you’re part of this community. What better way to say thanks than to volunteer your time at local nonprofits? Throughout the year, they need your help doing the important, altruistic work that they do. Whatever gets you out there, remember there are few better feelings than contributing to a cause that’s making a difference.

Cleanup Days
At different points throughout the year, local groups get together to tidy our trails, clean our rivers, and keep Bozeman beautiful. Give back by joining them and learn about proper outdoor etiquette while you’re out there. Friends of Hyalite hosts two cleanup days—one in the spring, one in the fall—to tidy Bozeman’s backyard playground. The Gallatin River Weed Pull keeps our valley’s namesake river clean, and Cleanup Bozeman is a city-centered service day before summer. Poke around the internet to learn more.

Big Sky Youth Empowerment
BSYE pairs mentors with 8th- through 12th-graders to participate in activities such as skiing, rock-climbing, and hiking to build confidence, create connections, and teach teens how to overcome challenges in both the outdoors and their own lives. By becoming a mentor, you’ll provide a role model for young people as they navigate life’s sometimes-muddy waters.

Eagle Mount
Eagle Mount is another powerful organization right here in Bozeman that has made a huge impact. Every year, more than 2,000 volunteers serve over 1,700 youth participants who are disabled or battling cancer. Volunteering for Eagle Mount gives you the opportunity to empower young people who otherwise might not have opportunities to ski, horseback ride, or otherwise spend time under Montana’s big sky.

Gallatin Valley Land Trust
Our public lands get plenty of use, which means they need a little TLC from time to time. Every spring, the Gallatin Valley Land Trust hosts maintenance days on the in-town trails to prep them for the long summer ahead. And every summer during the Trail Challenge, Bozemanites take to the trails and log miles, each one donating real money to GVLT and its mission.

Warriors and Quiet Waters
At Quiet Waters Ranch, volunteers aid post-9/11 combat veterans and their families, military caregivers, and active-duty special-operations personnel. By eliminating physical barriers, they promote healing and resilience through participation in a therapeutic fly-fishing experience.

DIY
Acts of service don’t have to be big or even organized, really. One of the best things you can do for our community is small acts of TLC around town and on the trails. If you see trash, pick it up. Reassure a nervous or exhausted hiker, help a fellow biker fix his chain, pull a stuck vehicle out of the ditch. One of the things that makes Bozeman so great is the people—you’re one of us now, so take that seriously.

Cult Classics

Bozeman is bustling with outdoor-goers, so it’s no surprise that the town teems with outdoor events. From festive races and athletic exhibitions to laid-back celebrations of the seasons, these gatherings truly bind our community together. Here are ten that you shouldn’t miss.

King & Queen of the Ridge – February
A classic mid-winter celebration of skiing: see how many times you can hike up the Ridge at Bridger Bowl. Whether you make two laps or 20, you’ll be part of the scene and raising money for our local avalanche center. bridgerbowl.com.

Run to the Pub – March
Whether you’re Irish or not, get in the St. Patty’s Day spirit with a green-themed 10k or half-marathon, starting and ending at Pub 317 on Main Street. Yes, of course there’ll be beer at the finish line—you don’t have to ask. runtothepub.com.

Gallatin Whitewater Festival – June
Head up the Gally to spectate—or participate in—several exciting paddling competitions for river people of all ages and experience levels, including slalom, downriver racing, and BoaterX. gallatinwhitewaterfestival.com.

Ennis Fourth of July Parade and Rodeo – July
Many a western town have festive celebrations for the Fourth of July, but Ennis tops the charts around here with its signature parade and rodeo. There’s a fireworks sale at Madison Foods as well, but don’t even think about it if fire restrictions are in place. ennischamber.com.

Music on Main – July-August
Everyone and their moms will be there—head downtown on Thursday evenings in the heat of summer for live music by local performers, food and attractions from local businesses, and—the best part of all—open-container waivers for local bars. downtownbozeman.com.

Sweet Pea Festival – August
Over 40 years running, Sweet Pea is an outdoor summer art festival dedicated to all forms of expression. You’re sure to find something that piques your interest—be it musical, theatrical, culinary, or even athletic. sweetpeafestival.org.

