Monday, July 23, 2007

Paws Up Ranch

Pat won a great incentive trip from Lexus to Paws Up Ranch in Greenough, Montana for a family of four. We left Portland on Thursday, July 19 for Missoula, Montana. It was a quick flight with a stop in Seattle. Missoula isn’t that far from Spokane; maybe 100 miles.

The Ranch was an Angus beef ranch of 37,000 acres and they used to run 3,500 head of cattle, Now they only have 350. The famous Blackfoot River (A River Runs Through It) runs through the ranch. They have about 20 individual guest houses set in the trees. They are beautifully decorated in a western lodge theme, no expense spared. Ours had three bedrooms and 2 baths, a nice wrap around porch and hot tub.

We were given the opportunity to try 2 activities per day for the time we were there. We chose to do only one activity on a couple days instead. The first day Pat, Joel and I arrived around 1:00 and had a great lunch outside while we waited for Jill to arrive. She got there just in time for us to get ready for a fun filled reception. Western music and dancing and a BBQ on the lawn. Wagon rides, tug of war and horse rides for kids were also offered.

On Friday, our first activity was the Shooting Clays. We were driven to a separate gun club owned by Paws Up that had about a dozen shooting stations set up around a hilltop in and out of the trees. Heath, our instructor was great, showing us how to aim and fire at a couple of easy targets. Jill and I used a 20 gauge shotgun and the guys had a 12 gauge. Once we got the hang of it, he took us up and around to all the different stations. We had to shoot at clays that were going away from us, toward, crosswise and up. By about the fourth station, we were all breaking clay more often than not. It was a lot of fun.

Near the clay course, there was a huge field with a herd of black cattle and their cute babies. We really enjoyed watching them.

The day was quite hot, so we headed back to The Trough for lunch. It was a little disappointing, sandwich bar, but okay. It was nice returning to our air conditioned home for a few hours of relaxation before the evening events. A dinner was arranged at Pomp, the nicest restaurant on the property and we had a great meal. Then we skipped the evening event, karaoke.

Morgan picked us up at our cabin and took us to Tent City. This is like no tent camping I’ve ever done. The tents had soft beds with down comforters and electric blankets, there were bathrobes and pillows and nice indoor bathrooms with rain head showers. We took a walk down to the river as it was getting dark and returned to camp to Mark, our butler, making a fire and preparing S’mores. We sat by the fire with the only other campers, Hosea and Cameron, enjoying the company, s’mores and something to drink. Mark recognized the bugle of an elk, which he said was very rare this time of year. The night ended too soon and we retired to our comfy beds and a restful nights sleep.

In the morning, we had a couple activities planned, so got up early to a lovely outdoor breakfast prepared by Helen; granola pancakes, french toast with huckleberry syrup, salmon chorizo and the usual eggs and bacon. Lovely eating outside in the beautiful Montana country. Before leaving tent city, we visited the eagle’s nest and saw the babies who just learned to fly. On the way back to our cabin, we stopped at the equestrian center and got to pet a three week old mule and a couple of very young horses. They were so cute.

Our first activity of the day was a horseback ride for a couple hours. It was just our family with a couple of wranglers who took us into the forest on the ranch . We saw a beautiful buck and an elk. The ride was ok, but as usual, we were unable to go faster than a walk. My horse did enjoy trotting from time to time so he would walk slower than the horse in front, then trot to catch up. The made my ride a little more interesting. Lunch was another semi disappointing buffet.

In the afternoon, we hit the trail on ATV’s. I was a little nervous at first, but after a few minutes because fairly comfortable, although sharp turns were still scary even at the end. We were given bandanas to cut the dust and boy were we dirty when the ride was over. The ride lasted about 90 minutes with stops for water and a nice view from the top of Lookout Rock. Another scary place; sheer drop of 1000 feet.

Dinner was an in home BBQ. The staff dropped of steaks and salmon and all the trimmings for us to enjoy a leisurely dinner at our own pace. After a long, busy day, it was nice to just relax and enjoy our cabin and each other.

The final day was fantastic. We were able to sign up for all day fly fishing starting at 6:30. We me up with our guides, Bill and Kerry at the Wilderness Outpost and proceeded to the river. Each guide had a raft with rowing frame and seats for two, so we split up and learned to fly fish. Before getting onto the river, we learned how to cast and set the hook if a fish bit.

Then we hit the river. It was a particularly warm day, so we needed to get our fishing in early. Evidently, the fish don’t like to bite when the water is warm and it wears them out. The weather was beautiful and, even without the fishing, the float on the river would have been great. Kerry was a funny guy, very much into the Montana outdoors. I managed to land two and lose two, Pat caught one big one, Joel caught three and, Jill was the champ with five. We didn’t keep them, sent them back to their lovely river home.

Near the end of the fishing time, we pulled it over and the guides set up a nice picnic for us. They BBQ’d New York steaks, had green and pasta salads and candy bars for dessert. After lunch, we floated for another 45 minutes or so and headed back.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with reading and sleeping until dinnertime. Dinner was held at the equestrian center. It began with a cocktail party and hors d’ouvres for the adults, little kids were given the opportunity to rope a fake steer, sit on a saddle and other western activities in the arena. We had dinner in an adjoining room and watched a video that was created about the week. Then watched a horse show. Several riders did a shooting exhibition while riding around barrels and the emcee took the bridle off his horse and showed how smart and well behaved he was.

We were sorry to see it end, but hope to go back again. What a fun time.

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