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    Meandher Brogues
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    Big Sky Country
     

    They call it Big Sky Country for a reason: Interrupted solely by the distant peaks of the Rockies, the horizon here goes on forever, holding dominion over horse ranches, National Forest Service lands, and a whole lot of cattle. Eager to switch our cell phones off and get our cowgirl on, we canvassed the Western edge of the state for the perfect dude ranch experiences. And for those who’d prefer to roam, we've put together the consummate Glacier guide, home to some of the most spectacular vistas in America.

     

    Dude Ranches


     
    Paws Up
     

    Paws Up | 40060 Paws Up Rd., Greenough | 877.588.6764

    Just 40-minutes east of Missoula, we came to affectionately call this 37,000-acre spread Montanaland: Paws Up is a bit like a theme park set against some truly majestic country. There's ATV-ing, go-carts, a gun range, archery, paintball, a kids camp (where they took the kiddos on a legitimate hike), horses galore, plus ample opportunity to river raft, fly fish, and work a cattle drive. The on-site spa is excellent, the food is good, and the accommodations—which range from log cabin homes to tented yurts perched on a cliff above the Blackfoot river—will leave little doubt in your mind that this is the West. The only real drawback is that it's not all-inclusive, which can make it harder to completely disconnect. Ultimately, though, it's kid heaven, where blessedly, iPads probably won't come out of the suitcase. Every morning brought new adventures, and by the end of the day they were ready to pass out in front of the fire. A huge thanks to Paws Up for hosting us and giving us our first Montana experience, which will hopefully become an annual tradition.

     
    Paws Up
     
    Ranch at Rock Creek
     

    The Ranch at Rock Creek | 79 Carriage House Ln., Phillipsburg | 877.472.2392

    If you were to drum up an image in your mind of what an Old West homestead should look like, you’d probably conjure up The Ranch at Rock Creek. And for good reason, as it was one, dating back to its original function as a mining claim in the 1800s (nearby Philipsburg was home to a major silver boom). It was homesteaded in the early 1900s and has been a working cattle ranch since, though it now doubles as a luxury guest ranch—and it is really, really well done. Though it’s been tastefully rehabilitated, much of the main lodge is original, and the log homes and tent-style accommodations that dot the valley seem like they could have been from that era as well, thanks to period-appropriate (though cushy) fixtures, and an incredible body of photography, all sourced from the state archives in Helena (19th century boy with pet bear? Check.). It’s all-inclusive here, and you can pick from a range of activities every morning, so if your kid falls in love with a particular horse, he can ride that horse everyday. (As a nice extra, they accommodate more advanced riders, too, which means you can actually get out and run.) There’s fly fishing, paint ball, shooting, archery, an on-site spa, and a rodeo every Tuesday night—they can also arrange for rafting, helicopter trips to Glacier or Yellowstone, or heli-hiking into the back country (those cost extra). And the food? The food is the perfect balance between comfort ranch and modern healthy— and all as locally sourced as possible. There’s a weekly post-rodeo barbecue, an evening of cooking outside in Dutch Ovens (a neat culinary trick that the chef, Josh Drage, picked up from his grandmother), interesting spins like sweet potato sandwiches, and the occasional night of wine pairings and fancy food.

     
    Ranch at Rock Creek
     
    Triple Creek Ranch
     

    Triple Creek Ranch | 5551 West Fork Rd., Darby | 406.821.4600

    There are a few distinguishing factors about Triple Creek Ranch, which has been hosting guests since the ‘80s. Most notably, it’s adults only. Second, there isn't a stitch of cell service, which makes it the perfect choice for those who generally struggle to disconnect. And finally, it’s nestled up against Trapper Peak, meaning that the cabins look out on forests, creeks, and elk herds, which gravitate to the lands since they don’t allow hunting. Beyond trail riding and fly-fishing (it’s an Orvis-endorsed lodge, which apparently means quite a lot to fly fishermen), you can learn how to pen cattle, and you can hike for days—after all, the lodgings abut the rest of the property, which is a 26,000 acre working ranch where guests can participate in all-day cattle drives. And come winter, there’s an on-site Iditarod dog-sledding team that guests can drive and help train. While many of the activities are included, for a bit extra, they’ll hook you up with a plane to Glacier or Yellowstone. Besides getting outside, they offer artist workshops and wine tastings, and when the owners, Craig and Barbara Barrett are on-site, cocktail parties at their residence, where you can take in their extensive Western art collection. But we would go just to hang with the Barretts: He was the CEO of Intel, while she is a trained astronaut, was the US ambassador to Finland, and was the first civilian woman to land an F/A-18 Hornet on an aircraft carrier. No big deal.

     
    Triple Creek Ranch
     

    Glacier Guide


     

    There are few spots in America where the landscape can actually move you—reminding you not only of your relative insignificance, but of how mighty and ancient the earth really is. Glacier is one of those places. Whether you get out and hike, check into one of the Alpen-themed park lodges, or just drive the Going to the Sun Road (which you might recognize from the beginning credits of The Shining), this is absolutely one of those places you need to see before you die. Here’s how we like to do it.

