Seeley Lake A Fine Stop Off Near Nowhere’s Middle

If you’re driving through Montana and you want to see something interesting, the first thing you have to do is pull off the highway. If that doesn’t satiate your appetite, you may need to stay off the highway and start cutting around the state, as we did. That isn’t exactly how we found the historic city of Seeley Lake, but it was a fair enough excuse to be so far off the beaten path that we ourselves needed to beat.

Another exceptional playground by Leathers and Associates. Yet another reason to pull off and stop in Seeley Lake Montana.
Another exceptional playground by Leathers and Associates. Yet another reason to pull off and stop in Seeley Lake Montana.

The actual reason we were there was because we’d put out our journalistic feelers for leads on travel stories, and their chamber of commerce slash museum wrote to us with a warm invitation to stop in for a bit. Always the suckers for something free, we were not about to let the fact that it’s already a free museum stand in the way of our 2-hour drive to see what they have to be seen.

And to be seen is to be sure, it’s almost obscene what a scene they have for to see… not really, but I just learned the difference between some of these words and I thought it worth sharing that they are all so similar. Weird, isn’t it?

The town of Seeley Lake, though well out of the way for most all travelers, has much to offer. For in-state tourists, it’s famous for its boating, fishing, hunting and other sports generally related to walking around outside. That includes camping, I’m told, though I know nothing of such things personally.

I’m more of an indoor cat by the way. I like my DVD player, my watching of cable television and my of jumping-upon-the-bed activities. All of these things are strictly indoor activities, and I just love them. So you see, I don’t think I have the ability to truly appreciate it myself, but I can certainly see why others would enjoy it.

mt-seeley-lake2LEFT: In front of the town museum and visitor center is a teepee of authentic construction, as built with the aid of a real life Native American. If that isn’t cool as shucks, then I don’t know what is… but I warn you, I know an awful lot about what is actually cool.

So let’s pretend you are passing through Seeley Lake, and you don’t like outdoorsy things beyond the quick expedition to the summit of a playground. Fair enough, in this hypothetical, since that’s my whole scope of review.

I thought the coolest thing in Seeley Lake was the visitor center. It’s an old barn that was moved from miles away some years back just to become the town museum. It was built by volunteers and is now run by them, and these are the nicest people you’ll ever hope to meet, truly they are.

The place has a teepee out front to check out and the whole place is chock full of assorted antiques donated (or on loan) from nearby residents. We’re talking authentically creepy pelts, toys, tools and everything else with a tie to the local area. In the upstairs of the renovated barn you’ll find a full-feature visitor center with brochures and folk of kind nature to answer questions, even difficult ones, and show you around.

While you’re in town take the time to take your junior folk to the playground beside the school. I know it doesn’t sound like much, and we weren’t exactly jazzed when we first heard about it, but since we were already there, we checked it out, and it was everything we were promised.

The playground is in the schoolyard. If you’re heading north, hang a right when you get to the carwash, and it’s behind the school about two doors back. If you still can’t find it, ask absolutely anybody and they’ll tell you where to go. When you pull up and park, it still doesn’t present itself as to exactly how cool it is, but once you park, disemcar and wander around the corner to see it, you’ll be the same grade of believer me and the brothers immediately were.

Disgusting animal pelt that kid finds gross
ABOVE: I don’t care if it’s a wolverine, a bear, or an alien from a distant planet, if it was once alive, and I’m putting my hand on its deceased surface, that’s a pretty gross notion and one my face can’t help but convey.

This playground is another one of those unbelievable projects designed by Leathers & Associates out of Ithaca, New York. We were told when we saw Dragon Hollow in Missoula that Leathers works were pretty recognizable, but we had no idea. Yep, you can spot their work a mile away, and that’s not a bad thing. I can spot Power Rangers a block away and that does nothing to diminish my love of them.

This isn’t a town you need to seek out because they have a museum or because they have a playground, but if you’re passing through, you definitely need to stop, and not just because you haven’t stopped in three hours and probably need gas, but because it’s really worth the visit.

If you’re considering taking the time to get a ways away from I-90, and you don’t know which way to go, you can take this as our advice that there is in fact a reason to head up Highway 83 towards an area that might otherwise look empty. There are plenty of little restaurants and lodgings in the area (though call ahead to ensure your room), so you can find what you want and it’s not triple-priced like a lot of tourist towns.

The museum is located at 2920 Highway 83 in Seeley Lake, Montana. Learn more at the official web site, and when you stop in, tell them we sent you, if you like. I’m sure they’d love to know our visit was more than just a handful of noisy kids putting grubby paws on irreplaceable exhibits (even if to our horror).

ABOVE: We couldn't have got you a better picture of the place if they gave it to us right from the visitor's center itself. Unfortunately, we didn't ask. Fortunately, we didn't have to because we snapped this unbeatable gem ourselves while paying ourselves the fine visit we had. We include the picture because it's easy to space off and enjoy so much natural beauty as to miss this glaringly obvious landmark, as we did in driving right past it and getting frustrated by our inability to find it, after all, it's right there and I'd say that you "can't miss it", except that I know you can because we did, until we didn't.
ABOVE: We couldn’t have got you a better picture of the place if they gave it to us right from the visitor’s center itself. Unfortunately, we didn’t ask. Fortunately, we didn’t have to because we snapped this unbeatable gem ourselves while paying ourselves the fine visit we had. We include the picture because it’s easy to space off and enjoy so much natural beauty as to miss this glaringly obvious landmark, as we did in driving right past it and getting frustrated by our inability to find it, after all, it’s right there and I’d say that you “can’t miss it”, except that I know you can because we did, until we didn’t.

