Lolo Creek

Lolo Creek

Winter was in full swing on Saturday, December 6th, as we headed down to Travelers’ Rest State Park outside of Lolo, MT.  8 matches gathered for a brisk stroll through the beautiful park, as well as some education in winter ecology.


How do animals (and humans) cope with the cold, snow, and shorter days? Our hike crossed Lolo Creek as we learned about the changes aquatic animals make in response to winter conditions.  IMG_20141206_104109As we moved through the stand of black cottonwood trees, we discussed adaptions made by birds, squirrels, and elk.

Resist, migrate, or hibernate?

Resist, migrate, or hibernate?

After the hike, we gathered inside the Travelers’ Rest interpretive center for a game of “Resist, Migrate, or Hibernate?”.  We learned that animals either adapt themselves (resist), travel to warmer climates (migrate), or sleep through the winter (hibernate).

Finally, Park Manager Loren Flynn enlightened us on the proper clothing to enure safe winter travels.

Thank you to everyone that braved the cold to join us for the December trip!  Special thanks to everyone at Travelers’ Rest State Park, Montana Wilderness Association, Missoula Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center.  Stay tuned for our January trip, when we’ll be cross country skiing at Seeley Lake!

As always, keep exploring!

On Saturday, November 8th we joined the Watershed Education Network (WEN) on a stream ecology field trip to Milltown State Park.  The morning was a bit frosty, but the sun soon came out to shine on the beautiful confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers.


Hard to believe this used to be underwater! 

After a brief history lesson on the Milltown Dam and Reservoir, we put on our waders and hopped in the river to collect aquatic organisms. Our specimens included mayflies, stoneflies, snails, beetles, and sculpin.


Analyzing our findings

Analyzing our findings


Some up-close investigation!

Next, we all took on the role of members of an aquatic ecosystem (bull trout, grizzly bear, bacteria, etc.) and created our own food web, while learning about how energy flows through an ecosystem.  Who would’ve thought that bacteria and fungi were so important to grizzly bears and osprey!

Our field day culminated in a no-holds-barred showdown of “To Spawn or No to Spawn”.  Players assumed the role of bull trout trying to spawn, while navigating an obstacle course of natural and human-caused threats.

Trying to "swim" through a turbine

Trying to “swim” through a turbine


"Predator Alley"

The dreaded “Predator Alley”

Thanks to everyone who came out for this fun day by the river!  Special thanks to WEN, Missoula Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center, and all of our volunteers!  Although the field season is now dwindling, WEN is always doing something to improve the health of our local waterways.  Check them out for volunteer/educational opportunities  See all you explorers again soon!

On Tuesday, August 19th a group of ‘bigs’ and ‘littles’ headed to the banks of the Bitterroot River for an evening fly fishing clinic. 



Learning how to tie a fly to the leader of a fly rod.

We were lucky enough to have Casey Hackathorn, the president of Hellgate Hunters and Anglers teach us the basics of fly fishing within the span of one hour. We learned about native Montana fish and their habitat, the difference between fishing with a fly rod versus a spin rod, the parts of the rod, how to tie a fly onto the leader (or the end of the fishing line), and how to cast. Casey was a great teacher and the ‘bigs’ and ‘littles’ started to get the hang of fly fishing by the end of the clinic. When the formal lesson was complete, Casey hung around to help everyone with their technique while two great volunteers, Bert and Lori, shared their expertise and enthusiasm for fly fishing with the group.




Casey demonstrating how to cast with the fly rod.

Sadly, no one caught any fish during this adventure. At one point in the evening Dustin, of Big Brothers Big Sisters said, “You can’t catch a fish, if you don’t leave the line in the water.” So as long as ‘bigs’ and ‘littles’ get out on the river again, with their lines in the water, the odds are pretty good that at some point they will catch a fish!


Thank you to everyone who helped to make this event possible, especially Casey, Lori, Bert. And of course, this event wouldn’t be possible without the support of Big Brothers Big Sister of Missoula and their great staff, the Montana Wilderness Association, and the Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center.

Rafting the Alberton Gorge

Posted: August 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

On July 29, 2014, eighty people piled into boats on the Alberton Gorge segment of the Clark Fork River to experience good company, the scenery, including beautiful shorelines, large boulders and cliffs, wildlife, and of course the thrill of rapids.

Rafters were led by experienced guides with Zootown Surfers who knew exactly how to make sure that we had a great time. They were enthusiastic and highly prepared to coordinate our large group and make sure that we had an incredible experience.

We floated through a number of large rapids, including the famous rapid named Tumbleweed, which left no rafter dry! During slow stretches of the river, rafters dipped in the water alongside the rafts. Water fights ensued and some floaters even got their hands on water guns, which increased the challenge of drying off in the sun.

During the quieter moments on the river, which were few and far in between, floaters spotted an otter floating down the river, a bald eagle circling the river’s edge, and an osprey feasting on fish. It was a beautiful evening for the float trip and people are already asking about the sign-up for next year’s adventure!

Thank you to Zootown Surfers for ensuring that we had a fun and safe trip and to the partners who made this trip possible; Montana Wilderness Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Arthur Carhat National Wilderness Training Center. photo 4

photo 5

On Tuesday, June 24th a group of ‘bigs’ and ‘littles’ hiked up Waterworks Hill on the north side of town in Missoula. The temperature was just right, in the mid 70’s with blue sky and scattered clouds. 

