We know, there are a million of ‘em: travel-oriented websites. You already know about Kayak, Yahoo, Orbitz, Trip Advisor, Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity and the rest. Because anyone who has flown recently has had to search for cheap tickets online and those sites do that job well.
But before search engines like Google and Bing existed (aka the Dark Ages), if you wanted to find other interesting travel sites, you had to get the web address from a friend just to find them. Frankly, we still like the personal touch, so we’ll tell you about some of our favorite travel sites. They can be a good way to find out about deals, last-minute travel bargains, and tips from those in the know.
The Lonely Planet
We love this site just because it has stuff you’ll never find on those other sites. For example: Italy’s Regional Pizzas; the Glutton’s Guide to New Orleans; and the Worst Travel Pick-up Lines. It reminds us that travel should, after all, be fun.
The Virtual Tourist
Quirky, unusual, and independent. That describes what you’ll find here because a lot of the content is posted by members. The Travel Guides give you the inside scoop from fellow travelers and locals. The Hotel Reviews section rates more than 262,000 hotels. And the Travel Forum tells you what’s on the minds of travelers right now. One recent question: “Well its only 2 weeks to go until my first ever cruise, does anyone have any usefull do’s or don’ts on the art of cruising ?” got a lot of helpful replies.
The Travel Channel
Sometimes a video says it best. When you want an actual look at the destinations you’re considering, the Travel Channel has a vast store of videos of top travel sites to check. Right now, they have Sexy Weekend Getaways, the world’s most decadent chocolate tours, and more all geared to Valentine’s Day (which has now become Valentine’s Week, it seems).
Going overseas? Then this is your number one site, listing consular services for US citizens abroad, Visa services for foreigners, links to foreign consulates, visa fee tables and downloadable passport forms. And for faster info, check their Facebook page.
And of course, no matter where you are headed, you have to know what to expect weather-wise. So try www.weather.com/outlook/travel/ to get the latest flight delays and airport weather conditions. At The Weather Channel you’ll get more than the basics: maps, videos, news, trip planner and so much more.
We’re continuing our series about some of the most luxurious guest ranches in the world, where lodging is top notch, cuisine is five-star quality, and activities almost unlimited. Today, we take you to Montana’s Ranch at Rock Creek.
Ranch at Rock Creek
Montana’s Ranch at Rock Creek serves up luxury along with some 50 miles of mountains, meadows, lakes and streams. For anyone who is looking for the perfect blending of comfort and wilderness, The Ranch at Rock Creek lets you choose between various lodging choices.
Accommodations include rooms in the Granite Lodge, the Luxury Canvas Cabins, Specialty suites and Homes. Their canvas-topped cabins offer luxury bedding and a private bathroom (choose ‘Glamping for Two’ and you get one of Rock Creek’s four Classic Canvas Cabins—each a gi-normous 630 square feet—which give you a spacious main room for your bedroom with enough living area to include a comfortable sitting area.
At The Ranch at Rock Creek, recreational opportunities are virtually limitless. Horseback riding on trails that weave among 6,600 acres, fly fishing their 4-mile-stretch of Blue Ribbon Rock Creek, fishing in stocked trout ponds, hiking, wildlife watching, mountain biking, sporting clays, archery, rafting, and games in The Granite Lodge are all popular.
Relaxation is a part of the total experience at The Ranch at Rock Creek, with professional massage therapy treatments available in a dedicated five-room spa inside the stone-and-timber Granite Lodge.
Details: $950-$7,500 per night. Please visit their website for a description of inclusions and exclusions. Cuisine at The Ranch reflects its pure surroundings – prime organic beef, elk, bison, free-range chicken, organic eggs, fresh fish, seasonal local fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs, all enhanced by an inspired wine list.
The Ranch at Rock Creek is available for corporate retreats, weddings, and family reunions. For more details, see Ranchweb.com.
Triple Creek Ranch
When you talk about Triple Creek Ranch, the words “award-winning” always seem to come up. This luxury resort, set in the Bitterroot Mountain Range of the Montana Rockies, was recently voted the #1 Inn/Small Lodge in the US and #2 Hotel in the World by Travel + Leisure’s 2012 Readers Choice Awards.
