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Category: Events


How to Bird Your World for the Year of the Bird

2018 is the year of the dog in the Chinese zodiac, but man’s best friend has to share the limelight with another vertebrate, the bird. 2018 marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In recognition of the most powerful piece of bird protection legislation ever passed, the National Geographic Society – and by extension its Unique Lodges of the World – are taking part in worldwide conservation efforts to protect migratory bird species, a key cornerstone of our ecosystems.

Sustainability through Conservation

From the very first day of 2018, we began celebrating Montana’s incredible bird population and supporting conservation efforts in a program we are calling Bird Your World. On New Year’s Eve we even decorated the Silver Dollar Saloon with majestic raptors and on New Year’s Day on a snowy Raptor Hike to learn about the hawks, eagles, osprey and other birds of prey that call Rock Creek home.


A bald eagle sits on a fence post near Philipsburg, Montana. Photo by Activities Director Patrick Little.

The Ranch at Rock Creek has been part of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World since 2015. We began as the only US Charter Member. As this eco-tourism collection has expanded, we’ve sought to double our efforts to make our ranch more sustainable. Our main areas of focus are conservation efforts and investment in our local community. National Geographic’s 2016 Unique Lodges Sustainability Report showed the great strides this collection is making to promote sustainable tourism. Read more…

Category: Events


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

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Category: Events


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: Events


Mixology Hour: Bringing Home the Art of Craft Cocktails

While whiskey straight up may be the stereotypical cowboy drink, it’s certainly not the only option for wetting your whistle in the West. The Ranch at Rock Creek is an experiential oasis, perfectly suited to a martini before the Homestead Supper Club, a Negroni as a fireside aperitif, or a margarita by the pool.

The Motherlode Cocktail sits ready to be enjoyed after mixology hour in the Great Room
Read on to find the recipe for this cocktail, The Motherlode. 

Cocktails are a cultural experience, steeped in centuries of creative pairings. The beauty of mixology is that you can adapt recipes to the setting, the season and the individual.

Bar Manager Ned Derosier’s cocktail menus in the Silver Dollar Saloon and the Great Room change frequently to highlight local spirits and seasonal abundance. For example, summer cocktails might feature foraged sage, huckleberries and Flathead cherries. You’re sure to get a taste of wild Montana when you saddle up to the bar.

Artisan cocktails in the Silver Dollar Saloon at The Ranch at Rock Creek luxury guest ranch
In fact, you can literally saddle up to the bar in the Silver Dollar Saloon. 

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Category: Events


Wedding in a Winter Wonderland at Laurie Arons’ Masterclass

As the forecast hints of snow, we’re starting to think about our exciting winter season. This year we’re offering three new special offers for leisure travelers. However, we don’t want to ignore a very special kind of travel to The Ranch—destination weddings.

We’ve had the privilege to work with Laurie Arons, one of the world’s premier wedding planners, for the past two years. Laurie has been featured on Vogue’s “The Ultimate Wedding Planner Master List,” and we have the pictures to prove that she deserves her title as a “master.” In 2015, we did a Q&A with Laurie after her spring Wedding Planner Masterclass. This week, we welcome her as a guest blogger as she showcases her experiences at the 2016 winter Wedding Planner Masterclass. 



Planning the Ultimate Winter Wedding by Laurie Arons

As a wedding planner, I’ve long been inspired by the beauty of winter weddings—so cozy, intimate and romantic.

Masterclass attendees enjoy a farm-to-table feast during their winter wedding welcome dinner
Masterclass attendees enjoy a farm-to-table welcome dinner in the Blue Canteen. Photo by Jose Villa.

The past two winters I’ve spent at The Ranch at Rock Creek opened my eyes to the potential of a winter affair where guests get to snuggle by the fire and warm their hearts when it’s cold outside.

Guests to The Ranch at Rock Creek can enjoy a roaring fire in the Sweet Grass glamping cabinSweet Grass Canvas Cabin – A three-room glamping tent open year-round. Photo by Jose Villa. 

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Category: Events


Fresh Picks From Autumn Harvest Weekend

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We’ve just enjoyed one of our favorite times of the year—our annual Autumn Harvest Weekend. While our Instagram followers experienced this celebration in real time through video “stories,” we wanted to hand pick some farm-to-table festivities to share with our Blog at Rock Creek readers. Before this blog ends, you’ll find a recipe for a cocktail that’s sure to be as bright and invigorating as a harvest moon.

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Category: Events


Entertaining in the Legendary West

Silver spurs, gold nuggets and riding off into sunsets—these are the icons of the legendary West. Since the Western states were formed and the barbed wire was strung, the Rocky Mountain states have changed in a myriad of ways (notably, with more indoor plumbing and fewer gun battles with road agents), but it’s still retained a wildness that’s rare in our modern day. In Montana, cattle outnumber people by 2.6 million to 1 million. In our neck of the woods there are more dirt roads than paved.

