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Category: Around The Ranch


Big Sky Love

We love having a hand in life-changing moments – whether it’s riding a horse for the first time or saying, “I do” surrounded by falling aspen leaves. This past holiday season, we had a chance to welcome two incredible people to our banks and get to know them during an important time in their relationship. Katie and Erik were kind enough to share their story with us and our community. We are honored to be a part of their very special “cowboy Christmas.” 


A Match Made in Miami

We met about a year ago. It was Christmas 2017 and we attended a mutual friend’s wedding in Miami. Erik is a Miami born and raised man and I’m an NYC girl. We met and danced the night away. While we both were there to celebrate the love of a friend, we had no idea what an impact that night would have on our lives…

Though we sent a few messages after the wedding and discussed a possible meeting in the spring, as often happens, our lives got busy over the holidays. It wasn’t until two months later that Erik reached out to me. It was a simple text about an amazing grilled cheese sandwich he’d just had.  He remembered I love grilled cheese sandwiches and he thought of me and wanted to say, “Hi.”


A grilled cheese in the Granite Lodge. We always knew that cheese had the power to bring people closer together!

That simple message sparked everything to proceed. We couldn’t talk enough, and I never wanted our conversations to end. Over the phone, we solidified our love for each other. Though we’d only shared a few dances in a room full of people, we took the time to get to know, understand and love each other. It was like being “pen pals,” an old school term, but very powerful in today’s modern world. It’s amazing to have the chance to get to know someone from afar.


A Long Distance Love Story

After a few conversation about seeing each other, I just knew I couldn’t wait to see him and booked a trip to Miami in March. From that trip on, we had to be together. Though long distance is hard, we didn’t care. We were going to make it work.

We promised to be very present in each other’s lives even from a far. We also agreed to see each other about every two weeks and we did. There wasn’t anything that could stop us. I’m not sure either of us believed in the adage, “once you know, you know,” but we were both so sure this was IT.

Fast forward – In September, I moved to Miami. The first challenge was blending our fur baby family. I had one dog and he had three dogs and a cat. We ended up getting a new puppy together, as well. All of a sudden we became a family of 8! There were definitely times of adjustment, but nothing we couldn’t conquer with love. 

We decided pretty early on in the relationship that we wanted to have a Cowboy Christmas, and that’s where The Ranch comes into play. We researched A LOT of places and this one seemed the best and something we had to do. Needless to say, we were beyond impressed and in love with The Ranch at Rock Creek. Little did I know how much The Ranch would become a part of our love story.


A Mile-High Milestone

It was our fourth day there and we went on our second horseback ride of the week. Chelsea took us out again and all seemed ‘typical’ until we walked up to a very romantic setting on the creek. It was a fire pit, wooden benches, blankets, flowers and champagne. Chelsea sold it to us as a new romance package they were testing out. (Those who know me know I’m so gullible.)

I started to take video/photos of the beautiful set up and as I turned around, my life forever changed. He was telling me how much I meant to him and how much he loved me as he was bending down on one knee. I kind of froze in excitement and said, “YES!” The easiest ‘yes’ I’ve ever said in my life.

We enjoyed the champagne and went back to the Granite Lodge to celebrate. The staff had turned the Great Room into a beautiful setting for two where we could enjoy our engagement and each other.  The rest of the night was a wonderful blur. Wine/bourbon tasting, chef’s tasting menu, bowling, and we were able to share our joy with some of our favorite staff. 

We will forever and always love The Ranch at Rock Creek. It’s was the perfect place to begin our engagement and we couldn’t be happier with where life has taken us. Onto the next adventure! We just closed on our first house and I started a new job. So many things are ahead of us and we are beyond excited. One thing we know is that we will be back and can’t wait to visit our spot on the creek.

Much love-
Katie and Erik 



See how we plan weddings, elopements and other milestones in our unique setting and with Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star service. Get inspired for Valentine’s Day with a sample romantic itinerary.

