Yaak Wings Walkers prepare for 7th annual event, September 12

Participants of the 1st Annual Yaak Wings Walk head south from the Yaak Rod & Gun Club on a cold and icy day which saw several walkers loose their upright balance for a moment or two.  In the end and despite the challenges, the pack of pedestrians would go on to raise $9,800 that year.  Photo courtesy of Roberta Deneau.


By Stacy Bender

During the Spring of 2013, Yaak resident Roberta Deneau was contemplating ways in which she might help her friend and neighbor, Linda Garrison, who at the time was battling cancer and beginning to feel the burden of expenses associated with her illness. After speaking with others in the area, a plan was hatched and five people set out to walk from the Yaak River Mercantile to Hwy 2, asking community to pledge dollars for every mile they completed.

After completing the 30-mile trek, pledges were collected for the “Kinda G Walk-a-Thon” and $4,000 was raised for Garrison.  Soon after the overwhelming outpouring of support, a motion was made that the walkers institute their journey as future tradition in support of Wings and the rest as they say is history.

This year, the seventh annual “Yaak Wings Walk” is set to transpire. Each year the number of walkers has grown, from the initial five who walked on Garrison’s behalf in 2013 to nearly sixty who pledged their support and time in 2019. To date, Wings Walkers have raised over $79,000 for Wings Regional Cancer Support, a non-profit cancer organization which helps to defray out-of-pocket expenses – such as housing, transportation, meals – associated with cancer treatment for those in NW Montana.

Traditionally, walkers have departed with goals set to walk anywhere from 1 to 30 miles along Yaak River Road between the Yaak Rod & Gun Club and the stop sign located at the Hwy 2 Junction.  “Those that have made it the full 30 miles like to jump and smack the stop sign in victory,” Deneau shared in conversation this past weekend. “and it’s quite a jump.  That sign is much higher than people think it is, and after all that walking – a challenge.”

Some aim for that 30-mile victory smack, yet others choose a less strenuous goal in full support of the cause. While navigating any distance, some walkers have dressed in spirited attire for added fun and inspiration. Others have loaded pull wagons with deemed necessities for their day, sometimes including a boom box to provide proper soundtrack for the journey ahead.

One item that all might wish to pack on their hip this year is a can of bear spray. “Last year we had walkers who crossed paths with both a black bear and a moose,” Deneau recalled. “It’s bound to happen occasionally and is one of the things we personally love about this unique experience.”

Walkers this year need also to be aware of one major adjustment due to recent social-distancing guidelines set forth by both local and state officials. “We are not going to be providing shuttle service back to the gun club parking lot for our participants this year,” said Deneau. “In years past, we had drivers designated to pick up groups of walkers along the course and transport them back to the starting line. This year, we cannot put anyone at risk of potentially contaminating either their vehicles or one another.”

All walkers are being urged to know their limits and plan accordingly for this change. If you normally walk 10 miles, plan to turn around at 5 miles and walk back to the starting line to complete your goal. Those wishing to push themselves towards that ceremonial jump at the stop sign should plan accordingly and arrange for their own return transportation.

Aside from the change to shuttle service, walkers can still expect to see sag support wagons cruising the course with sports drinks and water courtesy of both Rosauers and Steins, and the Yaak Fire and Rescue Squad will again be on-scene in the event of an emergency.

“We aren’t quite sure how many walkers to expect this year,” Deneau stated. “We’re never really sure. But this year could really go either way.  Some are rightfully cautious and will be choosing not to attend, while others are looking forward to the one big Wings event we will be holding this year – as the Annual Yaak Wings Auction was cancelled.”

No matter the crowd, one thing is certain. The 2020 Yaak Wings Walk will set course on Saturday, September 12, beginning at 9:00 am. Walkers will meet and depart from the parking lot at the Yaak Rod & Gun Club.

To obtain pledge information and/or to find out more on how to participate or become involved, please contact Roberta at 406-295-7328 or via email at yaakwingswalkers@gmail.com.

Smoking Gun BBQ opens in downtown Libby

By Tyler Whitney


“Five minutes of today,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in Essays and Lectures, “are worth as much to me as five minutes in the next millennium.” That is to say, a moment of happiness now is just as important as a moment of happiness tomorrow. Ultimately, we must refuse to postpone a well-lived life, for in planning the future, “the individual is always mistaken.” Such a philosophy, lived authentically, may be, by some, interpreted as an early, late or mid-life crisis. For Jeremy Canary, however, transitioning from a department’s manager at Cabinet Peaks Medical Center to an owner and chef at Smoking Gun BBQ is simply living today as the most genuine self he can.

Jeremy, and his wife Jennifer, grew up within the small hidden towns of Southern Georgia, kept apart by miles of aging solitary roads, surrounded by gleaming cotton and corn fields, and ever so rarely disrupted by corner stores selling hot boiled peanuts. Here Jeremy would start his informal culinary education, spending his days in hot diner kitchens while still in high school. But perhaps the more cherished instruction in food came when he became a paramedic before graduating. In those anxious lulls between emergency calls, downtime was often filled with good ol’ fashioned Southern BBQ and long hours in the cool shade swapping recipes and stories while waiting for the meat to finish smoking. For the next eight years, amidst friendship and medicine, Jeremy would learn what really makes his BBQ so special.

After some 25 years spent at home in Georgia between the Florida panhandle and Alabama, it was time for a change. Packing up what they could, the Canary’s moved from place to place, from Arizona and then California. Jennifer picked up her teaching certification after achieving her degree in early childhood development. Jeremy continued his education in the medical field, earning a degree in respiratory therapy before joining Independent Partners where he sold medical equipment such as oxygen, walkers and other durable medical supplies. Yet, after nearly a decade amongst the dry and crowded Californian heat, it was time to escape.


Story continued in to Page  6

Dry conditions and
thunderstorms ignite the Northwest

By Brian Baxter


After recent thunderstorms hit Northwest Montana, numerous ignitions occurred. The dry conditions, high temperatures, and continually drying fuels are a recipe for disaster. With the fire danger rated as very high, the driving forces of thunderstorms with lightning and strong winds can combine, and did for multiple fire events in our immediate areas. Not all of these lightning strike starts are immediate flame on situations. Many sneak through the forest floor, mainly undetectable until the sun increasingly heats them up and winds begin to spread the danger. Fire teams utilize all the tools they have in the arsenal to find and fight these new starts including lightning strike location maps, fire engine patrols, staffed fire lookouts, aerial observation spotter planes and choppers, and sometimes heat sensor equipped aircraft.

Once the battle begins, fire organizations start a series of steps that implement a well coordinated attack plan. Some of the best weapons include aircraft such as reconnaissance planes, helicopter missions, helitack crews, and S.E.A.T.s, or single engine air tankers. The SEATs can deliver up to 800 gallons of fire retardant to support firefighters on the ground. These small planes can reload and operate in areas where larger air tankers cannot. This makes them ideal for utilizing in the steep rugged country that we have here in northwest Montana. These teams are hard at work keeping these fires under control during a very challenging fire season 2020.

Recent lightning start ignition fire in the Fisher / Wolf Creek area.. Photo by Brian Baxter, The Montanian