     

    Where to stay


     
    Many Glacier

    Many Glacier
    1 Many Glacier Rd., Babb | 303.265.7010


    Located on the other end of the Going to the Sun Road on the eastern edge of the park, this is inarguably one of our favorite hotels in the world. There are few amenities—the towels are more like washcloths and you won’t find fancy shampoo in the shower—but the Alpen-themed lodge, which dates back to 1915, sits on the edge of the surreally beautiful, glacial Swiftcurrent Lake. While rooms here tend to book up far in advance, it’s a sprawling place, and if you’re persistent, something usually opens up. The food is not going to blow your socks off, but it’s pretty much the only option, and after a long day of hiking, it’s totally sufficient. You can leave from here, on foot, for a handful of the park’s best hikes, including Grinnell Glacier and Iceberg Lake (see below), though the lodge lobby, complete with a gigantic fireplace, is a nice place to read away the better part of an afternoon, too. Like with all the Glacier lodges, there are no TVs in the rooms, and there’s no cell service throughout the park, making this one of the few places where you can truly check out.

     
    Lake McDonald Lodge

    Lake McDonald Lodge
    288 Lake McDonald Lodge Loop, West Glacier | 303.265.7010


    Only about 30 minutes inside the park from the West Glacier entrance, this historic lodge—completed in 1914—is a National Historic Landmark. Try to get a room in the main lodge, rather than one of the more far-flung cabins (if you’re in a cabin, bring extra layers, as temperatures drop at night). The central lobby, lined with a giant fireplace, ages-old taxidermy (trapped by John Lewis, the land speculator who built the original hotel), and beautiful, hand-painted lanterns is a must-see whether you check in or not, and the café with views of Lake McDonald is a great place to have lunch.

     

    Where to eat


    When you’re in the park, you’re pretty much limited to eating at one of the lodges: Most have small general stores attached where you can stock up on ice cream bars and chips, too. If you feel like venturing out of the park for a meal, Whitefish—40 minutes from West Glacier—is your best bet.

    Belton Chalet

    Belton Chalet
    12575 Highway 2E, West Glacier | 406.888.5000


    Located immediately outside of the park’s West Glacier entrance, this former 1910 train-depot-turned-hotel has some of the area’s best restaurants. There’s the casual Tap Room (bison burgers, nachos, simple salads), along with the more formal (formal in Montana is still super casual) dining room, which revolves around hearty comfort food like pork chops, duck breast, and meatloaf. This is a good place to stay, too. While the tracks outside are working, a train is the only thing that might disrupt your sleep. Cell service is spotty and there are no TVs in the rooms.

    Lodge at Whitefish Lake

    Lodge at Whitefish Lake
    1380 Wisconsin Ave., Whitefish | 406.863.4000


    This is inarguably the most luxe hotel in the area—but while it boasts more amenities, it’s not exactly fancy. The on-site restaurant, which offers great views of Whitefish Lake is really good, and there’s also a cute little coffee shop. The biggest benefits of the hotel are the fact that you can rent houses for big groups, and you can also rent boats and jet skis for a day out on the lake. Whitefish is about a 40 minute drive from West Glacier, but it’s a great small town, with a pretty epic assortment of cowboy bars on its main drag.

     

    What to do


     
    Iceberg Lake

    Iceberg Lake Hike


    Accessible via Many Glacier or Swiftcurrent Lodge, this 9.7-mile hike leads to, well, a glacial lake dotted with icebergs. Some like to swim in the arctic water.

    Red Bus Tours

    Red Bus Tours


    These iconic red tour buses travel up and down Going to the Sun Highway—if the drive seems daunting (it hugs the edge of a precipitous cliff), then this is a great way to go, particularly if you want to take photos. These tours leave from all the lodges.

    Kid Stuff

    Kid Stuff


    There are a million spots vying for attention on the road from West Glacier to Whitefish: If you have kids, you’ll probably want to stop at Big Sky Waterpark, which also has miniature golf, and The Amazing Fun Center, which has a huge maze, go carts, and bumper boats.

    Highline Loop

    Highline Loop Hike


    This leaves from Logan Pass, which sits at the tippy top of the Going to the Sun Road. It’s 11.8 miles round-trip, though you can always turn back early. You will definitely see snow (often, Going to the Sun Road doesn’t open until the end of June, and is closed again by Labor Day), and mountain goats.

    Grinnell Glacier

    Grinnell Glacier Hike


    This 7.6-mile hike leaves from Many Glacier, and passes by many glacial likes before reaching Grinnel Glacier, an ages-old, 300-acre ice sheet that’s sadly dwindling more and more every year.

    Whitewater Rafting

    Whitewater Rafting


    There are a ton of outfitters that run rafting trips down the middle fork of the Flathead River, but we like Glacier Raft Company. They’ve been at it since the ‘70s, and they know how to create adventure without, well, danger. Besides rafting, they can arrange fly-fishing and kayaking.

