Posts Tagged ‘Montana’

Exploring Montana: A Stay at the Ranch at Rock Creek with Dogs

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Horsing around at the Ranch at Rock Creek

I’m a big fan of Montana and try to visit the Treasure State as often as I can. Last month my husband made a repeat visit to The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg and this time we took our two Labrador Retrievers with us.

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Wildfires in the area made the Montana skies less picturesque than usual

There is a huge difference between properties that tolerate pets and those that are truly pet-friendly. The Ranch at Rock Creek is the latter. While the resort does charge a pet fee of $50 a pet per night, it’s totally worth it to be able to wander the Ranch and hang out at the bar with your dogs. Our labs weren’t the only dogs on the property. They made a few friends including an extremely friendly Golden Doodle named Tex and Flint, a black lab who lives at the RRC.

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Charming porch outside Eagle’s Perch

Wildfires have been a big problem in the west this year, and Montana had a lot of them during the time we visited. This gave the air a constant chargrilled scent and the skies a bazaar cast that made it look they had a sunset filter on from sun up to sun down. But that didn’t hamper the three days of fun we had at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

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Morning view of the Welcome Pond

The Ranch provided pick up and transportation for us (and our two labradors) from the airport to the property. The nearest major airport is Missoula, which is approximately 90 minutes by car. We arrived at the Ranch in time for lunch, which we enjoyed outdoors since the fall weather was still warm enough to dine outside. Lunch was delicious, as the RRC is an all-inclusive property as well as the world’s only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star ranch.

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Supermodel Horse

We wanted to stay in the Loft of the Historic Barn because the room stood out during our last trip to the Ranch. It was very nicely situated close to the Barn and the Rod & Gun Club which were the staging area where most of our activities started.

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The western chic bathroom in the Loft of the Historic Barn

You never go hungry at the Ranch at Rock Creek. It’s a Relais & Châteaux property and chef Chef Josh Drage’s food program keeps getting better. The day started with morning coffee in the Granite Lodge and breakfast a bit later. Our dogs enjoyed joining us for Social Hour with Cocktails and Hors d’oeuvres at 5 pm.

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Grilled steak salad in the Granite Lodge

Breakfast and lunch are served in the Granite Lodge, and for dinner they mixed things up. One night we had a great BBQ. We also enjoyed long trail ride followed by a picnic lunch at The Top of the World, the highest viewpoint of the ranch. Normally the Top of the World is is known for it’s stunning views of Big Sky Country. The views were hampered by the smoky air but we still enjoyed the experience, complete with homemade lemonade and locally brewed beer.

Fun fact: Montana is #2 in number of microbreweries per capita (only Oregon has more)

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Ribeye and Zeppelin enjoying Montana life

We took a lot of long walks around the property because the the dogs really enjoyed roaming and running and playing in the creek (which was pretty shallow this time of the year). RRC has hired naturalists on staff to help show you around the property, and we loved loved it.

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Girl goats at the barn

My younger lab, Ribeye was less charmed by the three goats who roamed the grounds. They were friendly but he’s definitely not a fan.

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Dog day afternoon at the Ranch at Rock Creek

We like to get on horses in Montana and took daily trail rides. My husband especially enjoyed the shooting sports raving about the pistols and rifle range.

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Getting ready for a trail ride

I passed on the guns and hung out at the bar where the bartender made a great margarita and delicious Montana Mule served up in a copper mug made from locally mined copper from nearby Butte.

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trail riding fun

We were even given two Ranch at Rock Creek copper mugs as a welcome amenity.

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Scene from a trail ride

The staff at the Ranch at Rock Creek is great and laundry service was speedy (riding clothes get dusty quick). The barn even has quite an array of loaner boots in case you forgot a pair that is suitable for riding.

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Obligatory cow photo

During the summer months, the Ranch at Rock Creek has a rodeo on the property. Riding lessons can also take place in the ranch’s arena.

 

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Good to go trail riding

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Left: Montana Craft Beer Right: Smoky views at the Top of the World

The dogs were sad when our three day stay at the ranch came to an end. I hope to bring them back during another season, since winter and summer have different experiences to offer.

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Morning ride

The Ranch at Rock Creek is also a popular spot for corporate retreats, destination weddings, and family reunions since it has lots to offer in a fun yet luxurious atmosphere and can accommodate 125 guests.

