Colorado Gators, Mosca, Colorado

Almost halfway between Great Sand Dunes National Park and Alamosa, Colorado Gators is a fun spot to stop and stretch your legs and gawk at something you don’t expect to see in the Rocky Mountain state: alligators.  Begun in 1977 as a fish (tilapia) farm, the gators were brought in to eat the dead fish. Within a few years, the farm became a tourist attraction, as people started stopping by to see the alligators.


The first part of the tour, holding the baby alligator, taking pictures and learning a little about the farm and gators, is held inside, in the dark reptile room. Very much like other reptile rooms we’ve visited (dark and smelly). I must admit, I was happy to move into the fish tank area. Substantially less smelly and brightly lit. I was fascinated with the hydroponic setup there. The fish-waste-to-plant-food-to-fish-habitat recycling system looked very efficient and all the plants I could see looked to be thriving.

water returning to fish tanks

hydroponic sprouts

fish tanks with hydroponic garden above

Finally outside in the fresh air we got to see dozens of alligators lazing in the sun. Even a movie star, Morris, of Happy Gilmore fame, as well as numerous other movie credits, including Dr. Doolittle, Jay Leno, and of course, Steve Irwin (the late, great “Crocodile Hunter”).


Other critters on the property include a couple ostriches, emus, and geese. The farm also offers educational programs for schools, churches and other groups. Alligator wrestling classes are available for the crazy! more adventurous. Gatorfest, held this year on August 2nd and 3rd, features gator roping and wrestling, children’s games and barrel races.


For more info, click on one of the links above, or contact Colorado Gators Reptile Park, 9162 CR 9 N, Mosca, CO 81146, 719-378-2612.

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Whitehorse Lake Trail, Williams, Arizona

Late in May, I found myself in Williams, with my car pointed down the “south road” (aka 4th Street) out of town. The warm sun, the brilliant blue sky and the seductive scent of pine lured me on to where 4th Street becomes Perkinsville Rd. past the back side of Bill Williams Mountain. At the signpost for Overland Trails and Whitehorse Lake, I made a left. Another left into Whitehorse Lake campground, passed through to the day use area and parked. 


Sycamore Rim Trail Access Map

After changing into my trusty hiking boots, I grabbed walking stick, hat, camera, water and snacks. Okay, so it’s only 1 mile from the parking area to the end of the trail and 1 mile back. My out of shape self was taking no chances. Part of my strategy in choosing this trail was that it is easy. The terrain is fairly level, no boulders to climb or streams to cross. It meanders through Ponderosa pine and oaks, so is mostly shady, and stays near the lake. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of elk or deer, but be cautious of other wildlife. Puma have also been spotted, along with the occasional bear. I didn’t even spot a fish on the day I went, but then, I didn’t spot many people, either.


Don’t plan on cooling off in the lake after your hike, as it is not aerated for swimming. Fish and Game does keep Whitehorse Lake stocked with trout, so bring your pole and license. Barbeques and tables are available for day use, for a fee, and the campground is right there. You might want to plan a few days at this spot, fishing, exploring the trails and relaxing and enjoying the tall pines, gazillion stars and spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Best time to go is May-October.


This trail is great for families, children, adults getting in shape/back in shape, older adults and experienced walkers. It also joins up with the Sycamore Canyon Overlook Trail which joins several other trails, for a change of scenery and more of a challenge. More info and maps are available at the Williams Ranger District office, right off Interstate 40 at exit 161 map.

 
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