Category: Around The Ranch


Top Rancher Captures of 2018

If you already follow The Ranch on Instagram, you may already know that every Thursday a Rancher takes the helm of our account to tell their story. Ranch Life Takeovers are an opportunity to hear from people who are the heart and soul of The Ranch. Instagram was created for smart phones—to help us all channel creativity as we document our day-to-day life. Though we like a little #tbt during our takeovers, our Ranch Instagram is a snapshot of what’s going on from moment to moment at one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Here are some of the most-loved Rancher photos of 2018.

Click on the photo to see the full-sized photo or watch the video.


1. Moose Family at Bluebird Cabin
by Christopher Peden @christopher_peden10

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bo6sSWSnzs-/

In fall of 2018, we almost started calling it our “moostagram” account because we were able to share images of these imposing and fascinating creatures almost every week. Driver Christopher Peden caught this “family” between Bluebird Cabin and our Historic Barn. While mother and calf looked for food, a young bull was hoping for a little fall romance. Swipe to view more images of this group of ungulates.


2. The First Snow
by Yoga Instructor Leigh Dollard @leigh_yoginandi & Marketing Specialist Tricia Erickson

https://www.instagram.com/p/BoIbgP6Hs2-/

Our Ranchers were out in force as the first snowflakes made their way into the Rock Creek Valley. Though it was September 24th, our first snow had actually come almost two weeks earlier in 2017. They melted quickly, but everyone was very excited that winter was coming.


3. Please Never Leave, Autumn
by Master Naturalist & Lead Little Grizzlies Coordinator Kelsey Bruns @kmadelynbruns

https://www.instagram.com/p/BpPoOsnHagh/

Despite the winter excitement, almost a month later, we were sad to see fall on it’s way out. These cottonwoods near Anaconda made our Master Naturalist Kelsey Bruns plead with fall to stay a little longer. The whole world turns golden and its hard to come in for the night. Read more…

Category: Around The Ranch


Destination Archery: Lead Guide Quinn Wilson & Our ‘Sleeper Hit’ Sport

Behind-the-Scenes with Lead Archery Guide Quinn Wilson

One could say Quinn Wilson’s passion is archery, but that would be an understatement.


Quinn Wilson instructing on a course he designed.

Quinn’s first experience with a bow and arrow during Boy Scouts has blossomed into a career. Like many of our employees and most of our guests, he traveled the world before landing at The Ranch.

A Historic Past

Quinn first sought a degree in pre-modern history. One of his first jobs our of school was as an experimental archeologist. The practical application of his job was rebuilding artifacts, and using them to see how they work. He would rebuild bows and arrows to the specifications of historical methods. This fascinating glimpse into history also reignited his love of archery.


Quinn has shot a bow in USA, Egypt, UAE, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Iceland, Canada, Ecuador and Columbia.

While some people count the countries they’ve visited, Quinn counts the countries where he’s put his archery talents to good use. After two years working as a retail archery technician in downtown Seattle, he took a year abroad to practice his favorite sport around the world. He is proud to have shot a bow in 13 countries worldwide – a number that will no doubt grow throughout his life.

Through travel, Quinn has been introduced to new cultures and new forms of archery. Each culture with a history of bow sports, lays claim to their own unique traditions. His experiences led him throughout Europe as an archery tournament organizer, mounted (horseback) archery student, archery instructor, 3D course designer, and a traditional bow maker.

Mustang Trainer Ryon practices mounted archery on Noble1. Wrangling is a non-traditional hospitality career.
Quinn has been instructing our Mustang Trainer Ryon Mendoza in mounted archery. Photo by Quinn Wilson. Read more…

Category: Around The Ranch


A Bounty of Thanks

Thanksgiving is a busy time in the hospitality world. When most people clock off for the long weekend, we ramp up festivities with the families who’ve chosen to celebrate here. It’s an honor to be a home away from home for guests on a day that means so much to so many. We understand why; it’s a holiday that indulges in kin, community and gratitude, as well as incredible food.

Our General Manager Jon Martin shared what he’s grateful for this year, and we think it’s a list that ought to be shared with our wider community. Thank you all for being a part of our extended Ranch family – for sharing your stories, for your kindred appreciation of horses and wildlife, for showing a little love and generally for just being social with us, a group of people tucked into a remote corner of Montana who share a passion for adventure, ranch culture and hospitality. We hope you enjoy Jon’s words and, most of all, we hope you have an incredible Thanksgiving.


