Articles written by Griffen Smith


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  • Senior center to launch website, Looking for sponsors

    Griffen Smith, Editor|Feb 1, 2024

    The Seeley Lake Senior Center (Sela Senci) took a step into the future this month, launching its first-ever website, which organizers hope will bring more attention and fundraising to the center. Senior Center President Debbie Anderson said the center hopes to make it easier to access meal schedules, events and volunteer opportunities. The website, called seeleyseniorcenter.org, should be live as of Jan. 22. Suzette Baker made the website. “We’re trying to get the senior center into the 21st Century,” Anderson said. “There’s still a lot of se...

  • Fire chief defends himself over Pathfinder story, Talk call numbers

    Griffen Smith, Editor|Feb 1, 2024

    The Seeley Lake Rural Fire District Board heard remarks from its fire chief over a recent Pathfinder story, approved its spending, checked in call numbers and talked about potential grants during its Jan. 16 meeting. Dave Lane, the fire chief, said he has written a letter to the owner of the Pathfinder, Jesse Mullen, to ask for corrections and an apology over the Jan. 11 story, which said facts from Lane and the Montana Board of Medical Examiners do not match county records. “This last article was very slanderous with the lies that were publish...

  • County changes 'policy' for Seeley Lake SMA septics, says data appears concerning

    Griffen Smith, for the Pathfinder|Jan 25, 2024

    The Missoula County Health Department now requires tighter standards for septic systems in the Seeley Lake Special Management Area (SMA) as officials said the best available data from the area shows any new permit would violate federal drinking standards. While the regulations are different, and no public process was held over the matter, the Health Department argued it has not technically changed the rules. The new guidelines require future buildings to keep nitrate discharge at a lower than...

  • First responders rescue two snowmobilers near Lake Marshall

    Griffen Smith, for the Pathfinder|Jan 25, 2024

    Two snowmobilers got stuck off trail above Marshall Lake on the evening of Jan. 13, prompting Seeley Swan Search and Rescue and Two Bear Air to extract them amid extremely cold temperatures. Seeley Swan Search and Rescue Chief Ken Brochu said the team got a call at around 5 p.m. that the snowmobilers were stranded. The temperature stood at negative 20 degrees, with wind chill of negative 35. That did not stop responders, as four members of search and rescue, Karl Zurmuehlan and an employee from Kra-Z Sports Rentals ascended the mountains with...

  • Boys can't hold on against Lincoln, get first district win against Valley

    Griffen Smith, for the Pathfinder|Jan 25, 2024

    The Seeley Swan High School Boys Basketball Team could not make enough shots on the road against Lincoln on Jan. 19, but rallied back against Valley Christian for a win at home on Jan. 20. Head Coach Mike Haines said the team started strong against Lincoln, leading in the first quarter. He said the team simply couldn't make shots. "If we were making baskets like we were in the first quarter, we would have been in it," Haines said. Lincoln beat the Blackhawks 51-37. Haines said he was proud of...

  • Lady Blackhawks split weekend - fall to Lincoln, top Valley

    Griffen Smith, for the Pathfinder|Jan 25, 2024

    The Seeley Swan High School Girls Basketball Team was dealt a narrow road loss against Lincoln High School on Jan. 19 and then took a commanding victory over Valley Christian on Jan. 20. The Lady Blackhawks went back and forth with Lincoln early, taking a tight 22-21 lead going into halftime. The teams were tied 31-31 after the third, but the Lady Blackhawks couldn't finish out the game, and lost 41-35. A different story happened for Seeley Swan the next day, starting slow against Valley...

  • New chapter starts for Flathead National Forest Supervisor

    Griffen Smith, of the Pathfinder|Jan 18, 2024

    The newly-hired Flathead National Forest Supervisor said he's always admired the natural beauty and extensive wilderness of western Montana. Now he gets to oversee three district rangers across northwestern Montana. Anthony Botello has been working in the Forest Service for the last 35 years, starting as a wilderness ranger. He said he worked his way up from his field job to a program manager position and said he enjoyed leading folks in natural resource issues. Since 2010, he has worked as a...

  • CRC points out areas of concern, ecosystem delicacy during water report

    Griffen Smith, of the Pathfinder|Jan 18, 2024

    Water data from the Clearwater Resource Council and the Seeley Lake Sewer District showed an area of concern near Riverview Drive Bridge and highlighted how sediments from burn scars and dirt roads can have an impact on the area's rivers and lakes. Clearwater Resource Council board members Jon Haufler and Karen Williams presented the information to an audience at the Barn on Jan. 9. While much of the data is complex and more analysis is needed, the group has a good understanding of where water...

