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Oct 28 2013

A Wild Summer Comes to a Close

Over two hundred Montanans gather to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness

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What began as an idea to celebrate wilderness in Montana nearly a year ago came to a rowdy close in early October.  With fall’s first snow on the valley floor, folks made their way to Big Sky to send the Summer of Lee out with a bang.

This year we’ve been busy celebrating 30th anniversary of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness.  And the summer provided the perfect opportunity, not only to revel in one of Montana’s last best places, but also to thank those that fought hard to protect it.

It was four months of adventure in the Lee on over 300 miles of trail covering 259,000 acres.  We inventoried alpine lakes with the US Forest Service, gave trails some much needed love, hiked in and slept under the stars, and paddled class IV rapids- all in one of Montana’s favorite wilderness areas.  We even drank a pint or two of award-winning Lee Metcalf Summer Ale and we did it wearing Lee’s signature horn rim glasses.

We ended with a summer celebration that won’t soon be forgotten with reflections about Lee and Donna Metcalf from Congressman Pat Williams and then danced late into the night in the long shadow of the Madison Range with music by the Clumsy Lovers.

But the Summer of Lee wasn’t simply about celebrating our past successes.  It’s also a reminder that Lee’s legacy remains incomplete.  There’s still work to be done to permanently protect places like the Gallatin Range as Senator Metcalf intended.  And looking back on the leadership of Lee, and the determination of countless Montanans, we can find more than yesterday’s heroes with rich stories, but also hope for the future of wilderness in Montana.

 - John Todd is the Southwest Montana Campaign Director for the Montana Wilderness Association.  He's often found floating class five whitewater in Beartrap Canyon, in the legenday Lee Metcalf Wilderness.