Day 154 – Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway, April 30, 2011
My gracious hosts for the evening prepared an excellent breakfast of oatmeal topped with cinnamon, bananas, and raisins; a soft boiled egg produced by their own hens; toast; cranberry juice and coffee…a feast! After breakfast and of course a shower, I toured Richard and Renate’s Alpaca Farm.
Richard, from New Jersey and once in sales for a large company, and Renate from New York City, once a curator for a museum, retired from their jobs early and moved to Brookings where they opened a retail shop as a retirement business. While Renate loved the business, Richard didn’t, so she said, “Then find something else for us to do.” Richard said, “Let’s purchase a herd of Alpaca.” So around ten years ago, they began their alpaca business called www.alpacasontheweb.com.
When they started, they said they knew very little about alpacas, but from my perspective they were certainly experts now. Over time they have expanded their herd through breeding to fifty. Alpacas are breed for their fleece. The best alpaca are those with long, fine coats so that their fleece may be spun into yarn.
The herd is separated by sex and age and rotated through different paddocks to feed on the green grass. In addition, they are fed hay and pellets with selenium as Oregon soil is void of this important nutrient. Proper feeding contributes to the quality of their coats; too much feed could cause their fleece to turn coarse, a trait unwanted in the industry.
Richard and Renate have one female which they still breed at age fourteen due to her remarkable fleece. In addition for breeding for the quality of fleece, they breed for color. If I recall correctly, I believe there are 24 or 26 distinct colors. They had one of just about every color: black, white, grey, cream, and every shade of brown in between. Their fleece is sheered from their back, belly, legs, and neck and sent to the lab for testing. The best fleece is spun into yarn. The other fleece is used for stuffing pillows and dogs beds or used in rugs.
In addition to selling the fleece, Richard and Renate sell alpaca products – socks, gloves, hats – many of which Renate knits herself. She also dyes the yarn herself…some of it with commercial dyes and other with Cool Aid! I found a great hat and some socks in their little store.
Anyone is invited to tour their farm for free. They have one alpaca, Kimaree, that is very friendly and loves being hugged and pet. Most of the others are shy. Kimaree poses for pictures with visitors and kneels down while Renate explains the details of alpacas.
I really enjoyed my morning at the farm. I’ve always wondered how someone gets into that type of business…and to leverage it in so many ways…how brilliant. Thank you, Richard and Renate, for hosting me. I really enjoyed my time with you in Eagle Point.
After learning about alpacas, VANilla carted us to the Butte Creek Mill, established in 1872 and still in operation today. I found a few souvenirs and a geocache before we retraced our path and stopped at Table Rocks for a hike. The parking lot to the trailhead was overflowing with cars on this glorious day…clear skies and fifty degrees.
Table Rocks are a pair of volcanic remnants that rise above the hills and pear orchards. This is one of the only places I’ve found in Oregon where dogs weren’t allowed, so Petey after being a trooper in yesterday’s weather unfortunately had to sit this one out. The reason dogs aren’t allowed on the trail is the steep ascent leads trekkers up to a flat, rocky summit home where vernal pools are home to several endangered species.
Vernal pools are rain-fed, seasonal wetlands. Unique species have adapted to the wet dry weather here including the Dwarf Wooly Meadowfoam and the Fairy Shrimp. The Dwarf Wooly Meadowfoam is endemic to Table Rocks, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world! It is a white wild flower. The Fairy Shrimp are a federally threatened species. The shrimps’ eggs are able to withstand cold, heat, and drought. I’m certain I don’t have a picture of the shrimp as visitors are not supposed to get too close to the pools, and frankly I don’t know if I have a picture of the Dwarf Wooly Meadowfoam or not as there were at least twenty different types of wildflowers that lined the path to the summit and that peppered the flat peak.
Several geocaches were hidden along the way, but most of the micros had a 4 star difficulty ranking assigned to them, and I didn’t have that much time to search given it took an hour to reach the pools and Petey was waiting for me in VANilla, so I only grabbed one near the base of the hill before I started my ascent. As I was making the climb, I passed by Margot, one of the ladies, whose name I didn’t get, from the Eagle Point group I met yesterday! What a small world. She hiked up with a group that included a botanist. That certainly would have helped in identifying all the flowers!
After a few hours, I finally rescued Petey and we continued onto Jacksonville, established in the days of the gold rush. Petey and I strolled through the Britt Gardens and down Main Street lined with old brick buildings from the 1800’s. Along the way, we stopped at a few displays including that of a Long Tom. Long Toms, with their extended water trough, were more efficient in separating gold from gravel than gold pans and rockers. Six miners could process 500 buckets full of gravel a day – 20 times more than a gold pan.
We also stopped for a burger and fries at Jasper’s before continuing through Ashland, a lovely mountain town on our way to Yreka where we were afforded magnificent views of Mount Shasta which stands over 14,000 feet. We stayed the night at the local Wal-Mart and prepared for our next scenic drive, Mount Shasta-Cascade Loop. ETB