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.
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.
LEFT: 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.
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).