If mountain backpacking trash collection was a recognized sport, you gotta like our team's chances of taking the gold medal.

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) tells us that 170 backpackers recently gathered in Kalipsell, Montana, for the first-ever HIGHLANDER event, where they cleaned up 1,202 pounds of trash. And this was hardly the kind of project where you give up a few hours of your Saturday to help tidy things up.

No, the HIGHLANDER covered a respectable range of northwest Montana, including the Blacktail Mountain Ski Area. There were two formats: The Hercules, which involved five days and 54 miles, and the Pegasus, three days and 38 miles. Participants ranged in age from 13-71 and came from 31 states and three countries to participate in the late-September event.

In addition to backpacking/trash cleanup, there were educational presentations, relaxation and fun, with an emphasis placed on recreating responsibly, bear safety and more. And you can bet they were responsible backpackers! According to the DNRC, you never would have known they were there.

The event was facilitated by Discover Kalispell. And while the backpacking adventure is  the key focus of HIGHLANDER, it also included relationship building, music and welcome and much-needed massages. Plus, HIGHLANDER donated $1 for every mile covered by Hercules participants to a veteran charity, “Folds of Honour.”

Participants also committed to “Erase the Trace” as part of HIGHLANDER’s collaboration with Responsible Stewardship, leaving trails far more pristine after their volunteer efforts.
Next year's event is scheduled for September 10-14. If it sounds like the kind of project you'd like to be involved with, advance registration is now being accepted here.

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