Many times, while listing & showing great Western Montana properties, we find ourselves enjoying great places that are a bit off of the beaten path – or, like this place heading from Kalispell to Marion that is so easily accessible, right off the Hwy, but not well known. A few fading Native American pictographs that tells a story and fires the imagination. Did they live here in this small valley or were they seasonal visitors spending time hunting, gathering and perhaps creating tools & arrowheads from the granite & shale? Very awe inspiring. https://www.facebook.com/stelling.net/photos/pcb.3755048447910455/3755042754577691
Summer was here and gone before we knew it. Today is the first day of the autumnal equinox and, here in Western Montana, it is sweater weather one day & shirt sleeves the next and anticipating the beautiful changing colors of Fall. If you are planning on visiting us this fall &/or winter you’ll want to be prepared for every kind of weather.
A great place to check the road conditions is at: http://www.mdt.mt.gov/travinfo/alerts.shtml
Check the area weather reports at: http://www.nbcmontana.com/weather-alerts
Montana is a big, big State. It can be 80 degrees in Hamilton and 40 degrees in Butte or snowing in Kalispell and raining in Missoula or vice-versa. Be prepared with jackets, appropriate foot wear, perhaps a change of clothes and blanket (if you don’t need to bundle up in it, you can always use it to sit on down by the creek for a picnic).
And you can always give us a call – we’d be happy to visit with you about different areas, terrains, weather conditions – we’ve probably been there before because we’ve covered ALL of beautiful Western Montana and beyond for over 35 years.
Happy Valentines Day 2017 !! – We hope you are able to enjoy it with someone you love, if not, we hope you enjoy doing something you love – like a great ski day overlooking the Missoula Valley from Snowbowl. This has been an exceptional winter for Western Montana. Lots of snow, means lotsa powder! But now we are beginning to see warmer and sunnier days = Spring Skiing!!
Happy Memorial Day!
Thank you Veterans – we appreciate all the men and women (and their families) who have worked hard to protect our freedom. And we especially want to take this time to remember those who have lost their lives in service; we are grateful. If you are in Missoula, please stop by the beautiful ‘Rose Park’ – Vietnam, WWII & Korean Memorials (Brooks Street)
Now continuing our travels; we find ourselves back (just past East Missoula) where we take the Bonner exit, cross over the Clark Fork River and begin to head North along the Blackfoot River; where the famed “A River Runs Through It” from author Norman McLean was conceived. The beauty and ruggedness of this canyon is still enthralling. Watch for Mountain Sheep along the high, jagged rocks. But after several miles, this narrow, rugged terrain drastically changes, yet again, and opens up into a wide valley known as the ‘Potomac’. There is a small convenience store, restaurant and school here. We again continue northeast, and now begin to look for our main point of reference, for our next turn off. Turn left at the big Bull. Yup, left at the Bull (an enormous cow statue). This is Clearwater Junction where continuing north brings us eventually to Great Falls. But now we turn left and head west. Watch for Elk along the right side of the Highway as you go pass the grasslands, but soon the road enters the forest again (please remember and drive cautiously as this area has an enormous deer population that are very hard to see beside the road, especially at dawn, dusk and after dark; widely known as “deer-thirty”) and we are greeted by the placid waters of Salmon Lake, from around the bend and a few miles ahead lies the town of Seeley, beside the lake of it’s namesake. This bustling little town in midsummer makes the town size close to 6000, but is reduced to about 1/2 that when the deep snows and cooler temperature of winter arrives. This is when jet skis and boats give way to snow mobile enthusiasts, with races being held right on the lake. A 9-hole golf course just South of Seeley Lake adds a new form of recreation. This entire area, the ‘Swan Valley’ is a hiker, equestrian and fishermen’s paradise with countless trails into the ‘Bob Marshall Wilderness’ to the east and the ‘Mission Mountain Wilderness’ to the west. Dotted with hundreds of mountain lakes and endless streams, teeming with trout, these vast recreation playgrounds remain very much the same as they appeared before white men ever ventured into this primitive land. Besides these incredible wilderness areas, there is a large portion of this part of the State, that is National Forest and State lands, as is the case with much of Western Montana. These lands (as well as those land grant parcels, given to the Rail Road years ago) have been managed by Plum Creek (the timber subsidiary of Burlington Northern) who maintain these areas of public access for