I know it's taken me a while to post this, but I actually struggled with just how much information to share about the Ranch. Part of the fun of the Ranch is the surprises along the way and not quite knowing what to expect. Most of what happened I already knew about because I read it online, but that didn't make it any less fun for me. Besides, reading about it in a blog is not even close to the real experience. I think the only thing I'm going to post that I haven't already seen is the town map.
If you have an upcoming trip to the Ranch and don't want to ruin the surprise, I suggest you stop reading now.
Going to the Marlboro Ranch has been one of the best experiences of my life! I'm going to do my best to put my experience into words, but unless you've been there it'll be hard to realize the type of service we received.
We got into the Bozeman airport close to noon and that's when the excitement started.
As we were walking through the secure area of the airport I saw lots of people wearing matching cowboy hats and knew those were the guests we were replacing at the Ranch. As soon as we walked through the doors into the unsecure area there were Ranch employees standing there holding signs and waiting for us. They recognized us by the hats we were wearing and said they were so happy to see us. About 6 or 8 people had gathered around at that point so one of the Ranch staff guided us over to a special area of the airport set aside just for us.
He took us over to an area blocked off with a rope that said "Special Event" or something of the sort, and we went up the stairs to the room they had set up for us. In the room we checked in, were issued name badges to wear during our stay at the Ranch, and had our picture taken. I assume this is so they can identify the guests if need be. Once we signed in we could help ourselves to the many types of sandwiches or chips and dip or cookies and drinks they had available for us. I was amazed at all the food, but this was nothing compared to what was in store for us.
Once we signed in we were told we would be on Bus 1 going to the Ranch. As we waited several other guests were arriving at the airport and we were starting to get a look at the other people we would be sharing our adventures with.
Once on the bus we were introduced to Judy, one of the Ranch staff, and she gave us some info about the Ranch and the area we were traveling through on our way there. And even though we had all eaten at the airport, we were again given a choice of food. I was already stuffed and had 3 more days to go!
|On the bus|
After just a few minutes we were greeted by another staff member ( I think it was Josh) who took our room key and showed us around town. He told us we were staying in the Dancing Bear Lodge and that our room was one of his favorite at the Ranch, and he would tell us why after we saw our room. When we got to the Dancing Bear Lodge and went inside the first thing you notice is a stuffed black bear kinda lunging at you from underneath the stairs. This bear shows up in a lot of photos from the Ranch so it was almost like meeting an old friend. He took us upstairs, unlocked our door, and backed out of the way so we could go in first.
|Our first glimpse of "Town"|
After checking out all the wonderful stuff they gave us we checked out the room. It was mostly neutral with a few leopard print items thrown in. We had 1 of 10 private balconies which was nice. The room had 4 closets. 4 of them. The bathroom had a clawfoot tub and the toilet had what we were told is called a thunder tank. The tank was mounted high on the wall and you had to pull a chain to flush. And we had a stuffed leopard in our room. When I laid down in the bed it looked like it was going to pounce on me.
FYI, for those headed to the Ranch. They do have a hairdryer in the bathroom. A very good one at that. At least ours was. They also provide shampoo and conditioner. I thought they were good as long as you don't mind smelling like peppermint. They also provide chapstick, lotion, sunscreen, and a little shoe shine/sewing kit. I didn't use the sunscreen in the bathroom because they have stronger stuff in the activities barn to use.
We were given a little bit of time to wander about town, or exchange items that didn't fit, or go to the General Store to exchange our tokens. That's what I chose to do. I won't give away all the surprises and tell you what they offered, but I will tell you I got a new camera for $100 of my credit. When you're done spending all of your credit they take your wooden chip and burn the Ranch logo into the back of it.
We were then asked to go to the Arena at 5pm for a little orientation on the horses if we planned on doing any riding. They told us that if we were going to ride we HAD to wear boots. They also gave us some info about the scenic horseback ride and the cattle drive. We were signed up for the scenic ride, but after hearing about the cattle drive I had my heart set on it. G was kinda hesitant, but he said it was my trip so we would do whatever activities I wanted to do. He was very sweet about it.
After we were done with the orientation we went back up to the Stage Stop to add the cattle drive to our itinerary as well as fly fishing. We were told they were going to "run" the horses at 6pm, but we didn't make it in time to see it. Luckily they do it every night. The horses (about 100 of them) are kept in a corral all day, and they "run" them out to pasture every night and then back in the morning. Right after that someone gave us a brief description of the Ranch and the different buildings in town. A lot of them are actually old buildings from different parts of Montana that were taken down and reassembled on the Ranch. Some of the buildings were built after Marlboro purchased the Ranch and were made to look old.
Now onto the best part, the food! Just kidding, but it was a big highlight of the trip. Like I said earlier, they started feeding us at the airport and it never stopped. We had snacks on the bus, and every common building at the Ranch had food or snacks and drinks available. It didn't matter what time of day or night it was, you would not go hungry. They even offered snacks and drinks during all of the activities. My advice is to try everything. Even if you're not sure if you will like it. When else are you going to have a chance to try all this stuff for free?
|This is the only food picture I manages to take the first day.|
After our tour of the town we had appetizers and drinks before dinner, and then a HUGE dinner. I took pictures of most of the food plates or the buffet tables, but the pictures don't even do the food or the amount of it justice. For some reason I never took a picture of the breakfast buffet, though. After dinner and dessert most people just mingled and had drinks. There were a few pool tables and a lounge area in the Saloon and there were a few stations set up where you could make feather earrings or bracelets and necklaces.
That was pretty much it for the first day. I'll leave you with some more pictures of the Ranch. If you have any questions feel free to email me!
|Some of our "escorts"|
|The view from our balcony. That's a horseshoe pit on the left|
|they have security stationed in this building 24/7. It is an actual old Sheriff's Office. It still has a jail cell inside.|
|this is the Dancing Bear lodge we stayed in. Our balcony was on the other side, but the view of "Main St" was blocked by trees|
|the leopard above our balcony doors|