Thanksgiving is a day of enjoying a great meal with family and friends while reflecting on the things in our lives we are grateful for. For me this is an easy list to fill.  I am thankful for the opportunity to lead such an amazing property in one of the most beautiful areas in the world. 


Photo by Caleb Jordan Lee.

I am thankful for our owner Jim Manley who had the passion to embrace, enhance and share the magic of this late 19th century ranch

A Ranch wrangler drives a historic Wells Fargo stagecoach during Thanksgiving travel dates

I am thankful for the thousands of times I’ve gotten to watch my two daughters see a new animal, watch a rodeo, ride a horse and experience something for the first time. 


Jon’s daughters Blayne and Jules living at The Ranch.

I am thankful for my wife Brenda who believed me when I told her living 90 miles from the closest Starbucks was worth it. 


Jon Martin with wife Brenda, daughters Blayne and Jules, along with Wrangler Jamie Wines.

I am thankful for every conversation I’ve had with our guests this year who couldn’t stop sharing their experiences with me and raving about the employees who made it even better. 

Three riders gallop through the hills of Southwestern Montana during a trail ride at The Ranch at Rock Creek

I am thankful for the amazing community of Philipsburg and Granite County, whose residents are integral to our success. Go Titans!! 

A sunset view of Historic Philipsburg's Broadway Street by Michael Chilcoat
A sunset view of Historic Philipsburg’s Broadway Street by Michael Chilcoat.

I am thankful for the local purveyors who provide us with quality produce, meat and dairy products to deliver excellent cuisine to our guests.

Cast iron seared ribeye steaks from local purveyor Yellowstone grass-fed beef  

Last but not least I am thankful for the amazing team here who not only take such great care of our guests but have taught me how to fly fish, ride a horse, brand a calf, shoot a shotgun and rope a steer among many other things.


The 2018 Ranch rodeo team.

Most of them will be away from families working today to help ensure our guests have a memorable time with theirs. In every sense of the word, thank you, Ranchers!

~General Manager Jon Martin

Category: Around The Ranch


Adventure in Hospitality

Ranch Life Behind-The-Scenes

A job at The Ranch at Rock Creek is not your average 9-to-5 job. In fact, it’s far from the average hospitality job. Last year, we wrote about the unique careers we offer, but this year we want to highlight the exceptional people in those positions who earn us the rave reviews on TripAdvisor.

Each person who works here – from local residents to college students on summer break to exchange workers from foreign countries  – has an adventurous spirit. Most hiring managers at the most luxurious hotels in the world probably don’t include this in their job prerequisites. (Thanks to Forbes Travel Guide for their inclusion in the Forbes Verified List!)

A Rancher tests his skills on our high ropes course.

An adventurous spirit is the common thread that brings our employees to The Ranch, and it’s also what makes them stay or return. These Ranchers thrive both professionally and personally in a place where they can gain experience meeting Forbes Travel Guide and Relais & Châteaux standards and where they can also step out their front door and absorb the bliss of wild Montana.


1.    Brianna Stroebe – Little Grizzlies Guide

Though we hire staff from all over the country and world, our native Montanans convey a sense of pride about their home state. Brianna Stroebe is a ray of Big Sky sunshine – an imperative trait for someone who guides for our Little Grizzlies Kids Club. Brianna enjoys her summers working in the hospitality industry, but this experience is preparing her for a career in secondary education. While she spends the school year studying in Montana, she plans to return next summer to continue working as a guide for our youngest of guests.


Brianna Stroebe hiking in the mountains near Philipsburg.

Much of her family lives in our hometown of Philipsburg, so every season she returns allows her to come  back home and do something she loves. A summer at The Ranch gives her the chance to catch up with friends at the local coffee shop and work toward her ultimate goal of teaching future adventurers.

Brianna says the best part of her job is “being able to cultivate and witness an ‘a-ha’ moment.”

We may not have big city lights, but we do have access to incredible wonders. Many kids have never seen a moose, played in a mountain-fed creek or skipped stones on a pond. She loves to share her home with children from all over the world.