How do you get to be number one in the United States and number two in the world? Ranchweb’s blog editor recently asked Triple Creek Ranch representative Deb Schara. “Triple Creek Ranch is one of the world’s highest ranked hotel over the past 5 years, according to Travel + Leisure’s ‘World’s Best’ ratings,” said Schara, “and we got there with a score of 98.22—one of the highest scores ever.”
If you’re wondering what it takes to achieve that ranking, Scharra has a ready answer. “Our reviews have been great because of our attention to detail,” she says. “All our employees — from servers to housekeeper — goes above and beyond to give guests the help they need. And it’s a team effort–no matter what activity you want to pursue that day—from horseback riding to fly fishing in summer to skiing in winter.”
All of this high service hums through a uniquely beautiful facility. The acreage around the main lodge is dotted with individual cabins, each with a wood-burning fireplace, king log-post beds, and some with private hot tubs. Each cabin is set so that when you sit on your deck, you don’t stare at another cabin—just an amazing view.
“People love the privacy. You can be with others or totally alone with each other. Large screen TVs in cabins have Blue Ray players and a there’s a library of DVDs to choose from, so you can be entertained while you relax in the cabin.”
“Its beautiful and quiet–there’s no cell service–so we encourage people to go outside their comfort zone and try things. We’ve gotten people on a horse who’ve never petted one before,” notes Scharra. Nature tours get them out to enjoy the countryside.
Okay, so between the fabulous facilities, an attentive staff, and a variety of activies—the only thing we haven’t talked about is the food. Very quickly, I learn that food and wine is big here. “We have a sommelier and that makes all the difference. Guests can request wine tastings here in the main lodge, or after our cooking classes,” scharra says. “And its all inclusive if the guest comes during that time (when classes occur).”
The chef was schooled at the CIA in New York and his specialty is wild game and fish, but Scharra notes that he also likes Asian and Southwest influences. “There’s almost no chance you’ll get bored with the menu,” she says, “because it changes daily.” And if you’ve gone vegan or have food allergies, no worries— they will accommodate special diets and food allergies.
“We have our own gardens and orchards, so the veggies or fruits on your plate may have just been picked that morning.”
At the end of your stay, you can take a bit of the ranch home with you in the form of their own jams and jellies, or you can get a packed breakfast or lunch as you leave. They really take care of their guests.
“The staff is amazing,” concludes Scharra, “and that’s the key to it.”
Details: Open January, February, April through December. Capacity: 60 (for meetings: 60). Rates: Start at $950 per night, per couple. Memberships: Relais & Chateaux, Virtuoso, Andrew Harper, Orvis Endorsed Lodge, JG Black Book.
Winter activities: Skiing: flex your schussing muscles on Alpine or Nordic skis along the Continental Divide on the Montana-Idaho border. The ranch is just a short, 30-minute drive from skiing in the Northern Rockies at Lost Trail Powder Mountain Ski Resort or at Chief Joseph Pass for cross-country skiing (available through February, weather permitting). Not into skiing? Then how about dog sledding, ice fishing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing or that unique western sport call skijoring (a skier is pulled by a horse).
Coming soon: more “Ultra Ranches”, including The Ranch at Rock Creek, The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek, and The Resort at Paws Up.
SMART RANCH TRAVELER
Admit it—you love winter. The real thing: crisp, clean air, clouds scudding over snow-dusted mountains; inside, a hot drink beside a crackling fire awaits. Or not. Maybe at your home winter is all traffic jams and rain-slicked highways, with a cooling cup of bad coffee at your desk.
So get the heck out of that faux-season and go where real winter lives— out in clean, snow-covered ranch country. And while you’re at it, find some bargains out there!
C Lazy U Ranch
At Colorado’s C Lazy U, shown above, January means that all your fave winter activities are going full blast. The pond is frozen, kids are sledding down the driveway luge run and the snowcat is fired up and ready to take you out for some private skiing. Sleigh rides, snow tubing, snowmobiling and even horseback riding are on the menu.
Ice hockey, ice skating (on a pond kept smooth by Zamboni grooming), as well as snow tubing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing round out the winter sports program at C Lazy U. Don’t worry about gear—they’ll provide just about everything you will need.