 

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targets from the shooting activities 

In the winter, there is even an ice skating pond complete with a warming hut. I’d love to spend the holidays here!

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Creek Crossing

The RRC is constantly improving and upgrading. The property is closed from late mid- January to mid-February and this is when some of the improvements happen. We heard a new Rod & Gun Club in is the works.

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Left: BBQ goodness Right: Grilled veggies and ribs

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Spicy beans

We had so much fun at the Ranch at Rock Creek. Our dogs did too. The staff was even helpful locating a hose so we could rinse off our dogs after a particularly dust-filled day of exploring.

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Flint, the ranch dog, joined Zeppelin and Ribeye for a game of fetch

The other guests at the Ranch at Rock Creek are also cool. We socialized over cocktails and everyone had interesting tales from their day of adventure.

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Zeppelin on the wagon

 

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Left: Ribeye enjoying nature Right: Zeppelin on the go

It was pure joy watching our labs play in the creek and run free at the ranch. They don’t have this kind of freedom at home in Seattle.

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Zeppelin and Ribeye enjoying Rock Creek

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Smoky mid-day sun at the Ranch at Rock Creek

My trip to the Ranch at Rock Creek was booked through Linda Clark of Lake Forest Travel Bureau. You can reach her via the email below.

linda@lakeforesttravel.com

(All inclusive rates at the Ranch at Rock Creek begin at $900)

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A Pet Friendly Stay at The Resort at Paws Up in Montana

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Scarlet goes glamping at the Resort at Paws Up

If you have a dog that you think of as a furry family member and have ever tried to take it on your family vacation, you’ve probably learned that the term “pet friendly” does not necessarily mean “pets welcome.” Sometimes the the reality of traveling with your pet means getting the worst room in the hotel, which smells like a kennel, and the harsh realization that there is a huge difference between hotels that are merely “pet tolerant” and those that truly welcome them.

Thankfully there are also true pet friendly resorts where your dog is not only included, but appreciated. The Resort at Paws Up is the real deal. Pet friendly means just that. The staff is welcoming and enjoys having your dog along on your western adventure. This is one of the reasons I chose Paws Up for my recent family vacation to Montana.

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Garnet Ghost Town is an easy drive from The Resort at Paws Up

After my first visit to The Resort at Paws Up three years ago, I knew I’d be coming back. I spent many childhood summers in Montana and still love it to this day. Paws Up is such a great destination. It’s an easy 45 minute drive from the Missoula airport (and airport transfers are included in the rates). There is so much to do at Paws Up– you can try sleeping under canvas in the luxury glamping tents or checking out the unique and memorable activities the resort offers. Where else can you ride a horse on a cattle drive?

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Glimmerstone

At Paws Up, guest with pets must stay in the Luxury Homes instead of the Glamping Tents. The Big Timber home we rented, Glimmerstone, worked perfectly for our group of four adults, three teenagers, and two dogs. We were visiting during a heat wave and the reliable air conditioning was a real bonus. Our house also had a tent on the property, which we used during our stay.

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The tent in the yard at Glimmerstone

I was surprised that my nephews, all experienced scouting types, preferred to sleep in the posh comfort of the loft beds instead of the tent. They had two weeks of tents in their future at summer camp and had no problems with sleeping in a luxury cabin. My brother and sister-in-law spent a night in the on-site tent.

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A living room in one of the Luxury Homes at Paws Up

My dogs, Scarlet and Zeppelin, enjoyed being ranch dogs during our stay at Paws Up. They joined us on the patio for breakfast and lunch everyday at Trough and the staff was always quick to greet them and make sure they had a bowl of water. I felt the staff was warm and welcoming to them. A few even offered up belly rubs.

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Montana style French toast

Traveling with three teenage boys was definitely different for me. I was blown away by how much they can eat. My nephews, beanpoles all of them, can easily put away French Toast for breakfast and be ready for a buffalo burger a few hours later for lunch. Dinner, including dessert, was enjoyed by all. Paws Up’s rates include full breakfast, lunch and dinner for all guests. We only paid extra for alcoholic beverages and guided activities.