2.     Ryon Mendoza – Wrangler

For some, The Ranch is a place to follow their passion. Ryon Mendoza knew early on that his work would be with horses. He pursued an associate’s degree in farrier science and wilderness horsemanship, which set him on a path to global adventure. First he was a pack horse guide in Alaska for five months. Then, he worked briefly as a wrangler at an Arizona dude ranch, before learning to train horses in Brazil and Costa Rica.


Ryon Mendoza training the mustang Noble1 to do mounted archery. Photo Courtesy of Ranch Archery Guide & Photographer Quinn Wilson.

At The Ranch, Ryon is a horse wrangler , but he’s also developing a new program for the barn, called Mission Mustang. Read more about his mission on our Autumn Harvest highlights blog. What he enjoys most about his job here is the ability to explore and pursue your passions. We’re delighted when staff take the reins on new guest programming and sustainability initiatives. Growth is something that is important to Ryon. It may be one of the reasons why he is so excellent with the mustang.

“One must have the ability to transform with the horse. You ask them to change their lives, you must be willing to do the same.”

Read more…

Category: Around The Ranch


Autumn Harvest Highlights

Locavore’s Delight

Fall seems to start at a gallop in Granite County. As we wrap up the hay harvest, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life. One often has to remember to stop and enjoy the moment. Stop, reflect and celebrate. 


The Ranch offers a different dining experience every night. Executive Chef Josh Drage’s locally sourced Relais & Chateaux meals are one of our guests’ favorite luxuries.

This year we have many reasons to celebrate at our annual Autumn Harvest Celebration. We’ve just been honored by Forbes Travel Guide as one of the most luxurious hotels in the world.

Their brand new Verified List includes just 58 hotels from all over the world, judged on 900 standards and chosen as “top performers in the standards that focus on sumptuous comfort, as well as extravagant choices and conveniences afforded to guests… .The featured hotels lavish you at an unparalleled level from the moment you arrive,” according to  Jennifer Kester of Forbes Travel Guide.

Our Autumn Harvest Weekend focuses on local Montana culinary and natural treasures. On Thursday, we’ll kick off the celebration with a Montana Craft Cider Dinner created by Executive Chef Josh Drage and paired with local ciders from Missoula’s Western Cider.


Perfecting Western Cider. Photo by Rio Chantel.

On Friday, we’ll be highlighting Montana’s cultural treasures at our Western Rendezvous. Saturday will culminate in a Fall Harvest Dinner featuring grammy-winning musician LeAnn Rimes. Other weekend activities include a ‘Slow Food, Small Plates’ dinner, campfire session with Montana band shōDown, a Ranch cocktail party and a Happy Trails Brunch on Sunday. See the full itinerary here. Read more…

Category: Around The Ranch


Memorial Day: Grand Entry to Summer Travel

Memorial Day is a day set aside to honor the soldiers who lost their lives serving our country. Though “decoration days” took place before the American Civil War, the first official Memorial Day was held on May 30, 1868. This date was chosen because Northern flowers were abundant and used to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. This year marks the 150th anniversary of that first Memorial Day.

Over the past 150 years, Memorial Day has grown to celebrate America in general. It echoes the feelings of July 4th, but often serves as more of a family-focused celebration. Families gather round to eat and toast America, the beautiful, and their family and community members who have served.

A Ranch wrangler proudly caries the stars and stripes during the Fourth of July rodeo at The Ranch at Rock Creek in southwest Montana

When we celebrate Memorial Day at The Ranch at Rock Creek, we do so with the American traditions of the legendary West. It is one of our favorite seasonal celebrations because it is a chance for families to gather and observe the holiday in an old-fashioned and spirited way.

Guests enjoy a family picnic during summer multi-generational travel to The Ranch at Rock Creek

Throughout most of the country, these celebrations are fast disappearing, but they are alive and well at The Ranch. In fact, this weekend kicks off our summer season, when barn dances and rodeos are part of our weekly events. Here are some of the events that make our celebration a bucket list trip to the American Wild West. If you’ve yet to make your Memorial Day plans, several accommodations remain. Please join us for an unparalleled American journey.