Don’t worry about anything, for that matter. Personal service is a big deal here—the kind of friendly, dedicated service that can only be provided by people who love their jobs and strive to make guests feel welcome and pampered. “At the C Lazy U Luxury Guest Ranch & Resort, we go that extra mile to welcome you and make sure you have a great time: we call it 5-Spur Service and it is what makes our Colorado dude ranch “Miles Above Ordinary.”
Open year round, this may be the ultimate Colorado winter resort, with cozy fireplaces and a world-class spa with a hot tub. Ahhh…
Western Pleasure Guest Ranch
Another Year round ranch, Western Pleasure guest ranch offers four seasons of fun, but winter has a legion of fans. I saw this on TripAdvisor recently, posted by guests who’d taken a cross-country ski visit to Western Pleasure Guest Ranch.
“We had the most incredible day of cross country skiing at Western Pleasure Ranch. It was a glorious, sunny day when we arrived at this beautiful setting in the wilderness. We met friendly “grandma” Janice who was babysitting her two grandchildren in the spectacular lodge. She answered all of our questions and allowed us to check out one of the empty cabins. Wow! If anyone wants a very reasonable getaway, this is the place to go!! The start of cross-country trails are just a hop, skip, and jump from the lodge. The scenery along the 2-mile trail loop is incredible with views of Schweitzer, creeks, mountains and open fields of untouched snow (except for moose tracks?). When you finish cross-country skiing, drop by the lodge for coffee and popcorn. We will definitely return! G. and M., Cranbrook, BC”
Check out their “Log Cabin Getaway Ski Packages” and ski down remote hills and perfectly groomed runs in the secluded wilderness. Then, return to a cozy cabin and a crackling fire. Or try the ‘Schweitzer Ski Vacation package’, do all of that starting with a hearty country gourmet breakfast in the Grand Lodge and then travel a few miles to Schweitzer Ski Resort, North Idaho, and Sandpoint’s premier ski hill. This all inclusive ski package includes two nights lodging for two in a log cabin, one day of skiing at Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort, a romantic horse drawn sleigh ride for two, and a hearty ranch breakfast served in the main lodge two mornings. $430.00/Couple (taxes does included).
Crystal Ranch Lodge and Resort
This intimate, year-round lodge is best known as a fly fishing resort, but since Utah is known around the world for winter sports (Utah hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics), they really know how to play in the snow here.
Snowmobile ‘junkies’ know its hard to find a good balance of mixed terrain and untouched snow, but the folks at Crystal Ranch can help you find it. They know the Uinta Mountains well and can help you find the best. And while the ranch is in a remote area, the road is maintained in good condition year-round so you can drive your car or truck right to the lodge.
DETAILS: For more winter trip-planning help, including finding deals, go to Ranchweb.com.
Men’s Journal really seems to like dude and guest ranch adventures—they’ve just launched the third video in their video series, ‘Remote and Refined.’ This short armchair sojourn takes viewers to the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming—a giant playground for anyone who loves the outdoors—and to one of our Ranchweb member ranches.
The setting is the luxurious Red Reflet Ranch, which caters to visitors who want to work the cattle ranch and explore the outdoors. At The Red Reflet Ranch, host Ryan Van Duzer explores some of what Wyoming has to offer, skeet shooting and wrangling cattle. (See our story on Van Duzer by clicking here.) And the best part: the Wyoming ranch featured in this episode, The Red Reflet Ranch, is offering a 10% discount for anyone booking a trip that mentions “Men’s Journal” or “Remote and Refined.” So saddle up, pardner—even if its just from the comfort of your desk chair!
Details: To see the video, go to Men’s Journal. For more trip planning help, go to Ranchweb.com.
RANCH REAL ESTATE
Hello 2013. Maybe this is the year you live your dream. A dream of wide open spaces and big skies, of fast-moving streams alive with trout, of snow-topped mountains filled with elk. Ranch country—and it’s all yours.
Big country, big dreams. But it doesn’t have to remain in the realm of make-believe, thanks to an outfit like Fay Ranches. You can make it happen—with the help of these ranch real estate experts. We profiled Gregory Fay, partner in Fay Ranches, Inc. last month. Now, with their permission, we’re sharing tidbits from the Fay Ranches blog, just to whet your land-owning appetites. It helps us kick off a new feature for 2013: Ranch Real Estate.