Bridger Raptor Festival – October
Every year, thousands of birds of prey migrate along the spine of the Bridger Range. After an opening ceremony and film in town, head to Bridger Bowl to learn all about this epic journey and see it in action. bridgerraptorfest.com.

Huffing for Stuffing – November
This is the largest race in Bozeman, attracting thousands of participants every year on Thanksgiving Day. Put on your best turkey costume and run off all those extra calories you’ll be gulping down later. All proceeds go to the Gallatin Valley Food Bank to help support those in need. huffingforstuffing.com.

Christmas Stroll – December

Folks come out of the woodwork for this annual event, held downtown on the first weekend in December. Mingle, sprinkle good cheer, and make sure to get some hot cocoa or soup—the stroll is notoriously frigid. downtownbozeman.org.

 

Bozeman Ice Festival – December

To kick off the tool-swinging season, climbers flock to Bozeman from all across the country to enjoy Hyalite’s spectacular icicles. Climbing clinics, multimedia presentations, gear demos, and a banquet dinner are all on the agenda. bozemanicefest.com.

Do Go Chasing Waterfalls

by Jack Taylor

Bozeman has some of the best ice climbing in the Lower 48, from easy top-rope crags in Hyalite to grueling alpine routes in the Beartooths. Many folks arrive in this town having never even considered ascending a frozen waterfall using sharp metal spikes, only to find themselves fully hooked on the sport just a few years later. Once considered the realm of extreme alpinists, ice climbing is now an avocation for the masses. Clinics are offered all winter by various guide services, so you can safely learn the ropes. And in case you haven’t already heard about it, the annual Bozeman Ice Festival is not to be missed.

Where to Go
Beginner
Though Hyalite has a good selection of easy climbs, as a starting place, one crag is more popular than all the rest: G1 (formally “Genesis 1”). It’s the closest cliff to the Grotto Falls parking area—just a 15-minute walk up the hill—and you can easily set up a top-rope by scrambling around to the right. Once you’ve mastered the movement here, check out nearby Lower GreensleevesFat Chance, and Mummy I.

Intermediate
A logical progression, the next step up is G2, about twice as far up the hill as G1. It’s longer, more difficult, and more exposed, but you can still hike around (left, this time) to set up a top-rope if you’re not up to leading yet. Other excellent intermediate climbs in Hyalite include Hangover, The Fat OneMummy II, and Twin Falls.

Advanced
Hyalite has hundreds of ice and mixed climbs, and if you’re looking for a comprehensive guide, check out Joe Josephson’s guidebook The House of Hyalite. To get you started, though, here are some top picks: Responsible Family Men climbs a striking pillar hanging high on the canyon wall. Cleopatra’s Needle, when formed, is a breathtaking line near Twin Falls that’s sure to draw a crowd. Zack Attack, considered by many as the best winter route in Hyalite, tackles four pitches of rock and ice, guarded by a burly approach.

Outside of Hyalite, notable climbs include Hydromonster near Cooke City, California Ice up East Rosebud Creek, and the Lowe Route on the Sphinx—a popular early-season route that becomes a dangerous avalanche path once snow piles up.

Essential Gear
If you already rock climb, you’re off to a good start. Rope, harness, and helmet are the main essentials, in addition to a good pair of climbing boots. Shop around for a used pair if you’re just starting out—new ones are pretty spendy. Eye protection is crucial—clear or light-tinted glasses are nice for cloudy days. Of course, you’ll need crampons and ice tools, but if you’re just going out to top-rope, you can usually share these with your partner. Once you start leading and taking on multipitch climbs, you’ll need your own sets of spikes, plus a set of ice screws—six or seven should suffice Don’t forget about ice clippers: these plastic carabiners are specifically designed for racking ice screws and keep things a whole lot more organized on your harness.

On top of all that hardware, dressing the part is important. Start at skin-level: thick wool socks to prevent cold feet and bruised toes, and synthetic or wool long underwear on the top and bottom. Next, don a fleece sweater that you’ll be comfortable in all day, and perhaps fleece pants if it’s cold out. At this point, start piling on upper layers (too many lower layers will restrict movement in your legs). A synthetic insulated jacket will keep you toasty. Throw on a waterproof shell and rain pants to keep dripping water on the outside—even if it’s below freezing, ice climbs can still be wet. Carry two or three pairs of gloves, at least one of them waterproof, and a hat or balaclava that fits under your helmet. For really cold days, bring a big down parka, but be sure to only wear it when you’re belaying. If you wear it on a climb, it’s sure to get wet from sweat or dribbles, which will render those down feathers cold, heavy, and possibly damaged.

