Pay to Play
Each day brought grand new adventures, such as Will and Jim's first horseback ride. Will was very nervous at first, but the ranch wranglers immediately stepped in, bringing Will and me to the front of the line and putting Will on a gentle steed named Bandit.
By the end of our several-hour ride up and down the Gallatin Range, Will looked like a relaxed cowpoke.
When I praised the ranch and its wranglers, Dan Austin explained, "We always check out our outfitters carefully. Last year we used another ranch, but this year they had all new wranglers, and we didn't like them as well. So we switched to this one instead.
"A similar thing happened with our bikes this year," he continued. "We ordered new ones, but once they came, they weren't as comfortable as the ones we had used last year. So we packed them up and sent them back."
Will was also leery during the first part of our whitewater rafting trip down the Yellowstone River. It didn't help that although the day was sunny, the water temperature was 47 degrees. And the first few rapids showered us with mighty splashes.
Not too long into the trip, Will quietly told me he wanted off the raft. I explained this wasn't possible, but luckily I had an important piece of information to add: "Our guide said the first part of the trip is lively, but the rest will be calm."
This proved to be true, and Will enjoyed the rest of the voyage.
On our last night, we dined in a private wine cellar at Chico Hot Springs resort. Our group gathered around a huge wooden table and picked our favorite moments from the past week.
Surprisingly, Will said his was whitewater rafting.
When asked why, he answered, "Because the water got calm at the end."
Jim and I both chose the "adult activity" of the trip. While the kids rode a gondola up Lone Peak and hiked down, the adults hiked on a nearby mountain to the snow-filled Beehive Basin. We loved putting in some miles and gaining some altitude at our own pace, not our children's, for a change.
While we enjoyed sharing Montana's amazing scenery with Will, we also savored the several dinners in which the adults dined while the children grabbed hamburgers with the guides, who kept them entertained with ice cream and games, and even an evening swim that lasted until 10 p.m.For all of us, the trip had been magical. The only problemwe weren't quite ready for our adventure to end.
Marks of a Good Tour Operator
A low ratio of guides to guests.
A friendly office ready to answer your questions and provide lots of information (for example, what ages will the other children on the trip be?).
A company that intimately knows the area in which you'll be traveling.
A detailed itinerary.
A booklet telling you what you'll need for the trip and how your family should prepare.
Testimonials from other families who have been on this trip.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication