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Category: Summer


Grand Opening: The Nest at Rock Creek!

Family Ties

This Father’s Day we’re celebrating the Ranch dads that have chosen to live, work and raise their kids in the wide open spaces of Granite County. Families are an essential part of the genuine homestead hospitality that makes our property a home away from home for so many people.


Outside play is a big part of the Ranch experience for guests and staff children alike. Photo by Danielle Boutte Photography.

Ranching in rural Montana is by and large a family endeavor and Owner Jim Manley continued that idea, starting The Ranch at Rock Creek as his family retreat.

Hiring and Recruitment Manager Cat Johnson explained, “In an employee’s offer letter we welcome them to the “ranch family.” There are so many people here who are connected: husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, sisters-in-law, fathers and sons. All across The Ranch and the departments, there are family ties. So it genuinely is a ranch family.”

Living in a secluded location means that our Ranch families trade urban convenience for extraordinary beauty. In an attempt to improve access to childcare and career opportunities for our staff, Just one month ago we opened on-site childcare, dubbed The Nest at Rock Creek.

Hatching a Plan

General Manager Jon Martin and his wife Brenda came to Philipsburg in early 2018.  It also meant that due to the lack of childcare options in a town of just 900 people, that Brenda would stay home with the kids after 20 years of working in the hospitality industry as a spa director.

Moving from Southern California was a culture shock, but it was a net positive change for their family.

Brenda said, “People ask me, ‘Why do you love it here?’ My kids get to grow up in these wide-open spaces. They get to see animals that lots of kids have never seen. They go to a forest preschool in town. It can be hard to transition to a place where everyone knows everyone else, but I know that this is the kind of town where if my kids step off the sidewalk, 10 people are going to grab her. People don’t look past you.”

General Manager Jon Martin and his family with wrangler Jamie
The Martin family after a Tuesday summer rodeo. 

Staying at home was a change the Martin family was able to make, but they soon saw that other employee families and single-parent households needed more childcare options to maintain their careers and provide for their families.

The Nest at Rock Creek

The Nest is designed in the spirit of our Little Grizzlies Kids Club, but tailored for kids aged eight weeks to five years old. (During the summer break, it will welcome kids up to 12 year of age). Play in nature is an essential part of every day, except in extreme weather conditions.


Nest children found an actual nest in the first few weeks of opening The Nest at Rock Creek.

In addition to time in nature, the curriculum is designed to be well-rounded, preparing them for school. The tenants of the curriculum also include art, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, science and sensory play, math and dramatic play.

Infants have their own rooms and each infant has a dedicated teacher, so that diaper changing and feeding schedules are never confused.

Ranch employees pay $25 per day for the first child and $15 per day for the second, which covers a portion of the expense for this program. The remainder is covered by The Ranch as a benefit to employees. Included in the price is breakfast, lunch and a morning and afternoon snack — all made by our Relais & Châteaux kitchen.

Full-fledged Benefit

Behind the scenes, The Nest was built to cater to the idiosyncrasies of the hospitality industry. Instead of strict monthly schedules and pre-payments that many daycares require, we’ve chosen to remain as flexible as our employees need to be. Parents don’t need to commit to a schedule, because hospitality schedules change week to week. Parents can also cancel by 9AM on the day their child is scheduled to be in The Nest. This means if parents are called off their shift, they can cancel without being charged for the day.


A Nest participant practices weighing and measuring food during a “Farmer’s Market” activity.

The Nest is open during holidays, when most of our staff is on-hand to execute special events.

Nursing mothers are welcome to come to breastfeed in The Nest in a dedicated space during their break or lunchtime, and parents are welcome to visit during their break times. Before Father’s Day, Ranch dads were asked to come talk to the kids about what they do.

Jon and Brenda recognized that if their previous employers had offered on-site childcare, they would have been more likely to continue their careers at those hotels. Though we all make sacrifices to live in this pristine beauty, choosing between a career and high-quality childcare was not one Jon wanted his employees to make.

General Manager Jon Martin says, “Not only do we take care of the families that come here to visit, but we need to take care of the families that work here.”

Women account for 51% of our staff. Access to affordable childcare will aid female staff in developing their careers and combat gender wage gaps caused by time out of the workplace. Marketing Specialist Tricia Erickson is one of the Ranch employees using this new benefit.

She says, “Rural Montana is exactly where my husband Josh, the revenue manager, and I want to raise my children, but being in a remote location has challenges like finding available childcare. I am incredibly grateful for The Ranch’s leadership seeing the value of investing in quality childcare. My two kids now get to ride to work with mom and dad and learn about animals, take nature walks and play with their best friends. As a working mom of young children, I am relieved that my life has much more balance now. I can still do the job that I love while knowing my kids are getting world-class care within walking distance from my office.”