1. Cowboy Breakfast

Read more…

Category: Around The Ranch


Sweet Life of Bees, Year Two

Join us as we follow our new colleagues—the bees—through their second year homesteading in the Rock Creek Valley. The story is in reverse chronological order so scroll down to start from the beginning, or read more about their first year on The Ranch.  

Chapter Three: Lessons Learned

by Kelsey Bruns, Beekeeper, Master Naturalist and Little Grizzlies Kids Club Coordinator

A Growing Year

I am constantly amazed and humbled by the complexity of the hive. One of the first things I learned from my apiarist mentor was that once you believe you know everything about beekeeping you should quit because that means you are a terrible beekeeper.

Instead, you should always be learning from the hive. That comment has stayed with me. This season there have been many surprises and unforeseen circumstances with the hives, a less-than-bumper crop of honey, and yes, there has been a lot of learning.


We sold jars from our 2017 at this year’s Autumn Harvest Celebration. Photo by Kelsey Bruns.

For me, beekeeping is an intricate dance of manipulating the hive. As a beekeeper you are constantly assessing the hive and reacting quickly enough to know what your next move is going to be. Knowing how to read a hive is imperative to a healthy and successful hive. This can be as easy as moving frames from point A to point B and as complex as listening for different intonations of the buzz of a hive. This season there were many instances to practice observation and react to what the hive was telling me.

A Product of our Environment

Spring was very wet and cold this year, and our summer came in strong and left quickly. Two things need to happen for any plant to produce nectar: warmth and moisture. The warmth and moisture allows the plant to bloom. But the golden ticket is to have both these things happen over an extended amount of time. With no moisture in the ground, the flowers may be present but they will not produce nectar.


Spring green soon changes into a tawny landscape during the summer in Philipsburg, Montana. Photo by Drew Baker Photography.

Lacking these two integral factors left the hives with less than enough time to collect a enough nectar to turn into a large crop of honey. As one can imagine, this can be quite frustrating for a beekeeper. I feel for the local farmers when the weather is just not conducive for a bumper crop that can support their livelihood.

A Tough Call

With all this being said, I can blame the weather all I want for the lack of honey, but the reality of this year’s less than exciting honey crop was also due to the health of the hives. For reasons unknown, two hives lost their queens. To make matters worse, these two hives lost their queens right before the nectar flow.

As a beekeeper, all your work is for the nectar flow. You work to ensure you have the strongest hive possible with the most bees that are foragers right as the nectar comes on. With no queen continuously laying eggs to keep hive numbers up, and forager bees coming of age, a hive simply lacks the bee numbers and the appropriate cohort of bees to collect nectar.


As the weather turned cool, the bees started to clump for winter. This act helps the bees to stay warm while exuding less energy. Photo by Kelsey Bruns.

Even after this event, I still had hope for my hives. I repaired these hives with bees from the two strongest hives in the apiary and patted myself on the back for a job well done. But to my dismay one of the new queens in the hive did not mate well and was a drone layer (only produced male bees, not female worker bees), and thus this hive was once again doomed. Being an optimist, I went into the strong hives once again to repair the damaged hive and this queen took.

Finally, all of the hives were back to normal. But because of my optimism (or potentially my stubbornness), the two strongest hives that I used to heal the weak hives had suffered. I ultimately decreased their bee numbers, and in return, these hives produced less honey.


Female bees taking advantage of their last sunny days in the Rock Creek Valley before their winter stay in the Bitterroot Valley. Photo by Kelsey Bruns.

I had to make this decision along the way and I had my reasons. The question was, should I let two hives die and let the strongest hives stay strong and produce an amazing honey crop? Or should I save two hives and sacrifice the amount of honey I would get in the end? I reasoned with the second option, which roots in my philosophy of beekeeping.

The purpose of beekeeping for me is not how many pounds of honey I harvest; it is for the mere appreciation I have for them. Understanding the honeybee hive is a wonder. Something so complex, yet so perfect and simple, that it hasn’t changed in millions of years.

The hive is a beautiful super-organism that our society will always be indebted to and that I will forever be in awe of.

The bees are now set up for success in which they will over-winter well.  They now reside in the Bitterroot Valley for a second winter where the climate is less harsh and the spring flowers come early. Cheers to the bees. I am always ready to learn.