many recreation activities. With less than 10% of the valley in private ownership, a very few larger tracts are ever available for sale, and values tend to be slightly higher than some other areas. However, the breath-taking vistas and countless recreation opportunities make this a very attractive area. If you do plan to enter the ‘Bob’ – remember that this is a true wilderness area. Pack accordingly and with safety in mind. This is land that is ‘untouched’ by man and is home to deer, elk, grizzly bear, mountain lion, brown/black bear and many other species of wildlife. The ‘Bob’ is isolated by a long stretch of mountains referred to as the ‘Great Wall’. This range limits access (only by hiking and horse trails) to the wilderness and allows for spectacular views and nature in its purest form. The entire ‘Swan Valley’ seems to be beautiful mountain views with easy access to lake after lake. From ‘Salmon Lake’ to ‘Seeley Lake’ to ‘Lindbergh Lake’, ‘Holland Lake’, ‘Lake Alva’, ‘Placid Lake, ‘Lake Inez’, ‘Swan Lake’ and the ‘Clearwater River’ – the water recreation activities are limitless. There is nothing finer, than spending a hot summer day up the ‘Swan’, on a cool mountain lake that is surrounded by pine trees and fantastic views or beside a bubbling stream amid green ferns in the cedar pines of a Montana rain forest. Our 2016 bare land listings near Bonner & Potomac: http://www.stelling.net/property/freedom-forest/ and http://www.stelling.net/property/potomac-privavcy/ and http://www.stelling.net/property/creekside-recreation/
Our last outing left us near Drummond, Montana. From here travelers may enjoy a scenic side trip to the Anaconda-Pintler Scenic Loop, which leaves Drummond on Hwy 1 and heads South past Phillipsburg, Georgetown Lake and Discovery Basin Ski Area, before returning to I-90 at Anaconda, Montana.
Visiting Phillipsburg is a treat to another time. This unique and quiet, former mining town is tucked away off the beaten path and retains a slower pace and charming buildings, of years past. For a little fun prospecting, you can buy buckets of dirt to sift through for sapphires (a ‘find’, if not several, is guaranteed.) Or visit the famous chocolate and candy store and try some excellent homemade Fudge (not open on Saturdays but they are open from Sunday thru Friday). An area of larger ranches, this is a beautiful valley of lush irrigated meadows surrounded by tree-speckled foothills, below snow-capped peaks.
Flint Creek, which flows through the middle of most of the valley, is excellent fishing – as are the countless creeks and mountain lakes – in the vast National Forest reserves, which surround the area.
Georgetown Lake, the States highest producing fish lake, is great fishing both winter and summer. Icehouses bespeckle the shoreline in the winter and boating is popular in the summer.
Discovery Basin Ski Area overlooks this pristine lake and provides challenging double black diamond runs, on its back side, as well as an excellent variety of intermediate and beginner slopes for the entire family. They have a nice lodge, but like so many of the states smaller areas, there are no over night accommodations on the mountain. Discovery Basin Powder Mountain, serves mostly locals – with no lift lines or crowded slopes. However, there are only a few lodges, motels and campgrounds within minutes of the ski area and Georgetown Lake (you may want to reserve a room or camping ‘spot’ early and check for availability) or travel ‘just over the hill’ to Anaconda and Fairmont Hot Springs for an extra special weekend of ‘snow/water ski, golf and soak’. Check out the ‘Old Works’ golf course; a Jack Nicklaus designed golf course paid for with ‘Super Fund’ monies, that is known for its’ beauty and black slag traps.
Continuing East on Interstate 90, past Drummond, we next come to Garrison Junction – which is marked by a single Gas Station. This is where the Little Blackfoot flows into the Clark Fork River.
If we follow the Little Blackfoot due East, we come to the small ranching communities of Avon and Elliston, before crossing the Continental Divide at McDonald Pass (elev. 6300+ ft.) and arriving at our State’s capitol, Helena.
Elk, whitetail deer & mule deer, geese, ducks, pheasants; hunting season has started in Montana. There are many reasons to get out and enjoy Western Montana ‘s beautiful outdoors. Even an afternoon drive or day hike to enjoy the beautiful Autumnal colors along the valleys, creeks and rivers, where all the trees are sporting a splash of color, as well as, the high mountains where the larch trees, before losing their needles, turns the mountain sides golden. Since Daylight Savings Time begins this Sunday, and the days begin to shorten, we thought we’d spend some time traveling Western Montana via narrative. In the next few weeks, we invite you to join us on a journey to the special valleys of Western Montana, in hopes that you will someday get to visit these beautiful places that we are blessed to call home.
If we leave Missoula east on I-90, we pass through the narrow Hellgate Canyon (most likely named as such because it was a favorite place of the Blackfeet Indians to ambush other tribes on their return trips from hunting buffalo on the Great Plains). Although the name might still aptly apply, as this rugged little canyon acts as a funnel for the cold east winds as they rush into the Missoula Valley. Our coldest winter weather, coming out of the arctic North, often is pushed around the mountains to the east, before seeping back into the protected valleys of Western Montana.
Just beyond the Hellgate Canyon, lies East Missoula, one of our many bedroom communities as well as Bonner and Milltown where the Blackfoot River (Big) and Highway 200 branch off to the North East – (please note: this is the exit that we will refer to, as an easier access to Garnet Ghost Town).
As we continue East, we see a couple of other small communities that are supported by Missoula; Clinton & Turah and then a few miles down the road we come to the former Bearmouth Chalet RV park. The road running behind it, takes us on a wonderful Montana adventure to Garnet Ghost Town. This is a side trip you will want to plan for late next spring or summer. Please note that the Ghost Town is more easily accessed from Hwy 200 and we recommend that you use that well graveled road, which has a more gradual climb and has spectacular mountaintop views, as you ascend ever higher. The access from the I-90 side can be very steep and treacherous. Even the last mile of the Hwy 200 road is a very narrow, windy logging road that gives you a taste of what the I-90 access is like. If you find this part of the road comfortable, and your vehicle is capable, then you may wish to exit the Ghost Town via the I-90 side.
Once you have made your way to Garnet, you will come to a true ghost town and be enthralled at how hardy and rugged these first miners had to be, to exist. The town still has about 25 buildings, some of which, like the J.K. Wells Hotel and Kelly’s Saloon, are remarkably evocative of their original day. In 1898 the town had nearly 1,000 inhabitants, four stores (Which, at the time, competed successfully with Missoula’s retail), four hotels, stables, barber shops, a candy store, a doctor’s office, and more than ten saloons. But this wasn’t your average rough-and-drunken boomtown. Because many miners had already married by the time they made it to Garnet, the town had a school. In 1898 Garnet School had 41 kids, and the town thrived on social events as much as the ore in mountains. And then, all too quickly it was gone. Typical of all boomtowns, the growth was quick and haphazard; the heyday wasn’t too long before the end. By 1905, the mines seemed played out and the town was down to 150 people. Today the ghost town remains engulfed by wilderness, and connected to it by the Garnet Byway; 12 miles of mountain road and 41 miles of trail, offering a substantial avenue from the mining-legacy of the past to the recreational opportunities of today. Scenic overlooks provide views of current and historical extraction sites, so the public may observe how the land has been used, while now its’ used for recreation.
We suggest you bring a picnic lunch with plenty of beverages (there are no convenience stores up here) a jacket and some comfortable walking/hiking shoes, and of course your camera.
About 25 miles east of Missoula, is one of Western Montana’s best Blue Ribbon trout streams – “Rock Creek” – that enters the Clark Fork River. Following the many hatches up this incredible stream, is the greatest joy of many a fly fisherman. Numerous access points and several campgrounds are readily available. On your way up or back down Rock Creek, you may want to stop for a great meal and rustic ambiance at the Ekstrom Station. Don’t forget to watch for Bighorn Sheep, on the colorful cliffs lining this relatively narrow valley.
Back on I-90, as we follow the Clark Fork River upstream, the rise in elevation is so subtle that it often goes unnoticed, but winter weather will quickly remind you. Not a high snowfall area, this doesn’t benefit from the protection of the mountains as much as other areas further west.
The valley grows larger as we travel east and at Drummond (50 miles East of Missoula), it really opens up. Drummond, (“World Famous Bull Shippers” is on a billboard, as you enter town) is a small rural, one main street town, with all the basic services including stockyards along the railroad, for shipping of area cattle to markets, far off. Stelling & Associates is proud to offer the ‘Elk View Ranch’ located nearby.