 

Grizzly Encounter Has Bears On Display, Specifically Two

When you’re driving east from Bozeman, Montana, the first real attraction you’ll find along Interstate-90 is quite a grizzly encounter. I’m not passing judgment, that’s what it’s called, the Grizzly Encounter. They buy billboards by the boatload, but don’t tap into the state tourism web site, so it’s an easy one to miss if you don’t have eyes while driving, but it’s there nonetheless.

Here you can see Brutus, or one of his colleagues, happily doing whatever it is bears do in concrete enclosures.
Here you can see Brutus, or one of his colleagues, happily doing whatever it is bears do in concrete enclosures.

If you want to learn more than you could ever care about, you can check out the web site of Montana’s star bear, Brutus, at BrutusTheBear.com. He’s quite a star, and it’s his stardom that really pays for his home exhibit, and he’s apparently quite the bear.

On this particular day, we didn’t see him. He’s got siblings and cousins (some fairly distant) that live with him, so even on a really bad day, you can fairly assume you’ll see some bears, even if the majority of them are in hiding out of the public view.

This place is exciting if you’re a bear because it’s one of the few privately owned bear rehabilitation sanctuaries in North America. These fine folk have taken in all kinds of underprivileged bears, given them a place to roam, and presumably enough honey to keep them away from Tiggerses. No word about Christopher Robin though, but that kid has got to be like a hundred by now anyway.

Couple words of caution before entering however. The biggest threat in this place ain’t the bears, it’s the cost of admission. At $7 for adults and $5 a pop for the kids, you’re going to be paying tippy top (full zoo admission-style) dollars to check out one to — two? too? I can never remember — three bears.

It’s at most a 15-minute exhibit, so if you’re going to be visiting an actual zoo (that has bears) this is not the place for you, unless you really want to subsidize their efforts, which is noble and worthy by itself… but if you’re going just for the chance to see bears, you’d be wise to go elsewhere for the price.

Once inside, you’ll likely be greeted by a vested owner in the place who will answer any question you may have about these, or any other bears, but you’re every bit as likely to be solicited to purchase the patent-pending Bear Pepper Spray they invented and offer.

Sadly however, even if you do buy the spray, they won’t let you test it out on their bears. Well heck, how do I know if it works of not if I’m not allowed to spray the bears on hand with it? They only claim it’s 98% effective, though brag they’ve sold thousands of them… which, by my calculations, means that as many as 60 people may have already died while trying to use it on bears.

Call me the coward I am, but I’m not about to go anywhere into bear territory without exercising my right to arming a well-regulated militia. I may be crazy but I’m not crazy… trust me, it makes sense in context. If you’ve never seen a bear up close, I can’t expect you to understand it.

Grizzly Encounter is located immediately east of Bozeman along Interstate 90, and is open 7-days a week throughout the summer, 9am to 7pm. Winter days are typically Thursday through Sunday from 10am to 4pm, but check their web site before heading out just to be sure.

See Brutus the famous bear at his home near Bozeman, Montana ABOVE: Although it may not look like much, there is a well fortified enclosure for these savages, and a habitat so good that national conservation groups routinely ask them if they can take on more bears. Perhaps with your help, they can. Also, it in fact is not much to look at, but at least they have informational plaques up for those of you who can read.
See Brutus the famous bear at his home near Bozeman, Montana
ABOVE: Although it may not look like much, there is a well fortified enclosure for these savages, and a habitat so good that national conservation groups routinely ask them if they can take on more bears. Perhaps with your help, they can. Also, it in fact is not much to look at, but at least they have informational plaques up for those of you who can read.

 

Independence Weekend Ushers In Era of Sunscreen

The sun, that wicked orb with it’s life-giving, life-taking rays of UV, IR and visible in betwixty. That same yellow bee that gives us beams of warmth and visibility brings a sting often left unchecked. I’m checked and I’m here to tell you how to check your skin before you wreck your skin.

Subtle, no?
Subtle, no?

Color me fortunate for having a melanoma-aware elder who presequently colored me near albino by virtue of their deeply stacked recessive genes. In all my year (and months) on this earth I’ve never earned the vaguest tan and I’m not ashamed. A golden glow may be chic but the classic doodles of Da Vinci and Michael Angelo paint a paler picture of beauty, and as ugly as that Mona Lisa lady may be, she still shined almost reflectively with the pasty light of fairest skin.

I’m not discriminating based on tone or anything, bro-Patrick is half Mexican and he’s as handsome a devil as God made him. I’m just advocating we all stick to our God-given shades since the alternative is more dangerous than second-hand smoke.

Negotiating a tan is a tricky matter, too. Not enough sun is no good at all and too much sun is all kinds of ouchy, itchy badnesses. A sunburn at my age more than doubles my odds of getting skin cancer later in life. I’m all about the ladies, don’t get me wrong, but if my life is on the line they’re going to have to take me as I am, chalky, chubby, elven-eared and all.

If you’re going outside to celebrate this Fourth of July I recommend a discreet topical coating of sunscreen as pictured here. I’m wearing a very subtle cream called Matte Mega Blocker, SPF Infinitum. You can hardly tell it’s on. There’s many products on the market to choose from.

If you value your largest organ (your skin, silly, don’t be immodest) then savor your greater health and don’t want for abject itching, slather on the sunscreen and skip molting like a reptile. I’m a more finicky kitty than Morris and I can stand it. You owe it to yourself and your younglings to do the same for them. Your parents didn’t know better, but now, officially, you do.