Make sure to bring enough food and water—your body burns a lot of calories when it’s cold. Some nice extra touches include a thermos of hot soup, tea, or cocoa; a package of handwarmers; and perhaps a nip of whiskey if you’re feeling frisky. Jokes aside, take safety seriously: carrying a satellite-communication device is always a good idea, and if you’re going into avalanche terrain, carry a beacon, shovel, and probe.

Snow Much More

by the editors

While skiing is no doubt the crowd favorite ‘round these parts, it isn’t the only thing to do come winter. There are plenty of cold-weather activities, no matter your inclination or experience. Here’s a list to get you started.

Sledding
Who said tearing down a hill on a sled is just for kids? Some folks say it only gets better with age. Bottom line is that it’s quite the thrill for anyone with a pulse. As affordable as it is accessible, sledding is a Montana pastime, and Bozeman has a number of popular spots worth checking out: Snowfill Recreation Area, Peets Hill, Regional Park, and Langohr Campground up Hyalite are just a few. Really, any public land with a rising slope will do—just make sure the hill has a decent run-out.

Snowshoeing
If you can walk, chances are you can snowshoe—and have fun doing it. To get started, pick a trailhead. While new snow offers fresh tracks, your best bet is to veer off-trail and make your own path. One of the major joys of snowshoeing is finding solitude and serenity in the winter woods. A beginner setup (shoes and poles) runs about $200 brand-new; if you’re on a budget, pick up a pair of hand-me-downs and use your ski poles.

Snowmobiling
With the power of a snowmobile, there’s a lot you can see. Whether flying around the mountains of West Yellowstone, Big Sky, Paradise Valley, Cooke City, or Island Park, a high-speed adrenaline rush is hard to beat. There are a number of guide and rental services scattered throughout southwest Montana, and most places that rent snowmobiles supply snowsuits, helmets, and other accessories.

As we see year after year, avalanches are deadly. If this is an activity you want to pursue extensively, consider taking a snowmobile-specific avalanche-education course. Riders trigger as many slides as skiers, and more people are heading out into the backcountry every year—do your part in mitigating the risk for all.

Skating
Every winter, three outdoor ice rinks pop up at Bozeman parks: Bogert, Southside, and Beall. Once the ice sets up for the season—normally in late December—the rinks stay open until 10pm every day. Southside and Bogert have warming huts for cozy cups of hot chocolate and a comfortable abode to put on and take off skates. Additional skating is offered at the Haynes Pavilion, home of the local hockey league; they rent skates for $5, plus a $5 entry fee.

Events
The great thing about Bozeman is that no matter your taste, there’s always something going on. Here are a few noteworthy events for you winter odd-ballers out there.

Ongoing
Learn to Skate – Bozeman. Get tips from the pros on how to slide smoothly on the ice. Classes offered for ages four and up, from beginner to advanced. gallatinice.org.

October
Hocktober Scramble – Bozeman. This fun hockey series gives players of all levels a chance to test their skills—and have a blast doing it—in competitive pickup games. bozemanhockey.org.

January
SNöFLINGA – Butte. There’s something for everyone here. We’re talking snowshoe tours, fatbike races, avalanche-awareness classes… the list goes on. snoflinga.org.

January
Wild West Winterfest – Island Park. Join cheery folk for a winter celebration complete with a parade of snowmobiles, sleigh rides, and a kids’ carnival. islandparkchamber.org.

February
Skijoring – Big Sky. If you don’t already know what skijoring is, you’re in for a treat. Head to Big Sky for an old-time wild-west showdown. bigskyskijoring.com.

Editor’s note: dates are subject to change. For the most updated information, visit outsidebozeman.com/events.

