When I woke up on Wednesday at the Ranch at Rock Creek, it was clear that old man winter wanted to make an appearance– not really a surprise in March– and there was light snow. We once again skipped the full breakfast because we didn’t want to overindulge before heading out to our trail ride. Instead we took advantage of the coffee service and muffins served in the bar at the Granite Lodge. Then I decided to try out the claw foot bath tub and found there was ample hot water to fill it. I very much enjoyed finishing my coffee while soaking in the tub.
We headed out to the stables where cowboy Joe, a former rodeo rider and Emily the cowgirl got us on our horses and made sure we were properly attired and got us situated on our horses. We were in capable hands with Joe and Emily. Zan hadn’t ridden a horse in years and Joe and Emily made sure she was comfortable and in command. Zan’s previous riding experience was English but she was riding western style in no time. Emily told us that my horse, Yukon, and Kemosabe, the horse Zan would be riding, were best friends which made us giggle.
Since it was just the three of us, once Joe and Emily got us situated, we got to ride and trot a bit as we rode along Rock Creek and up towards Trapper Cabin. I’ve never gone horseback riding during the winter and it was far more pleasant than I imagined. The dusting of snow wasn’t daunting to a group of horses who just spent the winter in Montana. Joe pointed out that the horses still had their shaggy winter coats and mentioned they’ll be more attractive in a few months after they’ve shed their winter coats.
I always enjoy cowboys and find they have some interesting stories. Cowboy Joe was no exception. He had some fun stories about life on the rodeo circuit and his sons. One of his sons is now a rodeo coach, and his youngest two are named Rodee Owen and Bronc Rider. Talk about committed to the cause! We had a great time on the 90 minute ride and the overall experience was very pleasant. The weather turned out to be was more atmospheric than annoying, and we had dressed in layers so it wasn’t really an issue.
Lunch back at the dining room and I was a creature of habit and ordered the Pintler Range Steak Salad with organic red kale. The chef had told us that Kale is something that grows well in Montana he was enjoying seeing the leafy green being embraced by the masses, it since it had once been primarily used as a garnish. I really enjoyed the sweet potatoes on the salad. They were lightly cooked and added a nice touch of earthiness to the dish.
After lunch we cleaned up and got ready for our afternoon’s adventure – a trip into downtown Philipsburg. John, our driver, picked us up at Cattail Cabin to drive us into downtown P-burg. The sun had come out a bit and it was starting to feel more like spring again.
Philipsburg, Montana is an old mining town has a population of around 820. There is one stoplight in town. But there is also an incredible candy store, The Sweet Palace, which is located in a former hardware store. I was absolutely blown away by the selection of homemade fudge and artisanal chocolate goodness! After sampling a few different varieties, we decided on a brick of Salty Dog– hand made peanut butter fudge with caramel and peanuts. We also brought quite the assortment of candy. Seriously yum.
Next we headed to The Philipsburg Brewing Company a few doors down. Located in an historic building that used to be a bank in a former life, the craft brewery opened in 2012 and has friendly staff and dogs are welcome. We got to sample several styles of beers which were kept nicely chilled because of the refrigerated cold copper rail that runs down the top of the bar. The locals were nice to chat with and the whole atmosphere was relaxed and inviting. John, our driver, thought we should also check out the White Front Bar across the street. The White Front Bar has a long history and an an epic jukebox (selections range from Roy Orbison to Naughty by Nature). One wall is covered with photographs of the locals. Gwen, who works behind the bar, let us pose with the bar’s jackalope. It was great visiting this local hole in the wall.
After a round of beer John drove us back to the ranch and we stopped a few times to enjoy the Montana scenery. We snacked on goodies from the Sweet Palace on the ride back and were in full-on sugar shock by the time we arrived back at Cattail Cabin. We were so full, we decided not to have a full-on dinner, but the staff brought us a tray to the cabin. After all the sweets the salad was welcome. It was made with organic red leaf lettuce, chevre, Marcona almonds and a muddled strawberry vinaigrette. For the main course there was a choice of Pacific Steelhead salmon or Muscovy Duck Breast. I went for the duck and really enjoyed the fiddlehead ferns and Hedgehog mushrooms served with it. As much as I wanted to resist desert, the homemade apple crisp served with nutmeg ice cream was spot on delightful, served in a personal sized skillet.
We went to bed happy and extremely full.