Tuesday, December 12, 2017


RAISE YOUR PAWS at Paws Up, a friends, family and couples hideaway favored by celebrities and those who want to be   pampered like celebrities, where the Rolling Stones once booked the entire 37,000-acre resort for themselves.

A horse-drawn carriage ride is just one of a number of popular activities at Paws Up; the 3,250-square-foot Wilderness Estates accommodate four to eight guests and come with a six-person hot tub on the private deck outside, and (lower right) a stone fireplace, vaulted ceilings and rustic luxury inside.

Step out of the Missoula, Montana, airport and breathe deeply. The air is fragrant in Big Sky Country. Locals call it “Cowboy Cologne”—the sage that grows wild and scents the air and ranch hands that are abundant in Greenough,  a 45-minute drive from Missoula In-ternational Airport, where the day we arrived 12 private planes were landing, many with passengers heading to our same destination. Carved wooden signs pop up like prairie dogs to announce the impending arrival at Paws Up, a 37,000-acre working cattle ranch that takes glamping to another level, challenges the most adroit city slicker and checks boxes off an adventurer’s bucket list in a matter of days.

It’s not difficult to stop and smell the roses—or the sage, as it were. Here, time slows down and history swirls amidst un-apologetic luxury. You’re treading in the same footsteps as Charles Lindbergh, who landed his private plane nearby to visit his ranch house, and further back in time, explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who ventured through these vast acres in 1806 on their return from the Pacific Northwest. They allegedly surveyed their surroundings atop a 175-foot cliff upon which you can (and should!) rappel. Originally intended as a private community and instead opening as a luxury ranch at the insistence of friends who thought it should be shared, owners David and Nadine Lipson named the resort “Paws Up” as a nod to dogs who raise their paws in happiness (avid animal lovers, the Lipsons have donated $250,000 to the Humane Society of Western Montana and host the annual Canine Classic run/hike, which draws 50,000 people). An interior designer, Nadine decorated the resort’s opulent ac-commodations, which range from luxury homes to safari-style tents, all spread apart on the acreage for unparalleled privacy and named for the camps Lewis and Clarks set up along their 7,000+-mile expedition. Wilderness Estate homes are richly decorated in fine western style with art and antiquities Nadine collected over the years placed throughout three master suites (all with large en-suite master bathrooms, cowhide rugs, midnight kitchens and walk-in closets), a loft game-room, cook’s kitchen and great room with a soaring vaulted ceiling and massive stone fireplace. An uplit art gallery is set into the hallway, while plush runners laid over slate floors ensure toot-sies stay warm.  You’ll want to be up early to enjoy a cuppa joe (there’s a Keurig in every home) on a 1,700-square-foot porch and watch the world go by, which in this case ranges from curious deer to soaring hawks and energetic squirrels. Here, the city is left far, far behind. Every luxury home, cabin and estate (ranging from 1,100 to 3,250 square feet) comes with a (seriously fun) metallic green Kia Soul in which to traverse dirt roads for five-minute drives to the Village (for casual dining), Spa Town and Wilder-ness Outpost, where all activities, from cattle drives to archery, commence.

Those who don’t want to drive can request transportation via the Paws Up app, downloadable upon check-in and synced to your phone through a personal code. Divided into two topic headings, Concierge or Trans-portation, someone is on call 24 hours to manage any request. Should you forget toothpaste or contact lens solution, simply send a message. Want to know what the weather will be like? How soon the driver will arrive? How tall the cliff is off which you’re rappelling? Send a message. Responses are nearly instantaneous.

Luxury Camps with their safari-style tents can be booked May through Sep-tember and are set apart on the ranch’s most picturesque spots, most on the banks of the legendary Blackfoot River (the movie A River Runs Through It was filmed nearby). Walk to the Paws Up Village along the river bank (about two miles from most camps) to explore and commune with nature, or request transportation via the app or Camp Butler.

Each of the six camps has a dedicated butler, who serves breakfast and dinner and is the personal contact for six one- to three-bedroom sumptuous tents, all of which are glamorously appointed with chandeliers, en-suite baths with heated slate floors, mammoth showers and a private deck with hand-carved furniture. A path leads guests to the camp’s dining pavilion, whose private

chef whips up healthy breakfasts and indulgences like local Montana bacon (don’t miss it) and huckleberry pancakes, and family-style dinners that include locally sourced ingredients, vegetarian delicacies and the ranch’s own award-winning Certified Angus Beef. In the evenings, gather around the campfire, share stories, sing “Home on the Range” after a few glasses of tasty Macallan scotch, and elevate your s’mores game with the Paws Up “certified Smoreologist,” Conor Dannis, who visits camps and takes the gooey, chocolatey delicacy to another level.

Cuisine can’t be overstated here. Executive Chef Ben Jones oversees the camp din-ing, casual Trough restaurant in the Village, fine dining at Pomp (William Clark’s nick-name for Sacajawea’s son) and Chuck Wagon dinners, a popular option for families.

Throughout the year, he hosts food-and-wine gatherings that range from Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to Winterfest (January 25-28, 2018), Montana Master Grill-ers (May 25-28, 2018), the annual Montana Master Chefs event (September 2018), a stream of James Beard award winners, Top Chef stars and a Cookbook Live series with notable authors.

To work off the inevitable calories (and check multiple bucket-list adventure items), sign up for more than 50 adventures and scream like a kid riding an ATV through the wilderness, rappelling down a 175-foot cliff, white-water rafting and fly-fishing down the Blackfoot River or whooping it up on an authentic cattle drive (no joke—man Gary Steele, who teaches tracking, fire-making and primitive skills, and, as he says, “adventures kids can take home and you’re herding cattle to new pastures and watering holes). Learn to shoot pics “from a worm’s point of view” hiking the wilderness with your iPhone and resident photographer Stuart Thurlkill, and “Get Primitive” with mountain man Gary Steele, who teaches tracking, fire-making and primitive skills, and, as he says, “adventures kids can take home and do with their parents. I get them away from the screens and tablets; once outside, nature does its work.” Wintertime activities are just as robust, with dogsledding, ice-skating, snowmobiling and the newest and most outrageous activity, Skijoring, a sport popular in Nordic countries whereby skiers are pulled by dogs or a horse.

With wobbly legs, head to Spa Town, an inviting collection of spa tents that look like a miners’ encampment and where you’ll find some of the best spa treatments and yoga classes this side of the Rockies.

Then maybe it’s back to your wilderness home for a soak in the six-person, outdoor hot tub.

You’ll never look at camping the same way again.

For more information, rates and packages, visit PawsUp.com.