Missoula, Montana is the largest city west of the Continental Divide and offers all major services including an International Airport and the University of Montana. Downtown Missoula is vibrant and eclectic with shops, restaurants, breweries/pubs, riverfront parks and paths, and artisans. “Garden City” is the nickname for Missoula but it is also known as the ‘Hub of 5 Valleys’. Just like the spokes on the Stelling wagon wheel logo, so are the valleys that flow from Missoula. They are: ‘The Clark Fork Valley’ to the West, the ‘Flathead Valley’ to the North, the ‘Blackfoot Valley’ to the NE, the ‘Deerlodge Valley’ to the East and the ‘Bitterroot Valley’ to the South. Resembling limbs of a huge tree, these large valleys split into smaller branches (or valleys, draws, creeks & drainages) and so on. Over the next few weeks we will explore these beautiful Western Montana valleys, each with their own attractions, history and allure. First up we will be leaving Missoula east on I-90, where you will follow the Clark Fork River corridor as you pass through the narrow pine-tree lined valley known as “Hellgate Canyon” (most likely named as such because it was a favorite place of the Blackfeet Indians to ambush other tribes on their return trips from hunting buffalo on the Great Plains); till next week…..
If you’ve visited us before, Welcome Back! If not, we hope that you will someday get to visit this beautiful place we call home and get to explore the many wonders – of Western Montana.
Winter fun in Western Montana-
Those who love to ski and snowmobile take heart! A few inches of snow in the valley of Missoula, usually means ‘powder’ in the mountains. Western Montana is blessed with several wonderful ski areas and some fantastic places to snowmobile. Within minutes of downtown Missoula is ‘Snowbowl Ski Area”. The ‘Bowl’ is one of The Most challenging ski areas you will ever see; or live to see. There are intermediate runs, which challenge the intermediate skier but for Expert Skiers, this is ‘The Place’ to Ski. With runs like ‘Heap Steep’, the ‘Spartan’ and ‘the Bowl’, that will get your blood rushing and heart-pounding. The top of the chair will show you a view of the entire Missoula Valley (all the way down south to the Bitterroot Valley). If you are up to ‘the challenge’ – then grab your ‘board’ or your ‘planks’ and head for ‘Snow Bowl’.
Another great ski area lies to the South of Missoula (down the Bitterroot Valley & south of Hamilton) – ‘Lost Trail Powder Mountain’. Like many of Western Montana’s ski areas, ‘Lost Trail’ is enough mountain to have a great time skiing, yet small enough to make you feel right at home. For the money, this is a great area for both young and old. This writer has watched it grow from a small log cabin lodge with outhouses to a very nice ‘family atmosphere’ lodge and nice runs.
If you head east from Missoula, you may want to stop and ski ‘Discovery Ski Basin’ yet another ‘family-oriented’ ski area with some great runs. Discovery is near Anaconda, in the scenic- Pintlar Mountain Range and near Georgetown Lake. Two chairlifts let you decide whether to stay with the kids or head on up the mountain for some challenging runs; another good value.
Just before you get to Butte, we invite you to head south, where you will find ‘Maverick Mountain’, a beautiful ski area located in the Pioneer Mountains of the Beaverhead National Forest, about 40 miles west of Dillon. This small ski area, with a balanced variety of ski trails from expert to beginner, is currently for sale by Stelling & Associates (see pic below). So if you have ever dreamed of owning your own ‘ski hill” – Maverick receives an average of over 200” annual snowfall, with fluffy light-powdered snow, and offers breathtaking panoramic views of unsurpassed mountain scenery. Combined with a comfortable lodge, Forest Service Lease, wonderful ski runs and an optimal fall line Maverick Mountain has produced a marvelous skier’s mountain. This isn’t glitz and glamour, movie stars and high-speed quads, but a warm and friendly lodge and ski area. It lies at the end of one of Montana’s oldest valleys; the closest town is Montana’s 1st Territorial Capitol, but now the ghost town of Bannack. If what you are really looking for, is your own escape from the unfriendly crowds of overrated slopes and a quality lifestyle that includes the essence of skiing, with the ability to make your own dream and watch it grow, then you had better consider this opportunity. There certainly aren’t many offerings like this- but then that is what makes it so special; and listed at a Bargain Price. Besides the downhill skiing at Maverick, miles of cross-country skiing and snowmobile trails begin at Elkhorn Hot Springs Resort, and the Grasshopper Inn, provide the quiet and very nice accommodations that make this the ultimate place to relax – only about 3 miles away.