Enjoy. . .
Five Montana Fly Fishing Properties For Sale
By admin on Tue, 09/18/2012 – 1:22pm
Buying a Montana fly fishing property for sale is a wise investment, and a decision that will give you and your family years of adventures and innumerable memories. The fly fishing in Montana is some of the best in the lower 48 states, and blue-ribbon trout streams and fisheries wind through the entire state. Montana’s Jefferson, Madison, Missouri, and Yellowstone Rivers are world-renowned for their fly fishing. Bozeman has an abundance of blue-ribbon trout streams within an hour’s drive, and neighboring Livingston also provides access to Paradise Valley and Yellowstone National Park.
Fay Ranches is proud to represent the following five Montana fly fishing ranches for sale, which are some of the most famous and unique ranches in the West. Some feature custom-built ranch homes and structures, some are productive agricultural properties, but all of them feature private access to some of the most sought-after fly fishing in the United States.
Circle B Ranch The Circle B Ranch features over three and a half miles incredible fly fishing waters, including 1.6 miles of frontage along Baker and V Creeks, and 1.5 miles of West Gallatin River Frontage. This 427+- acre property is a true sportsman’s paradise, with excellent whitetail, waterfowl, and pheasant hunting, a beautiful 5-bedroom luxury home, barn, guest quarters, machine shop, and the potential to expand the length of the fisheries on the ranch. Read more about this Manhattan Montana fly fishing property for sale.
Dome Mountain Ranch The Dome Mountain Ranch is an enormous Montana fly fishing property, featuring 5360+_ deeded acres, 470+_ State leased acres, and 508 acres leased from the BLM. One side of the ranch is bordered by over six miles of Yellowstone River frontage, providing world-famous wild trout fishing, and the rest of the ranch borders the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and Yellowstone National Park. The ranch includes 3 lakes, a stunning log home, guest homes, barns, sheds, and a commercial lodge. The wildlife is abundant and diverse, and moose, elk, deer, mountain lion, antelope, waterfowl, and birds of prey are only a few of the animals that frequent the Dome Mountain Ranch. This property has been featured on several nationally televised programs and large publications, and it is rightfully one of the famous ranches in Southwest Montana. Learn more about the Dome Mountain fly fishing ranch for sale in Montana.
Burnt Leather Ranch The Burnt Leather fly fishing ranch in McCleod Montana (pictured at top) is one of the most scenic fly fishing experiences in Montana, and also contains 2 miles of both sides of the West Boulder, a renowned and prolific fly fishery in the middle of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. The property includes the Steen Place Headquarters, is under Conservation Easement, and hosts an extraordinary array of wildlife, from deer to turkey to mountain lion. The Burnt Leather Ranch is a historic and iconic ranch, and is only 35 minutes from Livingston Montana. Learn more about the Burnt Leather fly fishing property for sale in Montana.
McCoy Spring Creek Ranch The McCoy Spring Creek Ranch is a 1209-acre fly fishing property for sale near Dillon Montana, in the Beaverhead Valley. The ranch houses several ponds and wetlands that provide endless hours of fly fishing and waterfowl hunting, and both sides of a productive spring creek flow through the property. Several other blue-ribbon fisheries are nearby. In addition, McCoy Spring Creek Ranch has five circle pivots and produces grain, alfalfa, and corn. This ranch has an astounding amount of recreational value for a property of its size. Learn more about this Dillon Montana fly fishing ranch for sale.
Oyler Ranch on the Gallatin River The Oyler Fly Fishing Property in Bozeman Montana straddles the West Gallatin River for approximately 2 miles, as well as two other spring creeks, providing immediate access to over three and a half miles of blue-ribbon fly fishing. The property is known for its excellent whitetail, pheasant, and waterfowl hunting, and it also includes around 90 acres of irrigated production ground. Only 15 minutes from a commercial airport and 30 minutes from the boutique shops, restaurants, and historic downtown of Bozeman, Montana, this world-class recreational ranch is an opportunity not to be missed. Read more about this Bozeman Montana fly fishing property for sale.