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The adults enjoyed the great margaritas at Tank

Some of my must have travel gear for pets
I have two 60 pound  labs and when they travel with me I always bring the following supplies:
This soft cover canvas crate is easy to break down and assemble. It stores flat and easily slips behind the drivers seat in my car for road trips. They come in a range of sizes for dogs weighing 10 – 70 pounds. My labs each have a 36 inch version.
Made of waxed canvas, this collapsable water bowl is a must for travel as well as hikes with my dogs. I always keep one in my car.
My touchless poop scoop of choice.

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My view from the cattle drive at Paws Up

The Cattle Drive was one of the highlights of our family vacation. It was fun to enjoy the gorgeous Montana scenery while learning how to round up and sort cows instead of taking a nose-to-tail horseback ride. We lucked out and were the only people on our cattle drive… and we kind of sucked.

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Left: sorting cattle Right: moving the heads of cattle

We lost six cows along the ways, which was funny, memorable, and made the activity seem all the more real.

Cows and Montana Scenery on the Cattle Drive

The Chuck Wagon dinner was another crowd pleaser.

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Scarlet and Zeppelin were big fans of the Chuck Wagon dinner

Draft horses Pete and Re-Pete driving us to the Chuck Wagon Dinner

While meat grilled in the open air is an eternal summer favorite, Dutch oven master Cee Dub was in residence during our stay and made a killer brisket at the Chuck Wagon.

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Left: Cee Dub’s amazing brisket Right: Tomahawk steaks on the grill.

We felt the need to taste it all, including the tomahawk steak. No one went hungry on this trip. We made sure to check out Cee Dub’s Dutch oven frittata at breakfast the next day.

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Cee Dub and the cowboy poets at the Chuck Wagon Dinner

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Scarlet and Zeppelin enjoyed sniffing around the banks of the Blackfoot River 

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Gorgeous Montana skies on the Clark Fork river

Paws Up offers tons of options for activities. We opted for whitewater adventure through the Alberton Gorge on the Clark Fork river during this trip, which was a perfect choice since our visit coincided with a heatwave. You can read more about our rafting trip in this post.

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Misty Montana morning at Glimmerstone

We also explored nearby Garnet Ghost Town. My nephews had no problem heading to the brand Wilderness Outpost activities center to check out the archery set up.

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Gorgeous scenery at River Camp

Every time I return to Paws Up there is something new. This trip I was impressed by the Paws Up app, which made communicating with the staff easy to do from my smart phone. It was really useful for making requests and communicating with the staff during our stay. I was a little bit sad when I deleted it from my iPhone after my vacation.

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The sunrise view from Glimmerstone

The thank you card I got from my brother, sister-in-law and nephews after the trip further convinced me that Paws Up was a great choice for our family vacation. A good time was had by all, and my nephews were already missing waking up to the fresh pine scent and drinking huckleberry lemonade.

The Resort at Paws Up

40060 Paws Up Road
Greenough, MT 59823
Toll Free: 877-588-7151
Int’l/Local: 406-244-5200
Fax: 800-473-0687
theresort@pawsup.com

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Rafting the Alberton Gorge of the Clark Fork River in Montana

 

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Rapids on the Clark Fork River (photo credit:  Mike Malament of Montana River Photography)

I recently went to Montana on a family vacation in honor of my nephew’s graduation. My family has a long history of summer rafting trips, and I thought it would be fun to continue the tradition with my brother and his family, including my three awesome nephews.

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Kevin, my raft trip guide

My nephews are Boy Scouts and outdoors types, so we picked a full day rafting whitewater rafting adventure through the Alberton Gorge on the Clark Fork River near Missoula.

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Kevin in action on the Clark Fork River

The trip was a good combination of gorgeous scenery, peaceful floating, and class III+ rapids.

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A day on the Clark Fork River

Raft technology has improved greatly since the summers of my youth when you had to manually bail out the rafts. Now they are smaller, more mobile and self-draining. This made the whole experience pleasant.

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Montana’s Big Skies

About halfway through our trip, we stopped at Split Rock Beach for a nice lunch spread set up by our guides, Kevin and Jake.

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Scenic smooth water on Montana’s Clark Fork River

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My brother and I shared a raft, just like old times

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Split Rock Beach: A lovely spot for lunch

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Human mountain goats

Record warm temps made the Clark Fork River perfect for swimming. We spent a bit of time jumping off this this rock into the river.

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Rock climbing in the Alberton Gorge GIF.

