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Summer Breakfast Ride at The Ranch at Rock Creek

If you’ve never been given the nearly impossible task of trying to book an ideal family vacation, then we envy you. It’s hard to please everyone, especially when you throw in grandparents, teenagers and infants. When our luxury guest ranch began five years ago, we were thinking of those people who wanted more than a one-size-fits-all destination. With more than 30 different activities available throughout the year, (and that list is growing all the time), family ranch vacations in Montana can be a horseback riding vacation, a relaxing mountain retreat, an angler’s paradise or a romantic getaway at the same time. We have a plethora of activities that cater to individuals, small groups and kids’ preferences, but this week, we want to focus on some of the new features that turn a group experience, like dining, into an unforgettable family moment.

A Cup of Cowboy Coffee

In 2014, we added the 17-feature ropes course, year-round geocaching and the Buckle Barn for events. In 2015, we have sought to enhance the way we tell the story of the West through our activities. This summer’s additions include a weekly barn dance—complete with line dancing instruction and live music— and a culinary journey, our Friday morning breakfast ride. (Stay tuned for more information on other new features in the coming months). These activities are available and engaging to all guests from solo travelers to family reunions.

Some travelers come to The Ranch with interest in a dude ranch vacation. They see history in the brands hanging on the barns, the 75 horses and cowboys working stock year-round. To others, their main focus is the private location, pristine scenery or Relais & Chateaux cuisine. The summer breakfast ride, gives us another opportunity to celebrate and share a little cowboy culture, along with the breathtaking setting and first-class cuisine.

Chef Drage brews cowboy coffee at Piney Pond, and then serves it to the wranglers.

Since Montana’s earliest days, cowboys have been waking up to breakfast around a campfire. They would go to sleep soon after sunset and wake up in the chilly morning hours to start work. Cowboy coffee was the first thing they set upon the coals. “Cowboy coffee” is the term used for unfiltered coffee made in a pot over a fire. It is made by adding a mixture of water and grounds to an enamel pot. This drink, served black, might be accompanied by biscuits, bacon, beans or leftovers from the night before. It’s these simple recipes (and an inventive culinary staff) that inspire the morning breakfast ride.

A Wagon to Piney Pond

Up to 24 guests can sign up in the Rod & Gun Club by Wednesday at 5 PM to join the breakfast ride for their Friday morning meal. The day begins at 8 AM, when the horse-drawn wagon departs for Piney Pond. This large wooden wagon is pulled by a team of draft horses and driven by our wranglers. The wagon crosses several beautiful meadows before reaching its destination. Guests cross a wooden bridge to the picnic area at the foot of the freshwater pond.

While this might be one of the most relaxing aspects of our equestrian program, riders are encouraged to talk to the wranglers and learn the basics of driving a team. It is also a great way to include grandparents and small children that might not be up for a trail ride or roping practice.

Guests are greeted by staff manning a canvas glamping tent, turned kitchen, and a campfire filled with bubbling Dutch ovens. Piney Pond is stocked with trout, but also serves as an oasis for waterfowl on their migrations north and south. The setting is as picturesque a campsite as you could ask for, with its nearby waterfall and surrounding pasturelands and hills that rise quickly into mountains. The landscape changes throughout the summer—starting a lush green, filling with wildflowers and slowly turning tawny under the heat of the summer sun.

A Moveable Feast For Family and Friends

Using his lifelong love of campfire cuisine, Chef Drage and his team turn staples like cowboy coffee and biscuits and gravy into a food-lover’s delight. Guests start with a tempting pile of pastries and move onto the Dutch oven delicacies.

Other staples include thick cut local bacon and frittatas filled with seasonal vegetables, as evidenced in our “What is Glamping? blog two weeks ago. If you’ve never tried food cooked over a campfire, you might find the bar raised for al fresco dining.

With two hours to eat, enjoy the scenery and take in the experience, more and more guests are counting this among their favorite Ranch adventures. The Ranch at Rock Creek’s General Manager Jade McBride explained why the breakfast ride has struck a chord with travelers this summer.

“It’s another one of those earned experiences at The Ranch. Sometimes it’s a struggle just to get the family out of bed, moving and motivated by 8 a.m., but once everyone gets there and you’re riding along in the wagon listening to the clip-clop of horse hooves, and sharing a warm meal gathered in a beautiful place with family and friends, it’s well worth the small sacrifice of getting up early.”

After breakfast, guests walk to the waterfall or to the pond to dip a finger or toe into the cool water. It’s a soothing backdrop and a sensory experience. The Breakfast Ride allows you to experience a Montana morning with an unhindered view. The gurgling of the waterfall, the smell of the dewy grass and the taste of Montana are sure to please even the most finicky family member.

Interested in more Western adventures? Read our blog or view our sample equestrian itinerary.

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