     

    Dressing the part

    G Initial Engraved Gold Trim Western Belt Buckle, Country Outfitter

    G Initial Silver
    Engraved Gold-Trim
    Western Belt Buckle,
    $74, Country Outfitter

    Current/Elliott The Gam Cut-off Stretch-denim shorts, Net-A-Porter

    Current/Elliott
    The Gam Cut-Off Stretch-Denim Shorts,
    $160, Net-a-Porter

    Isabel Marant Idoa striped blanket coat, Matches Fashion

    Isabel Marant Idoa
    Striped Blanket Coat,
    $660, Matches Fashion

    Isabel Marant Seattle Buffalo Bone Earrings, Matches Fashion

    Isabel Marant Seattle
    Buffalo Bone Earrings,
    $115, Matches Fashion

    Polo embroidered distressed leather ankle boots, Net-A-Porter

    Mexicana Polo
    Embroidered Distressed
    Leather Ankle Boots,
    $500, Net-a-Porter

    5th Avenue Glacier Park Throw, Pendleton USA

    5th Avenue Glacier Park
    Throw, $149, Pendleton USA

    Greg Lauren The Black Puffy Tent Vest, Barneys

    Greg Lauren
    Black Puffy
    Tent Vest,
    $1,695,
    Barneys

    Large Climb Pack, Woodland Camo, Grizzly Store

    Large Climb Pack in Woodland
    Camo, $195, Grizzzly Store

    Le garcon jean in berkeley square, goop.com

    Frame Denim Le Garcon Jean
    in Berkeley Square,
    $209, goop.com

    Porcupine Quill Bracelet, Shop Glacier

    Bob Tailfeather Porcupine
    Quill Bracelet,
    $70, Shop Glacier

    Slip-on sneakers, Gap

    Gap Slip-On Sneakers,
    $39.95, Gap

    Band of Outsiders Plaid woven cotten shirt, Net-A-Porter

    Band of Outsiders Plaid
    Woven Cotton Shirt,
    $325, Net-a-Porter

    Exclusive long bar pendant with semi precious stone turquoise (december), goop.com

    Jennifer Meyer
    Exclusive Long Bar
    Turquoise Pendant
    (December Birthstone),
    $750, goop.com

    Duffle Bag-Small, Filson

    Filson Duffle Bag,
    $325, Revolve Clothing

    Planet Cowboy Six Shooter nubuck cowboy hat, Net-A-Porter

    Planet Cowboy Six
    Shooter Nubuck
    Cowboy Hat,
    $270, Net-a-Porter

    Bandana chambray drop-waist dress, Gap

    Gap Bandana
    Chambray
    Drop-Waist
    Dress,
    $69.95, Gap

    Isabel Marant Black Suede Crisi Boots, Ssense

    Isabel Marant Black Suede
    Crisi Boots, $760, SSense

    Feather Bracelet, Montana Silversmiths

    Montana Silversmiths Feather Bracelet,
    $53, Country Outfitters

    Isabel Marant Barbershop beaded eather belt, Net-A-Porter

    Isabel Marant Barbershop Beaded
    Leather Belt,$490, Net-a-Porter

     
     
     
    Stripped
     
    Summer Reading
     
    • Fourth of July Creek
      Fourth of July Creek, Smith Henderson

      Few literary heroes are as complicated and as memorable as Pete Snow, the social worker whose story is the heart of this debut novel, set in Montana in 1980. Smith Henderson's novel is violent and harrowing, but also propulsive and compelling.

    • Toxin Toxout
      Toxin Toxout, Bruce Lourie & Rick Smith

      As a follow-up to their international bestseller, Slow Death by Rubber Duck, Lourie and Smith wade back into the toxic bywaters of what we all expose ourselves to everyday (through personal care products, pesticide-laden food, and household contaminants), and explore ways for getting it all out of our systems.

    • And Sons
      & Sons, David Gilbert

      This is one of the most enjoyably well-written books we’ve read in a long time: It follows the Dyer family, a NYC-establishment helmed by the Salinger-esque writer, A.N. Dyer, as they gather together in the city after a long estrangement. It is incredibly told, and a fantastic portrait of the city.

    • Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
      Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune, Bill Dedman & Paul Clark Newell Jr.

      As the daughter of a copper baron whose fortune once rivaled the Rockefellers, Huguette Clark grew up in a 121-room mansion in New York City’s Upper East Side. When she died, at age 104, in a hospital room she’d occupied for decades, she left behind a handful of estates, some of which she hadn’t set foot in for more than 60 years. This is her eccentric story—and a tale of the strange spending of one of America’s largest fortunes.

    • The End of Your Life Bookclub
      The End of Your Life Bookclub, Will Schwalbe

      Both heartbreaking and irresistibly lovely, this moving memoir tells the story of editor Will Schwalbe and his mother, Mary Anne, who began an impromptu book club after she was diagnosed with cancer and began treatment. While it initially started as a way to pass the hours in waiting rooms for chemo, it became a doorway for them to talk about their life together.

    • Crossing to Safety
      Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner

      While there is nothing new about this classic, it’s one of those books that deserves to be read again—or picked up for the first time. Stegner is a quietly profound writer, and this story—of two couples who are long-time friends—is one of his best.

     
     
    Steven Alan
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