One of my favorite weekend drives, when I lived in Helena over 30 years ago, was to head north, via the Flesher Pass (above) and Montana Highway 279, and hit the very different landscape of Montana Highway 200 (below) and eastern end of the Blackfoot Valley.
The destination was breakfast, often at Lambkin’s, a family business that, to my delight, still operates when I visited in 2015. Lambkin’s is one of those classic small town Montana eateries, great for breakfast, and not bad for a burger and pie later in the day. The town is
Lincoln, known back in the early 1980s as a logging town, and known better today as the location of Ted’s Kaczynski shack, from where as the Unabomber, he brought death and wrecked havoc on the lives of his fellow citizens, in the 1980s and 1990s.
Obviously Ted and I did not travel in the same circles. He was a hermit who rarely engaged with anyone. Lincoln is totally different: a friendly town that invites repeat visits–if it was not breakfast for me, it was a stop at the Wilderness Bar. Good times, open, interesting people in this town of several hundred is how I recall Lincoln.
Lincoln in 2015 is clearly a place where the population has grown–over 1,000 now, which is reflected in the recently added public buildings, be it the town Library and the Chamber of Commerce, but more impressively the Lincoln Public School.
Here you see the future linked to the town’s logging past, and how log architecture has now become such a defining feature of Lincoln’s roadside. There was always a log, rustic theme here but the additions of the last 20 years give not only a frontier aesthetic to the town, but reinforces its identity as place where people and the forests, in this case the surrounding Helena National Forest, have learned to co-exist.
The log/ rustic theme of the new post office is rare in Montana–and I am grateful that it is not the standardized designed rectangular box that the postal service has built in too many Montana towns in the last generation. The log aesthetic of the buildings are further enhanced by various log sculptures set in and around the town. They too harken to the imagined past of the frontier era of the late 19th century.
On the eastern end of Lincoln, however, is emerging an entirely new, and welcome, tradition: the Sculpture in the Wild park. A vision of Rick Dunkerly, the park invites artists from across the country and around the world to come to Lincoln and to leave, on
the ground, their own vision of the interplay between environment, culture, and people in the Blackfoot Valley. The park idea is breathtaking–and just getting underway when I visited in 2015. But it is promising indeed, and a much better way to identify and think about what the people of Lincoln, Montana, are all about–than a crazed PhD who saw little hope in the future.