As I cozied into the plush leather-based seat aboard the Denali Star, the historic blue and gold Alaska Railroad lurched ahead. We moved alongside the rails at a lumbering tempo, on a panoramic northbound journey from Anchorage to its terminus in Fairbanks.
With eight hours to go, I had ample time to evaluation my upcoming five-day whirlwind itinerary. The subsequent morning’s exercise grabbed my consideration; an opportunity to stroll with reindeer!
A 20-minute drive from Fairbanks is a spot the place company stroll via a boreal forest alongside a herd of reindeer. I at all times thought solely Santa and different adventuring Arctic explorers may have this expertise. Not so, if you happen to go to Working Reindeer Ranch!
Working Reindeer Ranch
Simply previous 9:30 am, my trip from Fairbanks drops me off and guarantees to return in about 2 half of hours; the period of time scheduled for the 10:00 am reindeer expertise. As I’m strolling in direction of the chalet-style home the place the tour will start, there crossing proper in entrance of me, was an actual reindeer! I didn’t know whether or not to chortle or freeze.
It solely took a number of seconds to comprehend that this large man was as mild as a pet canine. Simply “barely” bigger..and with antlers. I flip to stroll in direction of the home and growth! It occurs once more, solely this time there’s two of them, and I burst out laughing. Hopefully, nobody sees or hears me…the loopy journey author woman from Florida.
All About Reindeer
Right here, on this verdant and luxurious boreal setting, you’ll be taught every part you’ve ever needed to learn about reindeer…and much more. Open year-round, Working Reindeer Ranch is family-owned, operated, and based by Jane Atkinson, husband Doug, and their three human kids. Now they’ve practically a dozen four-legged members of the family that run unfastened on their five-acre, wooded and landscaped property.
How Jane and Doug’s Ranch Bought its Begin
It wasn’t a spur of the second enterprise resolution that introduced their first reindeer to their homestead. As an alternative, as Jane likes to inform the story, her daughter Robin, then 12 years outdated, requested if she may have a horse (would possibly as effectively begin large and go from there). After Robin made a number of requests for varied animals, Jane obtained the concept that an animal greatest suited to life in Fairbanks and close to the Arctic could be a good move. She started to delve into reindeer analysis.
With time spent on the College of Alaska Fairbanks’ Reindeer Analysis Venture and daughter Robin’s profitable home-based cookie firm, the household’s first two reindeer, Ruby and Moon, have been bought within the fall of 2007. Since then, new reindeer have been added practically yearly, both by a reindeer mother or bought from a close-by farm.
Strolling the Stroll with Reindeer
After a security briefing and waivers signed, Jane launched us to the herd and their lovely names; Daisy, Olive, Buttercup, Poppy, Cosmo, Juniper, Jasper, and extra. No Rudolph or any monikers from the likes of that individual staff.
For many who don’t know, these mild creatures have antlers, not horns, and sure, even the females have antlers. Bear in mind, horns develop, and antlers shed each season. Jane defined that as a result of the antler protecting, referred to as velvet, is so delicate, we have now to make certain to not contact the antlers.
READ NEXT: What to pack for a cruise to Alaska
On the finish of each summer season, when velvet covers the antlers, male reindeer start to shed their velvet and the females shortly afterward. Because the velvet sheds (and is considerably bloody-looking), the reindeer eat what falls off for its dense vitamins.
Then we’re off on our easy-paced stroll via the fairy-like forest surrounded by virtually dozen, free-roaming, all cute-as-a-bug reindeer. The path within reason degree, and there are benches alongside the trail. If the reindeer resolve to run, we have to keep in mind to face nonetheless. Reindeer know to go round individuals, they usually even know, like cats know their whiskers, how a lot clearance their antlers want.
After the stroll via the forest, surrounded by watchful reindeer mothers, dominant dads, and curious child reindeer scampering about, we reached a quiet pond on the finish of the path. But it surely didn’t stay nonetheless for very lengthy. As we realized, reindeer love the water, splashing, wading, and leaping over rocks and flora.
In the meantime, Again on the Ranch
Although our stroll with reindeer had come to an finish, this superb expertise wasn’t over. Now it was time for cookies, lemonade, and a lesson in every part reindeer. Jane and Doug took heart stage of their visitor home front room whereas we munched on her now-famous oatmeal and chocolate cookie recipe.
Everybody had an opportunity to carry all sizes and shapes of antlers. Scraps of dried velvet made the rounds as Jane talked extra in regards to the creatures we had met.
“Up on the housetop…” and different fascinating info
One curious reality all of us observed as our stroll started was a gentle, rhythmic clicking sound because the animals handed by us. Jane defined that the click sounds are tendons that snap over bones in reindeer toes. These clicks are the acquainted phrases and lyrics of legend and tune. So it’s not solely when they’re “up on a housetop.”
Their multi-purpose hooves additionally act as snowshoes and allow the animals to dig into the bottom in quest of meals, particularly within the chilly climate.
Jane shared her expertise of touring together with her daughter to Mongolia to find out about their reindeer, the herds, and something perception she may acquire. Their analysis to begin their ranch left no stones unturned.
And what about caribou? Whereas there’s nonetheless debate in regards to the variations between caribou and reindeer, science exhibits they’re the identical species. Nevertheless, it’s usually agreed that caribou are the wild creatures and, due to this fact, larger whereas domesticated reindeer are smaller.
Plan a go to to the ranch
Working Reindeer Ranch is open year-round. If you happen to can’t make it to Fairbanks within the summertime, it’s best to know that winter in northern Alaska is exceptionally distinctive. It’s additionally one of the best time to witness the sky’s glow from the aurora borealis. You’ll be able to even keep at Jane’s Reindeer Haus guest-house, too.
Working Reindeer Ranch Cookie Recipe
Coming quickly so verify again: >>>>Right here will likely be a hyperlink to Jane’s now-famous chocolate chip, oatmeal and coconut cookie recipe.
I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com and self-appointed professional on cruising, trains and solo journey. Sharing my cruise and journey experiences, I hope to entertain, inform and encourage you to journey the world with out flying. At all times cease for a glass of wine and a great meal alongside the way in which.