“Babies are on the way, when would you like to come out?”
I love babies of any species, but there’s just something so endearing about a reindeer calf. All legs and eyes, these little creatures are, born in the pasture of the Reindeer Farm’s far fields each May until there are hundreds of black and dark brown babies tottering after protective mothers.
The Williams Reindeer Farm is actually part of the original family farm of Tom Williams, father to Denise. Tom’s parents owned the property as a dairy in the 1950’s, but as he grew up and appropriated the farm, it became clear that other animals were his preference. First he wanted moose, but that didn’t work due to regulations, so Tom and his family switched gears to the domesticated caribou – reindeer. In 1987 the herd was acquired from Canada, and the official start to the Williams Reindeer Farm was born.
Today, visitors to the farm can see much more than the original farmstead. Denise and her family have expanded offerings to include a 20-minute presentation about these amazing animals, a bit of a walk through the pens where nosy reindeer wander up in the hopes for a handout of pellets, and rabbits, chickens, a bison named Dolly, and a herd of Rocky Mountain elk. For those wanting to explore the nearby forested area of the Butte, a monolith of grassy tableland frequented by hikers, the Reindeer Farm offers trail rides for $60/hour for anyone age seven and up. The view, by the way, is exceptional. It’s a great place to visit, any time.
But, spring is when I must go.Yesterday I convinced the family that a day trip to Palmer on a sunny day would be delightful, especially if new calves were showing up as fast as Denise had said.
Accompanied by gifted photographer David Ryan Taylor, his wife Jena, and my own crew, we showed up just in time to track down and tag a few calves who had materialized overnight. Farm hand Garrett and I cajoled, wooed, and eventually won over two of the three sets of mamas and calves intended for tagging; worming, weighing, and popping plastic tags in little ears.
The wind was gentle, the sun, bright, and the youngsters, healthy. What more could we ask for?
If you go:
Mother’s Day is Sunday, and the Reindeer Farm will be open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission is $8/anyone over 12, $6/kids 3-11, military, and seniors. Find the farm by taking the Glenn Highway north from Anchorage, then exiting to the Old Glenn Highway. Continue over the Knik River and take a left at the flashing light and directional sign to the farm. Please leave your dogs at home or secured in a vehicle. A jog stroller or babywearing pack is recommended for smaller children. Dress for any sort of weather, mud, and reindeer slobber. You’ll get dirty, but it will be the best kind of dirt there is.
Happy Mother’s Day week. Hug a baby if you can.