Run to the Hills

Lace ‘Em Up

by Corey Hockett

Bozeman-area trails are a treasure, no matter where you come from. Like a spider web from city center, hundreds of miles of dirt paths lie at our fingertips—we only need to hop on and take off. Our town’s trustworthy trail whisperer—the Gallatin Valley Land Trust—manages 80 miles (and counting) of foot and bike routes, connecting in-town locations to deep wilderness settings. There are options for all seasons and all inclinations, so no matter your passion, Bozeman’s got you covered. 

If you’re new—and we won’t judge—you’ve got a lot to learn. But even more importantly, you’ve got a lot to explore. One of the best things about being in Bozeman is that you’re likely never further than 10 minutes from the nearest trail. Once you get ‘em mapped out, you’ll be commuting to work, biking at lunch, and going on ridge runs at sunset. And believe us, it’s just as great as it sounds.

In Town
The Gallagator
Every good town has a trail that runs through the heart of it, and the Gallagator is Bozeman’s. Named after an old railway line, the Gallagator is one of our finest commuter trails. Located on the east side of town, with access to both the top and bottom of Peets Hill, this path will take you from downtown through Langhor Park and up to campus. Along the way, you’ll pass community gardens, a climbing boulder, and many a smiling citizen.

East Gallatin Rec Area
On the north side of town, the East Gallatin Rec Area offers a web of trails and amenities starting from its centerpiece, Glen Lake (a.k.a., East Gallatin Pond). For solitude, meander through cottonwoods and willows along the river. If you don’t mind some company, saunter around the pond for a lap or two. When the weather’s nice, so is the water—Glen Lake is great for paddleboarding, fishing, and a good ol’ fashioned swim. Near the parking area, you’ll find beach volleyball and a climbing boulder.

West-Side Trails
While the west side of town is seeing the fastest growth, patchy trails weave through the sprouting neighborhoods and offer a quiet escape to what the locals refer to as the Bozeman bustle. Follow them intermittently from the Bozeman Pond down Cattail Creek to Oak Street. From there, the Gallatin Regional Park is just a stone’s throw away with more trails, water bodies, and a sledding hill during the winter. Other trails shoot through neighborhoods in all directions.

On the Outskirts
M Trail
Like many Montana towns, Bozeman boasts an emblematic hike leading to a popular overlook. It’s a bit over a mile (via the easy route) from the parking lot to the big white M. For folks who want a more demanding hike, take the right fork at the trailhead and head straight up the right side of the slope. Cutting off half the distance, as well as all of your shade, this route will get your heart pumping.

Drinking Horse
On the opposite side of Bridger Canyon Rd. from the M, Drinking Horse is another close-to-home classic. The mostly-shady jaunt (around 2.2 miles) takes you up through lodgepole pine and Douglas fir to a knoll with panoramic views of the valley and up into Bridger Canyon. This one’s great for an after-work run, or, if you happen to be on a first date, our advice is to head here near sunset.

Triple Tree
Just south of town, with parking off of Sourdough Rd., Triple Tree is a favorite with hikers, runners, and bikers. The trail to the overlook and back is around 4.5 miles, with great views of the Bridgers and Tobacco Roots at the top. Along the way, you’ll pass through prime habitat for deer, elk, moose, and bear, as well as a number of bird species. A fair stretch of trail zigzags Limestone Creek, a handy water source for your canine companion.

Higher Ground
Sacajawea Peak
The Bridger ridgeline is home to a number of named peaks, but the one that trumps them all (in elevation at least) is Sacajawea, or Sac as the locals call it. Drive the long, bumpy track up to Fairy Lake, in a vehicle with high clearance, and start your hike at the end of the road. You’ll be greeted with great views at the pass and even better ones at the summit. Give a wide berth to the mountain goats you’re sure to encounter along the way.

Storm Castle
From Hwy. 191, Storm Castle is arguably the most prominent feature rising above Gallatin Canyon. The trail begins near Storm Castle Creek and climbs 2,300 ft. over 2.5 miles through forest and sage to the top of the multi-tiered rock formation. It’s a Bozeman staple, and on a good day will grant you a dramatic perspective of Gallatin Peak, as well as the flowing river below.

