Why an Alpaca is the Best Hiking Partner I’ve Ever Had
With its historic mansions, scenic pastoral landscapes, and quaint towns, it’s easy to see why New York’s Hudson Valley has long been an escape from the hustle and bustle of New York City. But of all the amazing things to see and do in the Hudson Valley, my favorite experience might just be hiking with an alpaca at Clover Brooke Farm in Hyde Park. If hiking with an adorable animal that looks like a cross between a camel and a goldendoodle sounds like fun, here’s what you need to know before you go.
Note: My visit to Clover Brooke Farm was arranged. All opinions are mine.
Where is Clover Brooke Farm?
Located about two hours north of New York City and less than 15 minutes from the Vanderbilt Gilded Age mansion, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Summer White House” and the only National Historic Site dedicated to a First LadyClover Brooke Farm sits along a tree-lined road in Hyde Park, New York.
After a career as a school administrator, Andrea Parent-Tibbets and her family moved to this quaint town of 21,000 and settled on a 25-acre farm established as a homestead in the 1850s. Centered around a red barn beautifully restored, Farmer Andrea runs an adorable menagerie of sheep, goats, chickens, llamas, rabbits and, of course, alpacas. Not only is Clover Brooke Farm a woman owned and operated business, she is also a proud member of the New York State Cultivated and Certified Program and adopts environmentally friendly practices.
Pro Tip: There is another Clover Brook farm (no “e”) about 30 miles away in Pawling, New York. Make sure you have set the correct destination in your map app or GPS before you start driving!
Plan your alpaca hike
The llama and alpaca hiking experience at Clover Brooke Farm takes place regardless of Mother Nature’s mood that day. So be sure to check the sun, rain, wind or snow forecast, and dress accordingly. With the exception of a brief stop at the gift shop at the end of the event, the experience is entirely outdoors.
When hiking with llamas and alpacas on a hot sunny day, be sure to slather on sunscreen, wear a hat, and pack plenty of water before heading to the farm. For slightly cooler, windier and more humid weather, consider a raincoat or windbreaker. And if snow is forecast, be sure to cover yourself well in several layers, including a warm hat and gloves.
Whether it’s below freezing or approaching a heat wave, be sure to wear proper footwear like snow boots, rain boots, hiking boots, or another pair of shoes solids that you don’t mind getting dirty. Although llama and alpaca hiking doesn’t involve splashing in streams or wading through mud, you’ll likely encounter soft pastures, the occasional muddy patch, and droppings.
Pro Tip: The only toilet facility available to Clover Brooke Farm customers is a compostable outhouse. If you or a member of your hiking party find the accommodation a little too rustic, be sure to use facilities elsewhere beforehand.
Hike With Llamas And Alpacas
You’ll want to be a bit early for your Llamas and Alpacas hiking experience, as Farmer Andrea is working hard to start the event on time. With friendly barn cats joining in the fun, your hike begins in the pasture surrounding the old barn, where you’ll encounter other farm creatures including woolly sheep and bleating goats.
Then you will learn some fun facts about alpacas. For example, although they look alike, alpacas are not the same as llamas. And although they are camelids – like camels and llamas – alpacas don’t have hooves. Instead, they have soft pads and nails that look more like a dog’s foot. (Perhaps there is a secret genetic link to goldendoodles after all!) If there are baby alpacas (called cries) in the herd, you will also have the opportunity to ooh and aah at them in the pen.
Once the llamas and alpacas have been harnessed and leashed, it’s time to set off on the one-mile trek through the woods and over the hills to Clover Brooke Farm. You will quickly discover that llamas and alpacas walk easily on a leash. In fact, after announcing that my alpaca hiking buddy, Ringo Starr, was easier to walk than my goldendoodle, who pulls like a mule on a leash, all of the dog owners in my hiking group said similar things to about their four-legged besties. back at home.
Pro Tip: If you are visiting the Hudson Valley with a pet, your furry best friend is not allowed on the farm, not even in your vehicle, so be sure to make other arrangements before visiting Clover Brooke Farm.
Instagrammable moments and other photo ops
From a variety of cute critters to a quaint old red barn, you’ll find plenty of photo ops on your llama and alpaca hike. A boost with the farm instagram accountfarmer Andrea stops at a particularly scenic spot along the route to ensure that all guests have plenty of photo opportunities with their four-legged hiking companions.
Conclusion of your alpaca trek
While alpacas are raised for meat in their native South America, farmer Andrea (and most alpaca herders in North America) raise them for their luxurious fur (and occasional hiking company). Known as fiber, alpaca hair is one of the most amazing natural materials on earth. It has been described as finer than cashmere, softer than silk, softer than cotton, warmer than goose down, and more breathable than thermal knit. And if that doesn’t sound magical enough, alpaca fiber is hypoallergenic and water resistant. This means that socks, sweaters and scarves knitted from silky alpaca fibers are lighter than wool but warmer than cotton in cool, humid climates. And it won’t make you itch like some yarns can!
At the end of the 90 minute llama and alpaca hiking experience, I highly recommend a stop at the farm’s gift shop. You will find skeins of alpaca fiber, clothing and accessories knitted from alpaca fiber, honey harvested on the farm and other unique local gifts. And now that you know how magical alpaca fiber is and have bonded over a lovely walk in the woods with one of the growers, you won’t want to miss this!
Would I still walk with an alpaca?
Absoutely! Hiking with a long-necked, doe-eyed alpaca was so much fun! It made me forget the pressures at work and the state of the world. And for a short time, all that mattered was the beauty of upstate New York in the fall, engaging with other hikers, and enjoying the unique experience of hiking with an adorable alpaca.
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