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Legendary adventures remain available for people willing to drive or fly a little further into the heart of the West. As The Ranch at Rock Creek has grown over the past six years, we’ve retained the feeling of our historic homestead roots. We appreciate that our partners in the travel industry celebrate our local ranching culture and allow us to remain, at heart, a Gold Country ranch. Of these partnerships, perhaps Relais & Châteaux is most notable for its appreciation of local food and culture.

Dutch oven cooking is a big part of Western cuisine at The Ranch at Rock Creek, a Relais & Chateaux luxury resort

Although this collection started in the chateaux and kitchens of France, Relais & Châteaux were quick to recognize there is no one way or one place to live well. Each region of the world can elevate their local cuisine, local culture and local art to higher standards, allowing guests to drink in the experience. This week, we’re pleased to announce two pieces of exciting news in concert with our Relais & Châteaux family: the release of their new book, The Art of Entertaining, and the new Legendary West Route du Bonheur.

Read more…

Category: Events


Wonderment: Autumn Harvest Celebration with LeAnn Rimes

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As with each of The Ranch’s seasonal celebrations, such as Thanksgiving and Midnight in Montana, our staff anticipated that this year’s Autumn Harvest Celebration would be a memorable gathering of friends and family. As always, guests would experience grand luxury, Western adventure and the finest Ranch cuisine.

And, for months, we were all excited to welcome special guest, Grammy Award-winning vocalist LeAnn Rimes, for she would be treating everyone to a live acoustic performance on Saturday night. Read more…

Category: Events


Masterful Destination Weddings

How well the words destination and wedding fit together—one describes the culmination of a journey and the other the exciting start of a new one. We were thrilled to host some of the top destination wedding experts during Laurie Arons’ Wedding Planner Masterclass in April. Laurie Arons Special Events is a San Francisco-based business that has managed over 600 events, including tailored destination weddings. Laurie and her Masterclass team (see below), challenged the idea that “nothing’s perfect” by sharing their orchestrated refinement and insider knowledge with talented colleagues and attendees. They turned the rustic beauty of The Ranch at Rock Creek into a Western story book romance. We’re pleased to share some of the Instagram highlights here, although we highly recommend you delve deeper by searching #weddingplannermasterclass for yourself.


Q & A with Laurie Arons

While she was here, we couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to pick Laurie’s brain for our 2015 brides and grooms. Laurie answered some of the pressing questions that arise when planning a Montana destination wedding.

We hope you enjoy these masters in their element: Laurie Arons, Mindy Rice Design, Casa de Perrin, Amber Moon Design, Curlicue Designs, Montana Party Rentals, Elan Event Rentals, Jose Villa Photography, Paula LeDuc, Barn Relic, Blush Roses, Joel Serrato, Style Me Pretty Weddings, Geraldine Magazine, Czar Press, Creative Candles and Fellini Salon.

Laurie Arons Masterclass included expertise from renowned wedding photographer Jose Villa and instructions on staging shotsLeft: @pitbullsposies captures master photographer Jose Villa at work. Right: @smpweddings with the results.

What wedding trends do you expect to see in 2015?

Gold has been the metallic accent color of choice for the last couple years, but for the Wedding Planner Masterclass, I wanted to focus on a metal I think will start to inspire a new trend in weddings—pewter. This metal works beautifully with more rustic weddings because of its muted tone, and is more unexpected than gold or silver.

Both the welcome dinner and the formal dinner incorporated pewter through Mindy Rice’s design and Casa de Perrin’s pewter chargers and flatware.  I also loved the pewter letterpress ink on the printed materials.

Wedding details by Mindy Rice design augmented the natural beauty of the bride, groom and Montana landscape during the Wedding MasterclassLeft:@lauriearons bridal shoot. Right: @mindyricedesign‘s inventive boutonnieres with found objects.  Read more…

Category: Events


Rethinking Spring Break

During spring in Granite County, everywhere you turn something has started anew. The land looks and smells green and earthy. Thousands of calves have been born within 100 miles of us, and they roam the fields in little gangs challenging each other to running races. If we could bottle that contagious feeling of spring renewal and send it out into the world, we would. But it wouldn’t be the same without seeing the fawns poking their noses out of the tall grass or the endless open spaces that make Montana such a unique destination.

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We want to harness that contagious feeling of spring renewal for travelers and propose some reasons to get out and take a spring break now—before the fevered excitement of summertime begins. If you’re looking for your own spring cleaning, for body, mind or soul, here are some once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunities that are sure to recharge you. Read more…