Climbing into Montana’s Bitterroot Mountain Range on horseback, I am pushed back in time to a journey with Lewis and Clark and their interpreter and goodwill ambassador Sacagawea. However, my journey differs greatly from this band of explorers. As an active adventure baby boomer, I am not heavy with child as was 16 year old Sacagawea when she started out on her journey and I’m not traveling with a bunch of men.
I’m in Big Sky country at the invitation of Barbara Barrett, an expedition leader of sorts in her own right and co-owner of Triple Creek Ranch, a Relais and Chateaux sanctuary tucked away in the tiny town of Darby in southwest Montana. Barrett, a trained United States astronaut and former U.S. Ambassador to Finland, is also a passionate horsewoman. I had the pleasure of riding with Barrett and 10 other accomplished women during the Women’s Rocky Mountain Rendezous, a six day retreat held annually in May.
May is an ideal time to explore Montana’s many wonders as the hillsides are a blaze with yellow arrowleaf balsamroot, purple and blue lupine and dazzling glacier lilies. This was my time to channel my inner Annie Oakley as I was able to participate in a cattle drive (yes, we really did cut the red bull from the Black Angus and round up a rogue calf!) practice my marksmanship at archery and cast a fly line as a river runs through it. You do know that Brad Pitt fished these very rivers and creeks when he was filming that movie, right?
At the end of the day, our possee returned to the four-star hotel for group dinners featuring the ranch to table cuisine of Chef Jacob Leatherman, a die-hard fly fisherman himself, and wines selected by Sommelier Jeremy White from a cellar that Wine Spectator has swooned over.
Sacagawea wouldn’t have known what to make of the private hot tub on the deck of the intimate log cabin that awaits each guest, nor how to operate the steam room within each bathroom, but she would have rocked the sapphire panning activities and loved to have met designer Sonja Kreis, a sole woman in the top ranks of the male-dominated jewelry business in Idar Oberstein, Germany. I know that I’m name dropping, but these are the types of cowgirls I rode with on this Montana getaway. The fact that the rendezvous served as a soul-soaring mentoring retreat was an unexpected bonus.
There were many unanticipated bonuses on this action-packed vacation. Yet, as is typical of Triple Creek Ranch, guests custom tailor their trip before they set foot in the airport. Activity coordinators reach out to guests prior to departure to inquire of special wishes and interests, as well as dietary needs. Not into horseback riding, take a scenic hike to a secret Idaho hot springs, go on a bird-watching safari, visit Jessie Royer on the CB Ranch and her Iditarod sled dog operation, fish on the two stocked ponds, or take a flight-seeing tour of the Bitterroot Valley by air. Enjoy a massage in the privacy of your cabin or drive into town and get a custom cowboy hat made by Jimmy Harrison the hat maker.
Rates start at $950 per couple per night, based on double occupancy and include a private log cabin, all meals, wine, beer and liquor, as well as outdoor activities and cooking classes. Additional charges apply for sight-seeing flights, massage and some optional events such as cattle drives, although the cattle drive is included in the price of the Rocky Mountain Rendezvous. Special events such as Rocky Mountain Rendezvous and Klicks for Chicks, an all-women ride benefiting Summit for Parkinson’s, are priced to include luxury accommodations, gourmet meals and all ranch activities. Adult traveling companions are welcome during special ranch events. It should be noted that Triple Creek Ranch is an adult-only property, open year-round, excluding March.