Lava Lake
On hot summer days, nothing beats working up a sweat on a hike and washing it off with a swim in a mountain lake. Around Bozeman, you won’t find a better place to do so than Lava Lake. The trail begins at the 35mph bridge on Hwy. 191 in Gallatin Canyon (slow down as you approach the bridge or you’ll miss the turn-off). Hike three forested miles to a rocky basin filled with emerald-green water. A good cliff-jumping spot can be found on the north side of the lake.

For more local trails, visit the outsidebozeman.com/trails-tours webpage.

Essential Gear
One of the best parts of hitting the trails with your own two feet—be it walking, running, or hiking—is the dearth of necessary gear. For the most part, so long as you’ve got a solid pair of shoes (or tough feet) and proper clothes (read: layers) you should be good to go. Of course you’ll need to bring food and water; other considerations should include sunscreen, ball cap, a first-aid kit, and bear spray. There’s griz in these hills—learn where to expect them, how to avoid them, and how to fend off an attack.

Etiquette
We’ve all seen the triangle signs: bikers yield to hikers and the both of them yield to horse riders. This is a good starting point, but do not let it fly in the face of rationality. As hikers, it’s often easier to jump off the trail to let a biker pass. Use discretion and be respectful.

The issue of loud music is becoming more prevalent in our outdoor spaces. Remember, trails are shared by all. If you like to listen to music while outside, keep in mind that many of us do not. Don’t be the guy who blasts music on an exterior speaker on your hike up Sourdough. Other folks are looking for quietude—don’t ruin their experience.

Finally, the dog poop thing. Pick up after your pooch. Period. And putting it in a bag and leaving the bag on the trail does not count—you’ll forget and someone else will have to deal with it later. Bozeman’s outdoors are great because everyone does their part in looking after them. Do yours.

Events
Bozeman’s outdoor calendar is full of trail-related events year-round. There are always ways to get involved and give back, not to mention dozens of races, community hikes, and weekly fun runs. Here are some highlights (a comprehensive calendar can be found at outsidebozeman.com/events).

May
Cleanup Day – Hyalite Canyon. After a long winter, Hyalite needs some love. Pitch in for a morning, bagging trash and tidying trailheads. hyalite.org.

May-June
GVLT Discovery Walks – Bozeman. Meet new people and make new friends on these one-hour guided walks along the Main Street to the Mountains trail system. 80+ miles await, all of which are right here, in and around town. gvlt.org.

June
Summer Trails Challenge – Bozeman. Every mile you log on area trails earns real money to support GVLT and its mission. gvlt.org.

June 5
National Trails Day – Bozeman. This is the best day to give back to the trails that give us so much. Almost every trail-related nonprofit in town has a workday scheduled, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. gvlt.org.

June-August
MWA Wilderness Walks – SW MT. When you’re ready to go deep, sign up for a guided hike into a Wilderness Area near Bozeman. Naturalist-led, these outings instill a greater appreciation for our protected landscapes while imparting useful information about wild nature. wildmontana.org.

August
Hyalite Fest – Hyalite Canyon. Head up to Bozeman’s favorite backyard rec area for a fun run, day hikes, and a general celebration of all things Hyalite. hyalite.org.

September 24
National Public Lands Day – Bozeman. Around here, we use public lands all the time, which means they need a little TLC every year. Use this last Saturday of the month to go for a hike, do some trail maintenance, or find a new trail run. gvlt.org.

October
Cleanup Day – Hyalite Canyon. Summertime is hard on Hyalite, so help give the place a facelift by picking up trash at trailheads. hyalite.org.

Editor’s note: Dates are subject to change based on weather and other factors. For the most updated information, visit outsidebozeman.com/events.

 

 

 

Try Before You Buy

by Jack Taylor

With so many activities to try around the Bozone, it’s hard to get fully outfitted for everything. Not to worry—there are plenty of stores in town (and in our surrounding towns) that can set you up with rental gear. This way, you can see if the activity is worth investing in, or try out a specific piece of equipment, before committing to a purchase. Sometimes, you can even apply the cost of the rental toward a purchase from the same store.

Want to try mountain biking? Check out Chalet SportsRound HouseOwenhouse Cycling, or Arc’s Bike & Ski. In Livingston, Dan Bailey’s also rents bikes.

Heading for the river? Round House rents watercraft, as do Northern Lights and Big Boys Toys. Dan Bailey’s, Montana Troutfitters, and River’s Edge can set you up with fishing gear.