The landscape was beautiful, painted red, yellow, and green by wildflowers such as yarrow, lupine, and arrowleaf balsamroot. Participants, some of whom had never hiked before, were challenged by the steep uphill climb to the hill’s summit. Yet, once at the top, the hikers were rewarded with a spectacular view of Missoula, nestled in amongst the mountains. After reaching the summit, the hikers were able to relax with a downhill descent towards their destination, the Moon-Randolph Homestead.

The 1.6 mile hike ended with a delicious BBQ at the Moon-Randolph Homestead, a beautiful 470 acre farm due south of highway 90. While at the homestead we met Matt (a caretaker of the farm) while he was busy tending to the homestead garden. He was incredibly friendly and showed us how to feed the piglets and a very curious goat! What a treat, for us and them! Near the end of our stay Matt guided the ‘littles’ on a tour of the buildings and orchard at the homestead. The farm, buildings, and antiques within piqued the interest of the ‘littles’ to the point that they couldn’t resist asking Matt question after question. 

Thank you to our partners for making this trip happen and a big thank you to our volunteer Mario Colucci for entertaining hikers and Matt, the Homestead caretaker, for being a welcoming presence and a great tour guide!

Hiking uphill on Waterworks

Hiking uphill on Waterworks

Waterworks Hike



Sheep herder  Waterworks

Sheep herder herding the sheep on Waterworks

Tour with Matt-Homestead

Matt giving us a tour of the homestead property.


Feeding the goat!


Feeding the piglets lettuce.

View of Homestead100_4540

Homestead- Starlings in tree

Listening to starlings in an apple tree.


We’d been here before, but things were a little greener than last time.  Trees were starting to bloom, grass was growing strong, and the birds were singing last Saturday at Dunrovin Ranch.  Last November we were out here for the very same reason; to love and ride on some horses.

Our group was smaller this time, but no less enthusiastic.  It’s not every day you get to brush an animal four times your size and weight; at least, not for us.  After the ever-necessary safety talk, the first group of matches started their riding session and the rest of us headed to the pasture to wait till a staff member could show us how to groom and work with the horses in the barn area.  We passed the time with the first ever Dunrovin World Cup soccer game.  What a match it was!

Soccer in the Pasture

Soccer in the Pasture

We soon found ourselves giving some love to the horses by either brushing, or talking with them, and maybe the occasional kiss on the nose.  This didn’t just happen with the typical horses though.  Sicilian Donkeys and smaller breeds of horses also call Dunrovin home and got just as much attention.

The first group returned from their ride about half an hour later feeling excited and accomplished.  Big smiles could be seen on every face!  The next group, consisting of two matches and two volunteers, rotated in for their riding session and the rest of us headed over to the fire pit for a classic American lunch in the outdoors: roasting hotdogs over a fire!

The rotation continued into the early afternoon: matches participated in 45 minute trail rides while the rest of us either groomed the animals in the barn area, played field games in the pasture (Sharks and Minnows is still a hit!), or explored down by the river nearby. All things considered, it made for a great Saturday!  It seems spring has finally arrived in western Montana, and there was no better way to find out than from the top of a horses back.


Returning from a Trail Ride

Thank you to Dunrovin Ranch and everyone else who made this trip a success!  Also a big thanks to our partners and volunteers, particularly Big Brothers Big Sisters of Missoula and the Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center.  This spring was a rousing success for Missoula Outdoor Explorers and this summer looks to be even more so.  Check back with us in June for our latest adventure!

Making Friends

Making Friends

Keep exploring!



Bow, stern, hull, blade, wet-exit, stroke, t-rescue, roll.  If you know anything about kayaking, you recognize these terms.  Most of us on Saturday, March 15, however, didn’t know any of these.  That’s why we gathered at the YMCA in Missoula this spring afternoon; to learn the basics of kayaking and to find out how fun the sport really is.

Because of the space available at the Y and the nature of the activity, we had to split matches up into groups of 8.  The first started at 2pm, ready to get into the action.  After brief introductions, half of us jumped in the water with one instructor and started to get familiar with being in a kayak while the other half stayed on the pool deck with the other and learned about the anatomy of the boats.  There’s one main thing a person needs to be comfortable with while kayaking: tipping over.  It’s different than canoeing or sailing in that flipping your boat over is a normal part of the sport.  If you’re not flipping over, you’re not doing it right!

Needless to say, there was no shortage of spills in the pool this afternoon.  Everyone was soon familiar with the boats, strokes, and yes, getting wet.  By 3:00 it was time for the 1st Annual Outdoor Explorers Aquatic Kayaking Olympics (title courtesy of instructor Ryan Miller).  These Olympics consisted of two relay races involving teams standing on one side of the pool while their teammates paddled to the other end, turned around, and returned before switching and setting off again.  The competition was close, intense……..and fun to watch!

Soon it was time for the second group of matches to learn.  A different pair of instructors taught this group with a different, but no less successful, approach.  The entire group got in the pool this time and matches helped each other figure out how to get back into the boats after flipping (self-rescue).  After spending some time here it was time for some Sharks and Minnows, kayaking edition!  The sharks had a surprisingly hard time catching these minnows with the prey ultimately emerging as the winner.  Before we knew it our time at the YMCA was up.  

“So what did we learn today?” asked one of the instructors.  “THAT KAYAKING IS FUN!!!” said a little.

Although it was too cold on this March afternoon to kayak in one of western Montana’s many rivers, summer isn’t far away.  One thing is for sure; the Outdoor Explorers have a new skill to try out in the water come the warm months of June, July and August!

A big thanks to all those who made this trip possible: the University of Montana Outdoor Program volunteers, Sussex School for the gear, and the YMCA for the pool space.  Be sure to check out our Facebook page for more pics and stay tuned for our next adventure!  Keep exploring