Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hardware Ranch

We've been talking about a visit to Hardware Ranch since Mr. O heard about it a few years ago. Since we live in the land of wildlife you can reach out and touch, we're fascinated by opportunities to get right in the middle of things.

Hardware Ranch is the Cache Valley solution to elk overpopulation. Farmers aren't so thrilled when the Cache elk herd comes a-callin' during winter months, so sometime around the 1950s the Department of Wildlife Resources started a winter range on property owned by the Hardware Company of Cache Valley. As commercialization and self-sustenance goes, the DWR figured out that folks would pay for sleigh rides to get up close and personal with the elk.

So now there's Hardware Ranch, which is able to pay for the majority of its expenses through revenues generated by its quick but proximal tours among the Cache Valley winter herd. On a sunny Saturday, you can plan to wait in an hour-long line for your sleigh ride (note to self: next time, have lots of ideas to keep two really impatient kids from melting down).

The elk cast a wary but accepting eye on the sleighs and horses, but as soon as an unexpected clank or squeal of delight from a child breaks the routine, the elk scatter and don't cooperate with all the amateur photographers hoping to get a shot featuring the whites of their eyes. Nonetheless, it was an experience to remember -- and the two hour drive home with both kids sound asleep was the most peace and quiet we've had in months.

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