A Father’s Day project at The Nest.

Happy Father’s Day from The Ranch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Category: Summer


Virtuoso Best Family Program: Little Grizzlies

On Top of the World with Virtuoso Travel

This summer, we have a lot to celebrate. We’re just completing our new Rod & Gun Club. We’ve added yoga to our list of all-inclusive activities. We’re launching a premiere event, Whiskey & Water, in just one month! Our most recent achievement has us feeling like we’re on top of the world—we’ve just received the “Best of the Best” Virtuoso Travel award for Best Family Program!


General Manager Jon Martin accepts our “Best Family Program” award at Virtuoso Travel Week.

This an elite award is from an elite group of travel advisors who strive to elevate luxury travel for each client. Here at The Ranch, we see hundreds of little ones and their families come through our doors every year. Family programming is not an afterthought; it’s part of the foundation of our activities program. Our Little Grizzlies Kids Club provides an ever-evolving wealth of experiences, each one aimed at heightening kids’ love of outdoor exploration.

On behalf of the team at The Ranch at Rock Creek, we are honored to accept the Virtuoso best family program award and look forward to continuing to provide amazing, memorable experiences for the family clients of our Virtuoso partners. ~ General Manager Jon Martin

Behind-the-Scenes at the Little Grizzlies Club

Guests aged four to 12 enjoy an authentic Montana experience with themed days focusing on anything from honing horsemanship skills to gaining an appreciation of Montana’s ecosystem and the beautiful Rock Creek running through our property. Our Little Grizzlies Guides are trained to impart their knowledge about adventure in the great outdoors.

While most children are well-suited to free play, they may not immediately understand how to play safely and creatively in the forest or mountains. One themed day focuses specifically on outdoor skills and safety, so that kids have the tools to navigate their place in a still-wild world. We hope by inspiring our younger generations in our unique valley, each family can head home as responsible stewards and seasoned adventurers.

“Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.” – Thomas Berry

In addition to the Little Grizzlies program, kids are welcomed to join in our Ranch-wide events like our weekly summer rodeos. Between rough-stock rides and barrel races, they join in some fun rodeo-themed games. These events allow our Ranch guests to join in and be a part of our Ranch family.

A New Den for Little Grizzlies

The newest addition to our family programming is in construction at this very moment! Though our outdoor world is the greatest asset to our guests’ experience, we are adding a children’s specific indoor play space.

Our Little Grizzlies Den will cater to our youngest guests on those days that are less conducive to outdoor play. It will have ample area for indoor games and crafting. We not only pride ourselves on maintaining a wide array of high luxury amenities for our guests, but we’re always striving for improvements, like this new den. Thank you to Virtuoso Travel agents for this prestigious acknowledgement! This Best Family Program award inspirits our work to innovate experiential travel for guests of all ages.

A multi-generational family spends a day skiing at Discovery Ski Area during their trip to The Ranch at Rock Creek
This winter, The Ranch will continue to include downhill skiing and snowboarding for all guests.

We hope to see you and your family here at The Ranch at Rock Creek soon. You are always welcome in our home.

Category: Summer


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: Summer


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: Summer


Sweet Life of Bees: A Montana Apiary Story

Join us as we follow our new colleagues—the bees—as they homestead in the Rock Creek Valley. 

Chapter 1, Spring: Welcoming Bees to Rock Creek

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


New Arrivals


The Pintler Mountain range from the Edith Lake trail. Photo by Kelsey Bruns. 

Summer has arrived and the buzz is high here at The Ranch at Rock Creek. The local Pintler Mountain range is slowing losing its snowcaps, which means the Rock Creek is flowing high and the salmonfly hatch is upon us.


The large salmonfly beckons trout and fishermen on Rock Creek. Photo by Patrick Little.

In addition to fantastic fly fishing for our guests, the local flora is rushing into its full summer bloom. Lupine, larkspur and arrowleaf balsamroot are a few of our native wildflowers that put on a show for us during our mid-summer Montana landscapes. Our new naturalist classes teach adventure-loving guests about the connection between the flora, fauna and landscape.

A hillside of arrowleaf balsamroot. Photo by Patrick Little. 

As a member of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection, we strive to offer guests the chance to delve deeper into the very eco-system that makes our corner of Gold Country so special. Our new National Geographic narrative photography workshops also help them use their knowledge of the environment to capture incredible moments throughout their vacation.


Activities Director Patrick Little and Kelsey Bruns share images during a National Geographic photography training session. Photo by Ned Derosier.