Our pal, Nancy Brown is a writer and horsewomen extraordinaire. When she recently underwent double hip replacement, her first concern was how and how soon she could get back on a horse again. Ranchweb’s own Gene Kilgore knew just who Brown should chat with.
Bob Foster of Lone Mountain Ranch and Bayard Fox of Bitterroot Ranch both knew what Brown would be going through. Brown tells the story on her blog. “Bob Foster General Manager of Lone Mountain Ranch has had experience riding with broken bones. He fell and broke his hip at the femoral neck after landing on a rock. After his recovery, he also returned to horseback riding. And then there is Bayard Fox of Bitterroot Ranch. Fox underwent a total hip replacement about 25 years ago, yet he still enjoys horseback riding today at the age of 83.”
It’s a tale of inspiration and perspiration that you should not miss.
Details: For the rest of the story, check out the Writing Horseback blog.
Photograph by Robert Wright / Courtesy Men’s Journal.com.
AT THE RANCH
Ask Ryan Van Duzer (at left), how he became a travel video journalist and filmmaker for Men’s Journal, and he’ll likely tell you his career began on a bicycle. After serving in the Peace Corps for two years in Honduras, Van Duzer rode his bike home to Colorado—from Honduras! “I met the most wonderful people,” Van Duzer says, “and I just got hooked on adventuring.” The trip took 87 days and covered some 4,000 miles, yet Van Duzer says he had little trouble and few flat tires. “Everybody asks about the tires, though,” Van Duzer explains with a laugh.
Later, the budding journalist rode a cruiser bike from Oceanside, California to Washington, DC, in the quest to promote bicycle advocacy. And each time, he brought a camera and recorded his exploits. He ended up with pretty sophisticated movies: after all, he has a degree in Broadcast Journalism.
His career as professional videographer then wound through Boulder, Colorado (he created an outdoor adventure show called “Out There,”) and his role as ‘adventure guy’ was secure. As a host, he appeared on National Geographic‘, on NPR, the Travel Channel, and a pilot for the History Channel. Van Duzer’s newest venture for Men’s Journal, is called Remote and Refined, an original video series recently launched.
Now, anyone with online access can join Van Duzer as he explores the far corners of America in the Men’s Journal series geared to adventures that end with lodging that’s several notches above spending the night in a sleeping bag. ”We want to highlight ranches,” Van Duzer says,”and find the best hidden spots in America.”
And these online mini-movies aren’t just for men, he notes. “They’re for anyone who has adventure in their spirit—we want to make you say ‘wow’!” So far, Van Duzer has taken his cameras to a number of Ranchweb.com members, including Red Reflet Ranch, The Resort at Paws Up, and most recently Triple Creek Ranch.
In the Triple Creek Ranch fly fishing video, you’ll see Van Duzer heading out through beautiful, forested countryside with one of the ranch’s angling guides. In short order, our man snags a good-sized trout, and later watches as the ranch chef grills up his fresh catch into a gourmet dish. It makes for a compressed but fascinating adventure you can enjoy during a coffee-break. Van Duzer makes Triple Creek Ranch look like the great destination it is (and the host looks pretty good himself). Men’s Journal has snagged a great ‘adventure guy’ reporter, and we’re pretty sure we’ll see a lot more of Ryan Van Duzer in the future.
Details: Go to the Men’s Journal website and you can click on the fishing video and others as they get posted. Or read more. Follow them: @mensjournal on Twitter | MensJournal on Facebook
SMART RANCH TRAVELER
With high gas prices and a still-sluggish economy, families these days have to plan ahead to work a vacation in without stressing the budget. Turns out that staying in one place—a place that offers a variety of activities in one location—means big savings and less stress. And there’s no better time to plan a vacation than during the holidays, when the kids are home on school vacations and you’re all gathered together for the holidays.
A dude ranch vacation can be the perfect value vacation, for five great reasons. First, many dude ranches offer an all-inclusive deal where the meals, lodging, activities are all included. That makes it easy to plan accurately—unlike most cruises, where everything from soda pop to port fees and land excursions cost extra.
Secondly, on a dude ranch trip, you know where the kids are at all times (they’re having a blast—and they’re still being supervised), and you generally aren’t spending extra on babysitting.
