After the Great Sand Dunes, we headed towards southwestern Colorado and needed a stop to split up the drive. After a quick Harvest Host search, we knew we absolutely had to stay at Alpacalypse Ranch in Pagosa Springs, CO. We soon found out that we had to traverse the incredibly steep and winding Wolf Creek Pass to get there. This was our first time driving through the mountains with trailer in tow and Bryan did great navigating the many hairpin turns, 6.8% grade, and almost 4,000 feet change in elevation. No underwear were harmed during this drive!
Alpacalypse Ranch is owned and operated by Kathy and Duwane and has the most breathtaking views of the San Juan Mountains. They have lived on their property for over 30 years and after retiring, Kathy was convinced by a fellow alpaca owner and breeder that they should add alpacas to their property. When we were there, they had 39 alpacas and many of the females were pregnant and due in the summer.
We were lucky to get a spot for the night! Shortly after we were settled in and another couple had arrived and parked, Kathy let us know that two other travelers had tried to reserve a spot for the night and she had to decline them due to lack of space. Our spot was overlooking the male alpaca enclosure and the mountains. Lumpy and Catalina weren’t quite sure what to make of those weird looking creatures and the new smells and sounds.
Kathy was wonderful and gave us a lengthy tour, introducing us to all of the alpacas, teaching us about the two breeds, their fiber, and their behavior. They are separated into different enclosures based on sex, temperament, and the pregnant females were separated from the non-pregnant females. Most of their alpacas are the breed Huacaya, which have a shorter, more compact, crimpy fleece, similar to sheep. They also have a few Suri alpacas, which look like Rastafarians with long, silky dreadlocks.
Kathy had just taken several of their alpacas to a show in Denver, so they were recently shorn and had an uncanny resemblance to giant Q-Tips. The rest of the alpacas were scheduled for their shearing, vaccines, and hoof trimming in just 10 days. Surprisingly they are able to get it all done in one exhausting, stinky day full of spitting and screaming. Luckily, this shearing event only happens once a year.
Alpacas have a unique dentition where they don’t have any upper incisors and only have a toothless dental pad, making it look like they have an underbite. It is quite comical to watch them nom down on vegetation, lips going every which way while they grind the food with their molars. Several of the alpacas at the ranch had pieces of grass stuck in their top knot, making them look even more ridiculous.
Kathy described alpacas as large cats and I think that is a perfect depiction of them. They are very curious and wanted to be around us, but despite my repeated attempts to pet and cuddle them, they wouldn’t allow it. One of the alpacas had an uncanny resemblance to Freddie Mercury, with his chiseled cheekbone structure, dark fur, and prominent teeth. I love him and have no less than 50 photos of him. Until we meet again Freddie!
At the end of the tour, Kathy opened up her garage and showed us her incredible collection of alpaca fiber, all separated into clear bags and labeled by alpaca name and collection date. Although I highly enjoy crafting, I haven’t gotten into any crafts requiring fiber yet, so we did the only thing we could do to support her and the ranch - purchase an Alpacalypse coffee mug and cat toys made of alpaca wool! This stop is an absolute must!