PAPOOSE POSH - Papoose Creek Lodge, Montana

by Annette Bignami

For years Hawaii's Kona Village has defined tropical POSH because of the splendid facilities, setting and the "no problem" staff attitude, but we've found a Western ranch version in Montana only 483 miles from home. Papoose Creek Lodge tucks timbered and log buildings just minutes from one of the better fishing sections on the Madison River,  and offers the kind of traditional ranch experience you that normally takes four or five years to burnish out of the usual "good in parts" stay.

Such isn't the case here, probably because the lodge was build and operates on a "cost no object" basis by the owners of the surrounding 25,000 acres who did rather well in land. The verdant setting, in quacking aspen along Papoose Creek is so quiet one visitor noted, "you can hear the horses moving in their stalls in the barn a quarter mile across the meadow from the main lodge," Rustic cabins scattered through aspen and native plants insure both quiet and privacy. "Rustic" does not mean one roughs it, either as is the case with the five rooms in the main log lodge all lodgings come with massive stone fireplaces, wonderful tile bathrooms with jetted tubs and a sit down shower, two lighted closets and all the other first class amenities are available. Laundry is even done gratis overnight.

Like Kona Village a modest gate and a winding drive to the office get things started right. Luggage magically disappears on a golf cart and vehicles coral well away from the lodge. A quick discovery walk reveals an "al fresco Jacuzzi" on the creek and multiple lodge decks, some of which overlook the large trout pond across the lawn in front of the house which is the site of fly casting lessons and practice fishing for those who need it.

At the orientation meeting where your stay is laid out there's a choice of guided river or stream wading, rafting or canoeing, lake trips with Boston Whalers or float tubes and more. Special ride in lakes wait two to four hour out for the firm of fundament. With the Madison, Gallatin, Fire Hole, Yellowstone and Jackson Rivers and at least a half dozen lakes within an hour. So the only problem is picking your target and method of choices. Piscatorially impaired guests can enjoy casual trail rides, riding instructors both English and Western and much else. Teenage girls who visit with their families will think they've died and gone to heaven

Then there's the food. Dinner runs to your choice of duck, salmon, halibut, pork or what I found to be the best beef we'd ever tasted: the owners also raise organic beef from what must be contented cows that graze on lush meadows filled with wildflowers.

This isn't rustic ranch food. The chef made everything from scratch. Entrees ran to roast duck with berry sauce, lovely lamp cutlets and more. Superior dinner rolls and sourdough breads, four of five deserts such as ginger flan, mocha cheesecake, cherry cobbler and the like left us so full we could barely make it up to the Jacuzzi as evening fell and a pair of small bucks nosed a drink in the stream. Lunches can be assembled from a complete buffet, if you can think about food after bountiful country breakfast.

Visit Montana and experience the great outdoors. Papoose Creek Lodge is hard to beat for it's upscale all inclusive package of lodging, meals, fly fishing on the Madison and Gallatin rivers, horseback riding, hiking and canoeing. A visit to South West Montana and the Lodge will be quite memorable. Check out their website for details