Next, considering all the facilities and activities open to your use, a dude ranch gives you more bang for your buck.
Fourth, you can get some great deals if you plan ahead, go during the shoulder season (often June and October at mountain ranches) or low season (summer at the desert ranches) when you can find discounted rates.
Finally, when you consider all the memories you’ll make as a family: its a trip that is priceless.
At White Stallion Ranch in Arizona, shown above, they believe that an all-inclusive dude ranch vacation requires no intricate planning, keeps every member of the family happy with a wide variety of activities, and lets people experience a real slice of the American West – all in line with a budget, with no extras or hidden surprises.
To find a value ranch, click on Ranchweb.com.
It’s a gorgeous Montana day when I find myself talking to Ever Charles of Fay Ranches, Inc. based in Bozeman. Though I’ve never thought of owning a ranch in the Rockies, this is the kind of crisp, blue-sky day when that kind of thought could cross the mind of even a city kid like me.
Ms. Charles has been with Fay Ranches—a ranch real estate company—for two years and says she “absolutely loves” her job. Check out the website (pictured above) and you can see why—her ‘office’ is some of the most beautiful land in the world. “And the people are down to earth and family-oriented. We enjoy the outdoors life and have fun together.”
But they do get down to business—the business of selling American ranch lands, that is, like the ranches you’ll see on our sister site, flyfishingranchesandlodges.com. Charles tells me that 2012 has been a good year so far for the company—they’ve sold ranches in every price category and genre, from large working ranches valued at over $20 million to small fishing ranches in the $1 to $3 million range.
But if I really want the inside scoop, Charles says I should talk to Gregory Fay, owner/broker of Fay Ranches, Inc. I learn that Greg Fay graduated in 1984 from the University of Colorado with a degree in English Literature, but has been a full-time real estate broker since 1986. Now, his company operates in five states with 19 agents and seven satellite offices.
So of course I have to ask Mr. Fay (shown at left) how one goes from a degree in English Literature to being a real estate broker. But really, it’s not a fair question, since how many college grads actually end up with a job in the field their degree covers?
Still, Fay says, his studies have helped, “I do a great deal of writing and I have a tremendous appreciation for good writing. So my degree has been handy for all the writing and communications for the company—accurate communication is essential in this work.”
Ranch transactions are far more complex than residential real estate–and why folks need a specialist And even after twenty years as a realtor selling ranchlands, he continues to find the job fascinating. “Every day I’m learning something new,” Fay contends, “which is what makes this job so fun and challenging. A lot of multi-generational ranches have water rights issues, title issues, neighbor issues. My experience of twenty-odd years helps me solve them.”
Flexibility is another skill that has helped make Fay Ranches, Inc. a success during the past few years of a challenging economy. “The last three years have changed the real estate landscape,” Fay notes, adding that many brokerage firms haven’t made it. “But the first two quarters in 2012 have been the strongest in the history of Fay Ranches. There’s a slingshot effect coming out of the recession and it has been an opportunity to increase market share.”
It may also be a fantastic time to buy a ranch. In his 2012 Ranch Market Update, Fay says “When I ask buyers why they have entered the ranch market, the reasons I hear are as follow:
‘I feel the market has hit bottom, and I want to take advantage of the opportunities.’
‘I want to invest in something tangible that I can enjoy; I like ranches because there will always be a diminishing supply.’
‘I have frugal fatigue.’
‘My business is doing well, and I have discretionary money again.”
What’s even more interesting is that today’s buyers aren’t just speculators. “Its really satisfying to work with today’s clients–largely families,” Fay tells me. “Any property today, it has to pass the investment test. The consistent theme is value.”
“Once the transaction is completed, it becomes very much a family investment,” Fay concludes. Overall, Fay feels ‘tentatively optimistic that we are in the beginning stages of a slow and moderate growth market for ranches.’
Four pillars—sporting pursuits, family, conservation, ranch value—are the bedrock of Fay’s success as a realtor. “It central to our mission and its who we are. It was not a strategic decision, just who we are. As a broker, you can have a very tangible effect on these lands,” Fay says. And the Fay Ranches outfit wants their effect to be a positive one. “To float down a river and know that a whole bank is protected by a conservation easement of clients of ours–it’s pretty gratifying.”