 


Chapter Two: A Live Hive That Thrives


Spring Turns to Summer

Spring in Rock Creek Valley was quite a dramatic season. This past winter we had an above average snow pack and thus, in return, we have had an extended high water season for Rock Creek. We hope the extra precipitation will mean a healthier eco-system in the long run.


A honeybee on a rosebush. Photo by Kelsey Bruns.

Now that the water is down, the fly fishing is up! As spring progresses into summer, the hives are busy, gathering pollen and trying to recuperate from the long winter.


Beekeeper Kelsey fishing in Southwest Montana. Read more…

Category: Around The Ranch


National Geographic Photography Workshop & Top Tips

More Than a Snapshot

Travel and photography go hand in hand like big skies and majestic mountains. (As any Ansel Adams fan can attest.) Since the advent of smart phones, almost everyone can capture the notable moments and minutia that string together a great trip.

“My life is shaped by the urgent need to wander and observe, and my camera is my passport.” ~Steve McCurry

However, despite this constant digital presence, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the principles and art of photography. Learning the principles of great photography can heighten the travel experience.


Photo by Lead Shooting Instructor Myron Weirich.

National Geographic’s Narrative Approach

When we joined the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection in 2015 (as the only US charter member), we were excited to partner with other sustainability-focused lodges. But we also couldn’t wait to use this affiliation to bring the art of photography into our all-inclusive offerings. Nat Geo redefined storytelling photography in their magazine, and they always find new ways to wow us on social media.

In early 2017, award-winning photographer Jay Dickman and friends from National Geographic Expeditions came to The Ranch to train our staff on narrative photography techniques— as part of a new pilot program with the Unique Lodges of the World. Dickman has an impressive resume, including a Pulitzer Prize and 25 assignments for the National Geographic Society. We couldn’t wait to see what he would make of February at The Ranch.


Photo by Lead Shooting Instructor Myron Weirich

Over the course of the next three days, the workshop taught our guides how to harness wild beauty and Western culture into pictures that tell a story about our remote corner of the world.

“I wish that all of nature’s magnificence, the emotion of the land, the living energy of place could be photographed.” ~Annie Leibovitz

Read more…

Category: Around The Ranch


Celebrating 5 Years as a Family-Friendly Forbes Five-Star Resort

Five for Five

Five is our lucky number! We’ve just received the Forbes Five-Star award for the fifth consecutive year. Forbes Travel Guide offers the only independent global rating system for luxury hotels, restaurants and spas. We’re truly honored to be part of this prestigious family who strives for hospitality perfection – opting to be judged on 900 objective service standards every year.


Photo by Lead Ranch Shooting Instructor Myron Weirich.

While many of our buildings are well over a century old, The Ranch at Rock Creek is a young property, and we want to thank our former and current Ranch staff for helping us earn this distinction for five of our eight years in operation.

The Ranch at Rock Creek staff gathers for a photo after the last rodeo of the season

We also want to join Forbes in welcoming two of our Montana neighbors into the Forbes Travel Guide family for the first-time. This year, Triple Creek Ranch, another Relais & Châteaux property, earned four stars and The Resort at Paws Up was given Recommended status. Congratulations friends, on these big achievements. The Treasure State is shining even brighter after this year’s award announcement.



All in the Family Travel

We are honored to be part of the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star family because families with high-standards and a love of travel are at the crux of what we do.  From our inception as an all-inclusive luxury resort in 2010, we knew that the family travel experience was an essential facet of our outdoor-focused amenities.

A multi-generational family enjoys a reunion picnic at The Ranch at Rock Creek in Southwestern Montana

Though we love welcoming corporate retreats, elopements, bachelor/bachelorette parties and other generally adult-focused affairs, the versatility of being family-friendly allows us to ensure that every traveler can find their niche at The Ranch.  (Unless, of course, they don’t enjoy the outdoors).

Last year, we covered the new trend of multi-generational trips on this blog, including tips on making the most of a family trip. This time we want to hone in on why our carefully curated and outdoor-focused style of hospitality ensures memorable, inspiring and personalized family vacations.

Read more…