A MONTANA HIDEAWAY
By Megan Weisberg
PHOTOGRAPHY PROVIDED BY TRIPLE CREEK RANCH
By Megan Weisberg
PHOTOGRAPHY PROVIDED BY TRIPLE CREEK RANCH
Something about Montana holds a universal appeal. The name conjures up towering peaks, bright blue skies, and open pastureland roamed by herds of cattle and ranchers astride horses. A harkening back, perhaps, to a simpler way of life more closely in tune with the rhythms of nature. At Triple Creek Ranch, hidden away in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, every thoughtful décor decision creates an ambiance of slowing down, creating an environment in which guests rarely have the inclination to check their e-mail or hop on the internet—a true vacation indeed.
Landing in Missoula for a winter visit, my husband and I met our driver who shared the Bitterroot Valley’s history, including how Lewis and Clark’s expedition went right through the Valley. Along the way, he pointed out where scenes from the popular television show Yellowstone were filmed—including the homestead on the fictional Dutton Ranch. On the east side of our drive south were the Sapphire Mountains, aptly named for the sapphires that can still be mined here.
Arriving at Triple Creek Ranch, we were shown our private, charming cabin complete with a wood-burning fireplace, a private hot tub overlooking a creek, and a steam shower. The property can host 60 guests at one time, giving it a luxuriously boutique feel. It has 25 cabins furnished with an authentic Western motif. This adults-only, all-inclusive resort is the perfect sophisticated vacation spot for couples or groups of friends to unwind, explore, and relax together.
We started off our first evening in the upstairs lounge, playing rounds of gin rummy by the fire while sipping seasonal cocktails and listening to live music. Ready for dinner, we entered the dining room where floor-to-ceiling windows showcased the exceedingly beautiful snow-covered scenery. While a wood fire crackled, we spoke to the sommelier about wine pairings for our four-course dinner. To begin, a glass of local champagne brought out the flavors of the amuse-bouche, a fig and gorgonzola delight. An appetizer of grilled swordfish with charred tomato vinaigrette and barrel-aged feta was a delicious mix of bright flavors. An Asian calamari salad with yuzu tobiko, seaweed, and arugula followed and did not disappoint. My entrée of Hawaiian butterfish, paired with a leek risotto and a smoked oyster aioli, was perfectly grilled and laced with a bright lemon puree. For dessert, we opted to sample the Poacher’s Cheddar with caramelized onions and apple chutney and a trio of pink grapefruit, mango, and morello cherry sorbets—an excellent combination it turns out, with the sorbet having a perfect ratio of sour to sweet.
On our first full day, we were driven alongside the Bitterroot River toward Idaho, our white Suburban stopping where the road ends. Stepping out of the car to try the once-in-the-lifetime experience of dog sledding, we were greeted by a cacophony of joyful noise coming from 20 Siberian and Alaskan huskies. Our dogsled guides regaled us with the history of dog sledding and the intricate breeding and care of the dogs—it was fascinating. Zipping along the snow-covered trails at a brisk 7 miles per hour your senses come alive. Afterward, the attentive staff greeted us with a thermos of hot cider made from apples grown on the ranch’s orchard to warm us.
With so many activities to choose from, my husband and I parted ways that afternoon to each try out different experiences. He (with a custom-packed lunch and ski gear provided by Triple Creek Ranch) was driven to the Chief Joseph Pass for an exhilarating 7-mile trek of cross-country skiing. About a mile into the snow-laden forest trail, he stopped at the warming hut. Upon entering, he found skiers warming up while drinking cups of water sourced from fresh snow that had slowly melted in an iron pot hanging over a fire. His fellow skiers (also staying at Triple Creek Ranch) had opted for downhill skiing earlier that week and regaled him with tales of skiing Lost Trail Pass, located at 7,000 feet on the border of Montana and Idaho.
Meanwhile, back at Triple Creek Ranch, I enjoyed a fireside lunch of flavorful, spicy chili before heading to the Rider’s Roost to embark upon a snowy trail ride. As my horse picked his way along the single track, I took in the smells of the forest and the beauty of the blue sky juxtaposed against the green trees. With the sights and sounds of a winter paradise still lingering in my head, I headed to the Tanager Treatment Room for an outstanding deep tissue massage—a perfect complement to my active day.
That evening, we started off dinner with a potato leek soup sprinkled with pork rind panko crumbs and fresh chives—its rich, savory flavor was perfectly enhanced by the subtle crunch of the untraditional panko. After a salad of red crab on a bed of gem lettuce with a tomato vinaigrette that was refreshing and creamy all at once, I opted to try the roasted Amish duck breast with fresh burgundy black truffles, herbed Job’s Tears, and wilted kale. The incredibly moist and flavorful duck was enfolded in the crispiest skin drizzled with Madeira jus to bring out the complexity of flavors. My husband dined on the pan-seared antelope (a first for him, and incredibly delicious) drizzled with local huckleberry jus and paired with fried parsnips.
The next day, thanks to a deep night’s sleep, we felt ready to try our hand at two unique and fun experiences—hatchet throwing and fire starting. We threw our hatchets time and time again while relishing the awe-inspiring views, the winter’s chill chased away by heat lamps. We then headed into the Bitterroot National Forest for a few miles hike starting at the edge of the property. Halfway through our hike, we sipped from a thermos of hot chocolate; just one of the many goodies in the picnic lunch Triple Creek Ranch had packed for us. Later that afternoon, we took part in the joy of doing nothing at all—a true luxury.
Delicious food and exhilarating activities aside, our stay was truly made memorable by the many thoughtful gestures that lent a feeling you were a guest at a friend’s magnificent home. The homemade trail mix left in our cabin each day included the recipe so we could re-create its deliciousness once back at home. Each night, a quote about Montana was left in our cabin alongside mouthwatering caramels, a chilled bottle of water, a printout of the weather report, and the next day’s menu (breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus change daily). With service like this, it is no wonder Triple Creek Ranch sees a significant percentage of return guests, and with so much to do each season, the experience is never the same.
On our last morning, we arose early to enjoy another fire in the cabin before departing for the airport. The experience of Triple Creek Ranch will undoubtedly stay with us long after the Montana snows have melted. We are already trying to decide which season we should visit the resort next. Do we want to participate in an authentic cattle drive, go fly fishing or whitewater rafting, or return in the winter for a Weekend Vintner event to savor exclusive premier vintages from acclaimed vineyards? Only time will tell.
For more information, and to book your vacation, visit triplecreekranch.com.