  • Records: fire chief care case has disputed facts

    Griffen Smith, of the Pathfinder|Jan 11, 2024

    County records show at least two facts used during the punishment of a Seeley Lake Rural Fire District Chief do not match Seeley Lake records from the 2022 incident, according to an independent review by the Pathfinder. Dave Lane, the Seeley Lake Rural Fire District Chief, was previously ordered to four hours of continuing education by a state board for his role in a March 2022 incident. The emergency ended with the department calling Life Flight to extract a patient after complications during... Full story

  • Lack of snow hurts town economy

    Griffen Smith, of the Pathfinder|Jan 11, 2024

    Jack Frost went missing this December, and local Seeley Lake businesses said the lack of snow has hurt the town's winter sports economy, although there might be relief in sight. The Clearwater, Swan and Blackfoot Valleys are all experiencing record-low snowpacks, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That could change this week, however, as several storms and arctic air will move into the region. Snowmobiling rentals and cross country skiing have been severely limited. And with fewer...

  • Pathfinder editor to exit role this month

    Griffen Smith, Pathfinder Editor|Jan 11, 2024

    It is with a heavy heart that I announce I will be leaving the role as Pathfinder editor in the coming weeks. Seven months ago, I started the job wondering if anyone still read the newspaper, or if the days of local journalism had come to a close. I quickly realized that the local news is alive and well in Seeley Lake, because you, the reader, care. In my time as editor, I have seen concerts, heated meetings, infrastructure issues and the roar of the Seeley Swan High School gym during a good basketball game. It has been an honor to cover each...

  • Lady Blackhawks sweep weekend with two blowouts

    Griffen Smith, of the Pathfinder|Jan 11, 2024

    The Seeley Swan High School Girls Basketball Team cemented two commanding victories over St. Regis and Hot Springs last weekend, giving the team momentum as it turns its focus toward district opponents. Co-Head Coach David Cahoon said the team's work on fundamentals is starting to pay off. The team made 17 assists versus St. Regis on Jan. 5, and scored 18 unanswered points to start the game. The Lady Blackhawks won that game 68-22. The next day, the team took a 43-21 win over Hot Springs. "The...

  • Boys working through illness, respond with win at Hot Springs

    Griffen Smith, of the Pathfinder|Jan 11, 2024

    The Seeley Swan High School Boys Basketball team is working through a team-wide sickness, which hurt them in its loss versus St. Regis on Jan. 5, but the team rallied back to steal a victory from Hot Springs on the road Jan. 6. Head Coach Mike Haines said a mystery bug has spread through the team, with some players getting sick multiple times. He said the team is not 100%, which has affected their play. Against St. Regis, when they lost 40-63, Haines said the team turned the ball over 30 times....

  • Wolf trappers speak out on lawsuit

    Griffen Smith, of the Pathfinder|Jan 4, 2024

    This article has been corrected after inaccurate quotes from Rob Henrekin were discovered The wolf trapping season for much of Montana started on Jan. 1 after a delay from a lawsuit concerned for the safety of grizzly bears. With the open season, several trappers in the Clearwater, Swan and Blackfoot Valleys have started laying snares and traps. This fall, a lawsuit by two environmental groups halted the early trapping season, arguing that the baited traps have been ensnaring federally-protected...

  • One dead, two injured in car crash near Ovando

    Griffen Smith, of the Pathfinder|Jan 4, 2024

    One person died and two people were injured in a head-on car crash in Powell County on Friday, Dec. 22, according to the Montana Highway Patrol. At around 9:30 a.m., a Subaru Outback, driven by a 34-year-old man from Missoula, was headed eastbound on Highway 200. Road conditions were reportedly icy. Around mile marker 55, the car negotiated a left turn and then slid into the westbound lane. The driver of the Subaru then hit a Toyota RAV4 head on. The passenger in the Toyota, a 72-year-old woman from Great Falls, died on the scene. The Montana...

  • Electric hooked up to nordic trailhead

    Griffen Smith, of the Pathfinder|Dec 28, 2023

    Seeley Lake skiers will notice a new blanket of light this winter, as the Seeley Lake Nordic Club successfully routed electricity up Morrell Creek Road to power three overhead lights at the trailhead and warming yurt. Laurie Shammel, who wrote a grant application for the project, said the project is the farthest electricity has reached in that area of Seeley Lake. She said the process was not easy, as grant money, Forest Service approval and installation all took months to complete. "It's been d...

  • Sunset School play promotes uniqueness

    Griffen Smith, of the Pathfinder|Dec 28, 2023

    Saving Christmas from the Wicked Wazzu took center stage of the Paws Up Bull Barn last Wednesday, Dec. 20, as the Sunset School put on a play to emphasize uniqueness and holiday laughs. The 11-student cast put on Santa and Wicked Wazzu by Tim Kelley. Toni Hatten, Sunset School supervising teacher, said the students have been working on the play since the start of October. "We begin reading it out loud as a class, multiple times, trying to figure out which role would be the best student's...