If you’re seeking a high-octane outing, Big Boys Toys rents ATVs and UTVs; or try Yellowstone Adventures down in West Yellowstone. Both of these outfitters also rent snowmobiles in winter.

Speaking of winter, of course we’ve got plenty of options for ski rentals. Bridger Bowl has its own rental shop, and Round House has a satellite shop on the mountain. Dan Bailey’s and Uphill Pursuits have top-of-the-line backcountry-skiing equipment if you want to venture beyond the resort. Chalet Sports and Round House stock the full gamut, from basic rentals to high-end demo skis—the latter you can also find at Ph.D. Skis.

Most of the aforementioned ski shops rent Nordic skis, too. You can also get set up at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky or Freeheel & Wheel in West Yellowstone.

If you want to get your feet wet (read: cold) with ice climbing, Montana Alpine Guides can set you up with ice tools, boots, and crampons.

Though not outdoor equipment per se, for some, camera gear is an essential part of the kit. Bozeman Camera rents professional-grade cameras and lenses at friendly prices, plus it offers a 20% discount for students and military. It also has an extensive inventory of used equipment, when you’re ready to make a purchase.

No matter what new activity you want to try, Bozeman has it all. The beauty of renting is you can hang it up after one go, or dive down the rabbit-hole of a new hobby—we can’t say it hasn’t happened before. Get out there, be safe, and have fun.

 

Watch Your Back

by the editors

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst—this saying applies whenever you’re getting out into the remote parts of southwest Montana, no matter what time of year. Even within a short distance of town, you can find yourself with no cell service and infrequent traffic. It could take a long time or a lot of effort to get help, so you’d best be prepared to help yourself out of a sticky situation.

During summer, the weather can turn quickly, and not every critter you run into is friendly (e.g., griz and mama moose). Just because the sun’s shining doesn’t mean you needn’t take precautions. Dehydration should be considered on most outings. If you’re going out for more than half a day, have a plan for drinking water and cooling down. Most major drainages have creeks where you can fill your bottle (purification recommended) and dunk your head, but lots of them dry up in the summertime. If you run out on a sun-baked ridge, don’t count on finding any moisture until you hit the valley floor. It’s a good idea to keep a full jug in your car.

If you do any fishing or wandering around river bottoms, keep an eye out for poison ivy. Learn how to identify the plant and areas where it’s likely to grow. In general, you can’t go wrong with the old adage: leaves of three, let it be.

Up in the high country, your main watch-out is electricity. Thunder and lightning storms are common. They usually arrive in the afternoon, but look for signs early, like shifting winds and the build-up of cumulus clouds. If you do get caught in a storm, move to lower ground, take off all metal objects (watches, belts, keys), and assume lightning position (squat with hands behind head) until it passes.

Forest fires are also an issue in the summer. Getting caught in one is not a primary concern, but starting one will lead to fines and potential jail time—plus public shaming. There are often campfire mandates during the hotter months, but if you have one when permitted, make sure you keep it contained with a rock ring, monitor it constantly, and extinguish it completely. Many a smoldering cooking fire has led to a wildfire, with devastating consequences.

In the winter, the margin for error in the outdoors is even thinner, and a mishap could quickly turn dangerous if you’re not prepared. Before you take on the snowy roads, make sure your vehicle is capable. Snow tires are highly recommended and will make your life easier—and safer—all winter long. Yes, it’s a big investment, but with two sets of tires for summer and winter, each will last twice as long. Regardless of tire type, a set of chains in your car will get you out of a pickle. Make sure they fit your tires, and practice installing them so that you can do it quickly when the time comes. A few more items to keep in your car include a shovel for digging yourself out, jumper cables in case your battery dies, and gloves plus warm clothing (or even a sleeping bag) in case you get stuck for a long time.

Extra layers are also essential when venturing away from your vehicle. A good rule of thumb is to bring one garment more than you think you’ll need—better safe than sorry. When planning your layering scheme, start with a moisture-wicking baselayer made of polyester or wool. Avoid cotton for warmth in winter; if it gets wet, it won’t dry until you’re back in a warm environment. Fleece and wool make great midlayers for top and bottom. A windbreaker or hardshell jacket will add protection without taking up much space in your pack. On top of that, an insulated jacket with synthetic or down fill gives you lots of warmth with little extra weight to carry. Down has a better warmth-to-weight ratio, but like cotton, it will not dry in the cold, so synthetic is always a safer bet.

