Trips with our son

Old Feb 12, 21, 8:30 am
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Just added a covid-edition trip report (Adirondack Mountains). Our son is now 9.
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Old Mar 27, 22, 5:15 am
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And here’s another trip report! The resort is Paws Up in Montana. October, 2021
Our little boy is 10 now.
We decided we’d like to go to a luxury dude ranch over my son’s fall break, but the usual suspects were fully booked or down to one undesirable room. Paws Up still had a few cabins available so we quickly made a reservation after only doing a cursory look at Tripadvisor. After we had made the “nonrefundable” reservation, I dug deeper into the most recent reviews and wow… they were brutal. Covid and the last several months have been difficult on this resort. It was almost unanimously agreed upon that PawsUp was short-staffed and the service was suffering. If we could have changed to another resort, we probably would have. We went on our trip hoping for the best.

By the time we got there (October), the many tented camps were closed and the permanent staff were pulled back into the main part of the resort to take care of the people in the cabins. This undoubtedly helped the service situation. The first few days of our stay, we only had a few minor quibbles. The long-standing employees of Paws Up were fantastic! They were personable, knowledgeable and they got things done. They knew our names and preferences, and they went out of their way to make sure we were having a great time. This place is capable of operating at a luxury level.

Each cabin came with it’s own Lexus SUV for touring the Paws Up property and surrounding area. We stayed in a two bedroom, two bathroom Meadow cabin. It had a functional layout with a full kitchen, washer and dryer, and a private wooded deck with a hot tub and fire ring. For the price, it was definitely in need of some updating though; especially the appliances and bathroom fixtures. The bigger, newer houses might be better decorated.

Also a little less than glamorous were the back sides of the public buildings. They could use some landscape screening. We get that this is a working ranch, but a few well placed trees could give the service and parking areas a more pleasant appearance.

As for the Paws Up property itself… nothing short of spectacular! The phrase “God’s Country” comes to mind. Guests definitely need to get out and do some of the activities to fully appreciate the natural beauty and get to know the people that work there.

Here’s what we did:

- Took two private trail rides where we didn’t just ride head-to-tail, but they took the time to teach my 10 year old the basics of riding and encouraged him to trot a bit. I am a lifelong equestrian and can attest to how well trained the horses were.

- Learned how to drive a two horse wagon team!

- Toured the old Garnet “ghost town” and learned about Montana’s mining history.

- Shot 5-stand sporting clays with Beretta shotguns.

- Drove ATVs around the mountainous parts of the property and the Blackfoot River.

- Had massages in the darling tents at Spa Town.

- Participated in the Corps of Discovery kids club which included go kart driving and exploring the river.

- Had a family portrait session with a very engaging photographer.

- Drove our resort-provided Lexus along the Blackfoot River to watch the locals fly fish.

- Indulged in some delicious meals at the rustic-chic restaurants. We loved that the dining venues had wood burning fireplaces. The beef and huckleberry items were particularly tasty.

Unfortunately, we had a bad experience on our last morning. We had scheduled a private hot air balloon ride figuring it was a “God willing” kind of activity. Ballooning is very weather dependent (and quite expensive) so we decided not to tell our son about it until we knew for sure it was happening. The concierge reached out the night before to confirm it was a “go” and arranged our transportation for 7:15am the next morning. She said they would be in touch if anything changed the following day. The next morning, we didn’t receive any further notice so we told our son, and we were all understandably excited! We bundled everybody up and waited by the front door for our car… which never came. It turns out our balloon pilot had cancelled our flight earlier that morning and no one ever notified us. Paws Up did their best to make it up to us with sincere apologies and a comp-ed activity.

In summary, we found the people, activities and food to be wonderful. But there were some logistical and communication issues Paws Up will need to address. Some cabin updates will also need to happen for them to continue operating at a luxury level. There are high expectations at this price point, and others in the luxury dude ranch space that are possibly doing it better. Hopefully they can figure this all out once Covid becomes a thing of the past. We did indeed have a good time!
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