Meet Me in Montana
If you prefer a bit of actual winter in wintertime, the Ranch at Rock Creek offers cool comforts — and audacious adventures. By Jeff Gremillion
Those who’ve never had the opportunity to visit a luxury ranch-style resort might imagine the experience to be a bit like that of Billy Crystal in City Slickers — fancy people in an environment somewhat foreign to them, stumbling into zany misadventures, toggling between pure delight and unbridled terror.
And those people would be right, sort of. At least about the zany misadventures. Western Montana’s Ranch at Rock Creek outside Philipsburg — where accommodations range from large leather-and-old-wood-bedecked homes with multiple bedrooms to rustic-chic hotel-style guestrooms and rugged “glamping” cabins with canvas roofs — is nothing if not a smorgasbord of fabulous adventures, most of them orchestrated by a large staff of guides.
After a breakfast of cheese grits, sautéed kale, poached eggs and stacks of thick-cut bacon, near a blazing hearth in the lodge dining room, and amid the strains of an ardently county playlist that highlights Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man,” guests head out into 6,600 acres of ranchlands. The snowcapped mountains and fields are all swirled with switchbacks, crisscrossed with jackleg fences, and bisected by elegantly winding rivers and roaring creeks.
The choices of activities are many. Besides some yearlong staples such as shooting ranges of various sorts, archery, fly-fishing, demanding hikes (watch out for the grumpy mama moose who thinks she owns the place) and quirkier options like a photography class, a ropes course and even paintball, there are winter-only choices to thrill. Those include ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and, best of all, horseback riding through snowy meadows, with the faintly herbal smell of juniper and sagebrush — and maybe just a hint of gunpowder — cutting the very cold, very clean air. Oh, and there’s snowga, which, of course, is yoga in the snow; long johns are recommended.
But the most memorable misadventures might be the unplanned ones, like watching Flint the mascot Black Lab fight with shiny river rocks, which he collects and barks at vigorously for purposes known only to him. Or dancing with strangers to live bluegrass at the weekend barn dance. Or ogling the handsome New Yorkers on a bachelor-party trip who’ve partially stripped to sing “Rock Me Mama Like a Wagon Wheel” at karaoke in the saloon after too many whiskey shots with pickle-juice chasers, a.k.a. picklebacks. City slickers, indeed.