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Left: Kevin led the way up the rocks Right: My nephew jumping into the Clark Fork River

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My nephew Reese has mad rock building skills

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Rockitecture on the Clark Fork River

Paddling a raft while photographing can be challenging. Fortunately, Mike Malament of Montana River Photo has a set up to photograph some of the best rapids of the day.

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Awesome rapid splashiness (photo credit: Mike Malament/Montana River Photo)

Our whitewater rafting trip ending mid-afternoon, just as temperatures were getting uncomfortably hot. We were craving a beer. Our trusty river guides Kevin and Jake suggested we stop at Big Sky Brewing Company‘s Tasting Room, which had free samples.

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Missoula’s Big Dipper Ice Cream made for the perfect ending to the day

Jake suggested we stop at Big Dipper Ice Cream in Missoula before heading back to Paws Up. After a cold adult beverage, ice cream was a good call for the kids.

My Clark Fork Raft Trip was arranged by the concierge staff at Paws Up.

The Resort at Paws Up

40060 Paws Up Road
Greenough, MT 59823
Toll Free: 877-588-7151
Int’l/Local: 406-244-5200
Fax: 800-473-0687
theresort@pawsup.com

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The Beauty of Garnet Ghost Town, Montana: a Photo Essay

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A cobblers station in Davey’s General Store

Montana’s best known treasures are it’s two National Parks, Glacier and Yellowstone. But the well-preserved ghost town of Garnet, Montana is one of the state’s biggest lesser-known gems.

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Tall grass in front of one of Garnet’s outhouses

Located in Granite County, Garnet is beautiful and not overrun with tourists. Unlike so many tourist attractions in the United States where rooms are often kept pristine behind plexiglass and rope, Garnet Ghost Town allows visitors to walk in into it’s abandoned buildings and wander pretty freely. The rooms that are unaccessible are cordoned off for obvious safety concerns.

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Garnet was built as a mining town in the 1890s

A thousand people once called Garnet home during the heyday of mining in the 1898. But the mining bubble burst and less than 200 people remained in Garnet in 1905.

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Left: Garnet’s old jail Right: a vista of Garnet’s historic district

You can still get a sense of what life was like by visiting the over 30 preserved buildings including the Wells Hotel, Kelly’s Bar, Davey’s General Store and the Blacksmith’s Shop.

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A vista spot near Garnet in the Lubrecht Experimental Forest

Garnet Ghost Town is a great place to discover the beauty of abandoned places. It’s accessible by car from late April until January. The gravel road and scenic ride to Garnet is also a big draw for ATVs, and mountain bikers.

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Left: Vintage bottles in Davey’s General Store Right: the former reception desk at Wells Hotel

In the winter, Garnet Ghost Town is a popular destination for snowmobilers and cross country skiers.

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Nothing feels more old timey than Prince Albert in a can

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Left: Ghost Town Kitchen Still Life Right: Vintage wooden skis in Davey’s General Store

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One of the decaying rooms in Well’s Hotel

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Left: A Victrola and peeling wallpaper at Wells Hotel Right: this chair was probably the epitome of comfort in the 1890’s

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Welcome to Montana’s Coolest Ghost Town: Garnet

Garnet Ghost Town

Admission price: $3 (per person over the age of 15)

Map and driving directions can be found here.

Bureau of Land Management
phone 406-329-3914
BLM_MT_Missoula_FO@Blm.gov
Summer: 9:00am – 5:00pm Inquire about winter hours.

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Montana Big Sky Cloud Lapse at The Resort at Paws Up

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A late summer sunset at Paws Up

Earlier this month I visited Montana with my family. In honor of my nephew’s graduation, we spent a few days at The Resort at Paws Up.

This summer has been very dry. The state banned fireworks on the 4th of July and wildfires were burning in Glacier National Park, which made Montana’s sunsets a bit less vivid than usual. The clouds, however, were fantastic!

Cloud Lapse at The Resort at Paws Up (shot on iPhone 6)

Summer sunsets in Montana are late. It was around 9:30 pm the evening I shot this one. I set up this time lapse on my iPhone 6 using the time time-lapse feature on the native camera. I clamped my iPhone to a fence behind the Pomp Restaurant using my In-Your-Face Viewbase and let the camera run while we were eating dinner.

I hope you enjoy the resulting cloud lapse. It’s a brief digital visit to my favorite resort in Big Sky Country.

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