A Change of Plans at Triple Creek Ranch

Despite snow blanketing the fall colors, horseback riding and snowy mountain views made this trip one for the books

When I visited Triple Creek Ranch, a Relais & Châteaux property in the Bitterroot Mountains a few weeks ago, I imagined hiking and fishing in gorgeous autumn foliage. As we drove to the ranch from Missoula, it appeared that Mother Nature was giving me my wish—orange cottonwoods along the river, the golden aspens on the mountains. And the temperature at 65 degrees was perfect for hiking and fishing.

My friend and I planned to fish on the Bitterroot River the next morning, followed by a horseback ride through the beautiful trees. We’d heard there was a chance of rain but we were intrepid travelers ready for most any weather with waterproof parkas, hats and gloves.

What we didn’t expect was to wake up to the snow—big fluffy white flakes depositing 4 inches on the ground. We scrapped our plans for fishing and were discussing our options when the activities desk recommended horseback riding in the snow. After ample debate (Will we be warm enough? Yes, the ranch has cozy anoraks. Are the horses okay in the snow? Yes, unless the conditions are too extreme.) we signed up for an afternoon ride.

The ranch provided us with chaps and anoraks, gloves and sorrels, and we saddled up. Thank goodness we took the leap of faith—it was one of the best and most memorable winter experiences I’ve had.

The snow fell gently, the horses followed a trail they knew by heart at a rhythmic pace through the trees, and it was quiet in the forest as we rode. The snowy mountain views we saw from the trail are forever etched in my memory.

After riding, we warmed up by the fire with a hot toddy, followed by a sumptuous dinner prepared by the extraordinarily talented chef Jake Leatherman and his team who were invited to showcase their talents at New York’s renowned James Beard house. And after dinner, in the snow, we roasted marshmallows in the firepit and made s’mores for dessert with handmade ingredients from the kitchen.

In my mind, when I want to relax, I think of the weekend at Triple Creek Ranch and count the days until I can go back.

Categories: On Location