As an addition to our sustainability program and to highlight the connection between the local produce used in our farm-to-table dining, we recently added some new livestock to The Ranch. It’s not a new herd of cattle or addition to our thriving horse herd; our new stock is the extremely important and completely captivating honeybee.


Honeybees outside of their new hives. Photo by Kelsey Bruns. 

Our first bees arrived at The Ranch in April. Their arrival meant that I could share another one of my passions with my colleagues and friends. With our long summer days, I know our honeybees will be very busy these coming months and will have a positive impact on The Ranch’s ecosystem. Our hope is that once these hives become established, guests will soon be enjoying the fruits of their labor. Read more…

Category: Summer


Guest Blog: A Week at The Ranch

Behind the Lens During a Summer Stay

A couple of Adirondack chairs sit ready for a moment of reflection on Welcome Pond at The Ranch at Rock Creek
Photo courtesy of Benjamin Morgan.

As one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, we often host photographers looking to capture migrating wildlife, iconic ranch scenes and high country views. We delight in seeing our wild landscape from different perspectives. Thanks to Instagram and Facebook, we’re able to share guest and staff member talents with our international community every day. Read more…

Category: Summer


Celebrating Culinary Arts Month

Gourmet Food with Big Sky Balance

National Culinary Arts Month couldn’t come at a better time. Summer produce is rolling in and The Ranch kitchen is highlighting Montana’s freshest food with creative, ever-changing menus. We want to recognize the chefs, servers, managers and purveyors that make The Ranch’s dining experiences shine.

As part of the Relais & Châteaux commitmentsExecutive Chef Josh Drage and his talented team focus on making our cuisine a reflection of local tradition while delivering a first-rate luxury experience. We want to thank our staff members who achieve this precise balance every day of the year.

In a recent TripAdvisor review, Claire V., wrote, “The freshness of the food rivaled that of my favorite restaurants in New York City. The service was remarkable and is clearly a top priority of management. While the Ranch at Rock Creek is certainly ‘high-end,’ it is not stuffy.”

Members of our evening culinary arts team enjoy the Fourth of July celebration
Members of our Evening Culinary Team on Fourth of July. Left to Right: Executive Chef Josh, PM Servers Alex, Kaylen, F&B Event Manager Christina, Executive Sous Chef Ben, PM Server Willie. Photo by Willie MacDade.
Read more…

Category: Summer


Ranch Traditions: Saturday Barn Dance

After Memorial Day weekend, guests start seeing a Saturday barn dance on our list of weekly activities, along with the Friday breakfast ride, Tuesday rodeo and Sunday Wells Fargo stagecoach rides. They are now a feature of our summer itineraries and most of our seasonal celebrations, like Autumn Harvest Weekend, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

A driver picks up guests in a restored Wells Fargo Stagecoach at The Ranch at Rock Creek

“Out of all the great and amazing activities we do here at The Ranch nothing receives more positive feedback than the barn dance night.”~Former General Manager Jade McBride

Our barn dance was inspired by a treasured piece of Western history. We hope to restore and share a community celebration that’s sorely missed in modern society. Read more…

Category: Summer


Cross It Off Your Bucket List

10 Dreams Turned Reality at The Ranch

Every vacation is a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream. Here are 10 classic bucket list adventures that The Ranch at Rock Creek fulfills each year.

1. Become a Horseback Rider.

Notice, we didn’t say, “go horseback riding.” The Ranch teaches horsemanship, so you can go from being a greenhorn to a rider during a week’s vacation. The Ranch’s equestrian program is a customized, robust experience, with guests deciding how far they want to take their riding skills. When English riders arrive at The Ranch, they leave with new skills and appreciation for a different world.

Horseback riding is one bucket list adventure you can have at The Ranch at Rock Creek

You can learn how to saddle and care for a horse before your first trail ride. In the next several days, you may summit higher terrain and start roping. After the better part of a week, you might be comfortable enough in the saddle to learn pole bending or barrel racing in the rodeo arena. See a 4-day sample equestrian itinerary for a taste of this adventure.

Read more…

Category: Summer


What’s a Ranch Rodeo? Photo Essay on a Montana Tradition

IMG_4072-2Photography by Robert A. Cole

A staff member and talented photographer, Robert Cole, spent his summer at The Ranch documenting our weekly ranch rodeo at Camp Roosevelt Arena. Robert traveled from Northern California to work in Montana this summer. Although he has photographed sports before, the rodeo was a new experience. Trying to balance the cultural significance with the athleticism is always a challenge. In this week’s blog, we explain the historical significance of rodeo events to modern competitions and working ranches, while Robert explains his approach to photographing this important Montana tradition.  Read more…