Lastly, always keep a first-aid kit and firestarter handy, in both car and backpack. If you get lost or hurt, treating wounds and staying warm are your most immediate and important concerns. A simple emergency kit—and a cool head—will prevent more calamities than any other precaution.

Groupthink

by Teddy Banker

In this day and age, you can find just about anything on the internet—apart from a real-life, genuine outdoor experience, that is. But to point you in the right direction before an outing, or to get reports on recent conditions, or even to buy and sell gear, there’s an online group for each of our favorite activities. For a small sampling, check out these on Facebook, and head to bluelightguide.com for more beta.

Hiking Bozeman Forum
This large group of active Bozemanites is all about trail conditions and pertinent information about hikes. You’ll find suggestions of popular trails and hidden gems, along with frequent lost-and-found postings. With over 13,000 members, this online assemblage will help you find the right path.

Bozeman Trail Running
This is a home for runners to discuss trail conditions, events, and races, and to find running partners as well. Note: this group doesn’t buy or sell gear. If you’re looking for other ladies to run with, check out Lady Runners: Bozeman for a supportive and inviting community.

Bozeman Backcountry
Throw a pebble on Main Street on a Saturday with no new snow at Bridger, and odds are you’ll hit a skier. And navigating such a big community can be difficult. But with this group, people of all skill levels can connect with fellow skiers and boarders. For gear sales, check out the Bozeman Ski Gear Buy/Sell/Trade group.

Bozeman Whitewater
If you’re a whitewater enthusiast, joining this group is a must. With 1,600 members and lots of activity, this group makes it easy to buy and sell gear, coordinate trips and shuttles, and get in the loop on events. 

Montana Fly Fishing
This is an all-purpose angling group. You’ll find lots of photos of proud catches, inquiries about hatches and fish activity, and even some buy-sell-trade posts for fishing gear.

Bozeman Area Climbing
Many crags surround Bozeman, making it a climber’s paradise. This group is great for finding climbing partners, buying and selling gear, coordinating trail-work efforts, and learning about ways to be more active in protecting the wilderness character of southwest Montana.

Southwest Montana Ice Conditions
Bozeman is home to an ice-climbing mecca: Hyalite Canyon. With hundreds of routes, Hyalite can be a difficult place to navigate. This active group of more than 3,000 members helps newbies and experts alike find climbing partners, see how ice in the region is forming, and shop for used gear from seasoned locals.

A New Home

by Adam Brown

It had only been a couple hours since I’d rolled into Bozeman. Hungry from traveling and unpacking my weighed-down Subaru Forester, I swung by the nearby Town & Country to stock up on groceries. While checking out, I spotted some local magazines that I hoped would give me a lay of the land. One of them was the Blue Light Guide. As I poked through it, I noticed some coupons in the back. Pizza sounded good. I ripped out the coupon to Cosmic and grabbed a pie on my way home.

There I sat, eating pizza on the floor of an unfurnished apartment, reading all about Bozeman’s outdoor offerings. I was infatuated—and a little bit intimidated—by the culture and adventures that awaited me. Gallatin Tower, the Mad Mile, the Bangtail Divide; I didn’t have a clue what any of these things were, but I knew I wanted to try them. I had a good place to start, thanks to the Blue Light, and I was able to save some extra cash with the coupons (more money to spend at gear shops; see page 82). Looking back, it’s amazing to see how far I’ve come—in just a few short years, I’ve climbed, paddled, and pedaled some of Bozeman’s most iconic locales, and there’s still so much more to explore.

Since you’ve gotten your hands on the Blue Light Guide as well, I can only assume it will help you as much as it helped me. And if you’re wondering about the name, ask around. Here’s a hint: Bozeman’s blue light an invitation to adventure, a call to the outdoors, and an integral element of the local ski scene—just like this guide is, in the wintertime and all year ’round.

So, good luck exploring, enjoying, and adapting to the Bozone. We’ll see you out there.