  • DEQ: Holland Lake sewer hasn't damaged surrounding groundwater

    Griffen Smith, of the Pathfinder|Dec 28, 2023

    New monitoring wells drilled around the Holland Lake Wastewater System showed the two sewage lagoons have not contaminated groundwater, according to both the Forest Service and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. Testing at the site started after DEQ engineers reported the wastewater system was leaking at more than 140 times the legal limit, or roughly 50,000 gallons of wastewater in one week. The state then issued a violation letter to Flathead National Forest, requiring monitoring wells, a new design and a rebuild of the...

  • Ferndale man charged with murder, shooting two others

    Griffen Smith, of the Pathfinder|Dec 28, 2023

    A Ferndale man is facing one count of deliberate homicide after he allegedly shot and killed one person and injured two more earlier in December. Police took Matthew T. Vitek, 49, into custody on Dec. 10 after multiple callers reported gunshots near Cayuse Lane. When officers arrived, they found a person on the ground with a gunshot to the head. Tammi Jordan, 56, later died from the gunshot wounds, according to charging documents. Officers then heard gunshots from a nearby outbuilding. Officers entered the shop, followed by another gunshot by V...

  • Boys basketball take win from Charlo, loss to Drummond

    Griffen Smith, of the Pathfinder|Dec 28, 2023

    The Seeley Swan High School Boys Basketball Team cemented another win against Charlo and lost to Drummond, leaving the team with a 4-2 record going into Christmas break. Both Drummond and Charlo were bigger in size, with each team featuring multiple players at six-foot four-inches or taller. Head Coach Mike Haines said he is happy how the team has adjusted to take on more physical opponents, especially when Blackhawks' tallest player is six-foot two-inches. At least two players on Charlo stand...

  • Lady Blackhawks drop to Drummond, Charlo

    Griffen Smith, of the Pathfinder|Dec 28, 2023

    The Seeley Swan High School Girls Basketball Team didn't come up with a win this week, dropping games to Drummond on Dec. 19 and Charlo on Dec. 21. The team is sitting at 2-4 on the year, but Co-Head Coach David Cahoon said the team is getting better each week with the experience. With Christmas break, he said the team will continue to build the fundamentals. "This team, although very young, is also very receptive," Cahoon said. "Their attitude is more than we need to get better, they are...

  • Swan Valley Library gifts students books

    Griffen Smith, of the Pathfinder|Dec 28, 2023

    Students across the Swan Valley got an extra Christmas present this year, as the Swan Valley Library and Swan Valley School worked together to gift a book to each student. Swan Valley Librarian Jenny Kauffman said this is the second year the books were given out, but this year Kauffman and others handpicked each book from stores across western Montana. Each book was matched to a student by the teachers. Volunteers then wrapped each book and delivered the goods just in time for...

  • Rich Ranch celebrates its people

    Griffen Smith, of the Pathfinder|Dec 21, 2023

    Longtime residents, visitors and those checking out the area for the first time descended on the Rich Ranch last Sunday, Dec. 17, to celebrate another year of appreciating Montana's scenic outdoors and acknowledge all the work area residents do for each other. The idea is that we opened up our home and our hearts to others to share our passion for Montana and its great outdoors, this is just an extension of that for the community," Jack Rich, owner of the Rich Ranch, said. "We are just part of...

  • One dead, two injured in car crash near Ovando

    Griffen Smith, of the Pathfinder|Dec 21, 2023

    One person died and two people were injured in a head-on car crash in Powell County on Friday, Dec. 22, according to the Montana Highway Patrol. At around 9:30 a.m., a Subaru Outback, driven by a 34-year-old man from Missoula, was headed eastbound on Highway 200. Road conditions were reportedly icy. Around Mile Marker 55, the car negotiated a left turn and then slid into the westbound lane. The driver of the Subaru then hit a Toyota RAV4 head on. The passenger in the Toyota, a 72-year-old woman from Great Falls, died on the scene. The Montana...

  • Ovando play combines Christmas, Wizard of Oz

    Griffen Smith, of the Pathfinder|Dec 21, 2023

    The students of Ovando's school transported out of Ovando, and even Kansas, to recite the Wizard of Oz story with a Christmas twist. The school play featured musical numbers, the classic cast of the hit 1939 movie - all meshed with Christmas characters. Dena Hooker of Ovando elementary said the event was a great success "It was an enchanting evening," Hooker said. "The students worked hard, as did the teachers and staff. Teacher and staff include Andrea Tougas, Patti Bartlett, Angela Williams...

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