Continuing east on I-90 to ‘just-before’ Bozeman, you may want to visit Montana’s true Destination Resort Ski Area – ‘Big Sky’. The first thing you will see as you near this amazing ski area is ‘Lone Peak’- it is majestic. The ‘Big Sky’ ski area was the brain-child of Chet Huntley and as ‘baby boomers & up’ will remember, he was the famous News Anchor of the remembered nightly ‘Goodnight David – Goodnight Chet’ news team. ‘Big Sky’ has Montana’s only (as far as we know) Gondola Lift (4-man). This is an excellent intermediate area and a wonderful beginner’s area. The runs are long and wide. But once you have moved up a few levels, there are some excellent difficult and challenging runs that will guarantee you don’t get bored. And one chair that heads up Lone Peak is a ‘no fall’ zone. Certainly a run not for the faint of heart but designed for only the most expert of skier. ‘Big Sky’ has condo’s to rent right at the foot of the Mountain or you can stay in the Lodge and enjoy fine dining as well. The ski lodge has many shops and bistros to visit, or sit out on the deck and watch the skiers ‘shoosh’ to the Gondola line, while you enjoy a hot cocoa and a sandwich. Changing direction again and going back to approximately 2 hours north of Missoula, at the small town of Lakeside (situated along the vast and beautiful Flathead Lake), is Blacktail Mountain Ski Area. This is a wonderful ‘family oriented’ ski area that is now in its eleventh year of providing wonderful ski memories for all ages. Another great Western Montana destination ski resort in this area is “Whitefish Mountain Resort” (formerly ‘The Big Mountain’). It is located north on Highway 93 (north of Missoula). This IS a Big Mountain to ski with runs for all levels of skiers and several chairs (including 4-man High Speed Quads) and a restaurant at the ‘top’ of the world (or so it seems) where you can see clear into Canada and the peaks of Glacier/Waterton National Park, all the way across Whitefish Lake and down the Flathead Valley. And the 2014-2015 will see some brand new runs on the backside. Wherever you are on this Big Mountain, the views are absolutely spectacular 360’ gorgeous. Don’t forget to watch for ‘Snow Ghosts’ while riding the ‘Big Chair’. These ‘Ghosts’ are actually trees that are so wind swept with snow that they seem to take on shapes that you can visualize (like seeing pictures in the clouds on a sunny day) some have looked like Winnie the Pooh, or dinosaurs – let your imagination run wild. This very large ski area has many amenities and it also caters to our friends from the north (Canada), and can be a very busy place, but it is a large enough mountain that it handles a lot of ski traffic. Don’t miss seeing the statue of Jesus (off the 2nd chair) arms open, overlooking the entire valley, and where Sunday services are often held. If you get a chance look for the ‘Big Drift’, a huge, deep gully, with an out-turned lip on the up-side. Daring (?) skiers take a run down this windblown and snow-shaped gully to try and make it up and over the back-turned lip on the other side. Makes for some ‘amusing’ viewing. At the base there is a lodge for ‘sack-lunchers’ or you can dine amid elegance. They also have outdoor ‘burgers & brew”. Book lodging in one of the many condo’s on the Mountain or stay in Whitefish or Kalispell. The ‘Mountain’ also has night skiing and you can see the lights beckoning to you from the towns of Whitefish & Kalispell on any clear, crisp evening. Whitefish Mountain Resort has got to be on your list of places to ski in Montana. Priced a bit higher than most Montana ski areas it offers ‘bunny hills’ to blue/black diamonds; this is a great place to ski.
We haven’t forgotten the Snowmobilers or the ‘Skinny Skiers’. Montana offers miles and miles of terrain for cross-country skiers, with the quiet, solitude you are looking for. And Snow Machines can let loose in such areas as Lost Trail Pass, Lookout Pass and our favorite Lolo Pass. Just 10 miles south of Missoula and West, up the beautiful Lolo Valley – you will pass (and you may want to stop at) the Lolo Hot Springs Resort. This natural Hot Springs is a true part of Montana History. Here is where Native Americans came to soak in the hot, medicinal waters. Lewis & Clark camped here and wrote of the springs in their Journals. Plan to bring your swimsuit and then stay to dine in the restaurant, (the RV park is open in the spring/summer). They offer summer and winter recreation packages. Just a few miles past the Hot Springs, at Lolo Pass, is where you can enjoy some excellent snowmobiling on groomed trails. So, whether your winter sport is Snowmobiling, Sledding or Skiing. From All of us here at Stelling & Assoc. Real Estate – Happy Trails! and we’ll See You on the slopes!
We are thankful for our families, our children & grandchildren, our friends, co-workers and neighbors. And for being fortunate enough to live in this great Country. We are grateful to our Veterans and soldiers who have and continue to protect our freedoms. And we are grateful to live in such a beautiful place like Montana. For all of these things we are thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!